Is it Ok to Buy a Second-Hand Bike for Touring?

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You’ve sort of got to hand it to motorcycle manufacturers.

Most of us are on social media these days. Personally, it’s not something I’ve ever really liked. I take it with a pinch of salt, but that doesn’t stop me from getting occasionally dragged into the idealism it shows me.

Motorcycle manufacturers show you what’s possible. They open you up to adventures that could be. And that’s great.

But there’s also an underlying inference that those adventures and idealisms are only really possible if you buy their latest offering.

Now, I know you’re a perfectly rational human being. As I am. But that doesn’t stop us from falling into the trap of believing that we need to buy what we see in the pictures to become that rider.

That’s why Instagram has those posts that give you clickable links to the gear in the images. It provides us with a direct opportunity to buy the gear so we can become that rider with a single tap of the screen.

And whilst I think the marketing tactics employed by motorcycle manufacturers are clever, they also leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Because you do NOT need their latest offering to enjoy the adventures they’re using to tempt you.

motorcycles in mountains - second-hand bike for touring
Image: Louis Moto

Exclusivity

As far as I’m aware, there isn’t a single environment on the planet that is only accessible by a BMW GS. Or an Africa Twin.

Nor is there a single road that can only be ridden by a Ducati. Or a Triumph. Or a Harley-Davidson.

And whilst these notions of exclusivity are powerful when directed at individuals who have the time, money, and experience to be able to partake, it alienates those who don’t have those things.

Buying A Second-Hand Bike for Touring: The World Is Expensive

To make it worse, the world is expensive. We’re living beyond our means, and corporate behemoths across the globe are getting greedier by the day.

Here in the UK, the Great British pound is falling in value. Inflation is increasing, and the price of commodities (and worse still, necessities) is going up.

Financially, most of us are in a bit of a pickle. But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to enjoy the occasional adventure on our bikes. And so it shouldn’t!

So rather than putting ourselves in more debt by splashing out on a £20,000 adventure bike (that we likely don’t need), what if we buy a second-hand bike for touring instead?

Would that work?

Well, it might just be the best thing you ever do.

royal enfield motorcycle
Image: Vander Films

Related: New vs Used Motorcycles: Does Half The Price Mean Half The Bike?

Important Factors When You Buy A Second-Hand Bike For Touring

The hardest thing about this post is that I can’t speak for everybody. What might be a priority for you when you buy a bike may not be a priority for someone else.

And what they might deem important you may brush off as non-essential.

But three things that seem to be significant for everyone are:

  • Price
  • Mileage
  • Year

So whilst I appreciate that many other factors may influence your decision when buying a motorbike, these are the umbrella terms that my rationale falls into.

rider on country road - second-hand bike for touring
Image: Guduru Ajay Bhargav

The Biggest Positive Of Buying A Used Bike

Okay, so let’s put aside the technical aspects for now and look at the best reason to buy a used bike.

The price.

Used bikes are cheaper. Of course, buying a bike that’s 12 months old will be a lot more expensive than buying a bike that’s 12 years old.

And the savings you make will increase or decrease the more you go up (or down) the scale. But why is this important?

Well, because your tour will likely cost a small fortune, in and of itself.

kawasaki at nusfjord norway

Buying A Second-Hand Bike for Touring: Bike Costs vs Touring Costs

Let me give you an example.

Two of us have just returned from a month-long trip to the Arctic Circle. And it cost us somewhere in the region of £6,000.

£6,000!

When put in this position, most people imagine the £12,000-£20,000 they need for a new bike, and then add the £6,000 price tag of their tour on top.

And that’s not to mention adventure suits, boots, luggage, sat nav, and everything else you need to tour.

As you’d expect, most people soil their pants and instantly begin to make compromises.

Usually, the tour gets abandoned, and the money goes on the bike instead. And that’s fine.

But what’s the point in spending £12,000 on a bike for touring when you can’t afford to bloody tour? It defeats the object of having the bike at all (at least in a practical sense.)

rider at arctic circle center - second-hand bike for touring

Bikes Don’t Make Memories

One thing I struggle putting into words is how unimportant your bike is when touring. I know you love your bike, and you might have even taken offence at what you’ve just read.

But your bike really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. And even if it does, you shouldn’t let the price of a new bike dictate the quality of life experience you could have.

When you look back on your life in 20, 30, or 50 years’ time, you won’t remember the bike. But you’ll remember the tour.

You’ll remember the people you were with. You’ll remember the people you met. And you’ll remember the experiences you had, the laughs you enjoyed, and the tears you shed.

What you won’t remember is the bike. 

So when it comes to spending money on either a new bike or a tour, make a compromise – and choose memories over consumerism.

Buy a second-hand bike, and use the money you saved to pay for a tour instead.

mountain landscape senja norway

Depreciation: Let Someone Else Take The Hit

The worst thing about buying a new bike is that it drops in value by 10% the second you ride it out of the showroom.

So if someone buys a £20,000 bike, it’s worth £16,000 by the time they get it home.

When you buy a used bike (be it a second-hand adventure bike or otherwise), you’re letting someone else take the hit in depreciation.

But it gets better. Because if you buy a bike for touring, there’s a good chance the person before you purchased it for touring, too.

And this often means that you can take advantage of little extras, such as custom comfort seats, heated grips, fog lamps, luggage systems, and even sat navs.

Not only does buying a second-hand bike mean you can afford to tour, but it can also mean you don’t need to spend a small fortune on add-ons, extras, and expensive luxuries.

yamaha - second-hand bike for touring
Image: Lloyd Dirks

Teething Problems

These days, most new bikes are good to go straight out of the box. But occasionally, you’ll come across a model that has teething problems from new.

