Women Riders

So That New Bike is Calling Your Name?

Written by  January 31, 2011

Spring will be here before we know it, and with rising temperatures come rising thoughts of perhaps looking to trade in your bike for another. Whether it’s to trade up to a larger ride or out to another type, there are a lot of things to consider. Not the least of these things is how much is that ride of yours worth?

To you, your bike may be priceless, but whatever the reason you have for *gasp* getting rid of it, the market for it must be your biggest concern. Motorcycle value is placed a little differently than car or truck value. The type of bike you own (sport, touring, cruiser) has a mileage average that varies from other makes or models. According to Kelly Blue Book, sport bikes generally see less annual mileage than tourers and then those miles are determined as to how they were put on the bike; tourers might have higher miles on the odometer, but they are assumed to be mostly freeway miles.

Like other vehicles, demand for a particular make will affect the selling or trade-in value of your motorcycle. In time, depending on the bike, the value may actually rise and it doesn’t have to be a classic to see that happen. When Harley-Davidson went to fuel injection, diehard carburetor lovers went so far as to travel great distances to acquire the bike of their choice and paid dearly for them as well. One friend went to Georgia from New Jersey just to get a particular Sportster with a carburetor!

I decided to do some little calculations on different makes of bikes to see the difference in depreciation. While I wasn’t surprised that one make and model depreciated less than its competitor, the amounts did surprise me. I looked up the new price, trade-in, and retail used for each one.

First up, my ride, a 2007 Honda VTX1800T: Its MSRP was $14,899. The trade-in value of the bike now is $5,660, and its retail value is $8,185. These numbers represent a drop of 65% and 45%, respectively. Next, I used my friend Eric’s 2006 Harley-Davidson Street Glide. This bike’s MSRP was $17,795. Today, this bike is worth $11,375 as a trade-in and $15,265 retail, representing a 35% and 15% depreciation, respectively. (Note: There was no 2006 VTX1800T.) While these bikes are similar (both baggers but the Street Glide has a faring with electronics), the Honda is 1795cc compared to the Harley’s 1450cc, but size does not matter. It’s all about demand.

After you have determined if it is worth getting another bike, you then have to determine what kind of bike you want. Motorcycles are much like boats--people rarely trade down in size. But trading up in size must be practical for you. On a mission run not long ago, a woman arrived on a brand new V-Rod and almost dumped it turning into our line-up. She was all of five feet tall, her feet barely touched the pavement, and the bike simply was too heavy for her. Two more times she almost went over and had difficulty backing it into a spot. Needless to say, everyone kept their distance while riding! She later explained she only had it a month and was “still getting used to it.” If you can’t get used to your bike within the first week of owning it, you shouldn’t ride it. She was a hazard to everyone with her and was at a great risk of wrecking. So never buy a bike because you think it’s hot without seeing if it fits your body as well as your lifestyle.

Another factor in getting your new bike is its maintenance. If you are used to doing basic maintenance now or have a convenient dealer, do you think you can do more intensive work? Is the make of bike you are looking at something that can be fixed at numerous places or would you have to travel for fixes or parts? When Don was shopping around for a new bike, the one he was truly interested in was a Triumph Rocket III Classic. We took a test ride and it was smooth and easy for such a huge bike. He was sold. Then his Honda dealer asked him the question that killed the dream: If something happens, where are you going to take it for repairs and scheduled maintenance (the dealer we test rode it at was 90 minutes away)? Uhhh…..And that is why he got the VTX1800T.

One of the last things to think about is how much do you ride? At the risk of overdoing the anecdotes, a friend wanted to sell her Honda Rebel and go on to a Shadow, essentially going up from 250cc to 1100cc in one fell swoop, but she was a bit conflicted. She had only a few hundred miles on the Rebel and hadn’t ridden much in the last two years. She wanted to get back to riding more frequently on a bigger bike. I suggested this to her: keep riding the Rebel until the odometer hits 1,000 miles, then think again about getting another bike. She agreed and to date has not gotten the Shadow. If your mileage hasn’t changed much lately, ask yourself why. Then, as you are talking to yourself, ask yourself if investing in a new bike is worth it. Chances are that as you are increasing your seat time on your current bike, the value isn’t dropping very much if at all.

One of the best lines I have heard is “It doesn’t matter what you ride, only that you’re riding.” Whether you decide on a new bike or a good used one, do your homework and a lot of talking to yourself before writing that check. Making the right choice for you and not for wanting to be “cool” will only enhance your experiences and probably keep you safe. You can enjoy the ride with no second guessing and no worries. Isn’t that what riding is all about?

By Louise Reeves