Tips on Buying a New or Used Dirt Bike
One of the biggest, and first, decisions you'll make when you're new to motocross is choosing the right bike for you or your kid, which also happens to be one of the toughest decision. It can easily become a little overwhelming, so we've put this quick list together to hopefully take some of the trial and error out of getting started.
Your first bike purchase can be a tough decision as it is the largest investments you will make in motocross or enduro riding, and choosing which bike to buy all comes down to the riders age, their eagerness, confidence with balance, and learning the different controls of a motorbike as opposed to a bicycle.
For beginners we would always suggest a dirt bike which the rider can comfortably touch the ground on and something which has a user-friendly motor for the rider to learn the basics, build confidence and find out whether they enjoy riding without having any accidents from a powerful race bike.
Do your research, although Japanese dirt bike manufacturers are a good place to start that have a range of bikes in all sizes in both race and recreational models, so it is a matter of selecting a bike to suit the riders’ ability.
Chinese Pit Bikes vs European vs Japanese:
In the motorcycling industry, there is a massive stigma with pit bikes. There are good and bad points about them, and although we suggest that customers steer clear of them every day, they do still serve a purpose, so we feel it necessary to point out why we steer clear of them, but also who a pit bike may suit some people.
Chinese Pit Bikes have been around since the early 2000’s soon after the craze took off in the USA with professional motocross racers modifying kids bikes and racing and jumping them for fun in their spare time. Pretty soon it was a popular sport with riders spending thousands of dollars modifying their bikes and eventually, the Chinese brands started manufacturing cheaper, copied versions of the Japanese models which were modified from the showroom.
As a Chinese pit bike is a cheaper copy of the Japanese models, the materials used tend to be cheaper and weaker also. But they were massively popular, so a number of companies in China also began making cheaper copies of the Chinese copies and before you know it, there were thousands of bikes being imported to Australia, that although they were very affordable options for people to get started, the quality of the parts and the reliability of the bikes were also lowered.
The majority of problems arise when something breaks as it's very difficult to get replacement parts and often the cost to repair is higher than the original purchase price, making them a bit of a throw-away item.
Chinese bikes have all been built off a modified version of another bike, therefore the geometry and ergonomics of Chinese bikes are usually very unbalanced compared to a Japanese bike which have not had their suspension travel modified to increase its height, rather the bike has been designed for maximum comfort and easy control for a rider between a certain height and weight.
Take into consideration a Chinese bike is a very affordable option and if you aren’t planning on riding the bike very often or very fast, this may be a suitable bike for you. A Japanese bike may cost a little more for the original purchase, but providing it has been looked after in the past and you maintain it regularly they tend to be very reliable and will retain more of their resale value so when it’s time to upgrade you will have more money to put towards the new machine!
Japanese brands such as Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki, plus European brands KTM and Husqvarna, are the most trusted manufacturers in motocross and enduro.
Before you commit to purchasing:
If you are in the market for a new or used bike, make sure you do your research before you get anywhere near a salesperson. There is an abundance of information available online, so work out your budget, the level of riding you or your kids are currently at, and also the type of riding you plan to do most.
Every bike will have a write up online explaining what applications the bike is suited for, from there it is only a matter of choosing a flavour and hunting down the bike you want.
When buying a second-hand machine, there are a number of things you need to be wary of so you don’t end up with a lemon. The biggest thing is wear and tear on older bikes from poor maintenance or damage from crashing without ever properly repairing the machine.
Although we could talk for hours about all the little things you need to watch out for, we thought a quick, easy to understand checklist which can be understood even if you aren’t a motorcycle mechanic would be helpful:
- Check the rims are straight - spin the wheel there should be no wobbles, no dents or cracks in the rims and check all of the spokes are there and tightened correctly using a Spoke Spanner.
- Check wheel bearings are not overly worn – grab the wheel and try to wobble side to side, if it feels clunky they are probably due to be replaced!
- Also check for excessive swing arm movement – same as the wheels, you can twist and agitate the swing arm to check for linkage bearing movement, any linkage suspension will have some movement though but not much!
- Check the fork seals aren’t leaking – also sit on the bike and bounce the suspension up and down to see if the suspension is moving freely
- Check the steering head bearings are okay - turn the handlebars back and forward to feel how freely the bars turn, if it feels notchy the steering head may be too tight or the bearings may need replacing
- Check the brakes, touch the brake disc rotors to see if they are smooth - worn-out discs will be lumpy and uneven, also look at the brake pads to see how much meat is left on them, anything under 2mm is getting low!
- Look at the chain and sprockets, if the chain is unadjusted and drooping down then it is safe to say the owner is slack on maintenance, so check the chain is adjusted properly and lubricated and that there are no bent or broken sprocket teeth.
- Check for loose or missing bolts, something that a simple bolt kit can sort out!
- Check the handlebars for straightness, a bent set is an easy $130 to replace which you don’t want to be stung with.
- Also while you are assessing the bars, take note of grips, levers and controls on the handlebars. Everything should be straight, even, undamaged and free moving. If there is a sticky throttle tube or heavy clutch, that is another sign of poor maintenance.
- Stand behind the bike and look at the rear mudguard to see whether the sub-frame has been bent or the exhaust pipe has damage.
- Check foot controls and foot pegs for bends or damage.
- Check radiator coolant, it should be blue or green not clear water as coolant is a must, also look at the radiators to see if they are straight or have been bent.
- Check overall plastics for cracks or damage.
- Check the air filter – if it is dirty that is another sign of poor maintenance.
- If you can start the bike up, firstly check to see if the motor is already warm, then note how hard it is to start.
- The MXstore Helmet Buyers Guide
- The Ultimate Guide to Motocross Gear
- The Ultimate Guide to Dirt Bike Protective Gear
- The Ultimate Guide to Dirt Bike Goggles
If you have any questions regarding what bike would be suited to you, don’t hesitate to Contact MXstore and MXstore’s friendly staff will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding bikes, we are also a massive stockist of motocross gear and motocross accessories and will help you with everything you need after purchasing a motocross bike.
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