? There is no point going any further if the paperwork isn’t in order.
? Does the seller’s address match the log book?
? Do the engine and frame numbers match the log book?
? Does the colour and model name match the log book?
? Is there a service history? Does it make sense, do the names on the invoices back up the 'two careful owners' story?
? Is it MoT’d? Why not. SORN often means unroadworthy, an MoT should be part of the deal.
The quick look round
? Are all the panels there and in good condition? Are all the fittings correct, are the panels fitting properly?
? How are the tyres? Matched pair, right sizes, plenty of tread, not squared off.
? And the chain and sprockets? Properly adjusted and plenty of life left (chain not coming away from the sprocket when you pull).
? Suspension and brakes. Is there damping when you compress the suspension, does it work smoothly, is the linkage seized?
? What do the brakes look like? Original or pattern discs, meat on the pads, original rubber hoses?
? Clocks – do the numbers line up on the mileometer (if not, it could be tampered with)? How many keys are there, do the locks look butchered?
? Seat. Original cover still in good nick. Pillion seat present under the seat hump?
? Exhaust. Downpipes in good nick, collars and studs not rusted and seized. Collector box not rusty. Original or aftermarket end can? Is the original available?
? Wiring. Under the seat, behind the panels, behind the headlamp. How much is bodged? Where does that aftermarket alarm fit in, does it look like I fitted it?
? Check the oil level while cold.
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? Does it start easily from cold?
? Let the owner warm it up – does he thrash the motor when still cold?
? Exhaust blowing at the manifold? – you’ll see the smoke better now.
? Does that rumbling go away when you pull the clutch in? If so, it’s nothing to worry about.
? Why hasn’t the temperature gauge moved after 15 minutes?
? Is that rattle and misfire really unbalanced carbs… and if he knows they need balancing why hasn’t it been done?
? Is it idling at the right speed?
The test ride
? You are not evaluating the performance for Sooperfastsickle magazine, you are checking the condition of the bike.
? Does it go into gear easily and does the clutch release smoothly?
? How does the engine make power – smoothly or jerkily. Are there any flat spots in the lower gears.
? How slick is the gear change?
? Does it idle smoothly as soon as you stop?
? Does it accelerate cleanly away from a stop and through the gears?
? How does the steering feel – smooth or notchy?
? Are there any clunks from the front when you brake (knackered head bearings) or a pulsing through the lever (warped disc)?
? Is it overheating, do all the instruments and lights work?
? What happens when you take your hands off the bars? (Bar wobbles indicate knackered head bearings, steering to the left/right is a bent frame.)
? How does the engine sound now it’s warm?
The cross examination
? Ask all your questions again. Inconsistent or exaggerated answers could also be lies. Query the contradictions, be certain you trust him because this isn’t just about right-bike-right-price, it’s also about right-bike-full-stop.
? Make your offer based on what you’ve found, not just ‘will you take £600 for it?’ and stick to your guns. If he won’t accept or even get close, leave your number and go. There’s always another CB650 Nighthawk in Bury St Edmunds with your name all over it.