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Buying a used superbike: A definitive buyer's guide

19th Jul 2020 8:00 am

We list the things to bear in mind before you head to the used superbike market to find your dream machine.

In our previous issue, we brought you a comprehensive guide to buying a used two-wheeler. From the initial steps like proper research to vehicle inspection and paperwork, we gave you a clear idea about what to look out for while purchasing a used machine. While most of the points mentioned in the first guide are applicable here as well, there are a few other things to consider before you get yourself that dream machine.

Get real

Owning a big bike is a dream for almost every motorcyclist. The huge rise in popularity for multi-cylinder motorcycles in the last 7-8 years shows that more and more people have been able to realise that dream. Naturally, with the passage of time, a number of these superbikes now find themselves on the used motorcycle market. With prices hovering between 50-80 percent of the on-road cost, depending on the registration year and total kilometres covered, used superbikes are turning out to be lucrative deals. However, with big bikes come big caveats, and if ignored, you can find yourself in a pickle!

The legendary Suzuki Hayabusa has its own fan base and people are willing to pay a fat sum to own what is undoubtedly the most recognised superbike in India.

Choose wisely

It all begins with a quick search on the internet where you’ll be flooded with advertisements about used superbikes on sale from every category imaginable. The question you need to ask is what kind of motorcycle will be appropriate for your needs. If you frequently attend track days, a focused superbike, like a Triumph Daytona 675, BMW S1000RR or a Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R, would be ideal. Adventure tourers like the Triumph Tiger 800, on the other hand, are preferred by those bitten by the travel bug. So the intention of buying and riding a used big bike has to be extremely clear. After all, there is no point in paying lakhs and leaving the motorcycle to gather dust just because you don’t enjoy riding it the way it wants to be ridden. 

A quick search on the internet will bring up a ton of options in the used big-bike space.

Financial hit

This is one of the biggest areas that many overlook. Before you put the money down, no matter how lucrative the deal may be, evaluate if you can really afford to run and maintain a superbike. A used Suzuki Hayabusa, Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R, Yamaha R1 or even an adventure tourer may be going for close to half the price of the original, but that does not halve the cost of parts or service.

Brake pads are expensive, especially those on exotic superbikes like the Aprilias and Ducatis.

Let’s take the popular Yamaha YZF-R1, for instance. A set of front brake pads would cost anything between Rs 7,000-9,000. And if you wish to own exotic superbikes like an Aprilia RSV4 (used options can be had surprisingly cheap!) or a Ducati Panigale V4, their brake pads cost upwards of Rs 15,000. Then there’s the regular service, engine oil, replacing the fork oil, chain and sprockets as and when required. These costs understandably vary, depending on the make and model, and will have to be considered when buying the motorcycle. Recurring expenses such as tyres (Rs 30,000-45,000) and insurance (Rs 20,000 onwards) also need to be budgeted before taking the plunge. And these expenses are without considering any mishaps or damages sustained to the bike. Remember, insurance may not cover everything and repair jobs could turn out to be quite expensive. 

The silver lining here is that most first owners spend a sizeable amount on crash protection, so that’s one expense taken care of. In fact, aftermarket exhausts and accessories such as panniers are often bundled with the bike to sweeten the deal. 

Hunting games

One way to find out if a motorcycle is worth your money is to have it checked at an authorised service centre. If the owner has been diligent with the service schedule, the records will show. This is also a good way to find out if the motorcycle has faced serious issues. Checking the insurance papers to see if a ‘No Claim Bonus’ has been availed is another way you can confirm no major repair work has been carried out.

If it is not possible to check vehicle stats at authorised dealers, or the owner claims that the bike has been serviced elsewhere, have the bike evaluated by someone reliable. A few garages, such as Indimotard Greasehouse in Bengaluru, or Zubinndesign in Mumbai have been servicing, repairing and restoring superbikes for quite some time. Their wealth of knowledge gives them the ability to look for known issues that most people will miss. This way you’ll know whether the bike has been used properly or abused, and, subsequently, just how big a service bill you might be staring at down the line. 

It is advisable to get the bike checked thoroughly by experts.

One of the safest places to find a superbike is at official company dealerships. Ducati and Harley-Davidson, for instance, have their pre-owned motorcycle arm that checks and refurbishes used superbikes before selling them. They also offer a one-year warranty. Now, these motorcycles may cost more than the ones in the open market, but nothing beats the peace of mind that you’d get after buying a verified, used motorcycle with a valid warranty.

Grey area

The infamous grey market is still said to be operating in the dark alleys of the used superbike space and it’s an area that you definitely want to avoid. Many 600cc bikes such as the Yamaha YZF-R6, Honda CBR600RR, and others were never officially launched in India, but they are available in the used bike market. But as enticing as they may be, it is genuinely difficult to find one with clean and authentic papers. The wise thing to do then is to stick to Indian-invoiced superbikes and stay away from a potential world of trouble.

A 600cc supersport with questionable papers can be used as a track-only machine.

Seal the deal

Once you find yourself a genuinely good superbike, it is important to be reasonable while negotiating the deal. If the deal isn’t favourable, walk away, but bear in mind how well the bike has been taken care of when you decide to haggle. A seller that has put in years of dedication and money into maintaining a superbike may ask for a little more, and sometimes it’s worth paying for the peace of mind. Remember, it is always better to buy a well-kept motorcycle with verifiable service history than ending up with a lemon with a lower buy-in cost. 

Bon voyage!

Given the steady proliferation of big bikes in India and the vast network of parts supply chains, it is quite easy to buy and maintain a used superbike today. Even if you own less common superbikes, like a 1998 Yamaha R1 or an old BMW GS, sourcing parts is not too difficult. However, what you should be mentally ready for is the time and money involved in running a superbike. It may seem like a lot initially, but the experience of riding a superbike will more than make up for it. 

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