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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

I have come to realize this is the place for no bullshit advice on these types of bikes. That being said I would like input on two local bikes for sale that I have not seen in person yet. First is a 1981 Suzuki GS 550 that has been converted into a cafe racer. The motorcycle has had bodywork and paint done. I do not know if the engine has had work done but according to the seller the engine is working great. Lastly, to be mentioned this engine has 25,000 miles on it. Asking price is 1,200 (open to negotiation). 2. 1982 Yamaha XS400. No work done except upkeep and maintenance according to the seller. Visible rust on the exhaust. Possible rust on engine and chain (my speculation based on pictures which are no longer available). Engine has 3,000 miles on it. Asking price is 1,200.

My goal is to have something that runs. Secondary goal is to plan changes to the bike that accommodate my interests (tracker/brat configuration) and wallet. These bikes offer different things and have different pros and cons. Assuming they each run when I visit them and each do not have any glaring issues what would a more experienced shopper consider with these two types of choices.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

-M
 

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You really need to give some more model specific info on the XS400, like is it a " special " or " custom " model?

The XS would make the better Bratty Tracker style bike. Not if you are 6 feet 4, or a real porker, though.

You really need to post some good, big, clear, pictures of the bikes you are talking about, to get any good advice.

Danger, is my business."
 

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Discussion Starter #3
You really need to give some more model specific info on the XS400, like is it a " special " or " custom " model?

The XS would make the better Bratty Tracker style bike. Not if you are 6 feet 4, or a real porker, though.

You really need to post some good, big, clear, pictures of the bikes you are talking about, to get any good advice.

Danger, is my business."
Thanks for your response. I would be happy to post pictures of the bike after viewing it. The craigslist ad is down now and the pictures were not that good for the XS. Here is the GS550: 1981 Suzuki GS550 Cafe. The specific model types are not identified on either bike being considered. So a trained eye would be better most definitely. I emailed the Yamaha seller for pictures.

-M
 

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I don't like that 550 much, the miles seem a little high, the seat construction is truly shitful, like you couldn't ride it around town for more than fifteen minutes, kind of shitful.

Where the hell is Chambalumbana?

Be patient, and don't let eagerness burn a hole in your pocket, and jump at the next POS you see, because you love it, and they are going to stop making bikes in Japan real soon.

Danger, is my business."
 

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Discussion Starter #6
It looks clean but the price seems a little high.
Yup it is high. He recognized it when I pointed it out but still values it over KBB because he pumped money into it. KBB puts it around 1200 in solid condition at retail value. He wants it sold though and I won't be paying over KBB (or at retail value most likely) unless more experienced people here give me a reason to. I am attaching the photo for the XS400 that was just sent to me (Imgur). Seller cannot send more because he is out of town.

-M
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I don't like that 550 much, the miles seem a little high, the seat construction is truly shitful, like you couldn't ride it around town for more than fifteen minutes, kind of shitful.

Where the hell is Chambalumbana?

Be patient, and don't let eagerness burn a hole in your pocket, and jump at the next POS you see, because you love it, and they are going to stop making bikes in Japan real soon.

Danger, is my business."
Haha Chambalumba. Champiangn/Urbana IL. I am not in a rush Witworth but thanks for the reality check. I am however car less (perhaps not for long though) so my purchases are limited to my town which is an oasis in central IL.
 

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BB value is for stock bikes, not ones messed around with, and a guy sick of it and the amount of cash he's thrown at it. He's overinvested, and will lose in any case and he knows it.

If the XS is like the one in the imgur pic, it has a bit of potential as a tracker. When the guy says 3K miles on the motor, is this from new, or after he's had a go at rebuilding it?

Danger, is my business."
 

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Discussion Starter #9
BB value is for stock bikes, not ones messed around with, and a guy sick of it and the amount of cash he's thrown at it. He's overinvested, and will lose in any case and he knows it.

If the XS is like the one in the imgur pic, it has a bit of potential as a tracker. When the guy says 3K miles on the motor, is this from new, or after he's had a go at rebuilding it?

Danger, is my business."
They are original miles. No tinkering.

-M
 

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They are original miles. No tinkering.

-M
Go and have a look at the XS, don't take any cash. Take some good photos. Get him to show you a walk in title. Feel the motor with your bare hand to see it's dead cold. Only start a bike for sale when the motor is dead cold, it's a normal trick for a bike with starting issues to be warmed up all the time to get it over the line. If it doesn't start within three good kicks, with choke, forget it and walk away. Let it idle for 90 seconds, get off the choke and then rev it to say 5K a few times to see if it blows any BLUE smoke, if it does, run away from it.

Have the headlight on for two or three minutes, and then see if it starts with the button. If it doesn't, it probably needs electrical work or a new battery.

If is seems like a good deal, have a think for 3 or 4 days and then go back and haggle.

Danger, is my business."
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Go and have a look at the XS, don't take any cash. Take some good photos. Get him to show you a walk in title. Feel the motor with your bare hand to see it's dead cold. Only start a bike for sale when the motor is dead cold, it's a normal trick for a bike with starting issues to be warmed up all the time to get it over the line. If it doesn't start within three good kicks, with choke, forget it and walk away. Let it idle for 90 seconds, get off the choke and then rev it to say 5K a few times to see if it blows any BLUE smoke, if it does, run away from it.

Have the headlight on for two or three minutes, and then see if it starts with the button. If it doesn't, it probably needs electrical work or a new battery.

If is seems like a good deal, have a think for 3 or 4 days and then go back and haggle.

