"average" motorcycle life expectancy?

topic posted Fri, May 19, 2006 - 12:34 AM by  Unsubscribed
OKay, so Im reading some of the postings in this tribe, and noticing mention by numurous people of having to rebuild their engines, major repairs or get altogether new MCs after 30,000 or so miles.
I am not currently blessed with owning a motocyle. And never have. Would like to, but dont have the extra $$$$ for it just yet.

So Im wondering, perhaps im misinterpreting here? But is it normal to have major problems or have to rebuild the engine or other major repairs on motorcycles after as little as 30,000 miles?
I drive a Nissan frontier pickup, and unfortunately drive alot due to my work doing on-site massage which means ive put maybe 35,000+ miles on it in a little over 2 years.?
But with no real problems or expenses aside from a couple tire replacements, oil changes, and one or two other small things. And from what i understand, its not unusual to go well over 150,000 miles on original engine save no major accidents and with regular oil changes.

LIkely there is some difference in maintanance and repair or replacement patterns with different types of motocycles?
What im interested in purchasing for myself at some point will likely be
1) used - in deference to affordability (within a couple thousand dollar range)
2)city as well as freeway / highway driveable.
3)preferably with some capacity for handling ground that is not limited to all smooth asphalt , though i would be deliberately doing offroad racing and hill jumping.

Is it just a quirk of motocycle mechanics & ownership that a cycle is pretty much worn out as it nears 30,000 to 50,000 miles of use? Which would make it even less for a new to oneself, used bike.?
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  • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

    Fri, May 19, 2006 - 4:20 AM
    Right off the bat, 30,000 miles is not that much and I'd so those bikes were seriously neglected.

    The problem with motorcycles is that most of them are engineered to operate within much tighter tolerances than your average modern car. Even "low-maintenance" motorcycles require checking the clearance of your valves every 12,000 miles or so. Skip that a few times and you're in for major engine work. When was the last time you did that in your pickup? There are a lot of other little things that need to be inspected, lubed, or replaced more frequently than your pickup. I easily spend three hours maintaining my bike for every hour my car requires. The trade off is you get a lot of performance out of a tiny package.
  • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

    Fri, May 19, 2006 - 10:45 AM
    The longevity of a bike depends greatly on the bike, maintanence, and riding.

    1.) Motorcycles generally have a lot less longevity than cars. (but many more smiles per mile)
    2.) A Honda XR650R will blow up a lot sooner than a Honda Goldwing or VFR.
    3.) Break-in and maintanence will play a huge part: you will change you oil a lot more often, and general tune-ups are a little more important and frequent.

    The people talking about blowing their motors recently in the tribe are, as I recall, Mike with a KTM, and my boyfriend blowing up his XR650R. Both are awesome machines for blasting across the Baja desert, and then being rebuilt by a loving mechanic who has alot of time on their hands to wait for parts. Both were probably being abused. Abusing bikes is often a lot of fun, so you pay to play.

    As for what type of bike you want, you really need to consider what style of bike: street, cruiser, sport, dual-sport, supermoto,... to name a few. You said uneven pavement, so that may point towards a dual-sport/adventure-tourer.

    If you go dual-sport but want to take the freeway, you need a little more engine. Most dualies are single cylinder. I've ridden a DR350 on the freeway for hours, and it is doable, but you may hate it. Most would recommend a 650 or up for the freeway, in this class of bikes: Kawasaki KLR650 is a good one, the Suzuki DR650 is kind of less respected, and the Honda XR650L will hopefully have more longevity than the XR650R. There are also a few more street-oriented "dual-sport" bikes out, notably the Suzuki V-Strom and the BMW lineup. KTM makes something, but KTM is not known for being an easy-to-own or long-lasting bike. If you want high-mileage beginner bike, Japan is a good place to start.

    in short, bikes don't generally last nearly as long as cars. Maintanence will be more frequent. But there are people tunring the odometer over on bikes past 100K+ miles. I have a dirtbike with 40K, and have run a very very clapped out EX500 up to around 70K before it got totalled. Who knows how long it would have gone? Avoid race-y high performers, and you should be able to get a lasting bike with proper maintanence.
    • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

      Fri, May 19, 2006 - 11:17 AM
      All I can say is I've only owned three bikes I didn't blow up. One I crashed/totaled with 30,000 on it the other two I rode little and owned shortly. That compares to only two cars/trucks I've blown up. There are bikes and riders that have little trouble but they work at it. Get a 650 v-storm and ride slow and safe.
      • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

        Fri, May 19, 2006 - 11:31 AM
        My 1970 BMW has been rebuilt a couple of times due to clapped-out rubber and gasket issues. Between 2 or 3 speedo rebuilds, I've sorta lost track of its lifetime mileage, but it's somewhere around 70-80K. It's got a leaky oil pan now, needs some minor work, but otherwise runs great.
        My 94 Harley had some gasket issues, but after a very cheap rebuild, it's running awesome, nearing 40K on the clock. Other than a worn-out clutch plate and couple of gears which left me at top of the onramp to the Verrazano Bridge 2 years ago, it's performed reliably.

        Neither bike is for sale. Both are insured, registered and inspected, and otherwise ready to ride year round.
        • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

          Thu, June 22, 2006 - 1:29 PM
          My airhead BMW 1985 R80RT has had one top end rebuild... has 86,0000 on it now and that is barely "broken in" for this bike... Beemers are definately the kings when it comes to longevity and mileage... there are MANY airheads out there with 100K+ miles ... and quite a few with 200K.
          Beemers I think are exceptional in this regard.

