Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Does mileage matter on a motorcycle? (a.k.a. Post #100!)

4.27.2011

Does mileage matter on a motorcycle? (a.k.a. Post #100!)

NOTE: This is post #100 on Two-Wheeled Tourist! Thank you to all of my readers for following along for the last year and a half, and to all my new readers, welcome to my blog!

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"Isn't that a lot of miles for a motorcycle?"

I will hear this from many a customer when I'm showing them a used bike or two for sale. Some units have received this comment despite the fact that they only have 4-5000 miles on the odometer and are less than three years old. I don't know if it's just here in Ohio or in this part of the country, but it seems to me that there is a severe stigma on motorcycles that even have the perception of being "used," as if there is some sort of magic number or level of usage that renders a bike undesirable or unreliable. This is not only common with consumers; dealerships will often balk at taking some bikes in trades because of the numbers on the odometer, regardless of how well the bike has been cared for and/or maintained. Perhaps this could be because of the apparent "riding season" we have out here that only lasts from April-October, the only time of the year when fair-weather riding folks will come out to play.

As quite a few of my friends know, I have had several motorcycles that I have racked up the miles on, most notably my 2005 Suzuki SV650 that tore up 20,000 miles in 14 months before I upgraded and, of course, Eleanor, my 2007 Yamaha FJR1300A with just under 103,000 miles at the time of this blog post. And when I traded in that SV650 for the FJR1300A, it was scooped up the next day by another customer at the dealership. Then again, that was California, where mileage on a vehicle isn't an issue because it's been accepted as inevitable.

In response that initial question at the beginning of this piece, here are my responses and thoughts to the topic of putting miles on your motorcycles.

You think that's "high mileage?" Would you consider 20,000 miles high for a car? 50,000 miles? 75,000 miles? Motorcycles are vehicles, and just like any vehicle, they are meant to be ridden! Several makes of bikes on the market are also reputable car brands, such as Honda and BMW. Additionally, the major brands of motorcycles that exist today have been around for years and in some cases carry decades of research and development. Motorcycle technology is not a fly-by-night trend but rather a continuing evolution of improvements and innovation. So yes, that two-wheeled Honda bike has been engineered to be just as long-lasting as a high percentage of the four-wheeled Hondas that you've seen traveling down the highway.

Motorcycles are machines that require maintenance at regular intervals. Just like cars, bikes need oil changes, brake inspections, coolant flushes (liquid-cooled bikes only), spark plugs, and tire replacements when worn and/or used up. When serviced normally and maintained, bikes are known to last tens of thousands of miles and then some. Some makes and models have even been known hit six digits on the odometer on a regular basis! There is a reason why the California Highway Patrol retires, and then resells to the public, BMW R1200RT bikes with 100,000+ miles on them without any afterthought.

Will it cost a lot to keep a bike in working order? Not if you're smart about it. To save money on maintenance, learn how to do some of the basic maintenance yourself. Oil changes, chain cleaning/lubing (for chain-driven motorcycles), final drive oil changes (for shaft-driven bikes), replacing burnt-out bulbs, and topping off fluids are simple tasks that can be done in between major service intervals. For the more mechanically inclined, removing wheels from the bike and taking them to your local dealer for a tire change will cost a lot less than having the technician remove the wheel from the bike himself. I recommend investing in a service manual for your motorcycle. These publications are the same ones used by professionals at dealerships and repair shops when performing a service on your bike. Most models of motorcycles have either a factory service manual available or an aftermarket edition from a publisher such as Haynes or Clymer. Additionally, some service manuals are available online in PDF format and can be uploaded to your computer or smartphone/iPhone for quick reference.

So does the mileage matter on a bike? Yes and no. In terms of value, it may/will be harder to sell or trade in a motorcycle that is perceived to have been "used" a lot. In terms of your own personal use, adhering to the proper maintenance schedules and treating the machine with respect will keep it around in your garage for many years and many miles. Longevity, reliability, and good function of a bike is a matter of diligence, responsibility, and most of all, RIDING the bike. Nothing destroys a working bike faster than not riding it and letting it sit for long periods of time. So get out there already and enjoy your two-wheeled VEHICLE!