Back in September we published a post about How to invest in Classic Motorcycles, which generated lots of interest from our customers and followers who wanted to share their experiences and passion for vintage bikes.
From what we have seen and heard it appears the general agreement is classic bikes are to be ridden, not hidden. Regardless of whether a classic model has been bought as a long-term investment, to relive one’s youth or to add to a growing collection it’s great to see so much passion and enthusiasm.
Here are just a few of the very interesting stories we have heard so far. Why not take a look and if you feel inspired, share your story with us on Facebook.
John bought his first bike in 1968 aged 16. It was a Royal Enfield Crusader Sport 250 and he used it to learn how to ride and pass his test. Then he rode it to school but had to park it outside the grounds. Maybe because the teachers feared he would become some sort of Steve McQueen-alike and distract all the other kids.
A year later, he sold the Enfield and moved on to a Suzuki Super 6 250, buying it for £290. In 1969 that was a princely sum indeed, especially as an apprentice engineer earning £8 a week. Then, in 1971 he bought a 1966 650 Triton, the year in which as John joked “the only time England have and will ever win the World Cup!”
He wasn’t properly bitten by the classic bike bug until about 15 years ago, not for a lack of want though, mainly because of not being in a position to afford having so many at one time. He takes care of them. He makes sure they’re all in good working order. So for John, having a classic bike isn’t so much a matter of a financial investment, it’s more a matter of time well spent and feeling the wind in your face when you’re out there riding them.
Today he has seven bikes: a Triton, a Honda GB 500 (which was a grey import because they weren’t being sold by the dealers in the UK at the time), two 250 Hornets, a 600 Hornet, a CBR 250, and a CBR 250 RR. There’s also a Honda XBR but that one’s in bits and heading for sale. Whether each and every one of these is a classic by anyone else’s standards is open to debate but he certainly views them that way.
“I’ve only ever bought the models and makes I like, and the ones I always wanted to ride as a kid but couldn’t afford, but can now.”
He takes his bikes out regularly too, for enjoyment and to keep them running and wouldn’t entertain the idea of buying a classic without riding it.
“I don’t do it for the money. I mean, it’s nice if they go up in value but there’s no point buying one and keeping it under wraps is there? Do people buy paintings and cover them up?”
When it comes to choosing which bike to buy, he takes his time and does his homework. There are lots of things to consider: the make and model are important but mostly from a personal perspective, as in, if he likes it he’ll consider buying it. Uniqueness is important too: he doesn’t want anything that’s run of the mill or that everyone else has. The availability of spare parts is crucial to understand as well. It’s all very well buying something rare – whether or not it might increase in value – but that could mean replacement parts are hard to come by and expensive to buy. He’s never had to do what he would call major maintenance on any of his bikes though, but perhaps that’s because he’s a highly skilled engineer with decades of experience behind him. What he might call minor repairs, a beginner might call major.
As for where he finds his bikes, there are lots of websites out there offering classics. John usually finds his on dealer sites or eBay. It’s well worth asking your friends and family too and getting in touch with the enthusiasts. Chances are, if you like riding bikes, you’ll know someone or have a friend who can help you find out what you need to know and make the best decision. Insurance is a factor in the sense that smaller engines usually cost less to insure, not to mention they offer better fuel economy yet still the same speed. You don’t need to buy a superbike to go fast. Small engines are equally capable of reaching the 70 mph speed limit, sometimes more quickly too.
Out of all the bikes John’s had over the years, there’s one he regrets not keeping: the Suzuki he bought in 1969.
“It would have only ever had one owner and I really enjoyed riding it. I think they go for about £4,000 nowadays but I only bought it for £290.”
A rough conversion of £290 in the Sixties in today’s money is about £4,500, give or take a few pounds, so it hasn’t gone up as such in value. It’s worth remembering that any price tag you see today won’t necessarily reflect the cost of ownership in previous years, or years to come. There’s no guarantee of its value increasing either. Like any investment, the values of classic bikes rise and fall; if you can’t afford to write off the initial cost, it’s better not to invest.
So what’s next?
“I’d like to buy a Honda 500 4. It’s had a good write up and I like the styling and size. The riding position suits me too. I’m not trying to be Carl Fogarty so I prefer a more upright position. I’m not in a hurry either, I’ll see what’s out there and if I find one that suits my budget I’ll sell one of my bikes to buy it.”
Sounds good to us John. Good luck!