          Most other motorcycles of a standard Japanese make from the 70 and 80's seem to be lucky to get above 50K. It will be interesting to see how long these big new motors that have been coming out since the late 90s last.
  • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

    Mon, May 22, 2006 - 10:23 PM

    As others have said, changing the oil & filters is important... but the thing that really kills bikes is that
    they're oftten ridden hard. My 85 Honda Nighthawk sees 9-10k rpm pretty often - my car or truck
    see redline very rarely. The other thing that makes smaller bikes die early is that they're air-cooled.
    Free-air-cooled motors just don't live as long; there's no thermostat so they run hot and cold. My
    83 GS550E overheated badly in Vegas; pinging and knocking on the strip. It rattled some after that;
    I stopped riding that one at 45K miles. The GS400 died of neglect; the Nighthawk Ratbyk is still running
    well w/ ~40K on the odo.

    You want easy freeway miles, buy something w/ a water cooled 1+ litter motor and shaft drive; change the oil on time
    and ride it easy and often (bikes hate being spurned) and you'll get a lot of miles out of it - eg 100K miles.

    On the other hand, my Nighthawk cost me $1000 in 1995; I've written it 24k miles. It doesn't owe me
    anything, either.

    - Bart
    • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

      Tue, May 23, 2006 - 11:53 AM
      wind out yer gears ;-)
      • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

        Wed, May 31, 2006 - 12:10 PM
        For longevity, regular oil changes and a gentle break-in are *the* biggest issues, but there are also general rules of the thumb, such as;

        - Lower compresion/lower revs motors generaly last longer (bt who the heck wants them anyway),
        - Larger displacement bikes tend to last longer than smaller ones,
        - Four stokes last longer than two strokes,
        - Ducs last can last a long time and keep their value well, but need regular valve adjustments,
        - Japanese inline-4s last very long and need little maintenance,
        - Some beemers can also last awfully long,
        - etc...

        The flipside of this whole thread, thou, is that what's the big deal about longevity anyway?

        After a relatively few miles, the bulk of your costs are goign to be consumables (gas, oil, filters, tires, clutch packs, brakes, gear, parking, etc...) and insurance+registration. Depreciation on the bike is tiny by comparison (I'd be surprised if it's more than 1/4th of your per-mile costs). So, while longevity is generally a good thing, it's probably nt worth focusing on excessively..


        • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

          Thu, June 1, 2006 - 12:04 AM
          Personally, these would be the ideal characteristics of a bike for me:

          * shaft or belt drive - no messy chainlube, worn chains, etc.
          * water cooled
          * reasonable seating position
          * hydraulic lifters (like my NightHawk)
          * 70 or more hp.
          * good handling on both twistys and freeways
          * enough alternator to drive some extra lights
          * 150 mile range on a tank
          * fuel injection
          * naked (small windscreen ok)

          As to consumables, gas, oil and tires. 25 years ago I'd go through a back tire in 1500 miles...w/o burnouts! I think I spent more on R compound Dunlops than I did on gas for my GS550E. Nowerdays the tires last longer...

          - Bart
          • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

            Sun, June 4, 2006 - 9:37 AM
            I agree with Bart on the characteristics and would add a few.

            But I got my first bike, Buell Blast, 500cc because everyone said I needed to start small. Well I put 2,300-2,500 miles on it the first month, it tops out at 92, which I did 90% highway miles at 80-90mph and at 1 month, 3,500 miles, she left me stranded on I-35 and 635 in Dallas...argh. We're breaking her down today because Harley wanted $300 to break down the single cylinder just to tell me how much it would cost and what's wrong with it. We know a valve is stuck and a sparkplug got tapped, most likely by a piston. Then it's going back to the Harley shop so they can try to get Buell to pay for labor and/or parts. So.....I guess 3,500 miles is the life on my bikes (lol, sigh/rolling eyes, smile)...whatcha' gonna' do?

            Good news is I got my 2004 SV650s yesterday (yellow stock see pic)....(happy dance, happy dance).
            It has 2,500 miles on it and I'll be changing out the oil/filter, need to lower it a bit so I can actually touch the ground with both feet well. I'll add frame sliders, fender eliminator kit, then we'll see what else my new baby needs.
  • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

    Wed, June 7, 2006 - 6:49 PM
    I have a 2004 BMW R1150RT with over 60K miles and no problems or repairs. My last RT had about 65K when I wrecked it, and the only major maintenance was replacing the clutch at 42K miles. I had a 1976 R90/6 with over 150K miles that still ran strong when I sold it, and I have heard of older K bikes running for 300K or more. Of course to get high mileage it does assume you're doing regular preventative maintenance.

    If you're buying new then get something with a good warranty, and maybe even opt for the extended warranty if its available and affordable. Most modern japanese bikes are extremely reliable and don't require much in the way of maintenance. The more "performance" oriented the bike, the more maintenance is needed.
  • Re: "average" motorcycle life expectancy?

    Wed, June 28, 2006 - 7:13 PM
    Aaron, my suggestion to you is to find the cheapest "running" bike you can find and ride it like a raped ape. Being a new rider chances are your gonna drop it a couple of times in the parking lot in the begining, but it least its not something you care to much about. For a couple g`s you can get a pretty good running reliable bike.

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