What to Consider When Shopping for A Used Dirt Bike
Any search online, in a cycle trader type of magazine or other classified publication including Craigslist Cycle trader, eBay or Facebook will quickly bring up more used dirt bikes for sale than you ever wanted to know about so whether you're getting your first or a replacement, these tips below are good to keep in mind when heading out to purchase a used dirt bike so as to be able to get the sweetest bike for the money.
I know what it's like to be heart set on one particular bike no matter what condition you think it's in, but if you slow down a few notches and read the advice below, you'll find that this article could help you to possibly avoid any surprises in your new purchase, so just try to remember as much of this as you can when you're standing beside any used dirt bikes for sale with a pocket full of cash.
A bit of insight up front to be aware of when evaluating any used dirt bike is If someone tells you "It's never been raced", or "only been trail ridden", this may not be as good as it sounds as any of the used dirt bikes for sale you are looking at that have presumably "never been raced" may be in worse condition than that of one that has been raced.
Why A Race Bike is Better:
- Most people that race dirt bikes tend to keep them in their best possible condition so the motorcycle is constantly & consistently performing at it's best, as this will help to avoid any failures or problems at the track, as well as the fact of having a well performing, finely tuned bike when rolling up to the line can become yet another advantage over the competition so most used dirt bikes that have been raced ARE where you want to be looking for a good used dirt bike.
- A dirt bike that has only been "Trail Ridden" or "used around the farm" has likely not seen an air filter cleaning, oil change or any other maintenance such as swingarm and linkage bearing care in quite a long time, if EVER and is probably "Ragged Out".
Which is Better? A 2 Stroke or 4 Stroke?
Of all the used dirt bikes for sale which you may be looking at, let it be known that if you're planning on riding off-road, or if the budget is kinda tight, a 2 stroke may be the way you'd want to go. 2 strokes are light weight, easy to start hot or cold if stalled or dropped on the ground which happens commonly riding off-road, (at least for me), as well as 2 strokes are much easier and inexpensive to work on than 4 strokes.
If pure motocross is where it's at for you, and your pockets are deep, by all means get a 4 stroke, but take your time looking at all the used dirt bikes for sale where you're looking and try to find one with low hours.
4 stroke motocross bikes are powerful torque monsters, and the gate at most MX races are so stacked with 4 strokes, that a 4 stroke is almost a prerequisite if you're considering racing motocross and wish to get into the first turn in front of, or with everyone else and not be left dodging roost you might steer your attention towards a 4 stroke.
4 strokes are also a good choice if you are planning on trail riding or recreational track use, but be sure to stay on top of the dirt bike maintenance that a 4 stroke requires so as to avoid any costly future repairs.
What To Do & Look For When Looking at a Used Dirt Bike
Ideally, it would be nice if you could do a thorough inspection of any used dirt bikes for sale before shelling out the cash, but most people are usually hesitant about doing anything that requires the use of any tools. Once someone shows up, most people are only interested in helping you get the dirt bike in your truck or on the trailer and getting your money in their pocket, much less any talk of a compression test, air filter removal or other procedures that require the use of any tools so it's safe to consider those off-limits.
If your heart is set on a particular used dirt bike somewhere, you may want to ask the following type of questions and take a good look at some of the visual checks provided before loading any used motorcycle up and taking off down the road. Always remember, there are plenty of other used dirt bikes for sale elsewhere and a smart decision before jumping into one can save you big money later.
What To Ask the Seller:
- Is the air filter clean?
- How often do you clean the air filter?
- When was the oil last changed?
- How often do you change the oil?
- What type of oil do you use?
- What if any modifications have been performed?
- Were any parts replaced recently?
What To Look For On The Dirt Bike
- Carb to intake boot seal (An intake boot that is not properly sealed to the carburetor can allow unfiltered air carrying dirt and other particles to enter the engine causing accelerated wear of internal parts.)
- Oil leaks any where.
- Coolant leaks anywhere.
- Oil drooling down a fork leg or shock shaft. (This may be disguised as dirt buildup in the area where the shock shaft enters the shock body or where the fork leg enters the slider.)
- Any build up of dirt in areas of the engine (Oil leaks attract dirt).
- Engine case damage (Underneath engine or in the area of the countershaft sprocket).
- Brake pad condition.
- Missing or improper use of fasteners.
- Overall condition of cables, hoses and wires.
- Anything that doesn't "look right".
- Frame damage. (Common areas for frame damage are under the bottom frame rails).
What to Feel For on a Test Ride and while it's on the Stand
- Take it for a test ride.
Note: During a test ride you want to accelerate hard from a slow speed in each gear feeling for clutch slippage and more importantly any gears that "jump out of gear". Any used dirt bikes for sale being offered that jump out of gear during acceleration can be costly to fix.
