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Buyer Info: So you want to buy a VStrom?

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LaKraven:
First of all, let's define the terms "Vee", "Wee", and "Glee" (just to avoid further confusion when reading this article).

Vee: The old DL1000 (1000cc) VStrom
Wee: The DL650 (650cc) VStrom up to 2012
Glee: The DL650 (650cc) VStrom as of 2012 (with the Gladius engine and new shape)
Edit Veek :The new DL1000 VStrom (Vee + 'beak')

The above terms will be used throughout the remainder of this article, and so it's necessary to remember what they mean (simple enough, really).

Okay, so you're in the market for a bike, and you've made the excellent choice of buying a VStrom.
The first question you need to ask yourself is...

"new or second-hand?"

Buying New:
If you're buying new, then you're going to be getting the Glee. The Vee went off the market back in 2009 (incidentally just as I was looking to buy one) because its engine failed the emissions standards (or so I understand) and the Wee has been replaced by the Glee.
The Glee is an evolved version of the Wee, addressing the suggestions for improvements Vee and Wee owners have made over the years. It is universally considered to be an improvement over the Wee, achieving slightly better fuel economy and delivery slightly more power in a "smoother" way (basing that on reviews as I've yet to personally ride a Glee).

If you're buying new, then really the only thing to consider are the extras. Things like an alarm, immobilizer, and skid plate really are a must, and despite the additional cost (though if you're good with the negotiation, you might be able to get a significant discount - I know a few who got all of the above for free with their bike) these extras will make a positive affect on your insurance. See the "No mater what you buy" section later on in this article to get an idea of what different extras can do to the cost of your insurance.

You'll want to negotiate a good deal. It helps to find out how much others paid (especially at your local dealership) so that the salemen can't lie to you and claim that they "simply cannot possibly go below £xxxx" when someone on here just a week before got it for £500 less from that same dealership (as an example).

If you're inexperienced at buying new, take a friend along who has bought at least one (preferably more than one) new vehicle (especially motorbikes) in the past. They'll help keep you from what I call "excited buyer syndrome" (a condition of excitement so intense you'll pay whatever the dealer asks... a condition I sometimes suffer not just in bike dealerships, but also in the tech market, gun stores, and military supplies/surplus stores)

Second hand:
Buying second hand is something of an art. For every bargain out there exists thousands of lemons (general rule of second-hand vehicle purchase, not specific to the VStrom).
A "lemon" is a vehicle with so many problems that the cost of making it servicable exceeds (often vastly) the cost (what you paid) and value (its book price) of the vehicle. They call them "lemons" because, once you've got one, you become very bitter.
Personally, in my early years on the roads, I bought more than a few lemons (both in bikes and cars)... the only real value they have is that they teach you a lot. They teach you how to spot a lemon, and also essential mechanics (because, let's face it, once you've got a lemon, you're never going to be more than a few feet away from your toolkit)

Okay, so you want to avoid a lemon, and when it comes to the VStrom, that's pretty simple (compared to many other vehicles out there).

Let's start with... The Advert:
So you're browsing the Internet and you come across a second-hand VStrom for sale. You read the description from the seller (which is invariably glowing and making it sound like the greatest bike on the planet ever) and notice there are no pictures.
Just move on! In this day and age, if the seller hasn't posted pictures, it's almost certainly because seeing the bike will make you less likely to express an interest. This tends to be due to damage (such as large gashing on the fairings, dents, rust, or even missing parts). You're not even slightly interested in buying a lemon so just move along and find another VStrom.

Ideally, an advert for any vehicle should include photographs from angles covering all sides, with closeups on key areas such as both sides of both wheels, the gauges and ignition, the headlights, indicators, tail light, handlebars, both sides of the engine, the rear sprocket and both the rear brake and gear lever areas.
This will allow you to quickly assess the "general condition" (not to be mistaken with "operational condition" which we'll get to shortly) of the bike. Any damage in these areas is indicative of poor maintenance, an abused VStrom, and possibly even an attempt to cover up one or more accidents. You don't want to trust your life to a DIY-repaired crashed motorcycle where damage can still be seen on key areas - such as moving parts.

Likewise, a bike that's been poorly maintained is likely going to cost you more in maintenance, which you'd either want to reflect in the price, or move along and look at another VStrom (depending on how severe the neglect has been).

