~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Grim Fairy Tales

"1970 Bultaco for sale. Needs minor cosmetic work and tune up to be ready
for vintage mx or concours events."

Exaggeration seems to be part and parcel with world of motorcycling. You are shocked, I know. Just as most motorcycle speedometers tend to be significantly optimistic, so claims about epic rides, riding prowess, and other aspects of one's motorcycling adventures may diverge somewhat from reality. I, of course, would never do that. Trust me. Every story I tell you here is utterly, definitively true, mostly.

The most amazing display of cognitive dissonance in all of motorcycling though is that some people's representation of their very own motorcycle, sitting right in front of their very own eyes, may not mesh closely with reality when they describe it in a "for sale" ad. The motorcycle section of your local classified ads or the ever popular www.cycletrader.com may have more in common with a politician's campaign promises than reality.

Having owned bunches of bikes and sold bunches of bikes I have spent a fair amount of time rummaging through bike-for-sale ads. I confess that I love browsing Cycle Trader and Craig's List. Most of the ads are dull but there are just enough bargains, gems, diamonds in the rough, and oddities to keep me coming back for regular visits month after month, year after year. Even when I'm not buying or selling I spend time browsing the ads so I'm up on current prices just in case I do decide to buy or sell a bike. It always pays to know your market and you never know when you might stumble across a great deal on that 1960 Heinkel Tourist scooter you didn't even know you wanted.

After looking at countless numbers of motorcycle ads over the years and driving to look at too many misrepresented bikes I've learned a thing or two about reading between the lines of the bike-for-sale ads. It's made me just a tad cynical about what I read there's entertainment value even in cynicism.

One of the things that amazes me is how often the same phrases are used by completely different people as they struggle to convince you, using bad grammar, no punctuation, and grainy photos, to buy their treasure-turned-white-elephant. Guys get very low marks for originality in used bike ad writing. This of course can work to the benefit of the savvy shopper who can decode the true meaning of the words.

Over the decades, I have stood in a goodly number of oil stained driveways and garages and heard the stories behind the ads.  Some stories were interesting, some were funny, some sad, some were outright lies. I've learned a lot but it has been hard-earned knowledge, trust me. So to give you the benefit of my years of bike shopping experience here are some lines from actual bike ads I've recently browsed and what they probably, really mean.   Should you find yourself buying or selling a used bike, perhaps these will prove useful:

"My loss, your gain"
I paid way to much for this thing. Somebody with more money than good sense bail me out.

"OBO" [or best offer]
I'll take $500 less than I'm asking. Alternate: I'll only take $50 less; I just wanted to con you into coming to see the bike in hope that you'll bite when you get here.

"Runs and looks perfect!"
I finally got it running again after I tried to tune it up myself to save money.

"recently tuned/oil change"
Last year year I bought oil on sale at Walmart and my buddy turned some screws on something.

I washed it for the first time in 10,000 miles and it doesn't look as bad as I thought.

"Forced sell"
I'm three payments behind and the collection agency is calling every day.

"scuff on front fender, runs great"
I tipped over in the driveway, now I'm scared of it.

I wanted to be a stunter but couldn't wheelie for more than three feet.

"carbon fiber blinkers"
I wanted to be a stunter but couldn't wheelie for more than three feet, crashed, and broke the stock turn signals off.

"bike is super clean"
I washed it for the first time in 10,000 miles AND waxed the tank and fenders.

"rare silver color"
They made 10,000 of them but it's the only silver bike I own.

"flawless condition"
I washed it for the first time in 10,000 miles , waxed the tank and fenders, AND Armor All'ed the seat.

"adult owner"
I'm an old fart and scared myself with this thing. Someone take it off my hands.

"fast & looks great"
I'm got too many tickets. And I washed it.

"bought from orig owner"
I'm reselling a beat up repo I got cheap from the credit union.

"super dependable"
It has not left me by the side of the road thumbing a ride home in over a month.

"very good condition, recent fluids"
I washed it and finally added enough oil to reach the bottom of the dipstick.

"lots of new parts, clutch, chain, etc"
I bought a junker and got it running. Buy it quick before I have to spend more money on this turkey.

"HONDA RC51, like new cond, only 500 mi, completely stock "
I'm an old fart and scared myself with this thing. Someone take it off my hands.

"no time to ride"
I got four tickets in one month and lost my license.

"Call For Price" [always a dealer]
I want full retail and I think you're too stupid to realize that.

"price plus fees" [dealer]
Doc fees, freight fees, prep fees, salesman commission fees, tire disposal fees, lot boy dusting fees, pay for my kid's braces fees. Prepare to pay at least $1,000 more than the ad price.

"Must sell! Moving into new home"
I'm way over my head on the house payment and have to bail on the bike. Someday I will own another motorcycle. I hope.

"will consider any reasonable cash offer"
As long as it's within $50 of my asking price.

"Must sell due to health"
I didn't tell the wife I was buying this and now she's gonna kill me.

"This bike is my daily driver"
I've beat the crap out of this wreck and want to sell it before it breaks down again.

"Owner is motivated to sell"
Lost my job. One payment behind now and no new job prospects.

"must sell having a baby"
My life is over.

I got my girlfriend pregnant and we gotta get married or her dad's gonna shoot me.

"Divorcing must sell asap"
See other ad listings for my truck, boat, trailer, gun collection, stereo system, and dog. Give me cash so I can hide it from the court and my soon-to-be ex.

"nothings funner than beating a rice burner with a Harley"
I once out ran an '86 Toyota Tercel up to 65 mph.

