When looking for a used motorcycle the mileage covered should always be taken into account but what is high mileage for a motorcycle?
A high mileage motorcycle with 45,000 on the clock but with a full service history and receipts to back it up would be of less concern to me than something that’s covered 20,000 with no proof of regular maintenance.
Another thing to consider is the type of motorcycle you are looking at. A Harley Davidson engine is designed to chug along at low revs so high miles wouldn’t bother me half as much as a high mileage, high revving Ducati sports bike as they tend to be pushed hard.
Horses for Courses
Touring bikes are built to go the distance. The engine and chassis of a touring bike will have been carefully designed to undertake lots of miles with few issues.
Since their inception motorcycles have been a form of transport alternative to a car, they are ready-made for adventures whether you are on a 125cc or 1200cc bike.
However, there are specific bikes built for long-distance touring such as the BMW K1300S. They are built to do the distances in comfort and add a touch of luxury to motorcycle travel.
It is not uncommon to find sports touring motorcycles like the Honda ST1300 or Yamaha FJR1300 with 40,000-60,000 miles on it, in some cases as high as 80-100,000.
At first glance this might seem extremely high but the fact is these bikes are up for the task; if it has been looked after, a bike like those mentioned above will quite happily keep going and live another life with a new owner.
Cruisers and Bobber bikes are similar to tourers in that a bike’s mileage isn’t considered to be high until it is in the 20-50,000 region.
However, it is important to be a bit more cautious with cruisers than it is with tourers.
Something like the Indian Scout would be considered a smaller type of cruiser, not really built for regular long rides but aimed at younger/new owners as a way to get them into the cruiser fold. The Scout also attracts a crowd of amateur and professional custom builders who want to add performance parts and create a custom machine.
The result of this could potentially mean the engine is pushed to its limit regularly, raced around and ridden hard. Or the engine can be abused indirectly by newer riders not knowing how to shift gears properly, slowly damaging the clutch or increasing the wear and tear.
However, something like the Harley Davidson Breakout is equipped with the big 117 Milwaukee-Eight V-twin engine that is also used in the Harley baggers. This engine will quite happily eat up the miles with no complaint.
The Breakout has an MSRP of $20,999, this price point generally attracts seasoned riders who will take the time to ensure the bike is cared for and remains in excellent condition.
The miles on the odometer on big V-twin models like the Breakout therefore on the whole are usually careful and sensible miles, the bike is unlikely to have been thrashed – Harley’s are expensive to fix.
As a general idea 50,000 miles on a big Harley or Indian is pretty normal, high mileage would kick in around 80,000 miles, after this point though you shouldn’t rule big V-twins out as they can quite easily hit 150,000.
Liter bikes consisting of sport bikes and naked sports motorcycles however, have a lower threshold when it comes to what mileage would be considered high. Around 20,000 miles is thought to be high for these bikes.
Sport bikes are designed to be lightweight, to be agile, to go as fast as possible, with fast acceleration and masses of power and torque.
There are few liter bikes designed to do serious mileage along with all the trademark features of sport bikes.
A bike like the Yamaha R1 is a race-bred, road-going sportsbike that performs its duty to recreate the racing experience for the everyday road rider. It isn’t produced to be comfortable, or practical in any way.
These race replica bikes are often taken to track days (or tested spiritedly on the backroads), and pushed to the owners and bikes limits. They can go through serious punishment in short time periods as that is what they are truly for.
Therefore, when a liter bike has 20,000 miles on it, it is safe to assume that some of those miles will be hard miles and the bike won’t be in as good a condition as other types of bike with the same mileage.
The Yamaha MT-10 on there other hand is the leader of Yamaha’s Hyper-Naked range and using the same engine has an abundance of power and torque just like the R1. The difference here is that the MT-10 could have been ridden like a sportsbike or treated with the utmost care and used like a tourer for big adventures.
So 20,000 miles on an MT-10 might not be as bad as it could be on an R1. It is therefore essential you take this into account if looking for a used model.
