There’s an old saying, “something is only worth what somebody else is willing to pay for it”. I write another blog about vintage motorcycles, www.vintagemotorcycles.wordpress.com and here is where I learn what people think their motorcycle is worth and I will say this right off the bat, some people have a very inflated sense of the value of their motorcycle or their 1970 metalflake helmet.
In my years as a surf shop owner I spent a great deal of time helping people determine the value of the used surfboard they wanted to sell. A customer would come in toting an old surfboard that maybe they have had for years or they picked it up at a garage sale somewhere for a few dollars, either way it’s time to sell it. I would always start off the conversation by asking how much do you want for it? The customer would reply, “how much is it worth?”, next is me asking again how much they want for it, knowing that they do have a dollar figure in mind…getting that figure out of them is a very funny game of cat and mouse. This game goes on for just a bit and then I throw out a price of what I think I can sell it for (we sold surfboards on consignment for a small percentage). One of three things happen now, the customer is surprised in a good way, they’re offended or sometimes I get lucky and I’m right there with what they had in mind. At least half the time it’s door number two. If the offended one doesn’t walk out the door in a huff, I try to explain why I put the value on their board that I did. It comes from the knowledge of knowing what it will sell for, not what it may be worth. There is a difference.
The other difference I have to explain to people whether we are talking about surfboards or motorcycles, is the difference between just old and classic. What is the difference? To make it as simple as I can, a ‘classic’ is something that truly stood out in it’s time and has stood the test of time. A ‘classic’ is something iconic, something that helped define that time period, either technologically or sociologically. In surfboards, a 1967 Dewey Weber Performer is a classic, a 1967 stock production, no model name surfboard is just an old board. A Honda CM400A is just an old motorcycle, a 1969 Honda CB750 is a classic. A Kawasaki Samurai is a neat motorcycle but it’s just an old motorcycle, a ’72 H2 is a classic. You get my point here I hope.
I spend a portion of each morning perusing ebay for cool old motorcycles or interesting parts for my vintage motorcycle blog. If I find something interesting that I have some history with, I write a story about it, add some pictures then post it. If I find something interesting that I don’t know much about, I do some research and then write what I have learned..spread the knowledge you know. But here’s the best part of looking at bikes on ebay…the value a seller puts on the motorcycle. I catch myself laughing out loud every morning, I guess laughter is the best way to start the day. For some people the price is based on sentimental value, “I have had this bike since I was just a boy back on the farm in Iowa”, or, ” I completely restored this bike from the ground up, I have $7324.14 in receipts”, opening bid for this Honda CB350 is $7500. Here’s the deal folks, sentimental value does not translate in real world value. If you don’t want to sell it for a realistic price, then don’t put it on the market. If you spend $7324.14 on a CB350, well first, you should be institutionalized, then you have to realize that every dollar you put into it was for your own enjoyment. When you add accessories or do restoration work, the rule of thumb is that you can expect to get back around half of what you put into it. That’s the real world.
I put together a little list of bikes I thought fit in the “you must be kidding” category, ready…? A rusty, sidecover missing, fenders all scuffed up 1979 Honda XR80 for only $2000. How about a custom Maico dirtbike from the ’70’s for a paltry $7,000, or maybe you have fancy a dirty, banged up, yellowed gas tank, not sure of the mileage or hours on the bike ’88 Yamaha BIG Wheel with a starting price of $3500. How does a very nicely restored 1968 Suzuki T500 for $7000 fit in your garage? Now here is where the fun really begins. How can you turn down the opportunity to buy a 1969 Indian 50cc minibike in well used condition for only $2600. I don’t even think you could get that much for one of the Harley Clone Indians from a couple of years ago!?
And here is the capper for the day, a beautiful, 99% original 1978 Kawasaki Z1R turbo that will only lighten your wallet by $25,000, you can actually find a real nice one for less than half that.
What do all these bikes have in common? besides crazy prices, they have all been on ebay a while, and they all have zero bids. I wonder why.
So what was my point in writing this today, it’s not really to make fun of anybody or what they believe the value of their motorcycle is, the point was to take my experience in selling used goods for people and use it to help somebody think about pricing their Suzuki 250 triple that needs work, or that 1970 metalflake helmet to sell..not languish about on ebay. If you want to sell it, sell it. Get a fair price for it and be happy. Like my old friend Doug used to say, “buy it for $1, sell it for $2 and be happy with a one percent profit”
eBay and Craigs List have everybody going through their garages, closets and boxes out in the shed looking for things to sell. What’s the old saying…’one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’, sometimes it’s so true and then are times that, well…think twice.
I’m a vintage kind of guy…I drive a vintage car (’63 Ford Fairlane), ride a vintage motorcycle (’76 BMW R90S) and I like vintage wine but when it comes to protecting my vintage head, I don’t go vintage.
Lately, while cruising eBay for cool old motorcycles I also run into all kinds of other old motorcycle stuff including helmets. I’m going to stand next to my soapbox here instead of getting on it about wearing old helmets. It’s simple…don’t.