When Keith was a young lad, all he was interested in was motorcycles. He has lovingly rode them for over 60 years, attended numerous classic bike shows across the country and calls himself a ‘lifelong enthusiast; not an investor.’
In 1968 Keith purchased a Triumph TR6 motorcycle for £25 as it was destined for the scrapheap due to its popularity shifting to the USA and Canada. Today it is worth a handsome five figures which Keith describes as a “happy accident.”
“All the bikes I have purchased over time have been because they are models I have admired,” says Keith. “Today my collection consists of three classic motorcycles – a Triumph TR6, an Ariel and a Honda CB500-Four.“
Non-bike enthusiasts will be familiar with the Triumph TR6, which was involved in the most widely seen and most often watched bike stunt scene in history from the 1963 film The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen.
The Ariel Motorcycle was introduced by a British motorcycle manufacturer based in Birmingham and was one of the leading innovators; surviving until 1967. And the CB500-Four model was a motorcycle introduced by Honda in the early 1970’s and was claimed to be the ‘thinking man’s motorcycle’ by the vintage print Cycle magazine.
Fortunately for Keith all three classic bikes he has purchased have been as close to factory standard as they could have been. His job has been ensuring they remain in pristine condition which he takes exceptional care and pleasure in doing.
When it comes to selecting the bikes he has purchased Keith says his preferences have honed over the years: “It really has been a case of choosing the models which appeal to me at the time of buying because the investment side of things is not of interest to me. I don’t buy classics in a bid to sell them and make money.”
If Keith was to offer top tips to anyone interested in purchasing a classic motorcycle they would be:
- Find the model you are interested in with an owner who knows what they are talking about.
- And don’t shy away from paying the asking price for something worth every penny.
So what does the future hold for Keith and his classic motorcycle collection? “I’m not in the market to buy anymore unfortunately. Eventually it will lead to me passing them on to my sons who are also keen motorcyclists and will look after them the way I intended.”
Let’s hope it’s not too soon Keith.
Describing motorcycles as a lifetime passion it is obvious why Nigel has delved into the classic motorbike market – he wants to own the bikes he admired from afar when he was younger. “I was naturally drawn into buying a classic motorcycle because of the nostalgia factor.”
Nigel bought his first classic motorbike, a Suzuki GT 750 or as the Brits nicknamed it the “kettle” for just over £5,000 earlier this year. It was a means of adding to his ever-increasing collection and potentially reaping the long-term financial reward, if and when he comes to sell it.
“The current bank interest rates are not able to offer me the estimated return on investment for this sum of money long-term. In the next six months alone, I estimate the value of the bike will increase by 2%. However I’m pragmatic in that this is a long-term investment, so as with most financial commitments I expect to experience fluctuation in the value.”
Prior to Nigel purchasing his first classic bike he conducted a lot of research as he felt it was important to regularly check selling sites to see what prices models were being sold for, as well as what makes and models were in demand. He also spoke to friends who were classic motorcycle owners as well as attending an owners’ club to seek advice.
If he had to offer anyone considering buying a classic motorcycle advice it would be research, research, research, “I found it extremely helpful speaking to fellow classic motorcycle owners as well as attending numerous motorcycle clubs and events within my region.”
Despite all his research, choosing the actual Suzuki GT 750 wasn’t too much of a headache as Nigel is an avid fan of the Japanese manufacturer and has very fond memories of the 1970s icon Barry Sheen winning world titles riding them.
He purchased the bike through an eBay seller who was based in Loughborough. After initial browsing Nigel chose to meet the seller to view the bike in all its glory and thankfully was the winning bidder less than a week later.
Since purchasing the classic motorcycle, Nigel admits to mothering it! He takes great pride in ensuring the appearance of the bike is pristine by regular cleans and polishes. In terms of adapting the bike or making any modifications, Nigel admits this can come with an expensive price tag.
“Because you want to use authentic features, modifications to a classic can be a pricey exercise because the parts are no longer made. I recently replaced the seat on my model with an original for £400. There are many alterations you can make but it really does depend on how deep your pockets are.”
Although this is Nigel’s first classic motorbike he has owned he doesn’t intend on this being his last, “I’m certainly no stranger to purchasing non-classic models so this has been a fantastic exercise in expanding my knowledge. I would love to expand my classic collection but this very much depends on the money my wife and I have in the future.”
If not, fingers crossed your lottery ticket comes in soon Nigel.