The Sprocket Standard:
Looking at the chain and rear sprocket is a very good indicator of whether the owner has looked after the bike. Nothing screams neglect like a rusty chain with dead links, and a rear sprocket with curved teeth.
Likewise, you should be suspicious of the bike has just had a new chain and sprockets, and you'll need to determine whether that's owing to neglect of the previous chain and sprockets, or just because the old ones reached the end of their life.

At a minimum, the chain and sprockets (with even the most lax of maintenance effort) should last no less than 15,000 miles, so if the mileage is close enough to a either 15,000, 30,000, or 55,000, there's at least the possibility that the change of chain and sprockets has been part of routine maintainance to replace EOL (end of life) parts.
If the bike's only done 5,000 miles yet has had to have a new chain and sprockets, I strongly urge you to walk away and find another VStrom!

Rusty moving parts:
Another clear indicator of poor maintainance is the buildup of large deposits of corrosion (or rust) on and around moving parts (such as the rear brake mechanisms, the clutch mechanisms, the handlebar levers, the pivot point of the forks, the chain and rear sprocket (as mentioned previously) and (to a lesser extent) the pivot and spring on the sidestand..

Note: It is not uncommon for there to be some corrosion on the water pump housing (right-hand side, front of engine block with thick black coolant pipe attached to it). Due to a poor paint finish on this part by Suzuki (certainly on the Wee and I'm told also on the Vee, most likely not an issue on the Glee) the water pump housing tends to corrode beneath the paintwork (you'll see it become "bobbly" on the surface) after around 18-24 months from new. Don't let that put you off buying one, as it's cheap enough (and relatively simple) to remove the housing and have it cleaned up (powdercoating is a good choice).

Ridden all-year-round:
An honest seller will state in the advert if they've ridden all-year-round, but sadly we live in a world in which a lot of people are willing to lie to make money!
I've seen some bikes advertised as "ridden in good weather only", only to immediately see the tell-tale signs that it's been ridden all year round.
Now, I personally ride all year round on my VStrom. It's my primary mode of transport (despite having a car) and I'll ride in pretty-much anything so long as the roads aren't covered in ice and/or snow.
It's no great surprise that riding in harsh weather will show on a bike, as harsh weather will leave its mark on even the most well-maintained bikes... the VStrom is no exception to that!

I've found that the easiest way to determine if the VStrom has been ridden all year round is to look at the rear end of the swingarm (between the wheel alignment plates and the magnesium plate at the very back of the swingarm). You want to look at both sides of the bike as you'd expect to see a fairly-even amount of wear.
A little missing paintwork on the rear of the swingarm (so long as it's relatively even wear on both sides) is a clear indication of all-year riding.

The reason the paintwork gets eaten away like that is down to road gritt, flicked up both by your front wheel, as well as other vehicles on the road around you. Gritt acts like a sandblaster to motorbikes, and requires the most riggourous of maintenance to prevent the bike from becoming a bucket of rust when riding in winter conditions.
This kind of "damage" (it's usually just superficial if the bike has been well-maintained) will have an impact on your offering price (you'll want to offer less, of course) but by itself is no reason not to buy if the price is good!

Wheely bad damage:
You'll want to examine the closeups of the wheels carefully, looking for any signs of cracking or deformation on the wheels. This would only be present if the bike had been in a serious accident, and if so you should walk away and look at another VStrom elsewhere!
Other signs that the bike has been in a crash are:
> Mismatching paintwork on engine parts
> Odd-colour fairings (such as a red tank with black fairing and the like)
> Scuffing on the front, sides and rear of the bike (if there are scratches and scuffs running horizontally along the length of the bike, that indicates that the bike has hit the road at speed and slid).
> Smashed or damaged indicators. Even if you have a minor slip and the bike ends up laying down on its side (that doesn't even necessarily mean that it's been dropped as such, but rather has ended up sideways with its weight on the side) the front and (in the absense of side pannier rails) rear indicator stalks on the ground-touching side will be damaged or entirely broken. If they're broken, then the bike hit reasonably hard. If they're just cracked, then it was likely one of those slow and embarrasing drops where the rider ends up standing straddled over their now-horizontal bike.
If the indicators are the only damage you notice, you should proceed further by expressing an interest. Ask the owner what happened to them, then look more closely for other signs of damage when viewing the bike in person.
> Bent handlebars
> Bent forks

If a bike shows multiple signs of having been in an accident, you should avoid it and find another VStrom which hasn't!