Danger, is my business."
Excellent. Thank you for the advice Witworth. I will follow it to the T and report back.

Addition: What is a walk in title? Just a clean title on the spot?
 

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Remember you are on a mission when buying a bike, focus just on the bike, don't talk any shit with the guy, you want to buy a good motorcycle, not take the fella to a dance.

If you need a buddy, go to a cheap bar and buy drinks. Friends all round.

Good luck.

Danger, is my business."
 

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That 550 is pretty ugly. Looks kinda together, but it's been chopped up a lot.

Probably just walk from the XS. The lure of 3000 original miles means nothing for a 30 year old bike. And even the best example you can find is still an XS400 (IE: underwhelming and crap).

Double your price range and buy something.....good.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
That 550 is pretty ugly. Looks kinda together, but it's been chopped up a lot.

Probably just walk from the XS. The lure of 3000 original miles means nothing for a 30 year old bike. And even the best example you can find is still an XS400 (IE: underwhelming and crap).

Double your price range and buy something.....good.
What would you recommend I look out for in that case?
 

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How much is he asking for the XS? I can see in the photo he already has the tool box open.....never a good sign. I wouldn't consider the GS ugly........it just looks ugly when someone says $2600. I know the owner wants some of his dream money back but it's not worth it. If he was asking half I would still be skeptical.

Unless you k now your way around motorcycles with your eyes closed I would really be cautious in purchasing old tinkered with bikes. I'm not talking about real good and clean cafe projects.......I'm talking about dirty old bikes with tool boxes opened asking double or triple what they are worth. And if any of these do not have clean titles.......I would run away like someone was chasing you with a knife. Good luck.
 

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How much is he asking for the XS? I can see in the photo he already has the tool box open.....never a good sign. I wouldn't consider the GS ugly........it just looks ugly when someone says $2600. I know the owner wants some of his dream money back but it's not worth it. If he was asking half I would still be skeptical.

Unless you k now your way around motorcycles with your eyes closed I would really be cautious in purchasing old tinkered with bikes. I'm not talking about real good and clean cafe projects.......I'm talking about dirty old bikes with tool boxes opened asking double or triple what they are worth. And if any of these do not have clean titles.......I would run away like someone was chasing you with a knife. Good luck.
That is too funny. Good eye on the toolbox haha. The XS seller is asking 1,200 and the GS550 said was worth over 1,200 when I said a retail KBB price for a GS550 is just that 1,200. As Witworth said, that is relative to a new bike from the time so it should obviously be less. The XS seller said he is selling the bike above KBB because KBB or whatever he used gives a price based on what mileage a bike from that year usually has but his bike has 3,000 miles so that is his rationale for a higher price. Hope this makes sense. I am not interested in fooling myself that a bike is worth what its' seller is emotionally asking for. That being said I find a paradigm exists regarding used bikes and potentially projecting them. There seems to be a small grey zone between a motorcycle that is too shit to work with or take a chance on and bikes that are in such solid shape they should not be mutilated. If anyone recognizes this is true, what defines that grey area of bikes that are not too shitty but not so good they shouldn't be transformed?
 

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Probably just walk from the XS. The lure of 3000 original miles means nothing for a 30 year old bike. And even the best example you can find is still an XS400 (IE: underwhelming and crap).

Double your price range and buy something.....good.
This is good advice but I just had to add........

You might not have to double your price range as much as wait for something good to pop up. These bikes are over priced and I wouldn't be surprised if you found a person trying to get rid of a running XS for $500 or whatever bike. Get your mind off it and wait....something always presents itself.
 

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What would you recommend I look out for in that case?
What's your experience with working on bikes? If you have worked on them for years and know your way around then you can assess non running bikes as potential runners, but if you are new to bikes you should steer clear of bikes that are either not running or have been modified poorly.

Any vintage bike - even in pristine condition - will keep you busy with general maintenance and upkeep. You aren't buying a toaster.

Anyway, you want to buy the best running bike you can. Starting at $1200 brings you into the range where stuff doesn't work properly and general maintenance items need doing. Tyres, chain, sprockets, fluids and cables are all items that wear out / consumables and to buy these will set you back over $500 straight up. Then there's titles, registration, etc which can be a can of worms if you buy something that doesn't have them.

So, start at about $2000 and look for clean, unmodified examples. You can still pick up a clean GS550, XJ550, KZ650 for around that money if you look around.

Or buy one of these:

Kawasaki GPZ 750

Suzuki GS1100E 1980
 

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To me......and I know others will have differing opinions..........but to me the gray area of any purchase is how motivated and reasonable the seller is. The person selling the GS might be motivated but not reasonable. Maybe the XS as well. I have long learned that there is ALWAYS a better deal somewhere and it usually presents itself when you are not expecting it or looking for it.....but it will come. What will that deal be for you? Maybe a low price...maybe something you really want.....maybe minimal work or no work needed...whatever.
 

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Be patient and realistic about your mechanical skill. I bought a non-running 1981 GS550T for $200 (5,600 miles) 2yrs ago. I have raced/riden/wrenched dirt bikes for 35yrs so I figured I could handle a small street bike resto. My rationale was it would be fun to get the kids involved and even if we never go it going they/me would learn something along the way. We had a ton of fun, but still not "Done" and not having read anything prior - made a lot of mistakes. Overestimated my ability, underestimated time and money. Honestly, it was a great untouched piece of history and I butchered it. If I had a do over I would have simply restored it and enjoyed it for what it was. Still, kids had a great time, they learned a lot about carburetors, valves, electrical and soon painting.



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