10 hidden factors to check during bike purchase - eNidhi India Travel Blog

10 hidden factors to check during bike purchase

When we buy a motorcycle (aka Bike) we look for engine power/cc, price, fuel economy and looks. While these things matter, there're several subtle things inexperienced two wheeler buyers ignore or forget to check. This post lists 10 such hidden factors that prospective bike owners should evaluate before finalizing a purchase decision.
1. Silencer exhaust position- for trouble free ride in monsoon.
For Indian cities that often get flooded during monsoon, bike silencer position is a critical factor. If silencer exhaust is closer to ground, bike will not be able to wade through much water. Example- Pulsar NS 200. If silencer exhaust is a bit taller, you will be able to navigate deeper water. Because of this reason, most offroad bikes have their silencer exhaust almost at seat level. Compare two bikes in below photo. 

Both images taken from Bajaj and Hero official websites.

I am not saying all exhausts should be as high as shown in above picture, but it is safer if you avoid bikes with exhaust as low as first picture (Bajaj NS200). Of course this is not a concern if your city never gets flooded or you won't be risking going out during monsoon on your bike. Most bikes have the silencer exhaust somewhere above halfway mark of rear wheel and slightly tilted upwards- that is fairly adequate.

2. Sitting position/Ergonomics
How you sit on a bike matters for long rides. Some bikes like Yamaha R15 are made for tracks. You can't sit upright on them. Such bikes are good for short rides but it is not sustainable to sit in bent driving position for long rides. If you are planning long rides, you will need a bike on which you can sit upright and ride. Most bikes do offer this position, but be sure particularly if you are buying a sports bike.
Above left: Rider has to lean forward a bit to ride Yamaha R15 sports bike. This position is hard to sustain for long time as it will give back pain. (Above poses were not taken with this post in mind- bike is on its stand and it is not really final riding position, but it should give you an idea)
Above right: Can sit erect on MT-15 (and most other everyday bikes), which is the right position to sit if you plan to ride long distance. 

3. Indicator position: 
If rear indicator position is far away from pillion seat (say somewhere closer to tail lamp) then loading saddle bags will be easy. But if it is too forward, then adding a bag could damage the indicator.

Look at below picture, you will get an idea.
Above: Old Apache RTR 160 with forward indicator position that comes in the way of saddle bag positioning.
Below: Yamaha MT-15 with indicators stretched far behind- no problem putting saddle bag on rear seat.
Similarly a bike with integrated indicator is less maintenance (Refer old fiero, CBZ Xtreme etc). But most modern day bikes come with protruding indicators, which cost 150-300 INR to replace each time they are broken.

4. Fuel tank- plastic or metal
Metal fuel tanks let you tap a magnetic bag over the tank and carry some stuff. Ideal to keep quick access stuff like maps etc. Plastic tanks won't offer this advantage. You will have to find a hook or use bungee cords to tie a bike. If you are planning long distance touring, then check on this.

5. Naked/Fairing
Some manufacturers offer same bike in both naked and fairing version. Fairing version carries extra body panels around the engine and some people like them. Be advised that these fairings are 5-10 kg in weight and this extra weight will slow down the bike and cut fuel efficiency. So you've to decide if all those extra weight is worth. Faired bikes also cost 10-20% more compared to their naked counterparts.

Example: Between Suzuki Gixxer (naked) and Gixxer SF (Faired version) there's a price difference of 10000-12000 INR, weight difference of 7 kgs and probably 1-2 kmpl mileage difference.

Bajaj RS 200 and NS 200 have 30k INR price difference, 13 kg weight difference and 1-2 kmpl fuel efficiency difference

6. Handlebar balancer
Look for this feature even if you are buying mid range bike. Handlebar balancer is a very useful thing. It is the hard extension that protrudes from accelerator. Look at the white box in below picture. Handlebar balancer serves many purposes
- Absorbing the impact if bike falls down and protect accelerator, brake from damage
- Absorbing the impact if another vehicle brushes too close to you while riding
7. Small features that matter
- Side stand warning: Handy feature to avoid tripping over by riding while side stand is extended.
- Fuel Gauge- Some motorcycles and two wheelers won't have fuel gauge- Even Harley Davidson street 750 doesn't have it. Honda Navi, TVS XL 100 and many other models don't have a fuel gauge. If the vehicle is super cheap it is probably OK but otherwise you will need lots of memory and calculation skills to ensure you've enough fuel left.
- Gear indicator- useful for beginners- tells you which gear you are in. But this is not needed for experienced riders, who will know by the feel of the ride approximately which gear vehicle is in.

8. Cost of maintenance
  • KTM's tyres give high performance but last half as long and cost twice as much as normal tyres (like 20000 kms instead of 40000)- so you've to factor this extra maintenance.
  • Oil and Liquid cooled engines cost little more to maintain compared to air cooled engine.
  • Large bikes with bigger engines will need more engine oil. Servicing cost will be more each time.
  • If you don't have a dealer/service center near your home more time and effort have to be spent in service.
  • Less popular make and models are risky to buy as dealers may not stock spares. May take months to get spares from manufacturer if model is not fast moving.
9. Sitting position and comfort for rear passenger
Think of your future needs. If you ever have to carry a passenger on the back, you've to think of their comfort as well. Height of the person, height of the seat, ease of mounting and dismounting etc matter. Particularly if they are wearing Indian traditional attires and can't sit one leg each side. Also need to factor risk of saree extension getting trapped in wheels- saree guards are usually available for entry level bikes for this purpose.

Look at below pic: Extra height of rear seat, small sitting area, nothing to grab, tiny foot pegs, no provision to fix saree guard etc. If your usage includes carrying a female rear passenger, you've to pay attention to their needs while buying your motorcycle.
Even too low a seat could be a problem. Check my post on Harley Davidson 750- a tall rear passenger had to sit in an uncomfortable position. 

10. Cargo carrying ability- you may need it later
Bikes are not made to carry cargo. Bikes are suitable for rider alone and probably some minimum bags. Even double ride over long distance is not really comfortable. But if you are touring without support vehicle you will have to carry more stuff with you. Following are different means to carry cargo while riding a motorcycle
  • Saddle Bags [Read detailed review here]
  • Tank mounted mini bag
  • Baggage hooks- hang some bags to the hook-usually not possible on mono suspension bikes
  • Ride with backpack
  • Custom boxes (lockable) on the side or on rear to carry stuff- may look ugly but popular in rural areas
  • Tie bags using bungee cords on rear seat- need proper hooks to fix cord
Check which of the above ways is suitable for your usage/need and if the bike you're considering supports these features.

Hope you find these tips useful while evaluating your next bike. Happy motoring.

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