Having been through a couple of these in the last few years, here is my list of things you should do if you buy an old bike. Specifically, a Harley Davidson “Evo Era” (roughly 1984 to 2000, although specific models may vary at the upper and lower ends of that range) motorcycle.
First, a disclaimer: My experience comes from buying two 1990 model bikes. One, an FXRS Low Rider. The other an FLHTC Electra Glide. There are certain changes that took place over the years, so always verify what you’re working with.
Second, some advice: As of this writing, there are still countless low mile, generally unmolested bikes out there. Those are the bikes you want. If you buy something that someone else has already hacked up, you are going to have a much more difficult time discovering what is and what is not correct. If you are unfamiliar with Evos, as I was a few years ago, the best thing you can do is get yourself a clean, factory-stock example. They are out there, and they are worth paying a bit more for. Find one of them.
BTW, probably the single best indication of a good, original bike is if the factory timing cover is still intact. These were riveted on from the factory. In order to open up the engine, the first thing you do is drill out the rivets. Back in the day, lots of guys put better cams in these bikes. Very few of those guys re-riveted the timing cover. So a riveted, original “V2” timing cover is a good, but not absolute, indication that the motor is unmolested.
Things You Should Do For Sure
Unless the seller tells you (and you believe him) that these things were done recently (within the last few months, let’s say), these are things you should do right away. All of this is over and above the obvious stuff like “Make sure the headlight works”, etc:
- Change the Engine Oil
- Change the Primary Drive Oil
- Change the Transmission Oil
- New Tires (most likely…look for a date code. If they are less than three years old and the tread is good, run them. Older than that? New ones!)
- Service the front and back wheel bearings.
- Inspect brake pads for wear.
- Flush and refill the brake fluid, front and back.
- Look at the air filter. Replace it if it looks dirty or old.
Things You Should Take A Good Look At
- Look at your fuel lines. There will be one somewhat hidden up above the front cylinder that connects each side of the tank. There will be another one from the petcock to the carburetor. I hear people say that these decay with time. Mine were all fine, but fuel line is cheap and they are fairly simple to replace.
- Is your carburetor gummed up? A lot of these bikes have sat for a while. Carbs get gummed up. If you are so inclined, go ahead and buy a full rebuild kit (which will include all the rubber bits) and give it a good clean with carb cleaner. Be sure to pull the jets and clean them. That said, if you prefer, you can probably put this off for a few tanks worth of gas. Just running fresh, detergent gas through the carb will serve to clean it out. If it’s running a bit rough, you might be surprised at how much it “fixes itself” after a few hundred miles.
- Brake lines. You’re going to want to stop, and brake lines are pretty important.