Caveat Emptor! (a Craigslist story)...

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3/19/2018 10:00 AM
Edited Date/Time: 3/20/2018 4:59 AM

(This actually happened a few years ago, but I just recently found it on my computer and thought I would share).

Caveat Emptor!

For those of you who didn't pay attention in high school, this is Latin for "Let the buyer beware".

I try to apply this every time I look ay a used motorcycle, and I applied it just the other day. Let me explain.

I ran across a 1989 Kawasaki KX250 on craigslist. The ad gave away little; no pictures, no explanation of condition, just a price and a phone number. The $600 price seemed good, and the 1989 Kawasaki KX250 has a soft spot in my heart. After a 10 year drought where I didn't ride or race dirt bikes at all (wasted at collidge) I got back into dirt bikes at age 28 when I bought a clapped out 1989 Kawasaki KX250. I sold it soon afterwards because it kept on breaking, and switched to KX500's, but I have always loved the look of the 1989 KX250 (which is what all 1989-2004 KX500's look like).

Anyhow, one of the vintage bikes I own now is a 1989 KX250, and I have a ton of extras for it just taking up valuable shelf space in the workshop. I have plastic, graphics, seats, cylinder, piston kits, and tons of odds and ends from racing KX500's (which have the same chassis) for so long. I figured I might be able to buy the KX250 on craigslist for $400-$500, throw $100 or so at it in new parts, and use some of my spare parts to easily have a $1200 bike or so.

The guy selling the bike agreed to bring it out to his buddy's shop which was only 10 minutes away from where I live, so I decided to check it out. He was quite the salesman. Over the phone, every other word out of his mouth was f%^&. He said the bike would wheelie over backwards in every f#$$-ing gear! How could I pass up a bike that would wheelie over backwards in every f#$$-ing gear?!

I got there at the arranged time to check out the bike, cash in pocket. This bike was Rough with a capital "R". The guy rolled it down from his truck, and started to tell me about it.

He pointed out the special "Supercross" tires. They were tires that were so worn you couldn't have given them away - the garbageman would charge you to take them from the curb.

He told me the cylinder was replated, ported, and polished. He also said that it has a special race cylinder that had KIPS. I told him that every KX250 had KIPS cylinders, and that KIPS stood for Kawasaki Integrated Power Valve System. He said, Oh, but it is replated, ported, and polished.

As I checked the bike over, I was making a mental list of what I would have to put into the bike. The list grew exponentially fast.

It needed a new chain and sprockets. Badly. The rear sprocket had summer teeth - summer there and some weren't.

It had multiple oil leaks. The whole lower end was coated in oil, some from the exhaust-cylinder joint and some behind the countershaft sprocket. It actually kind of blended nicely from one to the other.

The air screw on the carb had fallen out, so the guy put a wood screw in there to keep 'er running. A wood screw! Good solid thinking there!

The clutch lever was bent in a 180 degree loop, and the front brake was broken, but there was enough left where you could (barely) get one finger on it. The seller liked it like this.

The clutch adjustment was also maxed out (a sign the clutch is toast) and the clutch pull was a two-handed affair.

You could put your finger on the rear seat and push it down about 8 inches. I like plush suspension as much as the next guy, but this rear suspension was gone. And of course the front forks were leaking, which surprised the seller when I pointed this out, as he had just replaced the fork seals 3 or so years ago.

There was also an assortment of items on the bike that were powder-coated fluorescent green; the brake pedal, kick starter, triple clamps, cylinder head, and more. Sigh. And the frame was painted black. Longer sigh. A small piece of me dies when someone does stuff like to this to a bike.

As I checked out the lime-green kick starter, I noticed that it was welded on. When I pointed it out, the seller said no problem, you just need to get out the grinder if you want to take it off. Another long sigh.

And of course it had the normal bent bars, trashed grips, ripped seat cover, worn out seat foam, old cracked plastic held on with conventional fasteners, sagging footpegs, loose/broken spokes, and the wrong front number plate. Typical used bike stuff.

