The classic motorcycle market has divided into three.

Honda CB1100RB front fairing LHS
1981 Honda CB1100RB with just 167 kms has already sold now.

The classic motorcycle market has divided into three very distinct markets. (I wrote about the market dividing in two in June 2020 in this article here, but it’s now splitting into three). Those motorcycles often try to climb from one market to another being disguised in some way to achieve a higher price not commensurate with the actual part of the motorcycle market that it truly sits in. Of course there are motorcycles that straddle each market, but these markets are fairly clearly defined. The market has developed and become much more defined since I first wrote about investment grade classic motorcycles in this article and in this article way back in 2014. The entire market has become much more refined and sophisticated over the last seven years, which is indicative of where the market itself is moving. As prices and interest in classic motorcycles has risen, so too has the ideology that any classic motorcycle has an exceptional value with owners trying every story to achieve a price higher than the true value of the motorcycle. The three markets, starting with the lowest value and increasing to the highest value is- 1 The bitsa made out of different machines, lots of cheap, poor quality replica parts but looking shiny and like the real thing. 2 The restored example with all the correct parts, maybe restored by big names, but done to a budget so they won’t run and underneath each almost indiscernible flaw there lies a myriad of problems. 3 The investment grade classic motorcycle that runs and rides beautiful with no nasty surprises.

1975 MV Agusta 750S and 1975 Laverda Jota
1975 MV Agusta 750S and 1975 Laverda Jota

1 The shiny bitsa

These motorcycles often look very shiny and sparkly and certainly dazzle to deceive. Normally they have powder coated frames, when someone pays £65 to protect the most vital part of the motorcycle with a coating which is inauthentic, not used by any manufacturers for that purpose and which damages the frame, instead of paying £500 for correctly painting this component says a lot. What else have the cut corners and scrimped on, they’re not in possession of a mindset that searches high and low for the highest quality parts no matter what they cost. Look out for super smooth, overly shiny inauthentic paint. Shiny does not mean investment grade, it screams inauthenticity using incorrect paints that lie flat and are used for cheap, nasty garage forecourt paints repairs. These machines usually have engines that may run enough to get them to some shows to win some accolades, but they are worth what someone will pay for them on eBay and always will be. Many will be disguised as great office ornaments that are original in every way or even investment grade motorcycles, do not believe what you’re told.

1975 Laverda Jota, 2000 Ducati 996 SPS factory, 1979 Honda CBX1000 and 1975 MV Agusta 750S
1975 Laverda Jota, 2000 Ducati 996 SPS factory, 1979 Honda CBX1000 and 1975 MV Agusta 750S

2 The great restoration

Many well respected establishments worldwide are restoring motorcycles on a budget, knowing they’ll never be ridden. Many are great and highly original examples with serious problems beneath every subtle flaw, you can read about we found with a great example of a 1976 Ducati 900SS here. These motorcycles may well have had a very decent engine rebuild, but they won’t run, or if they do they will only run very poorly. There will be imperfections in the paint that indicate really serious problems below every single flaw. Whoever restored these examples knew they wouldn’t be ridden by the owner and create a wonderful piece of office sculpture. These are not investment grade and to ensure they are requires a full restoration all over again. Declarations of “it ran when I started it this morning” or “the fuel’s stale” indicate that big problems lie beneath, no matter how nice the owner seems. Look for the slightest flaws in the paint and overly smooth, overly shiny paintwork. Look at the bottom of the fork legs and seek out any flaking or failing paint. Why is brand new paint failing on a motorcycle that’s been kept indoors?