General appearence:
As for the rest of the bike, you're really just looking for any signs of excess wear and tear, other broken bits or missing parts, things like excessive scuffing or cracks on the windscreen and headlights... general overall condition of the bike. You should easily be able to use your judgement as to what's acceptable and what isn't in terms of the general appearence of the bike.
Reflect damage you feel necessitates the replacement of parts (such as a torn saddle, for example) in whatever price you'd be willing to offer, but if your only issues are with cosmetic wear and tear, then you should progress by expressing your interest to the seller.

Knowing the "book price" (or "market value"):
When buying second hand, it's important to know the current book price for whichever bike you're looking at. The value of vehicles changes as they get older. Typically this means that they are worth less and less each year, and the only time that's not the case is with rare and classic vehicles, which tend to become collectors items and so increase in value. Sadly, the VStrom is not considered a "classic" or "collectors item", so it depreciates like most other vehicles.

This website allows you to quickly look up the current market value of a bike. You tell it the model and plate year (such as "09" or "59", the former meaning the bike was new in the first half of 2009, the latter meaning the bike was new in the second half of 2009) and it will give you some figures for the current book price in various conditions.

Deciding what condition the bike should be classified as is basically between you and the seller. The seller might say "like new" but you might see it and decide it's "heavily used". Ultimately you'll need to achieve an understanding with the seller or move on to another VStrom.

Your offering price should be somewhere close to the book price (slightly below if the bike's seen better days, equal to if it's in stock condition, slightly more in the event that it has worthwhile protective extras which are not considered by the book price).

You need to see the bike, and take a test ride:
When you go to see the bike, you want it to have a cold engine. You should tell the seller this when arranging a viewing.
A common trick when selling a bike which suffers from cold-start engine trouble (struggles to fire up and idle when cold) is for the seller to pre-heat the engine so that, when you start it, it appears to fire up first go and idle smoothly.
If you have explicitly asked for the engine to be cold and it's hot when you get there, either re-arrange your viewing for when the engine will be cold, or (depending on the attitude of the seller) call it a day and move on to another VStrom.
I guarantee you that if the seller is unwilling to let you view the bike with a cold engine, then he's pushing a lemon and you don't want it!

Anyway, assuming the engine is cold when you arrive, you want to give the bike a detailed going-over. Better-still, if you have a more experienced biker friend (or even better - an existing VStrom owner friend), try to take them along with you to view the bike, as they'll likely see things you may miss. And even if you take a friend whose knowledge and experience is less than or equal to your own, two sets of eyes are better than one (what you miss, your friend may not).

Look for signs of damage througout, but pay particular attention to:

1) Overall condition inspection focusing on damage (holes where holes shouldn't be etc) and excessive corrosion anywhere on the bike (particularly where the photos didn't show). If any part of the bike is really badly laden in rust, don't buy it! Rust is like a cancer, and it spreads rapidly. Light oxidation and rusting isn't such a big deal (certainly in hard-to-reach areas where cleaning and protective coating isn't so easy to achieve), but thick rust is a serious problem... and you're not looking to buy a lemon!

2) Leaking forks. Test the travel of the forks by sitting on the bike and engaging the front brake while bearing all of your weight forward. This will cause the forks to compress, allowing you to feel for any abnormality in the front suspension action (it should be perfectly smooth and silent). It'll also make leaking fork seals more apparent as fork oil residue will be left on the inner fork tube once you allow the bike to return to resting position. You also need to look for rust on the inner fork tubes, as this can easily cause leaks in the seals. If the rust is really light, chances are it can be easily (but carefully) polished out... in which case, no big deal. If the rust is heavy, things start to become expensive so either reflect it in an offer or move along to another VStrom.

3) Turn the handlebars in both directions to "full-lock" to gauge the condition of the bearings. If there's any sound (like creaking or squeaking), chances are the bearings need cleaning and re-lubricating, or replacing. This can also be considered a sign of poor maintenance.

4) Walk the bike forward slowly a few yards, then walk it backward a few yards. This will allow you to feel for binding brakes (they tend to squeak at pushing speeds when the brakes are binding on the discs). A small amount of brake binding is okay, you'll need to service the calipers and perhaps change a few pads... but again this might be a sign of poor maintenance, so proceed with caution.

5) Test the action of every lever (clutch, front brake, rear brake, gear lever - note that the gear lever will respond differently when the engine is running to when it isn't, you're just looking for signs of "unwanted play" or "resistence" in the lever at this point) All levers should move smoothly, shouldn't make any harsh noises (like metal-on-metal grinding and such), and should always return to their static positons when disengaged.
If any of them don't, this indicates a lot of potential problems with the bike. You would want these to be diagnosed and repaired before making any offer on the bike.

