Buying a winter hack

Following on from our last article, this article caught my eye in MCN & makes a neat follow on.

Published: 04 November 2017 – http://www.motorcyclenews.com/news/2017/november/buying-a-winter-hack/

Buying a winter hack is a sensible and practical way to keep riding through the colder months without adding hard miles to your pride and joy.

The glory about winter hacks too, is that a good bike can be picked up for not a lot of cash, if you look for the right machine.

There are a few things to take into consideration though before you part with your money.

1. Do your research
This is one of the most important considerations when buying a bike to use through winter. A winter hack is going to lead a pretty hard life and will require regular maintenance and cleaning. If you’re interested in a particular model of motorcycle, check the internet and trawl through forums to learn of any weak points on the motorcycle before viewing it.

When you go to look at it, you’ll be armed with bartering ammo if you know that a bike might have an area that needs work. For example, a bike with a mild steel manifold is going to get a hammering with the road salt and probably won’t last too long if it’s been well used – so consider if you’ll be likely to need a new system soon, or look for a model that has a stainless replacement fitted. Prime examples of bikes like this are Honda’s pre-Vtec VFR800 and the king of the hack bikes – the Suzuki Bandit.

Also, check to see if regular weak points have been addressed, and also how long ago this work might have been done. If you’re not 100% happy with the bike walk away.

2. At your service, sir.
Always check for a motorcycles service history when buying a used bike. It’s the most effective way to get a rough idea of the bikes past, and also if it’s been well looked after. Don’t be too put off if a cheap machine doesn’t have a glistening log book full of dealer service stamps – it’s always good, but if an owner has carried out the work and has receipts as proof of parts purchase then this can be a good indication of a bike that’s been well looked after too.

3. Check yourself before you wreck yourself
If you’re buying a bike that seems to be a bit too much of a bargain then make sure you carry out a HPI check and check the registration documents carefully before you commit to parting with your cash. The HPI check will reveal if the bike has been stolen and also if the bike might have been written off previously. It’ll save a potentially horrible discovery later on. You don’t need to necessarily be put off if the machine has been involved in an accident, a Cat D write-off is often due to minor repairs that aren’t often cost-effective to be replaced with new parts, but it’s good to be armed with this information and it can prove to be a good bartering tool to bring the price of a bike down further.

Also, it’s sometimes easy to forget, but make sure you check that the engine and frame identification numbers match those that are on the V5 registration document of the bike. This will give you an indication if the engine or frame have been swapped. If they have, ask why and if the owner can’t answer, then steer well clear.

4. MoT checker
There is a comprehensive online database of MoT history that is easy to access for potential buyers. With just the registration of the bike, it will help verify the mileage and also show if the bike has failed a test and why. It’ll also give a good indication if anything is looking like it might need replacing soon. If you’re also armed with this information beforehand and the owner doesn’t fess up to the things that might need work when asked then it suggests that they might be hiding something – walk away.

5. Get out the fine-tooth comb
So, you decide that the bike is the one. You’ve parted with your cash and you’ve got a grin on your chops like a Cheshire cat. Reign in your enthusiasm to go merrily riding off into the non-existent winter sunset though, it’s time to get it prepped to battle the salt and crud of the winter roads.

Remove the fairings (if it has them) and give the bike a really good clean. If there’s loads of old road crud on the engine then use a parts degreaser on the metal areas to help get it as clean as possible. This will give you a better base on which you can protect the bike from the elements and also make it a lot easier to clean and maintain regularly throughout the winter.

After the clean when your new shiny machine is gleaming against the dull winter skies, give it a thorough check over. Use this opportunity to check the chain, check the fasteners on the engine to make sure they’re all tightened up to the right torque and get to know the mechanics on a much more personal level and give you a much better understanding of the bike overall.

It’s a good idea to use this opportunity to clean, lube and adjust the chain. This is one of the hardest working areas on a motorcycle and can take an absolute hammering in winter. A dirty chain can create a grinding paste that will damage the X or O rings and greatly reduce its life. A tight or slack chain will also promote premature wear on the chain too, so make sure it’s adjusted to within its tolerance, which you can often find on the bike or in the manual. Finally, give it a good lube and it’s ready to go. Of course, this is irrelevant if your bike has a shaft drive.

6. Protect it
Possibly one of the most important things to do when you first get the bike is to apply protection to ensure that it doesn’t deteriorate to a rusty nail come the end of winter. It will help the parts to not only last a lot longer, but also help maintain the value of the machine. If you’re only planning to use the bike through one winter then come spring, a properly looked after hack could even be worth more than you originally paid for it – making it a worthwhile investment.

With a clean engine, get yourself a can of ACF-50 and protect the exposed metal surfaces. This stuff is an absolute godsend to motorcycles. It uses an anti-corrosion formula to keep the metal parts and fasteners of the bike rust-free. It’ll also help to reduce the spread of any existing corrosion, reducing the chance of any future problems from developing.

Apply a spray grease to any hard to reach joints or movement areas. The sidestand, clutch and brake lever pivot points and any hinges will be much better protected with an application of grease. It’ll keep the grime out and ensure that the areas feel like new for longer. A thin lube such as WD-40 or GT-85 will help protect and lubricate some areas, but won’t cut it where any friction is involved.

7. Enjoy it
Sure, riding in winter won’t match a hot summer’s day of unbridled fun on one of your favourite roads, but it’s still a damn sight better than driving. Your hack will allow you to enjoy the all the benefits of motorcycling without the detriment to your normal pride and joy.

What’s more, it’ll keep you sharp. Come spring, when others are just emerging from their garages after a winter of being stuck in traffic behind the wheel of a car, their skills on the bike will be rusty at best. It’ll take them some time even to ride at a level they were previously, let alone adjust their way of thinking to riding a bike again.

On the other hand, you’ll be able to ride in confidence and make the most of the better weather. You’ll also find that your skills will have benefited for riding in trickier conditions and that you’ll enjoy the better weather more.

By James Archibald
MCN Junior Web Producer

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