1975 MV Agusta 750S
1975 MV Agusta 750S being gunned on loose chippings

3 Investment grade classic motorcycle

The investment grade classic motorcycle is an extremely rare machine. It will have all of the correct parts, sit absolutely correctly with all body panels lining up, start, run and idle superbly. It will ride like a new example from the factory and have authentic finishes without any signs of failing paint. Taking the finest examples in the market and then making them investment grade is a very costly process. You need your own in-house paint shop that understand what’s required and the finishes are very difficult to achieve. modern paints do not behave like cellulose at all. Getting those authentic finishes takes much, much longer than having super shiny, inauthentic paint because modern paints are designed to give that finish straight from the gun. Setting up the motorcycle will often take at least as long as the restoration itself. After it’s set up correctly it needs to be shaken down with plenty of miles clocked up. After a restoration we cover at least 100 miles, ironing out any bugs that always crop up, and allowing everything to shift a little and settle down. Then we set it up again for a final time, only then is it ready for delivery.

1975 Laverda Jota
1975 Laverda Jota

Chasing out hidden faults and flaws

As well as setting the motorcycle up correctly we have to also be detectives who eke out every scrap of appalling work done over the last fifty years and covered up. A full restoration is often less trouble than bringing in a motorcycle that seems that all is well only to discover many more subtle faults and flaws after extensive test riding. This has nothing to do with our, or anyone else’s ability to buy suitable motorcycles. The market for investment grade classic motorcycles is very tight and it’s hard to find decent examples, especially as we now have to pay so much more for these machines through out Europe, due to new tariffs and import duties. Remember that there was a time for all of these motorcycles when they were discarded and unwanted, during these times owners failed to carry out proper work, because it’s so costly. The problems with these machines are also age related, where aluminium becomes more brittle over the decades, threads decay and plastics breakdown. It cannot be underestimated how long these age related problems take to deal with properly, restoration is a seriously long process, it’s nothing like building a new bike from scratch with all new parts laid out in front of you. Round case Ducati engines took two full days to build in the factory when they were new, as Ian Falloon describes in this interview with him called Ian Falloon interview 1 at around 4 minutes in. Click this link to go to the page and see on the right hand side Interviews about the fourth one down. Imagine how long it now takes to correctly build one of these motors today, without even setting it up fully. However, the longest part of the journey to making an investment grade classic motorcycle is definitely chasing out the poor work done over the last fifty or so years and every motorcycle suffers from this no matter how pretty they look.

1979 Honda CBX1000
1979 Honda CBX1000 is a great bike for covering long distances on, two up and it’s fast too- even on newly laid loose chippings.

If you are thinking of investing your pension in a classic motorcycle then make sure you pick an investment grade example. These are the only ones that will deliver incredible profits, not the other two. Just look at the top end of the classic car market for the clues to where the classic motorcycle market is heading. If you think the classic car market is plateauing, just watch over the coming decade as China becomes involved and the markets in the Arab nations become bigger. There are large forces at work in both the bike and car markets, as the vast sums of money in the world seek out safe haven assets of very limited supply which provide owners with authenticity and joy. I have already written about the large sums of money pouring into classic bikes from cars in this article and this article from January 2019. New Atlas even picked up on this trend in this article, also mentioning the great value the motorcycles offered (see section titled Trend 3) This trend is continuing globally as fiat currency seeks a safe haven of tangible assets in very short supply. People complain about the prices of classic motorcycles, but the cost of restoration is far below most values of restored motorcycles. How well the motorcycle is restored, the authenticity and the roadworthiness (which is not an MOT!) adds to, or lessens, the value greatly. These are an investment that offer massive tax-free returns to those who buy the correct example of the correct motorcycle.

Find a classic motorcycle you know is investment grade

Find a classic motorcycle you know is investment grade at a fixed price by using our brokerage service. We find the correct machine for, put it through our rigorous workshop and paint shop processes and we do it for a fixed price. That way you know you have a machine which is destined to always sell at the very top end of the market. You know you won’t be in for future massive bills or nasty surprises because we offer a one year unlimited mileage warranty on all of our machines. No one else in this industry offers this service, we are unique. So call The Motorcycle Broker on 01803 865166, 07971 497615 or Email [email protected] and book a free Zoom consultation or come and visit our workshop to see examples of our work in person.

Paul Jayson

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