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Old 09-08-2009, 06:05 PM   #1
Calintz333
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Default How long do Motorcycle engines last?

Id like to know about the average life time of a motorcycle engine. I realize they are cheaper than cars, but if you have to buy a new engine every 50,000 miles or so it can probably be about the same once you factor in the risk.

I have read some forums where people have asked how many miles for example on a Honda 250 Rebel. The most I saw there was around 45,000 miles.

So does the size of the engine = the life of the bike?

Do 250cc regularly never go past 50,000 miles if properly taken care of?

Does that mean 500cc can go around 100,000+?

What determines how long the engine will last on a motorcycle.

My 1995 Chev Camaro has 320,000 miles on it, still works fine although I can tell the engine is on its last 50,000 or so before I probably need to replace it. Still, Thats a lot of miles on it.

I drive it every week day Monday - Friday 50 miles round trip from home to school.
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Old 09-08-2009, 06:14 PM   #2
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I have 50k + on my 06 Honda.
I will be incredibly upset if I get less than 250,000 miles.
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Old 09-08-2009, 07:33 PM   #3
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90k on my vstar 1100. Honestly, I think it has all to do with maintenance. Keeping clean oil, clean fuel, etc. can make even the worst engine design last longer than the best design with old or low oil and lack of maintenance overall.
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Old 09-08-2009, 08:26 PM   #4
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There's really no way to know how long a engine will last. So many things can affect its lifespan.

Is the bike thrashed, raced, stunted, etc? Is the oil changed every 1000 or 9000miles? is it good oil? Have the valves been properly adjusted? Has it recieved regular scheduled maintenance? Is it left out in the weather? Is it garage kept? Is it ridden on dirt roads, or highways? Is it ridden everyday or only in the summer? Is the carb set right? Rich, Lean? Is there a manufacturers defect in some critical part?

There's just no possible way to know how long it will last.

You also have to understand that small displacement engines like the 250cc has to work harder to do what a 1100cc engine would consider a gentle cruise, and because of this, smaller engines usually tend to have shorter lifespans.....but not always.
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Old 09-08-2009, 08:31 PM   #5
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id say it depends as much on maintenance as anything else.dont change the oil and beat it to death and it wont last long
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Old 09-08-2009, 08:56 PM   #6
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There is also some debate that watercooled engines last longer than aircooled. I don't know, myself, but it seems like watercooled might have a bit of an edge there (please don't flame me ).

Anyway, some bikes might have design flaws that can limit their lives to 30K or 50K miles etc before a rebuild is needed, but these are probably the exception. In my opinion, most bikes get crashed or killed by abuse long before their engines have a chance to die of old age.

20K miles for a car is really low mileage, but a lot of bikes don't get ridden that far in a decade. So really, I'd be less concerned about mileage than I would be how the bike was used and how it was taken care of.
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Old 09-08-2009, 11:12 PM   #7
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Several things effect the longevity of a motor , any motor .

Regular service , oil changes most of all . Water cooled will out last an air cooled engine . Heat is a major enemy . The Harley motor has a issue with the rear cyl . It is blocked by the front cyl and does not cool well for example . A side by side air cooled faires out better such as many of the older bikes had .

Size of the engine matters . A small CC bike workers harder to move the bike . Something like my Goldwing is for the most part so over powered for what its moving the motor works very little in normal street driving .

Lastely the brand will matter . Frankly some bikes are built better then others . Any of the major brands , HD , yamaha , honda and so on are quality . Some of the off brand cheap junk are just that , junk .
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Old 09-09-2009, 05:08 AM   #8
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First, whats your definition of "last"? Do you mean before you have to take it apart to do a rebuild?........or do you mean before its completely junk and needs replaced?

Lets assume we are talking about 4 stroke ONLY here.

Probably the most determining factor is DESIGN. Certain configurations of motors are known to last longer then others. For instance the 4 cylinder Honda Goldwing motors have always been known to be very reliable and long lasting, Ive seen GWs with 250K miles on them and the motor has never been apart. Meanwhile my buddies Road Glide is on its second set of cams at about 45K miles. Is that the norm, he seems to think it is. At any rate, design and configuration means alot.

