Skip to main content

Classic bike adverts decoded

BikeSocial Publisher since January 2017.



What do the words in classic bike adverts really mean

There’s nothing wrong with buying a cheap Kawasaki GPz500S for a classic winter project…so long as you know what you’re actually getting.


Buying a classic bike should be a pleasure because classics have that nostalgic pull that other bikes lack. And, while you should never buy a classic without first seeing the bike in the flesh, before you do that, you need to get to know the market and familiarise yourself with what’s out there. Learning how to read a classified ad is time well spent. Simple rules like checking the photos for signs of corrosion, crash damage, aftermarket replacement indicators, mirrors and handlebar end weights can quickly separate a genuine bike from a hound.

Mentions of service history are good, but you’ll do well to find a comprehensive history on a 30 year-old bike so look to see that things like a major service with valve clearance checks were done. On bikes with long valve check intervals (five-valve Yamahas for example), by the time the machine had done enough miles to need one, they were bumping along the bottom of the cheap-bike market and those people paying £2k for a fifteen-year-old FZR1000R weren’t going to pay £400 for a major service.

In among the truth and the interesting, accurate facts, you’ll also find some lovely ways of dressing-up the problems. What follows is a slightly tongue-in-cheek BikeSocial Translator to help decode the classic adverts. We hope you find it useful.


What they say

What they mean

Rare bike

No one wanted it in 1985 either

Good investment

Can’t possibly depreciate any more

Easy restoration

Took it to bits, haven’t lost many parts

90% complete

Took it to bits, lost many parts

Just needs carbs setting-up

Tried everything, still won’t run properly

Rare colours

It’s not brown and beige, it’s ‘Urban Tiger’

One-off paint scheme

It’s been crashed

Polished frame

It’s been badly crashed (or stolen)

Needs engine work

Was seized, but I freed it off

Rebuilt engine

Tube of Instant Gasket and new spark plugs

Turns over but we haven’t run it

Because it needs a full rebuild

One owner

Can’t sell it

Many new parts

Always breaking down

Will sail through MoT

No it won’t

Low mileage

New clocks fitted

Tuned engine

Doesn’t run right

No offers

That’s why it’s still for sale

Eats R1s down a twisty road

No it doesn’t

Lost the V5

It’s stolen

Selling for a friend who…


…Has moved abroad

It’s stolen

…Doesn’t have eBay account

It’s stolen

…Doesn’t have a sic bike computer

It’s stolen

…Is working abroad

It’s stolen



Share on social media: