Why Are Many Imported Classic Motorcycles Better Than Officially Imported UK Classic Motorcycles?

So why are some imported classic motorcycles a better investment than an officially imported UK classic motorcycle? Apart from dispelling the myths of grey, or parallel, market motorcycles in my article there are other reasons why an import can be a better buy than a UK classic motorcycle. After all, not only is your emerging market classic motorcycle a great deal of fun to ride, beautiful and nostalgic, it is also a way of preserving your wealth and an alternative investment. Here are five reasons. Reason one- property prices! Reason two- motorcycling culture. Reason three- Insurance. Reason four- salt! Reason five- weather.
One. UK property prices have always been higher than almost anywhere on the planet and space has always been at a premium. Fewer properties in the UK have a garage, than properties abroad. Anywhere else in Europe, garages come free with the houses. But in the UK, you will pay a premium for a garage. Space is now at such a premium that most, except for the wealthy, either don’t have a garage, or convert it into another room. So, many officially imported UK motorcycles have spent their lives outside in the rain, or kept in damp, rotting sheds.
Of course, I am generalising here, but it is a truth I have gleaned through over twenty years of exporting and importing new and used motorcycles through out the world. I would regularly travel the length and breadth of the UK to see machines that were described as immaculate, only to find a corroded motorcycle at the end of my journey. The owner would stare at me and tell me that it was immaculate for the year. Perhaps in the UK, but not for the market it was being exported to. The Internet has helped a little, because we can now email high definition photographs, but in the 1990s life was tough for a motorcycle trader.
Two. Motorcycling culture. A major difference between classic motorcycles officially imported into the UK market and one sold into a foreign market is originality. This is especially true with all of those hard to source, expensive parts such as exhausts. In the UK, when anyone bought a Kawasaki Z900 or a Yamaha RD400, the first thing any decent Englishman would do was to rip off and bin the standard exhaust system and air box. They would replace these with a Marshall four into one for the Z900, or a set of expansion pipes for the RD400 and a set of K and N air filters. As I have alluded to already, in my article at the cost of replacing such parts now is astounding. Also trying to find standard air boxes and exhaust systems is almost impossible for many of these classic motorcycles.
In many other countries, when our foreign compatriots bought their new Suzuki GS1000, or Yamaha XS1100, they took pride in keeping their motorcycles completely standard. You wouldn’t catch them butchering their pride and joy. In the rest of the world, it was Harley-Davidson that changed this culture with their bolt on goodies and lifestyle accessories. So most motorcycles produced before 1993, through out many other countries were kept completely standard and in a warm garage.
Three. Insurance. In the UK, when you insure your motorcycle you pay for insurance for one year and if you cancel and claim a refund, you will be penalised heavily. So many UK motorcycles have been ridden over the winter months. In other countries, where common sense prevails over excessive profits, it was always standard procedure to have motorcycle insurance for just six months of the year. The rest of the year the motorcycle was insured against theft in the owners’ garage. To avoid people riding without insurance, riders send their number plates into the insurance company while the motorcycle is off the road. How can an insurance company provide such a service in other countries and not here? Motorcycle theft is not so common abroad, as it is in the UK.
Interestingly, motorcycle theft has not been so prevalent in mainland Europe as it is in the UK. When I used to export used UK motorcycles to the rest of the world, many of them would come with alarms. My clients abroad would always remove them, as a matter of course, because the alarms would invariably develop a fault and strand the rider. When I asked about theft, the dealers in those countries told me that they never had a problem with it and that customers did not want alarms on their motorcycles. Some times I do feel like I was born in wrong country.
Four. Salt! If a motorcycle is not ridden during winter it is not exposed to salt. Even if it is exposed to salt, apparently the salt they use in the rest of the world is different to UK salt. I have been told that the salt we use in the UK is unique to our country and is far more corrosive than the salt they use in the rest of the world. It seems that other countries use a different type of salt, which does not damage or corrode metal in the same way as ours does.
Five. Weather. UK motorcycles generally get ridden over winter, which may be all right, if the weather is good, but the UK weather is so unpredictable we’ve all been caught in the rain. How many times have you gone out on a bright, cloudless, sunny January day and ten miles into your journey black clouds appear from nowhere and the heavens open? Even in summer we defy the miserable rain and just get out on our motorcycles and ride, because we haven’t ridden in months. Or we go out on a cloudless, summer’s day to return like a drowned rat wondering why we ride a motorcycle at all. Yet when we roll off any ferry docking in mainland Europe, we find ourselves rediscovering why we love our motorcycles. A motorcycle is more fun to ride when the sun is shining. Which is why these emerging market classic Japanese motorcycles are so much fun over their British counterparts. How many Velocette Venoms can you just jump on and ride down to Italy and back on, without the motorcycle breaking down? You can on a Honda CB750, Yamaha XS1100 or Honda CBX1000.
Riding in the cold can also cause corrosion to some classic motorcycles. For example, if you have a deliciously original Kawasaki Z900 with the standard exhaust system, and you ride it in the cold, condensation will develop and sit in those paper-thin chrome pipes. So they will rot from the inside out. So the temperate climate on mainland Europe can be a lot kinder, over the years, to a forty year old Kawasaki, than the crap climate of the UK.

Paul Jayson

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