Warning; When I wasn’t looking someone slipped a couple of naughty words into this one. No f-bombs, gratuitous sex, or boob pictures though, sorry.
Imagine that you are gathered with a group of your fellow motorcyclists, be you a group of yuppie cruisers, hipsters on retro style bobbers &café racers, hardcore chopperheads, or restoration junkies. Everyone is standing around, taking a breather, checking out each other’s bikes, telling interesting half-truths & just generally having a great time in the way that only a bunch of bikers can. The sun is bright; the beer is cold, and the ladies beautiful. It is truly a perfect day as long as no asshole decides to ruin it for you.
Somehow there is just one brief moment of silence and I heard it, far away in the distance the howl of an ancient four banger breathing out through a quartet of totally baffle free drag pipes. The exhaust note is raspy & uneven, and you catch the whirring sound of a loose cam chain, all obvious signs of deferred maintenance that would kill a lesser engine, but as we all know, some of these old SOHC 750’s will never die no matter how ratty they get.
By now the whole encampment has heard the sound and is looking up the winding road coming down the mountain to see what matter of machine is headed towards them. Some are commenting about how rough it sounds, others somehow seem to be watching in fear as if it may be some kind of hipster/yuppie/brand loyal purist eating dragon coming to consume them.
It finally flashes into sight coming around the curve, a creature from another time, impossibly long, the rear wheel bouncing up & down in an ancient Amen Savior plunger frame. The front tire too bounces up, down, left and right as the rusty peeling girder front end rattles and shakes with each imperfection in the road surface. The bushings in the girder are shot & so are the steering head bearings. There is no way this thing should be moving so fast, especially on this twisty road, but it is.
As it approaches our group the rider lets off the throttle and downshifts, causing the engine to backfire on the overrun, blam! blam! blam! as flames pop out the ends of the exhaust pipes, that appear to have been fabricated from metal conduit 40 years ago. Small animals & nervous people immediately begin plotting escape routes, after all sensible people are afraid of folks who ride deathtraps like this.
The paint job was obviously gorgeous a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away but has now suffered several decades of weather beating and a million miles of hard riding. Every top surface was chalky, and crazed with cracks, looking as though hundreds of overlapping cobwebs had been deposited on the tops of the frame, tank, & rear fender.
On the sides you could still see the remains of a gold base coat topped with green & red kandy paints, sprayed through chicken wire to simulate scales. Back in the day a pretty good 70’s air brush artist had written the letters FYYFF on the sides of the tank in black and purple colors, tee shirt lettering style. Modern day neo rat riders immediately snapped pictures in hope of finding a way to re-create this patina on their next project. The engine side covers had been chromed at some point but had become sand blasted & peeling, as were the rims. Most of the spokes, bolt heads, & all four exhaust pipes where coated with rust. A fantastically ornate king and queen seat that is a work of art in its own right, despite being threadbare & worn reclined against a 3 foot high trident shaped sissy bar with 3 rusty spear points aimed at the sky.
Rattling to a complete stop and switching off the engine and the fuel tap, the grizzled old rider swung out the side stand and leaned the bike over to park it. Looking on as open mouthed & slack jawed as the rest of the crowd I couldn’t help but notice a tiny golden trickle of gasoline dribble down to the edge of the oxidized velocity stack on the number one carburetor forming just enough of a droplet to catch the sun’s rays like a tiny jewel in a rusty can, but not a big enough dribble to actually leak out onto the ground.
The rider himself, was a fascinating creature, he rode helmetless without gloves, with just a leather club vest covering his torso. Of course this caused a great murmur of disapproval amongst the safety nazis in the group. Although when astride his magnificent steed he seemed much larger than life, standing on the ground before me he was just man of just below average size. Bald on top with 2 foot of long grey hair on the sides, he sported the pointiest goatee I had ever seen and a finely waxed handlebar mustache. His bald spot was covered with a tattoo of a spider web, & a POW-MIA flag graced his right shoulder. Despite his diminutive physical stature, he gives out the overwhelming sense of confidence that only a man on a mission that knows he’s doing the right thing can posses.
Next our mysterious stranger unstraps a wooden box from the sissy bar of his motorcycle, throws it on the ground in front of us, steps up on it, and in the most corn fed southern accent you ever heard in your life says, “Hey y’all we need to talk about some of the crazy shit going down in the motorcycle business sometimes.”