Buying used means someone else has already had to deal with the pain of teething problems. Someone else has had to deal with the inconvenience of recalls and warranty claims.

And this means that when you get the bike, it’s gone through those teething problems, has had any issues fixed, is in perfect working order, and has already been run in.

Find one with full service history (with all the paperwork) that has clearly been looked after, and you’re onto a winner.

mechanic with honda motorcycle
Image: Cottonbro

Buying A Second-Hand Bike for Touring: See Your Mechanic

Most mechanics these days have used bikes to sell. And whilst I wouldn’t go up to a mechanic I don’t know and buy a bike from them, it’s something I’d consider with a mechanic I know and trust.

In fact, I’ve bought two bikes from my mechanic – a mechanic I’ve known and used for many years.

Both bikes were getting on in years when I bought them. But both of them had been looked after exclusively by him for the duration of their lives. Both had all the relevant paperwork, and both were in perfect working order.

line of motorcycles - second-hand bike for touring
Image: Clay Banks

Misconceptions Of Shiney Bikes & High Mileage

I’m not saying all shiny bikes are dogs because that simply isn’t true. But be wary of older bikes that look to be in perfect condition!

And I can say this because I’ve been caught out with it in the past. It took months to sort out, and I had to go through the courts to get my money back.

On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be too quick to dismiss a slightly shoddy-looking bike that might be technically sound.

Whilst 30,000 miles might be on the higher side for a Yamaha MT-07, it’s not at all high for a ST1300 Pan European or a Gold Wing, which will probably give you 400,000 miles if you look after it.

honda gold wing black
Image: Mehmet Talha Onuk

The Beauty Of Cheap Bikes

Older bikes come with their issues which you will need to scope out before your purchase.

But if you find a good runner in the budget range, they can allow you to have an excellent time on two wheels.

For a start, you can afford to be less precious about it. And whilst dropping any bike is never good, dropping a cheap bike is preferable to dropping a brand new £20,000 Ducati.

Don’t underestimate the power of freedom that comes from not having to be overly precious! It allows you to try new things, take roads less travelled, and push yourself – because the consequences aren’t nearly as substantial.

Cheap bikes also mean you usually buy cheap accessories. If you buy a new bike in red, you’ll spend another £2,500 on matching red luggage.

But with a cheap bike, you won’t. Your bike might be red, but you’ll happily stick black luggage on it if the black luggage is a third of the price of the red luggage.

motorcycle on dirt track - second-hand bike for touring
Image: Shivam Patel

Buying A Cheap Bike

One thing I will say about buying a cheap bike is that it pays to alter your search criteria.

For example, when buying a newer bike, you might decide you want a BMW GS that’s no more than five years old, with less than 20,000 miles on the clock, and with full luggage.

And that’s fine. You can do that with these second-hand adventure bikes because there are generally quite a lot to choose from. Somebody somewhere will have the bike you want in the price range you have in mind.

But with budget bikes, it pays to be fluid in your search criteria. Set your budget, and then find the best bike available within that budget.

You might end up with a Honda. But you also might end up with a Royal Enfield or a Sinnis.

Keep bias out of the search, and you’re more likely to find the best second-hand touring motorcycle for the money – rather than the best bike that fits your criteria within that budget.

screen shot autotrader

Aftermarket Parts

Finally, another good thing about budget bikes is that parts are available in every corner of the planet. (Wait, does a round planet have corners? Let me know in the comments!)

Buying a new bike (particularly a new model) can leave you stuck if something breaks on tour – because you won’t be able to get a replacement part unless it comes from the manufacturer.

This is fine if you’re in the UK, mainland Europe, or the US. But your chances of finding a speciality part for a new model in Kazifiganistan are pretty low.

Budget bikes are usually old. And if they’re old, most people across the world can get hold of either OEM or third-party parts to fix it.

There’s no point spending £25,000 on a bike that you will need to tow home when a £3,000 bike will allow you to finish your tour.

mechanic fitting parts on motorcycle - second-hand bike for touring
Image: Kat Sazonov

Related: The Best Motorcycles To Tour Around The World: Our Top 7

Is it Ok to Buy a Second-Hand Bike for Touring? Conclusion

Yes! Not only is okay, but it’s something I actively encourage. Don’t ever let the price of a new bike stand in the way of you exploring the world and living your life.

Despite what the manufacturers tell you, it isn’t important enough.

The ‘power of dreams’ comes from the experiences you enjoy. It doesn’t come from Honda – regardless of what they say in their annoying adverts!

So if you currently find yourself dreaming of far-flung places but are struggling to afford the bike and the tour, do yourself a favour.

Buy a second-hand bike for touring, and use the money you save to pay for the trip of a lifetime.

I guarantee your future self will thank you for it later.

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2 thoughts on “Is it Ok to Buy a Second-Hand Bike for Touring?”

  1. I agree with everything you say about secondhand tourers. I have always bought low mileage secondhand bikes. My last R1200RT was 6 months old and 600 miles on the clock and was £4000 pounds cheaper than a new one. That was 2015 and I put 45000 miles on it. The only thing I don’t agree with is the idea that you don’t remember the bike 50 years on. I have been touring for over 50 years and I remember every bike. In fact I remember my life based on what bike I had at the time. Sad I know but it works for me.

    Reply
    • Hi Graham, I love the passion! The more I think about it, the more I think second-hand tourers are the way to go. And if you remember life’s experiences based on the bike you had at the time, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If it works for you, and you hold those memories close, then that’s all that matters 🙂

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