Motorcycle Economics: Part One

The 1997 BMW F650 that I ride was initially bought by a motorcyclist for his wife, who crashed it, doing mainly cosmetic damage. She became disillusioned with motorcycles. The next owner put a couple thousand miles on the bike and decided he didn’t like it. I’m guessing the vibration of the big single was disappointing. When I got it, the bike was 17 years old and only had 3600 miles on it.

In the last year, I have ridden the F650 almost 5000 miles. My longest trip has been 62 miles and I don’t commute on it. I am semi-retired, though, and the motorcycle is our second vehicle, ridden year ’round when conditions permit. The bike is an integral part of the family finances, not a superfluous appendage.

When ends don’t meet, you can either find a way to get more money or learn to make do with less. While raising children, you are driven towards the former solution, but in semi-retirement mode the latter can also work. We decided to go down to one good car plus the bike, saving the high cost of another car or truck. My friend just got a deal on a demo Ford F150 for $55K. A decent used truck with 100K miles on it is upwards of 10K, but in New England, rust will often claim your vehicle before you can wear it out, and $2400 a year in repair bills is all too familiar.

A motorcycle will not rust out if you keep it in a ventilated, relatively dry space, use ACF50 on it, keep it clean with spray wax, and generally avoid the winter roads that are kicking up wet salt. I have a 1997 BMW with rust on the bottom ground-contact surfaces of the center stand, and slight superficial oxidation on the exposed ends of the front axle and shifter shaft. I replaced one clip nut near the battery box and the exhaust header nuts are next on the list. Anti-seize compound is excellent protection for fasteners. Worst case, any part that can rust can also be replaced.

I paid $2500 for the F650 with 3600 miles on it, a little cosmetic damage in the form of a slightly dented stainless steel muffler and a couple small tears in the seat cover, carbs in need of cleaning, and 17 year old tires. With any old motorcycle, the rubber parts generally need to be replaced. Nonetheless, the bike ran pretty well initially, looked great and I have gradually improved it over time.

Part Two talks about doing your own motorcycle maintenance.