buying/selling a motorcross bike on ebay

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When buying a motocross bike (or scrambler for the older ones amongst us)  It is always a good idea to ask for the frame number of the vehicle you are going to buy.  There are 2 reasons for this:

1. To check if it is stolen.  If a seller is reluctant to give you a frame number be extra cautious.  If the bike is genuine, the owner will be happy for you to verify this, if there is any reluctance to part with these details leave it alone as something isn't right

Once you have the frame number, a call to the AMCA 01543466282 or the ACU (number can be found in Trials and motocross news) or the local Police in the area the seller is from, are good ways to check the bike out.  When motocross users use their bikes for racing, they have to register with either of these 2 organisations and pay a license fee.  The bike's frame and engine number is then registered with these organisations and is kept on their databases.  Riders are supposed to infor the governing bodies if they change their bikes during the course of a race season, so, in theory the databases should be up to date.  Of course some people only use their bikes for greenlaning or recreational off road riding so these won't be registered but it is always worth checking, just in case.

If you are unfortunate enough to buy a stolen bike and you then decide to register with either of these organisations, the bike's information will go into their database and if it has been stolen THEY WILL KNOW.  The Police will become involved and it will get very messy.

If you do not live in the U.K, your country will have similar off road organisations and guaranteed there will be an off road newspaper or magazine where you can get their telephone information.

Another thing to avoid like the plague are bikes where the frame number is not on the bike.  The frame number is stamped into the frame on the right hand side of the tube above the headstock, just below the handlebars.  Some people may have powdercoated frames and this does obliterate the frame number, a little gentle scraping with a nail file or something similar will reveal the frame number underneath, however if someone has spent a lot of money having their frame done, they may be reluctant to let you scrape the paint off unless you really intend to buy it!!  Any bike that has the frame number filed off is probably stolen so leave well alone. 

Some bikes don't have frame numbers at all.. these are mainly one off sidecar outfits and foreign mini bikes, but as most of these mini bikes don't even have a brand name, even if they have been stolen, they are virtually untraceable so you will just have to go on your instinct when you meet the seller.

2.  Of course, as these are unregistered off road bikes, it is difficult to tell the year of manufacture.  This is extremely important when ordering spare parts as they are NOT generic and parts for a 1995 bike will not always fit a 1996 for example, although some parts are the same for over ten years...therefore you gotta know what year the bike is.  I recently purchased a 1996 Honda cr250 which is pretty much identical to the 1995 model.  However after buying a set of fork seals for a 1996 and finding they didn't fit, I ended up spending loads of money buying different brands of seals and loads of fork oil, only to discover the bike was actually a 1995.  Once I knew this, it was easy to get the parts.  A call to your local branch of Fowlers motorcycles should sort out the year of the bike but you need to give the the full frame number (its also useful to have the engine number too). They will tell you exactly what year your bike is so you don't end up buying the wrong spares.  The only reason I made the mistake is because the 1996 and 1995 are almost identical clones of each other, so I was a little overconfident and believed the guy who sold it to me.  An expensive lesson learned!!!

If you are selling a bike a cautionary tale....Some friends advertised their bike for sale in the local free ads paper.  A potential buyer rang and asked if he could come to view it.  A date and time was arranged for the coming weekend.  The buyer wanted to come on the Saturday evening but, my friends were going to their club motocross presentation and no one would be home.  They told the buyer this, so he agreed to view on the Sunday.  He then asked for their postcode and house number so he could programe it into his satnav...... The guy sounded genuine and they thought nothing about giving this information to total strangers.  Suffice to say, they returned from their presentation evening to find the bike had been stolen.

It is always best to keep the address where you keep your bike private.  If you do keep it at home, don't tell them this.  Tell them you keep it at your ate's house and when they arrive you will go and get it.  Genuine buyers will not be put off by this, they will understand that you are being cautious.  Thieves won't bother turning up and will look for easier pickings.  If you are in any doubt, ask a neighbour if you can wheel it round to their house 1/2 an hour before your buyer arrives then, hitch up your trailer, drive round the block a couple of times and pick it up, whilst leaving your buyer waiting at your house.  Obviously its not smart to leave the bike next door, cos he'll realise what's going on!!  If he decides he isn't interested, make a big show of loading it back up again as if you are taking it to another address, this way if he is a thief he won't think you keep it at home so he won't bother coming back.

On a more positive note, you can register your bike with DVLA for free and then you get a log book and registration number.  You register it for off road use only and they only need proof of ownership, ie a receipt.  This way the engine and frame number are registered with DVLA and the Police can then proove ownership should it be retrieved after being stolen.

Ebay is a reputable site, but to be safe if you are thinking about bidding/purchasing a bike, check out the member's history first.  If he's just registered he may be bogus, so be vigilant.  If he has a long history and good feedback chances are he's fine.  Never be afraid to ask the seller questions (especially the frame number!) before you bid or commit to buy.  If at all possible, try to view the bike first, not always feasible I know.  Once you are the winning bidder, or you commit to buy now its a legally binding contract.  Never send a Bankers Draft, a cheque or cash to the seller before you pick up your bike, unless he is an ebay shop or power seller or you are very certain that the guy is genuine.  If possible use PAYPAL or cash on collection.  Never ever meet at a service station or a pub carpark 1/2 way between his town and yours for two reasons:  Firstly, he will know you have a large quantity of cash on you, so you could get mugged, secondly you won't be able to tell the Police his address if you've never been there if the bike turns out to be nicked.


I hope this has been useful to any of you out there thinking about selling or purchasing an off road bike through ebay.  Please, don't be put off, the majority of people out there selling bikes are genuine but there are always those who are not, so just be careful.  Having said that, if you follow the suggestions I have made you probably won't go far wrong.  Good luck and just remember one last thing....If someone is prepared to sell you a brand new bike for a giveaway price it's either bound to be nicked or is only good for spares!! kazza0011

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