Seems water cooled has the edge vs air.

Higher revving motors SEEM to not last as long as a generalization. For instance theres not that many sport bikes around on the original motor with 80K miles on them. Now would they last that long if you babied them......who knows, maybe.
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:33 AM   #9
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If your bike dies at 50,000 miles, it was abused. A well maintained bike should get twice that far.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Badlands-4-2 View Post
If your bike dies at 50,000 miles, it was abused. A well maintained bike should get twice that far.
Depends on what it is.....alot.

You have to remember alot of times we are dealing with new riders on old machines here.....what if we were talking a 2 stroke street bike.....it will NEVER last 50K miles without needing rebuilt.

.......and there are quite a few 4 stroke bikes that never lasted that long either.

A new machine.....yeah, any of them will likely last that long with basic maintenance with ease.

Then again I take care of my stuff very well and had to put new valves in a 4 wheeler with about 6 hours on it......stuff happen.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:36 PM   #11
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It depends on a wide variety of factors. Modern engines (including those older designs that have stood the test of time, i.e. Goldwing, Ninja 250, Honda Rebel, etc) should last a lot longer than most of them do. I would be tempted to say that the biggest factor is maintenance, followed by riding style. For instance, sportbikes are thrashed and abused, so you rarely ever see one with high miles. However, if taken care of and not abused they can last well over 100,000 miles. I've heard of a guy with a Honda CBR600 with over 100,000 miles on his bike. Also, bikes like my Katana which are based on older technology and are downtuned a bit are extremely reliable engines.
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Old 09-09-2009, 05:08 PM   #12
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A body will go before an engine, if properly maintained. I've seen a ton of bikes from the 70's through current, with about 90k being hte highest. The reasoning is, 99.9% of the time, a motorcycle simply does not see as much street time as a car. A car will average 12-15k/yr according to insurance companies. It's not unlikely for a bike to see 1-2k. That means in 10 years, that car has racked up 120-150k, where as the bike has racked up 10-20k. Sure, there are exceptions...

Also, bike engines are simpler than car. Less parts, less to brake. Now it also comes down to quality/construction, but less parts to cheap out on, less to brake. Also, motorcycle riders tend to be more aware of things such as maintenance. Winterization, fluid changes, etc. I see car's regularly being neglected for maintenance, which causes them to fail early, because people simply don't want to be bothered with anything more than the "get in and drive" mentality. Some riders adhere to that mentality, but % wise, they're probably better as far as keeping up with maintenance than a car owner.
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Old 10-21-2012, 07:56 PM   #13
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Even though this is an old thread I feel compelled to weigh in as I have considered this myself.

Rather than just strict engine size I think the intent of what the motorcycle was intended to do affects how long it will last by a lot. The recommended maintenance and intensity of what's required can be a clue. A bike (and engine) that was designed to put-put down the freeway at an easy RPM is going to outlast a bike with an engine that was designed to squeeze every last ounce of horsepower out of it possible.

Check out a KTM motorcross bike... small, lightweight engine designed to have the piss knocked out of it in a race but with the downside of lots of maintenance in short intervals and not too long until a rebuild. There the engine just has to make it through the race. A BMW K bike or a Goldwing has a big motor made to cruise all day and all night with maintenance intervals similar to a car. Lots of those bikes have 100k+ miles out there stil in good order. There's all kinds of in between.

