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I'm planning to buy a used Honda Goldwing. Researching the prices, my budget will allow me to get something in the range up to year '95-96 models.

As this is going to be my first bike, I have no idea for what common problems/bad signals I should look for while deciding on a bike.

What could be the most expensive to replace/fix things, which can be "hidden" during the sale? What are the average life span of different key components, which need to be replaced after some amount of use (like the timing belt in cars, etc.)?

I know, that the usual advise is to go with something much smaller as a beginner, but this is not an answer for my question.

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You'll probably need to replace the chain, maybe the sprockets. Look for the shape of the teeth on the sprocket. The engine will likely need valve lash adjustments and then standard tuneup past that (carb, fluids & filters). Look at the condition of the tires, not just tread but sidewall. –  insta May 21 '12 at 19:06
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I would be concerned with a bike the size of a Goldwing as a first bike. –  mikes May 22 '12 at 1:45
    
@insta AFAIK a Goldwing doesn't have a chain nor sprockets, so that's one less a problem. But it may need a gear oil change, no? –  bububaba May 22 '12 at 14:26
    
As @mikes says, a huge behemoth of a bike like a Goldwing is a risk as a first bike. Almost everyone drops their first bike at least once and with all of that weight and plastic a drop is even more likely and expensive to fix. I would strongly recommend something a little smaller/lighter to get used to handling a bike before going for a heavyweight. Even if you only keep it for a few months, you could learn a lot. –  Mark Booth Jun 1 '12 at 15:29
    
@all: I listened to your advise, and I actually got PC800 to start with :). Will leave the GW for next year. Thanks everybody. –  Sunny Jun 5 '12 at 13:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

To some extent, the answers will be dependent on model you are looking at, the amount and types of customization that have gone into the bike, and the amount and type of actual use it's experienced. If it's been to the track (probably not an issue with touring bikes or cruisers, but certainly possible with sportbikes), wear and tear on the drive train will have been much heavier. On the flip side, a bike that has only 1000 miles on it in 5 years could have problems with corrosion or bad fluids.

First and foremost, check for legal problems. Get the VIN number and have it checked (I believe there are free online services these days) to make sure the title is clear and not a salvage, i.e. it is not stolen, has no liens you don't know about, and was not wrecked. This may not be as big of an issue with Goldwings, but very important for newer motorcycles, sportbikes, and Harleys.

Second, you should consult http://www.recalls.gov/nhtsa.html to see if any recalls have been issued for the bike or its parts and that any repairs or replacements have been done. Sites like http://www.mcreports.com/ may also be helpful in researching the quirks of particular models.

Third, I would see if I could obtain the manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedule (from the owner's manual) for the model and year you're interested in. It will provide the official guidance as to when various parts and systems should be checked, adjusted, and/or replaced. You can then inquire with the current owner as to if and when such maintenance was performed.

These are all things to do before you even set eyes on the bike. For the actual meeting, you can consult checklists such as http://www.clarity.net/adam/buying-bike.html . That guide is particularly thorough, but it only takes a few seconds to check fluid levels and clarity (coolant, oil and brake, and on some bikes clutch/transmission), chain tension and cleanliness, tire health, and brake pad thickness; or to ask the owner about the last oil change, coolant change, or clutch cable adjustment. If something is amiss here, other more serious maintenance may have been neglected.

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Here is a great video guide for purchasing a used motorcycle: YouTube. I also suggest taking a checklist with you so you can remember what to look for. This checklist doesn't say how to inspect the different parts, you'll want to know those things before you get there.

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