Sell Your Bike
Let's face it, we don't own Harley's.  We own dirt
bikes.  They get dirty, beat up, broken, and worn out.  
Our bikes depreciate rapidly, and anyone who's ever
attempted to trade one in at a dealer probably
laughed upon first hearing the trade-in value, then
experienced the same type of shock and disbelief
that many felt upon seeing Al Gore with facial hair.  
Below are my tips for improving the resale value of
your dirt bike.

A little soap, some water, a brush....sounds easy,
right?  Wrong. Your goal is to get every single piece
of foreign material removed from every possible
square inch of surface area.  Some things you get
used to looking at over the years, like the greasy dirt
that collects around the engine cases, but that
doesn't mean a prospective buyer won't notice it.  A
flawlessly clean bike shows your buyer that you are
anal about tending to the appearance of your bike,
and that's a good thing.  This increases the odds that
the buyer will think you are also anal about
maintaining your bike.

Start by taking off the plastic (including the gas tank)
and getting it out of the way so you can focus on the
frame, engine cases, and other often-neglected
areas.  A spray bottle, a gallon of industrial
degreaser, and your wife's toothbrush will work well.  
The exhaust system hides a lot of crud and generally
gets in the way, so remove that also. Take off the
wheels and clean every spoke, the hubs, and around
the seals and wheel spacers.  The rear hub tends to
collect a thick layer of grime (I haven't seen the gold
color of my Talon hub in years) and is awkward to
clean, so that's where a coating of degreaser and a
toothbrush will make it easier.  I find the engine cases
to be the hardest to clean because the dirt and oil get
baked on.  Again, degreaser helps, as does a small,
stiff brush.  Keep looking for dirt and don't stop until
you've taken it all off.

If possible, sand or grind off rusty spots on the frame
and use touch-up paint to improve the appearance.  
Some areas don't make sense to focus on if the only
way to improve the appearance is high-dollar
expenditures, so concentrate on the areas where a
little hard work makes your bike look almost-new.

If you could do it again, the day you bought your
bike, you would have traded the original plastic for an
aftermarket set and on the day you sold the bike, put
back on the still-shiny stock plastic.  If you already
did that, give yourself a pat on the ass.  But if your
original set of plastic was scattered in bits and pieces
over many miles of trail or is now resting at the
bottom of a landfill, and what's left on the bike is a
hodge-podge of mismatched, duct-taped,
safety-wired plastic parts, then a new set of
aftermarket plastic will definitely help the
appearance.  Costs money, of course, but this is one
of those places where you can generally get your
money back in the form of a higher resale value, and
your bike will sell quicker.  Remember, put yourself in
the buyer's shoes: would you rather buy a
ratty-looking bike or a clean, mostly-shiny bike? This
is how my '99 300EXC looked
before I sold it. This is
how it looked
when I put it up for sale.

I am anal.  Every time I ride, I write down the date,
approximate riding distance, number of hours, and
any maintenance that I perform afterwards.  I started
doing this because I was curious about how much I
was actually riding and
how much it costs to keep a
dirt bike running (yes, it is shocking). Not only is this
a great way to keep track of maintenance intervals,
but it also shows a prospective buyer how meticulous
you are about details.  Again, this is a good thing.  
However, it can be a very bad thing if your records
show that the last significant maintenance on your
bike was a chain lube back in '98.  If that's the case,
then don't bother keeping track.  Just focus on
making the bike look good.

The internet offers many free classified ad services
specific to motorcycles.  My success with those
services has been marginal at best.  Your ad will
probably be read by more off-road enthusiasts than a
typical newspaper ad, but geography tends to limit
who you can sell to.  It's great if a guy in Vermont
wants exactly what you've got, but if you live in Utah,
the transportation cost will probably make the bike
too expensive for your East Coast buyer.  Plus, most
people still like to see the bike in person, think over
their decision, and then come back and make the
purchase.

The last time I sold a bike, I initially tried the freebie
ads but got very little response.  When I spent some
money and ran a newspaper ad, the bike sold on the
very first day (for an acceptable price, too).  The
newspaper ad cost me $20, but was worth every
penny because my bike sold quickly.  Choose the
most widely-circulated newspaper in your area and
run an ad that includes the Sunday edition.

Ever try to sell a dirt bike in the middle of winter?  
Would be easier getting Bill Clinton to drive by a
Hooters without stopping.  Most off-season buyers
are looking for that desperate soul who just bought
next year's new model and is cash-strapped with
multiple bike ownership.  Don't be "That Guy."  
Late-spring or summer is best, when people are more
likely to have motorcycles on their minds.

You've probably heard the horror stories of someone
who let a guy test-ride his bike and never saw it
again.  Or the day after the test ride his garage was
broken into and the bike stolen.  The most basic rule
of selling a bike: In God We Trust; All Others Must
Verify.  If someone you don't know wants to test-ride
your bike, get some identification and hold on to their
car keys.  The guy who shows up with no car,
claiming to have been dropped off by a friend, is
trouble, plain and simple.  The guy who asks
questions about how and where you store your bike
is also questionable.  Meet with a potential buyer at a
neutral location, if possible, and politely explain why
you need to see an I.D.  Most people are
understanding about verification, which makes for a
good test of the type of character you're dealing with.
Be very cautious with someone who gives you grief
about producing a driver's license.

For me, the least enjoyable part of selling a bike is
haggling over the price.  While it's tempting to take
the first offer you receive, don't settle for a price just
to get the bike out of your garage.  On the other
hand, it helps to be realistic about the true value of
the motorcycle. For KTM owners, the majority of us
are involved in racing of some type.  We do special
things to our bikes to make them go fast.  While
those things add value to us, the majority of the dirt
biking population are trail riders who have no use for
re-valved suspension, don't want steering dampers,
and could care less about aftermarket triple clamps.  
Because of their race-oriented nature, European dirt
bikes have a smaller audience than Japanese bikes
and we pay the price in the form of lower resale
value.  If you can find a racing buddy to buy your
KTM/Husky/Gas Gas/TM at the price you want, more
power to you, but odds are your bike has more value
to you than to the general dirt biking community.

If a potential buyer is low-balling you with the "but it's
been raced" excuse, that's when the maintenance log
can pay off. Show him/her how much you've done to
the bike and, more importantly, how much you've
spent on the the bike to keep it in top condition. An
educated buyer should not discount a bike because
it's been raced...at least I wouldn't, and I feel like I'm
somewhat educated.

When you do settle on a price, always follow this rule:

Cash, cashiers check, or money order.  NO
EXCEPTIONS.

Very few buyers take cash with them the first time
they look at a bike, but most will bring along enough
to put down a small deposit if they decide they want
the bike. I usually ask for $100 and agree not to sell
the bike to anyone else until they come up with the
rest of the money (usually 2-3 days later).  In that
time, however, I'll still let someone else look at the
bike as long as they understand that there's a
"contract" on the bike. Sometimes a buyer doesn't
follow through, so it's important to keep your options
open.

Overall, I've never been 100% satisfied with what I
received for a used dirt bike, but that's to be
expected.  Unless you find an uneducated buyer with
a bunch of spare cash, you'll probably end up
settling for a price a bit lower than what you had
hoped for. Go with your gut feeling, get the bike sold,
and move on to the next one!