In the US it's my opinion bikes are more toys than transportation. When you look at countries that move around by bike as major transportation their bikes have some more practical design attributes to make them last like a car would but would be considered slow and boring here. Head over to Taiwan or some other place like that and you'll see 50cc scooters with 50k miles on them routinely ridden 2 and even 3 up. Here in the US of A, motorcycles for the most part are built to go fast and die young.
Still, if you're cool with doing the maintenance and don't mind the time and cash required, you can keep any bike running a long time if you treat her nice.
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Old 10-21-2012, 07:58 PM   #14
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Kept reading and realized everything I said had already been said.
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Old 10-21-2012, 09:19 PM   #15
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I have just shy of 42,000 miles on my 17 month old Shadow, not even paid for yet, hope she lasts many years. Service has alwys been key to longevity, bike may outlast me.
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Old 10-22-2012, 08:30 AM   #16
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There's a guy on another forum with a Ducati Monster with over 200,000 miles on it. Note that the Ducati engine is air cooled.
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Old 10-22-2012, 11:22 AM   #17
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There are documented cases of Goldwings still going strong with 350,000+ miles on them. In fact they say they aren't broke in until 50,000 miles. I had 66,000+ miles on my 1985 Harley Electra Glide and it was just broke in as far as I was concerned. Regular maintenance and oil changes is the key to a long life of any engine, 2 or 4 wheeler.
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Old 10-24-2012, 04:56 PM   #18
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I don't believe I have ever had a bike with more than 40K-50K miles before I sold it and bought something else. I know of some older Hondas (350, 360, 450) that have well over 70K as well as a buddy who has a Yamaha XS-650 with nearly 80K - all still running well. On the flip side, I've seen bikes with blown engines with less than 10K miles - even bought one once, replaced the lower end, and made a couple of bucks! As many say, it all depends on the service the bike has had and how it's been treated over its life.
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Old 10-24-2012, 05:52 PM   #19
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i think how you ride it factors in too. If you just ride 2 miles to work. park all day and ride 2 miles home is harder on an engine that runs for many miles.
Time will tell for me but in 1yr of owning my CBR250ra i have put on 14500km. And all of that is just weekend riding. (mostly saturday/sunday/stat holidays) i do not commute with it.

much of that riding is on hwys at speeds of 80 to 130kph. i lube the chain every 500km (or each weekend) i have done 4 oil/filter changes thus far. First 1 at ~650km then approx every 4000km after that. my chain was checked each oil change and still does not need adjustment.

i may keep it for another season (but may get a new bike next year - something like ninja650-fz8-sv650-cbf600sa)

i had a Derbi 150cc air cooled scooter a few yrs ago that had just over 30k km when i sold it and it still ran like new.
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Old 10-24-2012, 06:12 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hogcowboy View Post
There are documented cases of Goldwings still going strong with 350,000+ miles on them. In fact they say they aren't broke in until 50,000 miles. I had 66,000+ miles on my 1985 Harley Electra Glide and it was just broke in as far as I was concerned. Regular maintenance and oil changes is the key to a long life of any engine, 2 or 4 wheeler.
I have a friend that has a 01 HD Dyna glide, just turned 113,000 miles, we rode last weekend. I followed him most of the day, and that bike runs great for its age and miles! as so many have stated above it is all about the maintenance especially the oil changes.

My lawn mower is 10 years old and running strong, I have a leaf blower that is 30 years old that my father gave me, I used it as a kid on his property and I used it last weekend for my first leaf clean up this year. We changed the oil on that machine every fall before we used it for the season. I used it and changed the oil last weekend. If a motor is well maintained it should last for a very long time.
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Old 03-02-2013, 01:36 AM   #21
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G'day
Had to make a comment on this thread.
The modern bike engine is incredible.
A few years back i bought a scooter to travel inter city.
Yep you heard me, a scooter.
I bought an Italian scooter, a piaggio X8 400ie.
I ride that scooter between the cities of Gosford and Sydney in Australia every work day.
The round trip is 150km or 90 miles.
For almost 4 years i have been riding this bike.
It is now up to 125,000km or 75,000 miles.
It is a single cylinder 400cc and it just keeps on going.
I have discovered that as long as you keep the oil changes regular your machine will go and go and go.
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Old 03-02-2013, 08:11 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aussie View Post
G'day
Had to make a comment on this thread.
The modern bike engine is incredible.
A few years back i bought a scooter to travel inter city.
Yep you heard me, a scooter.
I bought an Italian scooter, a piaggio X8 400ie.
I ride that scooter between the cities of Gosford and Sydney in Australia every work day.
The round trip is 150km or 90 miles.
For almost 4 years i have been riding this bike.
It is now up to 125,000km or 75,000 miles.
It is a single cylinder 400cc and it just keeps on going.
I have discovered that as long as you keep the oil changes regular your machine will go and go and go.
Aussie
Yep, those made in Italy Piaggios and Vespas (not those made in China) are well built and should last with proper care and maintenance. I used to be a Vespa/Aprilia cert mechanic and have worked on them extensively. Just need to keep the CVT belt area clean and change the oil at the correct intervals. I also rented both a Vespa 250 and a Piaggio 400 when I vacationed in Rome and Sorrento. Even got to ride the famous SS 163 along the Amalfi Coast. Those scooters are a blast in both the congested roads around Rome and the open roads in the countryside.



