Before viewing the bike make sure it is within a reasonable distance. If you live in Kent & the bike is in Scotland, it's a long way to go to look at bike you end up not buying. Also consider how you are going to get it home.
Ask if there is any service history, although a bike of this age is unlikely to have much, as they are usually maintained by the owner, when and if they need it, many doing only a few hundred miles a year, but you have asked the question and it might get you a few quid off later. Ask if it has it had any modifications, some, like electronic ignition can improve the performance & reliability without affecting the appearance, others, such as comstar wheels from a Superdream, or a cafe racer seat can spoil the appearance, especially if you want the bike to look original. Check out the bikes in the photos section of this site, to familiarize yourself with the details of originals.
When viewing the bike, look at it in daylight if possible, look at the paintwork, check for fading, blistering, chips, & dents, check the chrome work for blistering. Place the bike on it's center stand & grasp the wheels & rock them at 6 o'clock & 12 o'clock checking for play in the bearings & bushes. Apply the brakes whist turning the wheels, check that the brakes operate & release, look for buckles & missing, weakened or loose spokes, check the chain & rear sprocket for stretch, wear & adjustment. Point the front wheel straight ahead & look along each edge of the rear tyre towards the edge of the front tyre, see if all appears in line, check the steering from lock to lock to ensure it doesn't foul anything or feel stiff
Check the front forks for leaks & pitting, beware of gaiters as they could be hiding the a fore mentioned, push the bike off of the center stand, roll the bike forward & pull the front brake, the suspension should dive & rebound then rest, without any knocks or clunks. sit on the seat & bounce on the rear to check the rebound on the back shocks. Check the operation of the lights & horn. Ask if there is any documentation with the bike, V5c, MOT, receipts, handbook etc.
Before starting turn the ignition on, and check that the oil light illuminates, and goes out as soon as the engine starts. The engine should start immediately & not emit lots of blue smoke, especially when warm, they can be a bit clattery at tick over but smooth en out with a slight increase of revs.
A test ride is recommended, if the bike is road worthy & the owner agrees, you should leave him or her a deposit or the keys to your vehicle as security, you can also take him or her along for the ride, ensure you have insurance cover & the bike has a valid MOT & road license. She should pull smoothly & not stutter, change gear crisply without jumping out, or any unusual noises, & not have a slipping clutch, "I meant, the bike not the owner!". count the gears to make sure all six engage.
If the bike is a non runner, check to see if it turns over with the kick start, feeling for compression as you do. If it feels like there is compression it might be a simple repair, but again it might not, and you're not going to get a test ride to check the running, transmission & handling you are best to assume the engine to be shot, & adjust your valuation accordingly. If the bike needs new parts, adjust your offer accordingly, A replica exhaust system from David Silver will set you back £365, a replica chain guard £66, aftermarket fork stanchions & oil seals £194 "prices quoted are inc vat & postage, June2013"
When you have made up your mind the maximum amount you want to pay, offer a little less, lets say the bike is advertised at £1500 and you are prepared to pay £1500, offer £1300 the seller might say well I was hoping for £1400 then you pull out £1300 in cash, (which you had prepared earlier), the sellers eyes light up, then you say I have £1300 here. You should end up paying somewhere in between £1300 & £1400, if he or she says I'll take £1350 & not a penny less, then that's the bottom line, You now rummage through your pockets, car or wife's purse & come up with another £50. You're happy & the seller is happy, as you bid the seller down & the seller bid you up, or so they think!. Remember to ask for a receipt with the sellers name address & signature.
Expect to pay from £1000 for a useable runner up to £3500 for a low mileage minter. £2,000 should buy you a nice bike. Note:- there are bikes advertised at higher prices in classified ads, these are usually dealers holding out, but if it's really good and you really want it you can always make an offer.
Here is a list of things to look out for :-
- Pitted & leaking forks
- Rattling cam chain
- Oil leaks
- Transmission noise
- Seized binding or leaking front brake
- Cam chain adjuster (at the front of crank case in the center, can snap off, it should be M8 bolt & locknut)
- Exhaust system for correctness & corrosion especially collector box (expensive to replace with original type)
- Split seat cover
- Rotten seat base, look underneath
- Leaking fuel tank, look undeneath
- Mudguards & chain guard condition & type
- Cracked side panels
- Paint work for chips, fading, poor finish, also check frame paintwork
- Check frame & engine numbers against the documentation (note:- engine & frame numbers are not supposed to match, as on some bikes)