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Buying a New or Classic Motorcycle?

Buzz Kanter Columns Harley Magazine Blog This Months Column

Buying a New or Classic Motorcycle?

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter
Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter


SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

Be realistic: Don’t even consider a $30,000 motorcycle 
if all you can afford is $12,000

I’m amazed by the number of people that I don’t even know who ask me what motorcycle they should buy. It happens all the time. When I ride my Indian Roadmaster Classic to work and post a photo online, I get asked which is better: new Harleys or new Indians? When I post photos of my Harley Knucklehead, I get questioned on what’s the best classic motorcycle to buy. Let me answer this in very general terms.

When it comes to new motocycles, almost all of them are good choices for someone. The good news is that many are available at your local dealers for you to check out and throw a leg over—even if only on the showroom floor. Harley vs. Indian, cruiser vs. bagger, feet forward vs. midsets: the list of questions goes on forever. While I can’t cover it all here, I’d like to share a few basic considerations that might help you make an informed decision.

Let’s start with budget: you need to be realistic. Don’t even consider a $30,000 motorcycle if all you can afford is $12,000. And don’t forget to factor in all the dealer prep, taxes, and insurance costs. This is for new and used bikes. Next up is the intended use and style of the bike. Are you planning on riding it regularly coast to coast, as a daily commuter, or occasional local weekend runs? You will appreciate a good windshield and saddlebags for touring, whether long or short distance. But they’d look wrong on a bobber or chopper. Apehangers, beach bars, or low drag bars? Only you can decide. And you need to decide what style of bike you want: bagger, bobber, cruiser, chopper, or street racer.

And one last area you should consider before buying a motorcycle is fit. Some of this is obvious, like seat height if you are vertically challenged. But it should go well beyond that. When sitting on the bike, are you comfortable with where your hands and feet are? Keep in mind that this can be changed to fit your size and style with aftermarket handlebars and/or different foot controls.

Picking a great classic or vintage motorcycle is a lot more involved, especially as you can’t just visit the local dealer and compare models and years. I’m not going to get sucked into the “What’s better—Harley or Indian?” debate. My usual reply is “Do you prefer blondes, brunettes, or redheads?” I will leave those decisions up to you. But there are a few basic decisions you really need to make when considering the purchase of a classic motorcycle.

In very general terms, when buying a classic motorcycle, you need to decide at least these three questions: Tank or foot shifter? Kick- or electric start? And do you want a project or a bike ready to be ridden as purchased? Once you narrow your options, and I can’t emphasize this point enough, do your homework and learn as much—good and bad—as you can about machines you would consider buying. If not, would you pay an expert or a broker to do your research for you? Do your homework and go into a purchase as educated as possible. And keep in mind that we are going to give away a new Indian Scout Bobber to a lucky subscriber in December!

American Iron T-Shirts
We love our readers and listen when you make suggestions. So, in response to those of you asking for genuine American Iron T-shirts, we are working with the good folks at Hot Leathers here in Connecticut to offer you several options.

We recently released the first of our line of good-looking, affordable, and quality shirts on the Hot Leather’s web site, HotLeathers.com. You can search the term American Iron there to see our latest designs. Thanks, as always, for your support, and we hope to add more great designs in the future.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.


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