If you are building a helmet collection that is just going to go on a shelf, there are a lot of cool old helmets out there that have great places in motorcycling history. You can buy one that looks just the one Steve McQueen wore in ‘On Any Sunday’ for..oh I don’t know, around $50, you can even get one that looks like ‘Captain America’ from ‘Easy Rider’, the thing is…don’t wear them.
A helmet that is 30 years old has seen it’s better days over 20 years ago. The foam that is designed to save your head has deteriorated, the foam padding for cushioning has also lost most, if not all, it’s cushioning and the chin strap that holds it onto your mellon probably wouldn’t hold a grapefruit much less your head in a crash. It doesn’t matter how good a helmet looks or that the seller says it’s been in storage for 30 years, it just isn’t safe to wear.
If you want to go old school there are a number of companies out there that make new helmets that look like they came right out of the 50’s or 60’s but have modern features that can save you some brain damage, Davida is the first one that comes to mind . Save the ‘vintage’ helmets for the shelf
There are two types of motorcycle riders
those that have crashed and those that will
Planning for the accident/crash/”lay it down”/minor and major oopses.
As strange as it sounds planning for an event such as those mentioned above takes time, effort and a modicum of intelligence. Unfortunately, few of us take the time to do it or have the brains to realize that the planning involved can help us and those around us. Just in case.
So, having insulted most everyone, here are a few suggestions to make your life and the people you ride with easier.
I’m taking for granted here that you have a proper motorcycle license, insurance, helmet and clothing. You don’t? Well, it’s time to take care of that.
You do have motorcycle insurance right? Your state requires that you do and you should. If the motorcycle isn’t paid for, your bank/credit union/parents will require evidence of financial responsibility. Rather than sign up for the least amount of insurance available, take an hour or so and sit down to talk to an insurance agent. The amount of insurance should be enough to cover you, your passenger, any other driver (make sure the policy does cover a different driver…not all do) or object you might encounter. More importantly, it should protect you and your assets in the event of a lawsuit or other legal proceedings against you. Remember, insurance will help protect you against losing everything you’ve worked for because of a lawsuit or judgment. So, talk to an agent (or better yet, talk to a couple of them).
If you’re underinsured or not insured at all, there are major implications; continuing to pay for a totaled bike, going to prison (that’s the scare tactic) or paying lots of money for the rest of your life. Being uninsured isn’t worth the risk.
Helpful hint here: Use all of the resources available to you including the internet, owners’ clubs and other groups. Some have excellent policies for their members. Also, after checking prices on insurance websites, calling an agent can often get you a better price. And lastly, if you have home and auto insurance, talk to your agent/company about getting a package deal on your insurance. There is a great interview with an insurance agent who has been selling motorcycle insurance for thirty years on our podcast at http://www.themotoworld.com
And lastly on the subject of insurance, make sure you have adequate medical insurance.
Yes, you can save money and worry by doing your homework now.
Let’s go back to your helmet and other riding gear. I won’t get on a soapbox here but dress to crash. Is your helmet current? Is it DOT approved? It should be, that is the law. If you plan on racing or doing ‘Track Days’ it will more than likely need to be Snell approved as well. Helmets have a service life due to sun, ozone, that stuff you put in your hair, and the stuff from your head. Check the manufacture date and look to the helmet manufacturer’s advice about replacement.
Helpful hint: Helmets are made to be used for their intended purpose once. Did you fall down and “just chip the paint” on your helmet? Replace it.
When it comes to getting a new helmet, spend time trying on as many as you can to get a proper fit. Your dealer or accessory store can help you and there are many, many articles in the magazines to help you decide what is best for you. Just don’t go for cheap, it’s your head in there.
Still wearing that old bomber jacket from junior high? Bad idea, current motorcycle wear is designed to keep you comfortable, safe and of course, stylin’. Outwear is available in leather or textile materials. Most will have CE armor built in at impact points like elbows, back and shoulders . There are styles and designs for all weather conditions. Use your local dealer,accessory store, magazines and user group websites for advice and information about the latest in clothing. The same goes for gloves and boots. Gloves should have gauntlets that cover your wrists and boots should be tall enough to protect your ankles. Wear your gear whenever you ride because skin has a poor coefficient of friction and you need it to keep your insides in…
Helpful hint: To keep your helmet and outerwear clean and at maximum effectiveness, read the little tags and brochures that came with them when it’s time to service them. You can also find this information from your dealer or manufacturer’s website.
This part is kind of obvious but I’ll share this wisdom with you anyway. Check your motorcycle before you ride, remember that little book you got when you bought your motorcycle? The owners manual. It has a safety check list for use before every ride. Check the oil, coolant level, chain adjustment (does it need to be lubed?) tire pressure/condition and more. Read the book, see your dealer, and learn what to look for and how to adjust it. I know; blah, blah, blah. A few minutes can save a lot of inconvenience and/or hurt.