"Need money for a dirt bike"
I scared myself witless on the street. Maybe freestyle motocross is safer.

"Too many toys, must sell!"
I didn't tell the wife I was buying this and she's gonna kill me.

"Must sell, as I am just getting too old"
My wife and kids have nagged me about safety to the point that I just give up.

"Must sell due to medical problems."
I'm a squid and crashed.

"professionally detailed every 3 months"
I'm such a poser I don't even wash and polish my own bike.

"Must sell. Husband died"
He bought this thing without asking me and I killed him.

"never been laid down"
But the engine has had it's guts twisted out while street racing.

ALL CAPS indicate: "I didn't tell the wife I was buying this and she's cut me off."

and of course the most pathetic of all:
"New bride says bike must go."
I have been neutered. Please kill me.

As for me, when selling a bike I advocate simply telling the truth about the bike and including several, nice, clear pictures in the ad. Avoid silly hyperbole; state your firm price and that's that. It's always worked for me but then I'm not a motorcycle dealer, a squid, desperate to sell, behind in any payments, about to be divorced, or scared of riding on the street. My wife would never demand that I sell my bike (wise husbands and wives never demand such things) and so far I don't have "TOO MANY TOYS" so life is good even with just one bike in the garage.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Speed On Two Wheels

"Speed On Two Wheels," a TV program about sport bikes and how they go fast, appeared not long ago on The Science Channel. The program, with some extra footage added will be out on DVD shortly and the guys at Cry Havoc Productions who made the show were kind enough to send me an advance copy. I had seen a bit of the "Speed On Two Wheels" previously but not the whole show and my first impression was that it had some interesting footage and some nice explanations of how bikes worked, more educational in nature than enthusiast oriented. That fits, I'm sure, with the show's Science Channel audience. Watching the entire show on DVD turned out to be a pleasant hour well spent, far more so than most anything motorcycle and non-racing that you are likely to find on "Speed TV" or whatever they are calling it this year.

"Speed On Two Wheels" is a good program with some interesting info and footage, especially for the non-rider or new rider. One of the best things about the show is the merciful lack of Harley-Davidson or biker clichés, lack of gratuitous scantily clad women, and lack of loud, cheesy, hard rock music for a sound track. Thank you, Cry Havoc Productions, for breaking free of the current fashions in motorcycle videos.

The show gives and inside look at AMA road racing and sport bike riding in general with some emphasis on the exploits of the Kawasaki road racing team. Suzuki gets a bit of coverage too with some excellent comments by Matt Mladin and there may have been a Honda around somewhere. Since the cameraman for Cry Havoc Productions is the redoubtable Dylan from over at the Twisting Asphalt blog there are a few Ducati's to be seen and they even manage to include a visit to the Ducati factory and museum in Italy. Side note: The museum guy's Italian accented English was sufficiently unintelligible that subtitles would have been handy.

I found the inside look at Kawasaki's race team to be interesting, much more so than the usual "up close and personal" scripted stuff one usually sees about pro racers. The racers, primarily the Hayden brothers Roger and Tommy, looked and sounded a bit awkward and you know what...I was ok with that because pro racers are racers, not pitchmen or motorsports presenters. I'd rather hear Roger Hayden ramble a bit about what he does than some PR flack recite boiler plate statements on what Roger does. The scenes of Roger, brother Tommy, and assorted others talking about their work had a definite unrehearsed quality to them and it gave a much more authentic feel to the information.

The show is fairly free of crash scenes (only two that I can recall) and overtly scary things that distract from the real story. This is a big plus when communicating the fun and science of motorcycling to the uninitiated without overwhelming the facts with far more eye catching crash scenes.

People who ride a lot know about crashing, we don't like the fact that crashes happen but we accept that they happen and do not get fixated on the painful fact. When an experienced motorcycle rider watches footage of a crash we usually slip right into the mode of "What went wrong? How did that happen? And what can I learn from this?" The non-rider only sees a human tumbling like a rag doll and a machine being destroyed. Watching crashes can be educational for a rider, it's just scary and mind jarring for the non-rider. Limiting footage of crashes in "Speed On Two Wheels" is a big plus in getting the public (or my wife) to focus on the facts and science of riding and competing on two wheels rather than the obvious drama of a crash. Riding and racing motorcycles isn't about crashing, it's about riding well, sometimes riding fast, and NOT crashing in the process.

As you'd expect, the show isn't perfect. The story line seemed to wander a bit and the reason for the jump from one scene to another wasn't always clear. The vintage black and white footage of motorcycle racing could have been left out entirely; perhaps the thought was to provide some juxtaposition to modern racing but the footage is so ancient as to be nearly irrelevant. It's like showing pictures of the Wright Brothers and the Space Shuttle in the same story. It's been done too much already and casts the net of information a little too wide.

Some explanations in the program, such as Nick Ienatsch's explanation and example of traction using a small Honda dirt bike were pretty obscure. I found myself re-explaining to the Mrs. exactly why it was that over-use of brakes and throttle cause a bike to do things like wheelies, stoppies, slides and high sides. On the other hand, the example of how brakes - front, rear, and combination of both - effect braking distance, was excellent.

"Speed On Two Wheels" is a program that is worth adding to your motorcycle video library, first because the inside tidbits about the race teams are interesting, and second because it is a program you can show the non-riders in your family to help them understand a little about what motorcycling is and why you're hooked on it. You can pre-order the DVD of "Speed On Two Wheels" here.

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