Dirt Bikes. Are they the ultimate outdoor toy?

getting sucked into the dirt bike world

My wife found me in the basement one afternoon and told me a neighbor had a dirt bike for sale. I hadn't been on a dirt bike since I was a teenager and in a moment, memories of riding trails all day, climbing hills and having the freedom to find fishing holes deep in the woods ran through my head and I decided I needed to walk over and look! He had an awesome dirt bike with a price that was really, really good and then and there, I knew I was getting pulled into the dirt bike world again...oh darn

I was faced with an opportunity to get a great deal on a low time, late model dirt bike...but I balked. 2 Teenaged boys, nowhere close to ride and one dirt bike didn't add up. Owning one meant I'd have to have 3...plus a trailer so we could get them to trails and hunting camps. I agonized with the purchase for few days, and I went to my neighbors house with cash in hand...his dirt bike he had was sold.

I went home without a motorcycle, but I'd decided that we were going to have 3 dirt bikes and a trailer. I'd also learned that my lack of knowledge had kept me from recognizing a good deal. I was also acutely aware that I didn't even know what to look for in a used motorcycle anymore.

what to look for in a used dirt bike

I used facebook and found an old friend who knows everything about motorcycles and I asked him question after question. I talked to people that sold parts for all brands of motorcycles, figuring they sold for everything so they wouldn't push a particular brand. After a lot of research, Chinese equipment was removed from consideration, there were to many horror stories about motorcycles that had very little toughness or reliability. The bikes that kept coming up as great, all around bikes were the Honda CRF, the Yamaha WR as top picks followed by the Yamaha TTR series.

I'm a fairly mechanically inclined person, but I didn't know the tell-tale signs of an abused motorcycle, so I asked everyone I talked to what "gotchas" to look out for. I didn't want a lemon, but I was looking for used dirt bikes and didn't expect showroom condition. Satisfied that I had adequate knowledge to start my search for real I came up with a 2 part plan.

Part 1 of my plan was determining what was worth looking at. My initial weeding process tried to eliminate bikes that had been ridden with a "devil may care" attitude. So as I searched craigslist, all of my initial queries were phrased to determine the age/sex of the rider, why the machine was being sold and a general overall condition of the machine. If the bike seemed to have been primarily ridden by a girl, or men over 30 (the age we seem to lose the invincible badge), I set up a time to go look.

finding the right dirt bikes

At last, armed with a trailer, cash on hand, a little bit of knowledge and a plan so I began to prowl craigs list for deals. My budget pushed me to motorcycles that were 5 to 7 years old, so every CRF 230/150 or WR 250 I saw got an email and if my rider/owner requirements were met I went to look. I also discovered that I wasn't the only person looking, losing several great deals because I decided to "go see it on Saturday". Determined to not lose anymore potential deals, I started pushing to go see the bikes as soon as the owner was available, and when I arrived I had a front to back, top to bottom process I'd run through checking for damage before I'd make an offer.

When I met to look at a dirt bike, I'd stand in front of the bike and look straight down the seat to see if things looked straight, I'd pay particular attention to the handle bar alignment. Next, I'd check the struts, looking for any leakage that may indicate something needing replacement. To check for wheels that may be out of round, I'd run my fingers over the spokes listening for looseness, then move to the engine and sprockets and chain looking for any signs of excess wear, leakage or previous repairs. Hopping on the seat, I'd make sure everything seemed to be in the right places with a sturdy feel.

Finally, cranking the bike up and giving it a test drive I'd run through all the gears, check the brakes and make sure there weren't any strange noises and that the shifting was smooth, and if I was happy I'd work a deal with the owner and head home.

After a few weeks, I ended up the a bit more than I bargained for (CRF 150, CRF230, TTR 225, TTR 250 and a Honda Trail 70) and with the exception of a few "operator error" things the bikes have all performed flawlessly and have given us some great times out in the woods. Hopefully, you'll find some useful information and I'd love to hear some feedback!

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