The Craigslist Chronicles: Buying a classic bike online

| 11/8/2011 12:43:30 PM

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Needs TLC: Junkyard Kawasaki 
"Ran when parked." 

I was looking for a project motorcycle. My current old bike was running surprisingly well, occasionally for days at a time, but I was feeling antsy; I needed another project bike. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, but I’d know it when I saw it. I wasn’t looking for a Henderson or a pristine low-number sandcast CB750, just a reasonably priced, close-to-running bike I could tinker with, get running, and ultimately put on the road.   

Unless you’ve been living in a cave (without wi-fi), you’re aware that the era of brewing a pot of coffee, unfolding the Sunday morning paper and perusing the “Motorcycles for Sale” ads and finding an easy-to-work-on bike 10 minutes from home is long over, and you’ve no doubt heard about Craigslist, the free Internet advertisement website that lets you post anything for sale. And when I say anything, I do mean anything. But as I had no need (at the time) to have a woman in a slinky Star Wars outfit beat me with a kielbasa, I went straight to the motorcycle ads.

One thing is immediately apparent; Craigslist motorcycle ads are a free-for-all rodeo. No longer do you have to consider whether or not that junker bike that’s quietly rusting back into the loam is worth the effort and time of placing a $25 advertisement in a newspaper. With free listings, and the investment of a few minutes at the computer, you can easily add your non-running scrapyard-candidate bike to the immense loop current of junk that’s being peddled on the Internet.

I quickly learned several things; Spelling, as we know it, has gone the way of the quill pen on Craigslist. At first I was aghast at the spelling in the ads (“ths bik huals azz”), but soon got used to it. Still, though, I couldn’t figure out why sellers couldn’t even spell the name of the motorcycles they were selling. Hint to sellers; the name of the bike is usually emblazoned on the tank and /or side panels of the motorcycle you’re selling. On the other hand, maybe there was a company that once made “Sporsers,” because there are a lot of them on Craigslist.

Another thing I learned was that every older motorcycle on Craigslist is a “collector’s bike.” I don’t know if this was caused by too much watching of The Antiques Roadshow” or some of those 24-hour car-auction cable shows, where motorcycles occasionally appear, but everyone seems to think they have a gem sitting in their garage. There are a lot of $2,000 bikes on Craigslist that would cost an additional $2,000 worth of work to be worth, well, $1,000.

12/5/2011 2:38:11 PM

I'm glad to say that the basement bike was not a Craigslist lead that I sent to John. Nice read!

11/30/2011 9:43:59 AM

1983 HD Shovelhead with 18K original miles. Was $12K now, $7.5K San Antonio, Texas will ship. Contact me at Have many photos I can send you.

John Haddad
11/19/2011 6:44:41 AM

Very entertaining read! - but I got my '07 BMW F650 GS from craigslist, from a beautiful young lady, for a very good price!