I’m sure that most of you younger folk have heard of this newfangled thing called the internet and that giant worldwide marketplace called ebay. It seems that a man can find almost anything he might need to survive, motorcycle parts, vinyl records, silver, gold, knives, heavy metal posters etc. In fact about the only necessities you can’t get there are guns and ammunition because the owners are a bunch of politically correct pussies that don’t see the necessity of such things like we do, but I digress let me get back on track here. Lately I’ve noticed an alarming tendency of people to put things up for sale at what is called a “no reserve auction.” But when the item sells for less than they expected they just don’t ship it, or if the item doesn’t get up to a certain price by the last day they cancel it. I’ve actually had both of these things happen to me lately and it left a very bad taste in my mouth. I was actually planning to bid on one original vintage European motorcycle but passed it by for a different motorcycle only to have the shop that was selling it cancel the auction in the last 5 hours. If I’d known the sum-bitches was lying about the no reserve auction I would be the proud owner of a 75 Jawa right now. Instead I got a pocket full of pissed off & another shop on my list of places not to buy anything from.
Now all of you know more about the workings of the internet than I do, but apparently not everyone understands how an auction works. First off if you have a certain dollar amount that you have to have for something, you should never ever use a low starting bid, no reserve auction to sell it, never. Either you pay the fee for a reserve auction or set your starting bid at your bottom dollar price & let it go up from there. If you do screw up, use a no reserve auction and sell something for far less than you thought, man up, take the beating, & learn from your mistake. I’ve done it a time or two before I learn’t better. Also all dealers selling bikes should disclose all fees & taxes up front in the auction listing. The same goes for dealers craigslist ads too.
Now let’s speak about selling motorcycles without titles. Decent honest people know that in most places you can’t register a bike without a title. Now if you live in a place where you can register an old bike without a title I am genuinely happy for you, but in all honesty the only way you can get any money for it will be to sell it locally. Even if I lived in one of these states, for any bike that was less than 25 years old and/or worth more than 3 or 4 thousand bucks you should still insist on enough paperwork to ensure that the current owner is the legal owner.
In the rest of the states stop trying to get full price for them, without the proper legal paperwork they are either just a pile of parts, or if dilapidated or unwanted enough just plain old scrap metal, and should be priced accordingly. People constantly say, “You can get a title.” Well that is an expensive maybe at best. In my home state of South Carolina there is a process you can go through for vehicles over 25 years old. You fill out forms, send in pictures & money including sales tax for the purchase price, then you take it to the DMV office where they inspect it to be sure the serial number matches what is on your paperwork. They then run it through the database and if there is no current title for it in existence & it has not been reported stolen, they will issue you a title. If the vehicle is not running at the time you will be given an off road use only title no matter what kind of bike it is. So once you get it restored you have to trailer it back to the DMV for a second inspection, and pay a second title fee to get the off road brand removed. When you count the time off from work this can run several hundred dollars. So to me, even a good running fair looking bike without a title is only worth ¼ to ½ as much as the same bike with a title. It’s gotta be cheap enough that I can take the chance. A rusty, locked up, old rice grinder that has no visible good parts on it or is of no collectible value should be weighed and sold by the pound at your local scrap yard. A number of you don’t even have the options that I have here in S.C. As for the title service companies there are many reputable ones out there, but even so you are still looking at hundreds of dollars in some cases to get paperwork. The last quote I got from one was ten or twelve years ago and it was nearly $300 then, and I am sure the price has not gone down any. Some states may have laws against using out of state title services so be careful and find out if yours is one of them.
The most dangerous thing I have ever seen in an ad is a seller whom actually said that he would not provide a bill of sale for a motorcycle he had with no title. His price was actually reasonable enough, that I might have bought it to part out, but there is no way I am ever going to bring home any motorcycle frame of any kind without either a title or a bill of sale to prove that it was purchased legally. The same goes for a Harley engine because some states will issue a title on the engine. If you won’t give me any paperwork to prove I bought it, well FYYFF I’m not going to buy it. Big Bubba down at the grey bar hotel ain’t near as fun to snuggle with as my old lady. Remember kiddos if you can’t at least get a bill of sale or receipt to show the man if he asks for it, walk away.
And finally, I guess we (myself included) should quit picking on the hipsters so much. Yes I know with their funky brakeless one speed bicycles & queer eye for the straight lumberjack style of clothing, they do make easy targets. But come on; give them some credit for their role in the current café racer, old school skinny tire chopper & bobber revival. They have dusted off a bunch of cool stuff from the past & are helping to insure its future. Plus without them, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer might have disappeared for good.
Then the old timer stepped down off of his soap box and the crowd cheered, although I don’t know if it’s because they enjoyed the lesson or just because the old man finally shut up. After he strapped the box back to his sissy bar, a rosy cheeked young man, with a long beard, in a flannel shirt handed him a cold PBR that he sipped on while chatting with the curious bikers who wanted to take a look at his ancient steed. When he had polished off the brew he crushed the can between his hand and his forehead and tossed it in the general direction of the nearest trash can, straddled his old chopper, twisted the grip three times and with a mighty heave on the kick starter fired it up. Once again the crowd turned to see and just as he rolled out of the exit, they all raised a cold one in a salute as the prophet sped away to the next gathering to preach his message of honesty, fair dealing, staying out of jail & caring for your fellow man.
Happy Trails Y’all