My shop is in an over-sized two-car garage attached to my home. My work is a calling, in the theological sense of the word. Ethical and moral questions arise every day – they are hard, sharp, unambiguous and unavoidable.

The Wretched Truth about Vintage Motorcycles

Posted: February 9th, 2012 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Editorial, Motorcycle Repair | 2 Comments »

So You Think You Want a Vintage Motorcycle?

The following is a text I have written to be read and signed by everyone who buys a vintage bike from me. Common sense is, apparently, no longer common. Too often recently I have sold a bike to a customer only to have them call me that night/next day because it is weeping oil or won’t start – or this that or the other thing. These folks have bought a 30-plus year-old machine bike expecting it to be as thoughtlessly reliable as a new bike.

So here is;

The Wretched Truth About Buying and Living with a Vintage Motorcycles

You are buying a geriatric machine designed and built 30-plus years ago during the Golden Age of American consumptionism. Much like computer technology today, motorcycle technology in the ’60s/’70s was evolving at a furious rate. A conservative design-life back then was 10 years. None of the designers, engineers or buyers dreamed that these bikes would be in use for more than a few years.

But they are – and we have to think of them and live with them much as we would with a geriatric human. Think of your cranky old grandmother.

We treat our old folks very differently and expect different things of them than we do people in their prime. Our old folks need a lot more of our time, patience, and help than do our friends. They have their “little ways.” So do our vintage motorcycles. Some will not start unless a specific series of steps is taken – and taken just so.

About the bikes I sell:

I am in this crazy vintage bike biz for the long-run. By now I am essentially unemployable so this is the only gig I’ve got. It does not serve my interest to rip anyone off. Au contraire mes amis – I go to some lengths to ensure that a buyer gets a good deal – or “good count” as some of us used to say way back when. I’ll waive a delivery charge or give a copy of the service manual or a special tool that I have two of or a box of spare parts.

I sell bikes in all sorts of conditions – from boxes of parts to ready to ride. I describe each accurately/honestly/fairly. That is its current condition. I can’t predict the future. Vintage bikes can fail at any time – anything from a minor nuisance like a turn signal switch to a catastrophic engine failure. Japanese production quality control was already pretty good back then but I have seen parts break in perfectly maintained engines due to an unseen/undetected flaw in the basic casting of a machined part.

page 1 of 2.

Buyer’s signature and date: ___________________________________________________
Have I made myself clear?

Here’s a precis:

I describe my stuff honestly. I give my customers a good/fair deal. There is no warranty of any kind. If it breaks tomorrow, I will fix it – at my usual shop rate.

Now, if you want to complete this purchase, please fill in the following info and sign your name in blood.

Motorcycle being sold: ________________________________________________________

Buyer: _____________________________________________________________________

Address: ___________________________________________________________________

State: _____________________________________________________________________

Telephone: ________________________________________________________________

Email: _____________________________________________________________________

I have read and understood the foregoing and agree in all respects.

Signature: __________________________________________________________________

Date: ________________________

2 Comments on “The Wretched Truth about Vintage Motorcycles”

  1. 1 Ryan P. Zabloudil said at 6:34 am on March 31st, 2012:


    I have been riding all of my life mostly 650,750 croch rockets untill 5 years ago. Now I have been riding an 88 katana 1100F
    and am done with this style. I comute 30 miles a day year round to downtown asheville on my bike, and think that I would like to get into eather an eary 80s cb typ 750 or 1000cc machine. I had also thought about a 650 dual sport that I could slowly turn supper motard. I know for shure that I would like to do the cb style thing though. Any chance you would be interested in some sort or a trade? My katana is reliable transportation for me….the down side…last year a tourist pulled out about six feet in front of me up on the parkway. Hit or lay down…..I got it as slow as was posible and lowsided her on the right. Right lower ond upper are scratched but intact. Only the blinker was broken. Reality is I pulled just a hair to hard on that front break as I had her leaned waaay over trying to avoid….But I dont admit that in every day conversation. harharhar. Any how if you think you might want this bike or even be able to use it to your advantage let me know I really like that 750 four that that you have let me know I check my email every day.

  2. 2 Administrator said at 4:38 pm on May 8th, 2012:

    Sorry to be so slow in replying – I seldom find time/interest to visit and tend this site. Please email me at to continue this conversation in a more timely way.


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