Motorcycles designed for commuting come in various forms and sizes depending on the owners needs. A lot of miles for a commuter likely sits somewhere in the 20,000-50,000 range depending on the bike itself.
If you depend on your bike to get to work you are likely to keep on top of the maintenance so you have reliable everyday transport. On the flip side, some owners may not care about the bike cosmetically as long as the important components keep running.
A bike like the Triumph Street Twin is a popular commuter choice as the 900cc engine isn’t massive but offers enough power for all roads you might come across on your commute and good fuel efficiency.
Cheap to buy, cheap to insure, cheap to run, the Street Twin has all you could want out of an everyday bike.
The Street Twin is stripped back with all the parts on display open to the elements, this can make cleaning a bit of a challenge especially if you are riding everyday.
If you plan on racking up the miles commuting you need to factor in cleaning and maintenance of your bike as part of your weekly routine so that your bike remains reliable and capable.
Dual sports bikes
Dual sport bikes are similar to liter bikes in terms of what would be considered a lot of miles.
They are not designed for longevity but for short bursts of difficult terrain, weekend adventures, and commuting. They are rugged and tough externally and usually pretty simple motorcycles like the Honda XR650L.
15,000-20,000 miles on a dual sport should be thought of as high.
The very nature of a dual sport is that it balances on and off road abilities.
The off-road side of things means the bike can be pushed pretty hard, potentially dropped in the dirt and the throttle used to get the bike up hills, trails and over objects. This can be hard on both the engine and the bike overall.
Is a motorcycle’s mileage the main consideration when buying a used bike?
When it comes to buying a used motorcycle, mileage is often one of the first things that you will look at and make a decision about whether you want more information or not.
However, there are many other factors that you should consider when it comes to buying a used motorcycle, mileage is not the only factor that matters.
- Has the previous owner looked after the bike properly?
- Does the bike have a complete service record or any service records at all?
- Are you buying from an experienced rider or a new rider?
- Is it clean?
- Where is it stored?
- Do the tire brands match and are they good quality?
- Aftermarket performance parts correctly fitted?
- Does it have any receipts for any work?
- Overall condition? Do the panels match if faired? Any sign of having been dropped?
All of these questions should be in the back of your mind when considering buying a used bike.
If you are buying the bike from a seasoned rider who has the bike stored in a dry garage and you can see the service records, then you can assume the bike has been lovingly maintained. In this case the actual mileage is less important because you know the bike has been cared for and this is a good indication that the rider won’t have abused the bike when riding.
On the other hand if you buy from younger owners or novice riders it might well have been treated differently. You might come across a lower mileage example but it could have been ridden hard, treated as a workhorse, with previous riders learning to ride as opposed to learning to maintain the machine.
These two examples are very extreme and with every used bike there is a completely different situation behind each one.
It is incredibly important therefore that you are aware of all the other factors along with its mileage to get the full picture on a bike’s history so you can make a good choice.
Benefits of high mileage bikes
If you are not too bothered about a used motorcycle having high mileage there can be some benefits. Perhaps you are looking at cruisers or tourers where plenty on the clock is part and parcel of finding a used bike.
Generally high mileage motorcycles are cheaper than their lower mileage counterparts. This can therefore be used to get a better deal and pick up a good motorcycle for a good price.
Also, if you can find a used motorcycle with plenty on the clock but lots of service records and you know the previous owners have looked after it and kept on top of the maintenance then anything that is likely to go wrong or need changing will likely have already been done.
For example the bikes regular oil changes have been done, new tires, new chain, new brake discs and pads, air filter change etc. If these things have been done then you know the motorcycle is ready to rack up another 25,000 miles or so.
High mileage motorcycles can be a really good purchase for those on a tight budget.
The short answer to what is high mileage for a motorcycle is that it depends on the type of motorcycle.
For sports/liter bikes then what is considered high mileage is lower (up to 20,000 miles) than what would be considered high mileage for cruisers and touring machines (20-50,000 miles) with the reason being that the engines are built for different purposes.
You also need to remember that the mileage on an engine is not the only thing that matters, how it has been ridden and its maintenance history are equally important.