Christian Pierce Buys a Bike in the COVID Crisis
I didn’t set out to buy a used motorcycle during a pandemic, but that’s exactly what happened.
Like most people right now, I just needed an escape, something that would enable me to clear my head for a bit without talk of epicenters, vaccine trials, personal protection equipment, etc. So, while my kids watched cartoons after dinner, I got in the habit of surfing Craigslist to see what two-wheeled deals were available.
Initially, I was exploring out of curiosity, but over time my searches became more targeted and intentional. You see, I’m a motorcycle enthusiast who not only enjoys riding bikes, I also love buying and selling them too. And why not? There are just so many bikes to choose from and I want to sample them all. My wife has humored this habit over the years, as I rarely buy expensive machines. In fact, I’ve always limited myself to a modest dollar amount and have never spent a penny more. On a couple of occasions, I’ve even bought a bike, ridden it for a couple of years, and sold it for more than the purchase price. And with my knowledge of motorcycle repair, I’ve also picked up a few rigs just so I could fix them and sell them. That’s not to say every purchase has gone smoothly, as I’ve definitely lost some money on a couple of lemons, but overall my experience has been quite positive. So, with lots of time on my hands and daily access to my garage and computer, I began scrolling through posts and kept an eye out for a few specific machines that piqued my interest.
Nights spent surfing the classifieds…
My passion for motorcycles runs the gamut and I’ve owned everything from classics and cruisers to standards and supermotos. That means, when browsing through the motorcycle offerings on Craigslist I tend to look at damn near everything. I’ve found that a review of the local listings once a day allows me to see all the new content in a manageable block. During these daily reviews, I only check out those posts that have images of the bike in question, that present a detailed description, and most importantly, are accurately priced (kbb.com and nada.com are useful tools when exploring prices). I also tend to look for less popular machines, so instead of focusing on GSX-Rs and R1s, I usually look for the “ugly ducklings” of the motorcycle world like Bandits, Super Hawks, Viragos, etc. I’m not seeking out duds, rather I look for capable machines that may not be in as high demand as their motorcycle brethren. I’ve found some really good deals this way and a couple of those machines rank among my favorites. So, with that in mind, my searches became more serious, as I started to zero in on a couple of manufacturers and models.
In the past, I’ve owned mainly Japanese imports from the Big Four (Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Suzuki), but this time round I was hoping to branch out and try something new. I checked out BMWs, Harley-Davidsons, Ducatis, Aprilias, Moto Guzzis, etc., but I kept returning to Triumphs, especially Bonnevilles. I’m starting to get a little older and prefer the relaxed ride of a café racer over a pure race bike. After a few weeks of searching, a 2006 Triumph Bonneville T100 caught my attention and I reached out to the owner to learn more. He quickly replied and offered to show me the bike, when it hit me; we’re in the middle of a pandemic! Did that mean I’d have to call off my search? I talked it over with my wife and we agreed that as long as we could maintain social distancing I could at least go and see the bike. So, that’s what I did (with a face mask and hand sanitizer at the ready).
It was a uniquely… different experience.
Upon arriving at the owner’s house, I donned my mask and he obliged me by doing the same. We discussed the details about the bike, from a safe distance, and then the owner gave me space to check out the bike on my own. I examined the frame and engine, tested all the lights, fired up the bike, and listened for any alarming sounds. This Bonneville was an honest runner and the description portrayed the bike pretty well. After shutting the bike down, we talked numbers for a moment and I told the owner I’d like to come back tomorrow and buy the bike. We didn’t shake on the deal, given the pandemic, but we settled on a price and I made arrangements to pick it up the next day.
Little did I know that I’d need to wait in the drive-thru line at the bank for almost an hour attempting to get the cash I needed. The lobby of my bank was closed at the time and the drive-thru was the only option. Having endured that unforeseen challenge, my wife dropped me off so I could then ride the bike home. I met the owner at his house again (wearing my mask as I had before), I took the bike for a quick test ride to verify everything was in running order, and then signed the necessary paperwork. This all sounds normal enough, but like I said; we’re in the middle of a pandemic! So, the whole experience just felt oddly distant and impersonal. I didn’t even hand the cash to the owner- I set it on the pillion pad and took several steps back as he then approached the bike, grabbed the cash, and walked back over to his garage to count out the bills. It was a weird interaction due to the protocols we were following, but a lot of things have had to change as a result of the pandemic.
If a Bonneville has anything, its personality. In spades.
The ride home was a peaceful one. I had a chance to become more acquainted with the bike and its personality. I learned its rev range, the location of the instruments and switches, gauged its braking power, etc. While gliding down the road, I even took a couple of deep breaths, just to smell the air and unwind for a moment before jumping back into reality. I eventually coasted into my driveway and let my kids look the Bonneville over before tucking it away in the garage. And there it sits, ready to take a ride whenever I want to rid my head of headlines and the stresses of the workday, not to mention the demands of educating and entertaining my two young sons.
The Triumph has proven to be a welcome reprieve and I’ve used the time previously dedicated to surfing Craigslist to obtain things like insurance coverage, a repair manual, a flyscreen (that required some significant modifications), etc. And from what I’ve read, I’m not alone. The motorcycle industry, unlike other manufacturers, has actually seen an uptick in sales over the last few months. It would seem there are lots of people out there like me, with time on their hands to look for a new or used motorcycle. And as all riders know, motorcycling is a perfect activity for social distancing. In fact, many of us take to two wheels for that specific reason. A cruise around the block or a longer ride into the mountains is an ideal way to clear your head and just relax as you focus on nothing more than the road ahead. And so goes the story of my pandemic purchase- by no means a necessity in these troubled times, the Bonneville has proven to be a pleasant distraction that has helped me stay sane in the middle of a global health crisis.