- Grab the kick starter by hand. Is it tight? Is it worn out feeling and just flopping on the knuckle?
Note: A kick starter that is loose feeling and has a noticeable amount of slop and movement between the knuckle (where it mounts to the engine) and the kicker arm is an indication that the dirt bike you're considering may be worn out or has not been cared for as well as it could have been.
- Check the condition of the rear swingarm, linkage, and rear wheel bearings.
Note: This can be done by placing the dirt bike on a stand so the rear wheel is off the ground and grabbing the rear wheel, then lifting lightly, as well as shifting from side to side while feeling for any slop or movement.
- Check the steering head bearing condition.
Note: This can be done with the dirt bike on a stand and the front wheel off the ground by grabbing the lower fork legs, and then pulling fore and aft on the fork legs while feeling for any movement within the steering head bearings, as well as turning the handle bars back and forth feeling for any rough, notchy or tight feelings in the steering. (The handle bars should travel from center to full lock on either side with little or no resistance if a steering damper is not being used while also not having any movement in the steering head bearings).
- Condition of the front wheel bearings.
Note: While the bike is on the stand and your checking the steering head bearings you should also spin the front wheel, feeling for any roughness, binding or noise coming from the area of the front wheel hub which would indicate front wheel bearings that are in need of replacement.
- Condition of braking system hydraulics
Note: A brake lever or pedal should have a firm feel and not travel very far, "Very far" would be something such as the front brake lever squeezing almost to the handle bars before noticeable pressure being obtained or the rear brake pedal being pushed down more than an inch before noticeable pressure being felt.
- Condition of the cables
Note: On checking the condition of the cables by feel you want to be able to squeeze the clutch lever feeling for smooth action of the lever with no tightness or binding throughout the range of lever travel, while the throttle should have a nice smooth feel to the opening and should close easily on it's own by just releasing the grip, you should not have to turn the throttle closed manually.
- Condition of brake slides
Note: You should be able to grab either brake caliper by hand and feel some type of looseness when moving the caliper from side to side. This looseness is not a lot of movement but you should be able to just feel something move slightly as this will indicate that the caliper is not frozen on the slide(s). An exception to this is on a dirt bike with a floating brake rotor whereas the rotor is intended to move slightly.
What to Avoid When Shopping Used Dirt Bikes For Sale
- The Off-brand "Made in China" Variety's
Of all the used dirt bikes for sale, the ones to completely avoid are the off brand made in china types which are pure junk. These are commonly found in auto parts stores, flea markets, mail order outlets and some small motorcycle shops and are not something you want to get involved with.
The made in China dirt bikes are notorious for falling apart and breaking down. Furthermore, I don't think any of these would survive more than one weekendat a motocross track, or make it very far into an off-road trail ride, not to mention how long it would last in a Hare Scramble, GNCC Race or Enduro.
Another thing to keep in mind about the off-brand chinese dirt bikes is that if it breaks down and needs parts...you'll find there are very few places to get parts for them (if any). In short...These bikes are best to avoid at all costs, as there are plenty of other used dirt bikes for sale out there that are far better than these.
- The Cannondale
If you see a Cannondale advertised, and unless you are a true Cannondale aficionado, Cannondale's are best to be avoided as there are plenty of other used dirt bikes for sale being offered that will likely make you much happier.
Some of the reasons why Cannondale's are best avoided is due to minimal or no parts being available, and furthermore, Motocross Action Magazine Performed a Test on the Cannondale when it was released many years ago that revealed the MX400 as a complete mess so be sure to read the article about the Cannondale linked above to MX Action if you are considering one of these.
- "Basket Case" Bikes
"Basket Case" bikes can be a good deal if you have another one just like it and need another to have for parts but they're often a tough one to make a call on. If you're interested in a basket case, here's a couple things to keep in mind.
If you're considering a basket case for a project and because it's cheap, just be aware that the dirt bike may be in this condition due to a seemingly endless necessity of parts, also be aware that even if it seems like it's all there, once you start reassembling something, you're almost guaranteed to be missing something, and more often than not, that "Something" will turn into many pieces that can add up quick.
What to Do After You've Bought a Used Dirt Bike
I know the feeling that comes with finding a used dirt bike for sale is great and going to get it and bringing it home is even better. Once you have it home, I know the urge to unload it and tear up the flower beds can be unbearable but it would be wise to do these things below before hand.
In addition to the few basic items listed above, be sure to check out our dirt bike maintenance articles on a regular basis & keep it pinned everywhere you go,
just keep it safe & remember the old adage... "Stupid Hurts"
Used Dirt Bikes by Manufacturer