It’s late spring 2021 in the northern hemisphere, and you know what that means. Riding season is well and truly upon us once again, thank goodness! Inevitably, some of us are thinking about new bikes (or at least, bikes that are new to us) for any number of reasons. While the correct number of bikes to have in your garage is almost always number of existing bikes + 1, it’s important to think critically about any new bike purchases you’re thinking of making.
That’s where a video like this one from SRK Cycles can be helpful, offering the perspective of X number of things motorcycle dealers won’t tell you if you go to buy from them. Now, SRK is a dealer itself, so taking this advice with a grain of salt should be second nature for RA readers. However, as someone who’s been both an overenthusiastic newbie and also an older, wiser private party bike buyer, I can say that there’s some good advice here, too.
One key point that Sean from SRK stresses is simple: Saving up cash is best, but if you’re going to finance, be smart about it. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by all the excitement, or the possibility of rolling out of the shop astride your very first bike later that afternoon. Also, don’t let a dealer talk you into adding on a bunch of gear and/or bike accessories to your already hefty bill. If the dealer throws some discounts on stuff at you to sweeten the deal, consider it very carefully before you commit to any money changing hands.
Maybe you did a ton of research on your dream bike, and you already know how you want it specced out. Perhaps you want a bunch of luggage, because you’re going to do a bunch of adventuring on it. Maybe you want crash bars, hand guards, and a whole bunch of other stuff to protect your bike in the event of an off-road tip-over. The dealer might make you an offer you can’t refuse on stuff you already knew you wanted. Even so, don’t let yourself get suckered into financing those accessories—or even worse, gear. Ideally, you want to finance as little as possible. Present-you might not think you’re being much fun, but future-you will thank your good sense and cool head under pressure later on.
If you know you want to finance part of your bike purchase, check around with local credit unions and banks to see what kinds of deals you can get on your own. Don’t just walk into a dealership and do all the financing right there, because it’s in every dealership’s best interest to get as much money out of the deal as possible.
Nominally, the dealer wants to get you on a bike, and you also want to get you on a bike, but that’s where your shared interests end. Individual people working at dealerships can be awesome, but sales is still a game, and most salespeople work on commissions. Make sure you understand that before you go play, and you’ll have a much better time.
One other thing that Sean SRK mentions in this video is warranties, specifically of the aftermarket variety, and how they can be extremely sketchy. Let me tell you my personal experience with an aftermarket wheel and tire warranty that I purchased on my first bike, when I was young and dumb and didn’t know any better. It wasn’t Sicily, and it wasn’t 1912, but it might as well have been.
Less than a year into ownership, I bent my front rim so badly on a really bad pothole that the tire wouldn’t hold air. It took months of fighting, and also involved two different attorneys general from two different states (my state, and the state where the warranty holder was busy trying to go out of business). In the end, though, I got new wheels and tires covered, and that particular warranty ended up paying off—but not without a lot of fighting on my part. The moral of the story is, be extremely careful about any aftermarket warranties people try to sell you.
Anyway, one last thing to mention: This video also brings up the extremely dumb subject of dudes getting their girlfriends to finance bikes for them, and how it’s a bad idea. As a woman who rides, with a partner who also rides, amid an extended family full of automotive enthusiasts, let me just say this. Roping any of your loved ones into financing is almost universally a recipe for disaster. Just don’t do it, ever. Relatedly, buying and selling to and from family can also bring its own separate set of issues, but that’s another story for another day.