Should You Buy a New Motorcycle or Repair Your Old One?

We all think about it—probably a couple of times a week, at least. As someone with a serious passion for two wheels, I think about it almost daily. The constant urge to buy a new motorcycle.

Maybe it’s a brand-new model that just got released, making you consider spending serious cash for a new ride. Other times, it might be upgrades to a bike you already own. But is it worth the effort? Are new bikes really that much better than a two-year-old bike, a five-year-old bike, or even a ten-year-old machine? Can you upgrade an old bike to be as good as a brand-new one?

At some point, I think this depends on the rider’s skill level. For high-performance bikes, I feel most of us (certainly myself) can’t actually ride a bike to its full potential, so does upgrading make sense if your skills aren’t at their peak?

The type of bike we’re talking about also matters. The old versus new argument makes more sense in some genres than in others. One of the best cases for keeping your bike and upgrading it instead of replacing it with a new one is in the cruiser market. Personally, I’ve gone through this exercise and decided not to buy a new Harley-Davidson. In fact, since I currently own three Harley-Davidsons, I’m not sure I’ll ever buy another new one.

I really like the latest engine offering from the Motor Company, the Milwaukee-Eight. Or, I should say, I like the potential of what it can be. The M8 engine in stock configuration has about the same power as its predecessor, the Twin Cam 103 ci, with a rather unimpressive 75 horsepower at the rear wheel. But the M8 comes into its own when you start adding hot rod parts. A simple drop-in cam with matching intake, exhaust, and tuner will easily push you past 100 horsepower. You’d need a big-bore kit to get those numbers from an old Twin Cam. Moreover, the M8, with its four-valve heads, responds very well as you continue with the build. Street engines making 135 horsepower are quite common.

Sounds great. So why did I decide not to buy a new one? I started having a problem when I thought about spending €17,000 on a new Softail with a Milwaukee-Eight and immediately dropping €5,000 into the engine. That doesn’t include other upgrades or additions I might want to make.

This brings me to where I currently am, building a 32-year-old Harley. I decided to pass on the new HD and do a frame-off restoration of my 1989 FXRS-SP, which I bought for €5,000 a few years ago. Without getting into the weeds of the build, I’m putting in a 124 ci S&S Twin Cam engine, a six-speed transmission, four-piston Performance Machine brakes, new suspension, and converting the wheel bearings from the old Timken to sealed bearings—you get the idea. In the end, I’ll have a bike that outperforms any stock late-model Harley and most modified versions, and I’ll have spent less money. And the cool factor is much higher compared to newer bikes. (Spare me any outrage about earning cool-factor points at the local cafe or bike night. At some point, all of us ride a bit for the cool factor.)

Old vs. New: Other Types of Bikes

I feel the same argument can be made in the dirt segment. I’m definitely still a novice here, and honestly, of all the types of new bikes I might buy, a dirt bike is at the top of the list. But again, what is there to gain from breaking the bank on a new KTM 500 EXC-F when I probably can’t fully exploit the potential of my trusty 2008 Kawasaki KLX450R? Yes, the lighter, more powerful, fuel-injected orange weapon makes me reach for my wallet, but will my riding experience be that much better? I could make some upgrades to the trusty green tractor and have plenty of money left to use on more experiential things, like traveling to places I’ve never ridden before, buying new gear, or having some extra cash for refreshments.

Or maybe there’s a better idea: get a used, clapped-out two-stroke on Facebook Marketplace and do a frame-off build. Again, the money spent would be less, I’d have the fun of building the bike, and again with the cool factor. We all agree there’s a cool factor to two-strokes, right?

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. I imagine if you’re a professional rider or a competitive road racer, you might argue that having the latest technological advances is necessary to keep up with the rest of the field.

2020 Ducati Panigale V4S vs. 2005 GSX-R 1000

Our duo of Zack and Ari had a very interesting result testing a brand-new Ducati Panigale V4 S with all the bells and whistles against a refreshed 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000. In their particular case, you’d have a nice pile of money left after investing in the 15-year-old Suzuki plus upgrades instead of spending big bucks on the Italian stallion.

The cool factor, in this case, might actually go to the more expensive and sexier Italian. Can’t win them all, I guess.

The Final Verdict

At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder… er, checkbook holder. If you swap your bike every year or two for the latest two-wheeled model with all the farkles, that’s great. All I’m suggesting is to give older bikes a chance.

I’m not saying everyone should try to score a Panhead or Shovelhead and expect them to run like a modern machine. But scoring a 10- or 15-year-old machine or keeping your old trusty steed in top shape by upgrading the suspension, maybe doing some engine work, or refreshing the paint will do two things: give you the satisfaction of working on your machine and earn you all the cool points at your local cafe.

And let’s face it, we’re all in this to be cool at some level.



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Should You Buy a New Motorcycle or Repair Your Old One?


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