6) Remove the saddle and examine the battery and electronics. You're mainly looking for signs of frayed wiring, leaky battery, or unusual custom electronics which may or may not be a problem and/or dangerous.
In the case of custom electronics, you'll want to query these with the seller. Find out what they are, when they were fitted, who fitted them etc, and make decisions accordingly. Most people tend to route their custom wires directly to the battery (typically with an inline fuse). These modifications are generally very easy to remove, and I do suggest removing any DIY electronics because you don't want to trust your life to a DIYers grasp of electronics... unless they (or you) happen to have a diploma in electrical engineering, anyway.

7) Check all fluid levels, and signs of discolouration in brake fluid (and hydraulic clutch fluid in the case of the Vee). The oil colour won't be very revealing as oil tends to go black very quickly, but the level should be within tolerance. If there's no oil in the bike, just walk away! A bike with no oil in it is already dead!

8) Switch on the ignition, but don't start the engine. As you engage the ignition, you want to make sure that the dials do a cycle as normal (up to full then back to zeros), at the same time you should hear the fuel pump whirring normally. If it doesn't, or makes any harsh noises... that's a sign of a problem.

9) Fire up the engine. It should start first time (even with a cold engine) and idle nicely. If it doesn't start, there's something wrong. If it doesn't idle nicely (coughs and farts at you with the revs jumping about all over the place) there's something wrong. The red light on the gauges (the "FI" light) should go out at this point. If it doesn't, there's something wrong. NOTE: If the bike has ABS, there's an additional yellow light on the gauges. This stays lit until the wheels have completed a full rotation (to test the ABS sensors are working).

10) With the engine running, start testing all the lights (indicators left, right, hazards, high beam, flasher switch, tail light, brake light on with front brake, brake light on with rear brake). These should all work fine, and if they don't the bike's an MOT failure.

11) Stop the engine and put the bike on its side stand (don't use the centre stand - if it even has one - for this). You'll want to check the play in the chain to ensure that there are no dead links, and that the chain isn't overly slack or tight when standing (if you end up buying the bike, you should re-tension the chain - with a friend - to your particular weight). Dead links mean the chain needs either serious cleaning, or to be replaced. If the chain looks really clean but there are dead links, the chain is no good and you'll need to replace it! A good chain is £100, and fitting is going to cost you an hour of a mechanic's time (it doesn't take an hour, but they'll bill you an hour anyway) so this would need to be reflected in any offering price. Also, if there are dead links in the chain, it should be considered a sign that the bike hasn't been maintained very well, so you should be even more critical and discerning as you continue looking at it.

12) Examine the tyres to ensure they're at least road legal. Don't worry if the tyres are heavily worn (so long as they are road legal)... tyres only last so long anyway, and it's not to be considered a sign of bad maintenance for the bike to have minimal tread remaining (particularly on the rear tyre). If the tyres are really close to EOL (end of life), you may want to reflect that in your offering price!

Now you're ready for a test ride. You're looking for stability (if the bike wants to pull in one direction or another, the wheel alignment may be off - a sign of poor maintainance - or even deformed - in which case, take it back immediately and walk away!
You're looking for a solid running engine. It should deliver power consistently and smoothly at all times. If it's stuttering and farting as you ride, there's something wrong. If it loses power at all, there's something wrong (possibly just a spark plug not firing properly or whatever).
If the rear of the bike feels like a rock when going over bumps, that can either mean that the suspension needs adjusting, or that the rear shock and/or spring needs replacing... reflect accordingly in price.
Gear changes should be smooth and free of clunking. If you have a small amount of trouble changing gear (especially when changing down between 2nd to 1st) it might be a sign that the oil and filter (if you're going to have to do one, you should just do the other for peace of mind) need to be changed - sign of poor maintainance. If it's grinding terribly throughout the gear range, or clunking every time you engage a gear, there's something wrong.

The most difficult thing when examining a bike you're thinking of buying is that you're having to look for problems. When looking for problems, you will surely find them. You need to be critical, but you need to avoid being overly-ciritical. Remember that the bike isn't brand new (where if it was, being overly-critical would be fine... you're paying "top-dollar" you should get exactly what you're paying for).
At the same time, you don't want to dismiss a flaw as being "nothing to worry about" only for it to become the bike's death knell after you've bought it.

