Used Dirt Bike Sales - Buying a Used Dirt Bike, Trail Bike, MX or Enduro Bike Part 2 - Help, Hints & Tips to save riders time, money and hassle.
What you can do to reduce the chance of getting ripped off. Guide to inspecting a used dirt bike before buying. Test riding a used dirt bike before buying.

 Dirt Bike Australia - HOME 

 Buying a Used Dirt or Trail Bike Part 2
 Pre-purchase Inspection and Test Ride 
 Help, Hints, Tips and Strategies

 Dirt Bike Australia - HOME 

 Dirt Bike Australia - HOME

 Big Red Roo Internet Services 
 Australian Domain Registration and Hosting 
 Cheap Efficient Cost-Effective solutions

New and Used Aussie Dirt, Trail and Motocross Bike Sellers Online

 Find Quality Used Dirt Bikes on eBay

 Pro Racer Motorcycles & Accessories

To recommend an Online Dirt Bike sales outlet for inclusion on Dirt Bike Australia.


Key Points To Evaluating A Used Dirt Bike
  Take Your Time and Be Thorough
  If You Lack Experience or Technical Knowledge - Bring a Friend
  Ask Questions and Don't Get Distracted by Tales of Glory
  Always Remember ... Buyer Beware !!
Buying a Used or Second Hand Dirt Bike - Part 2
The Inspection - What to Look For - and The Test Ride
- Help, Hints, Tips & Advice


Part 2 of our Buying a used dirt bike guide deals with the practicalities of assessing the condition of a used Dirt, Trail, MX or Enduro bike. Obviously the seller is not going to be keen to let you whip the head off to check the piston and bore, or split the crankcase so you can check the wear on the engine internals.

However there are a whole lot of things that you can check, without having to bring a toolbox. You will have to pay attention though and be prepared to take some time to be thorough. A little diligence on your part could save you money.

Try to avoid being distracted by the seller's cool dirt bike stories and tales of motocross bravado. This is where bringing a mate along can really help. Your friend can chat with the seller while you check out the bike. Your friend may possibly remind you of anything you have forgotten to check or perhaps overlooked. An extra pair of knowledgeable eyes can be real handy.
  The Pre-Purchase Inspection [ BACK ]

Some things to look out for:

  Inspection Rule Number 1
Always perform an inspection in a well lit environment! Preferably out in broad daylight. Avoid bike inspections in a dimly lit garage or similar location. Don't give the seller an opportunity to keep you in the dark about the bike's true condition.

  General Condition
You are looking to buy a used dirt bike, trail bike, motocross or enduro machine, so it is fair to expect that it might have seen some action. The bike may even have been punished and be sporting some dents, scratches and missing paint. Though these items are really just cosmetic, they do have a substantial impact on the market value of a used bike. A worn or torn seat, cracked or missing side guards, all contribute to a diminished resale value.

Visible external damage may also give you an idea of how the bike was ridden and maintained. If there is a lot of damage, it's generally not a good sign.

Don't even bother looking at a bike that is covered in muck and mud. If the owner won't take the time to clean it up ... don't waste your time trying to see through the crap. Chances are, there are problems hiding under the mud.

Let's begin with the obvious items that you can readily and visually check.

  After Market Upgrades, Third Party Parts and Add-ons
Some riders, my brother being a good example, just love to trick up their machines with an array of (often very expensive) aftermarket goodies. While these add-ons may certainly improve the bike's performance and handling, they will just as certainly be costly to replace if they are broken or when they wear out.

In rare cases the seller may still have the original bike parts which, if they are in reasonable condition, would be a bonus. It's more likely though that the original parts would have been sold-off to at least partly fund the aftermarket upgrades.

Be aware that non-standard parts (particularly exhaust systems) may hinder your ability to get a bike roadworthy, road registered and/or insured.

Many dirt bike tours, trail rides and non-pro competitions require that participating bikes are registered and street legal. This is another reason why a current certificate of roadworthiness is essential if you intend to use the machine as a road registered or dual-sport bike.

In some cases, damaged parts may simply have been replaced by cheaper non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) items. Though such parts may work just fine, keep in mind that they may lower the value of the bike.

In summary - Pay Attention to ANY Non-Standard Parts.

  Wheels and Tyres
Damaged rims and bent spokes usually mean the bike has had a stack or two. Such damage may adversely effect handling at higher speeds. Even slight or barely visible damage to rims may lead to handling problems. It's worth spinning the wheels while the bike is on a stand to check for any side to side movement or wobble.

The tyres are an item that should be relatively straight-forward to replace and maintain. Selling a bike with stuffed tyres may indicate a sloppy attitude to bike maintenance by the seller (this could be a hint!).

  Cables & Hydraulics - Throttle, Clutch and Brake
Make sure cables and their sleeves are not frayed, badly worn or about to break. The same goes for any hydraulic systems. Make sure the cables are in good shape and there are no serious leaks. A fresh film of hydraulic fluid is usually a hint that all is not well.

  Electrical Wiring
Worn electrical cables that rub against the engine or frame may eventually cause short circuits. This can result in blown fuses, failure to start, and all manner of annoying intermittent electrical problems. So have a good long look at the wiring. If you see insulation tape over wiring that has obviously been applied as a "quick fix", keep in mind that this may still fail if the bike gets wet.