The guy decided to ride the bike to show me how strong it ran, as I am still on crutches. I couldn't believe that he would be able to stop smoking a cigarette for that long! He put on his cracked HJC helmet and lit up the bike. We were instantly engulfed in a big cloud of blue smoke. After warming up the bike for a good 10 seconds, he rode it down this path on the side of a brick building. He pulls up the front wheel, and starts drifting towards the building. He rides the wheelie a bit, drops the wheel down, and barely swerved in time and misses the building. I thought he was a goner but God reached down and decided that he wouldn't hit the building.

He did another pass or two, and then stopped the bike near me. Instantly the ground underneath became wet with oil, anti-freeze, and gas. It made for an interesting modern-art looking pattern on the driveway. I thought about looking at the air filter, but I would guess that there was a 50/50 chance that it did not even have one. The only thing that was halfway decent on this bike was the shiny FMF pipe.

The topper was when he then showed me a video clip on his phone of someone jumping a bike into a pond. He then told me it was that bike, and the guy was him. He had tied a rope to the handlebars and the other end to a milk jug so that they could pull the bike out afterwards. So the bike was totally submerged? Yes, he said proudly.

I felt bad for the bike, and I quietly told the bike that I was sorry I couldn't save it from its hard life. I couldn't even make the guy a low-ball offer; the bike was that bad. I don't think I would have taken it for free. OK, maybe just for the pipe but I would have thrown the rest away. At the price the guy is asking, he is probably getting a fair number of calls on it, but I pity the poor soul who takes on this "project".

Craigslist - where one man's junk is another man's treasure!


3/19/2018 1:02 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/19/2018 1:03 PM

I was in a similar scenario with one guy's bike.
The guy had descried the bike as "babied" and it was junk, pure junk.
I could not even make him an offer for fear of offending him.

I ended up telling him that I was looking at another bike right afterwards and wanted to see the other bike before I made a decision.


3/19/2018 1:11 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/19/2018 1:12 PM

HAHA, good read.


2008 Honda CRF450R

3/19/2018 1:46 PM

Funny and sad all at the same time. I laughed, I cried.

I especially liked this part:

" After a 10 year drought where I didn't ride or race dirt bikes at all (wasted at collidge) ...."

The owner didn't even mention the powerbands? Scandalous.


3/19/2018 3:40 PM

easydoesit wrote:

I was in a similar scenario with one guy's bike.
The guy had descried the bike as "babied" and it was junk, pure junk.
I could ...more

Yeah, it's amazing the broad definition of "perfect condition" sellers like to throw around.


Powerband in every gear !

3/19/2018 4:47 PM

Loved this, Thanks for sharing.


Unleaded tastes a little tangy. Supreme is kinda sour, and diesel tastes pretty good.

3/19/2018 8:09 PM

Well written! Thanks for sharing!


3/19/2018 9:22 PM

“Summer sprocket”. LOL

Thanks for sharing


3/19/2018 9:44 PM

Thnxz for sharing. laughing
I can relate.. Through the yrs. I've had a couple encounters with some CL ads that turned out to be an experience of a life time..


Speak softly and carry a big stick.

3/20/2018 12:29 AM

This just came up for sale on a site here in NZ, Photo



3/20/2018 12:32 AM

Ben 990 ya think the bike made it to New Zealand ??



3/20/2018 1:30 AM

Enjoyed that! Every bike I've sold has been so mint. I'd like to know if the buyers looked at trash like that before they showed up to my house and could barely speak. Too much workey and not enough ridey. Full disclosure -- I mean since I was 30 or so -- the early ones had a lot of hours and some of those gems were pretty thrashed. My buddies joked that if a fly landed on the kick starter of my '84 YZ125, it would fire up. Had a few hrs on it. Never used a wood screw though. lol


3/20/2018 3:24 PM

Great read Ben, thanks for that!, we have all been there....I love to hear what people try and tell you when your looking at a bike.

(How's that awesome Alta?).


2020.5 KTM Cairoli Factory Edition 5.7hrs
2019 Alta Redshift MXR - 0.9hrs!.
2020 KTM 250 SX 5hrs.

imoto34 wrote:
Look at all that torque. The kid on the lawnmower may have laughed so hard he shat his pants.

3/20/2018 3:28 PM

ben990 wrote: (This actually happened a few years ago, but I just recently found it on my computer and thought I would share).

Caveat ...more

Just in case you're still looking......