Sadly, no buyer's guide is going to help you there! It comes down to self-dicipline and experience. One day you'll almost certainly get caught out with a lemon (it happens to everyone who buys a second-hand vehicle). Even though at that time you'll hate the world (and yourself), one day you'll come to see it as "character building" and "educational". The bitter taste, however, never fully goes away.

Making an offer:

Ultimately, the bike's only worth what you're willing to pay for it! When I bought my Wee back in 2009, people called me a "sucker" (they still do) for not haggling with the dealer and paying the full "sticker price". Well, I did that because that's what the bike was worth to me! I had the money, the sticker price was (in my opinion) good, so I paid it. In the benefit of hindsight, I likely could've become a better deal had I negotiated a bit, but as I bought new, my willingness to pay full sticker price paid off in other ways (I got free work done on the bike, significant discount on gear, and the benefits of "loyalty")
If you're buying second-hand, you need to be aware of a reality: the seller will almost certainly be asking more than the bike is worth. The exception to that is when the seller genuinely wants (or needs) a fast sale, in which event you stand to snag yourself a bargain.

Make your lowest offer first. You've nothing to lose, even if the seller rejects this offer, as you can increase it and continue to do so until the seller starts to like the number. For bikes in good conditon listed very close to book price (say, within £100 of book price), I typically would make an opening offer as much as £300 below their listed price (depending on condition and liklihood of being beaten to it by someone else).
This will almost certainly be rejected, but often puts the seller in the negotiating mood (makes them more likely to entertain offers below their listed price). From there I would increase the offering price in increments of £50, with the seller typically settling around half-way (saving you £150 on the listed price). Don't always rush to increase your offer. Sometimes all it takes is a few days for the seller to start worrying that they might not be able to sell it, then they reconsider your earlier offer.

To all of you currently selling your bikes on here, I'm really sorry for teaching people how to get your bike for the least amount of money, and how to exploit your need to sell. Please don't hate me for it, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there and we're all just trying to survive in it!

No matter what you buy:
Value the insurance affect more than the outlay when it comes to "Accessory-Added Value" (AAV), because that insurance affect will keep on giving for at least the first 3 years of ownership on a new bike, and your first year on a second-hand bike. Anything that protects your bike (and is known to insurance companies) reduces the cost of insurance, so if there's an extra for a brand new Glee which works in that way, you'd do well to have it (likewise if you're looking at a second-hand Vee/Wee/Glee which has protective extras such as engine bars, skid plates, alarms, immobilizers and the like).

Likewise, some extras will have a negative affect on the insurance. Having panniers and a top box, for example, can (depending on where you live owing to crime rates in your area) in some cases significantly increase your insurance cost. Don't get me wrong, the boxes are nice to have (I have full luggage on mine), but you'll need to be aware of this possibility when budgeting to buy.

Determining the maximum you can spend on a bike (new or second hand) can be made more clear by getting a few insurance quotes with and without certain optional extras (such as with and without the panniers/top-box). It's good to know what a difference in insurance cost these things make, but more importantly lets you determine your absolute max budget for the vehicle itself.

And finally...
I hope you find this guide useful in making your VStrom purchase. I hope that you get the best deal (not just in price, but also in avoiding a lemon).

Those of you whom have bought a bike (particularly a VStrom) new or second-hand, you're encouraged to share your experiences here with the lessons learned etc.
Also, if I missed anything in this guide, you're encouraged to add to it.

Enjoy owning a VStrom... to all of us who own one now, and those who've owned them before... the VStrom is a special bike (be it a Vee, a Wee or a Glee) to have (or "have had") in your life!  <!-- s:auto-dirtbike: -->:auto-dirtbike:<!-- s:auto-dirtbike: -->

Coval:
Great post !

Jeff999:
A very extensive and most informative post. It's covers everything. Well done..

Descolada:
What an outstanding post!

I have rarely seen a more comprehensive and informative piece of writing and guidance. It is enormously gratifying to those of us who are new to the V-Strom and this forum in particular, to have the guidance of someone who is so openly willing to share experience.

A rare thing these days.

Outstanding!

Des  :ty:

Descolada:
Well PLEASE keep them coming. We all need a little help from time to time.

Anyone interested in a great video series on V-Strom maintenance via Youtube (sorry if I am trying to re-invent the wheel here).



This is one of a series by John Parapontis, I found it very informative.

Des

[UPDATE]: Oh Crap, just noticed someone else has already posted the video series on maintenance off Dr Vstrom. Sorry for the repeat folks!

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