  Engine and Gearbox Casings
Scuffs and scratches are to be expected, however bent or broken fins on older (air-cooled) bikes suggest a fairly severe whack against something hard. Suspect that some internal engine damage is also likely. With water-cooled machines, the external signs may be less obvious, but a new radiator would be a reasonably clear sign.

When you see any shiny new parts and casings on a worn bike, it might be worth asking why they are there. Chances are they are the result of a fairly major stack ... Warning!

  Chain and Sprockets
Even though chain technology and durability has advanced remarkably over the years, chain maintenance is one of those dead-boring chores that many riders just don't get around to as often as they should. All motorcycle chains will wear and stretch over time. When you add some mud and grit to the mix you essentially have an abrasive compound grinding down the teeth on both the front an rear cogs.

Check the wear on both front and rear sprockets, look for hooked teeth as a sign of severe wear. If you see a new chain, make sure the sprockets are still in good shape. A new chain by itself may be there just to hide the condition of the cogs. Check the chain tension, lubrication and remaining amount of available adjustment, to see whether the chain has been well maintained.

  General Bits and Pieces
It's not unusual for mud guards, footpegs, handle bars, brake and clutch levers to get replaced. These are the first things to go in even a minor stack. But it's worth noting if these items are obviously rather new and in particular, if the seller insists the bike has never kissed the ground.
  The Used Dirt Bike Test Ride [ BACK ]

While a visual inspection of a potential purchase may give you a good idea of the general condition of a used dirt / trail bike, there a many things that will only become apparent if you start the bike up and/or take it out for a test ride.

  Engine Condition & Performance
You can learn a lot about an engine just by starting it up. And there are things that you can check even if you can't take the bike out for a spin.

Engine Oil
Any modern high performance engine can be ruined quite quickly simply through improper maintenance. And top of the list is degraded engine oil. Engine lubricants can get "cooked" and do go "stale", thereby losing their effectiveness. The result is faster engine wear. If left unattended, fine metallic particles accumulate in the oil, further accelerating wear. The situation goes from bad to worse quite quickly.

Start the engine, let it run for a minute or so, then turn it off. Stick you finger down the oil plug, and when you take it out look for any grit or fine metallic particles. The lubricant should be clear and not dark or burnt in appearance. If there are ANY contaminants in the oil that can be easily seen, this engine is not in good shape. Having said that ... if the oil looks totally brand new, then be equally suspicious.

Engine Compression
To measure this comprehensively you would need to whip out the sparkplug and perform a proper compression test. If that isn't a realistic option, you should be able to get a good general idea from kick-starting the machine.

This assumes however that you know roughly how hard a kick it should take to turn over an engine of the capacity that you are looking at. If you are a novice, this is where an experienced friend can be very useful.

It is a good idea to perform this test at least twice. Once when the engine is cold, then later after the engine has warmed up. The compression should be relatively consistent. If not, then the piston rings may need replacing.

If it takes all your body weight to crank the engine over ... consider that to generally be a good sign ... unless of course the engine is seized ;-)

Engine Noises

Once you have the engine started you can use your ears to investigate further. An efficient way to listen to any engine is the old doctor's stethoscope, which you probably don't have. However, any screwdriver of reasonable length and with a nice fat handle will also do just fine.

Place the fat end of the screwdriver against your ear and the pointy part onto the region of engine you want to listen to. You might want to put some tape or a plastic cap on the tip of that driver so you don't leave marks on the engine casings.

Any tapping and rattling inside the engine casings are rarely going to be a cheap or quick fix. Such noises may indicate a variety of potentially nasty problems, which if left unattended, may ultimately lead to a catastrophic engine failure.

Noises from near the top of the engine can indicate problems ranging from worn timing chain and camshafts, through to valves and piston rings. Tapping noises from the bottom of the engine may indicate a damaged crankshaft or related bearings. All of which generally indicate the need for cracking the engine casings (read: expensive repairs).

Engine Performance
Being a used dirt bike, one can't expect it to perform like a new bike fresh out of the crate. But even though you may not be able to wind out the bike on a dirt track, a test ride should reveal whether the engine is in sound condition, with reasonable compression and power.

Depending on where the seller is, it may not always be possible to test-ride the dirt bike, particularly if the bike is unregistered and garaged at a city or suburban location. Try to arrange a meeting at a location where you can get at least a few minutes worth of ride time to check out the basics.

  Gearbox and Drive Chain
Like the engine, the gearbox on a dirt bike is likely to take a real beating through the course of a bike's life.

Though the clutch is the most likely gearbox related component to start failing (resulting in a slipping clutch or difficult gear changes), the gears themselves may also become worn, leading to loud and clunky gear changes.

A badly worn chain and sprockets will also tend to be noisy. So loud in fact, that they may mask other internal problems.

  Front and Rear Shock Absorbers
As the shocks age, the seals will wear and begin to leak. This can lead to some very nasty handling issues, particularly at higher speeds. Badly worn shock absorbers can literally throw you off the bike, particularly the front end under hard braking.

Make sure the shock absorbers are not spongy and that all (front and rear) have the required degree of stiffness on both sides (where appropriate).

  Front and Rear Brakes
Your life can depend on how well the front brakes work. During heavy braking the front wheel ends up bearing most of the load, so the front brakes do most of the braking.

Fortunately worn or inefficient brakes are less expensive to fix than most engine related items.

However, it's not a good sign if the owner has let the brakes deteriorate, particularly if they are spongy, prone to "grabbing" or readily lock-up.

See Also: Buying a Used or Second Hand Dirt Bike - Part 1