Anyway, like everyone has already stated; proper care and maintenance is crucial for longevity. You also need to factor in how much stress the engine is subjected to. Most big V twin cruiser engines are lightly stressed and are designed to thunder along at low to moderate rpms whereas an inline 4 on a sportbike sees more stress and at higher rpms. My little RS 125 has a single cylinder Rotax engine that regularly sees 9k+ rpms and cylinder rebuilds are common at around 12,000 miles. But it's a two stroke single.

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Old 03-02-2013, 10:26 AM   #23
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In 1974 I bought a brand new BMW R90/6. That bike currently has 172,000 trouble free miles on it, all put there by me.
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Old 03-02-2013, 07:48 PM   #24
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When I was working in the technical department of an international oil company I saw a paper by Cummins. OK, it was about their diesel engines but the basics applies to any engine.

They showed that overall life to overhaul was determined by oil change interval, they had a graph which showed the longer the oil drain period was the shorter the life to overhaul was, and the shorterer the oil drain period was the longer the life to overhaul was.

I always change oil well before the manufacturer's recommendation, I think my Boulevard M50 had a recommended oil change interval of 6000 km (4000 miles), it might even have been 7000 km. I changed oil at 4000 km (2500 miles) and changed filters every second oil change. I'd be disappointed if I didn't get at least 150,000 km out of a well maintained m/c engine such as the Boulevard's 800 cc Vee Twin.
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Old 03-03-2013, 09:26 PM   #25
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"They showed that overall life to overhaul was determined by oil change interval, they had a graph which showed the longer the oil drain period was the shorter the life to overhaul was, and the shorterer the oil drain period was the longer the life to overhaul was."

Steve, I whole-heartedly agree with that.
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Old 03-03-2013, 09:46 PM   #26
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Here's an air-cooled engine that's 57 years old. There's no way to know how many miles it has, but I know it's been a daily rider for 17 of the last 20 years.

It's had at least one top-end job with both heads being replaced, (with heads from the year BEFORE this one was built,) but from what I was told and from what I have seen so far the bottom end has never been done. The cases have never been apart and the crankshaft assembly, connecting rods, crank bearings, and cylinders are the originals.

It was running fairly well when I started it's first-ever, (I think,) total rebuild last week. I'm doing that to clean it up and make it pretty again, as well as blue-print it and get it all ready for it's next 57 years.

1956 FLH Super Sport Solo. 74 c.i. (1200 cc)

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Old 03-04-2013, 10:58 AM   #27
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What a great bike. Do you have more pictures of it?
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:23 AM   #28
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I do have a few I took as "before" shots. I guess I should post them in the Harley section. Right now it's mostly in pieces and today I'm working on making a new engine stand that can swivel and rotate before I start actually putting the engine back together.

(Okay, exactly right now I'm screwing off, but the engine stand is what I plan on doing today.)
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:42 AM   #29
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Take some pics of all of those pieces. That's part of the Restoration & helps me appreciate all the more your knowledge of where all those little things go to. Ah take some pics of the motor stand too...never know when someone else might want to modify theirs...
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:10 PM   #30
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Yes Ma'am!
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Old 03-04-2013, 04:43 PM   #31
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Let's hope it still runs when you are done re-building it
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Old 03-04-2013, 04:59 PM   #32
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LOL!

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Old 03-05-2013, 07:28 AM   #33
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Also consider this... What does lifespan really mean?

IF you do all the oil changes on your engine + valve adjustment as scheduled. But you do not replace engine parts. Tappets, OIl seals, etc, etc, etc, The engine will give out because the wear on tear on metal is permanent, not like animals where we heal (Obviously). SO eventually it'll die.... IF its not worked on

BUT If you end up replacing parts as needed/schedualed with a good mechanic. Than the engine will just last as long as its worked on. The Block itself doesn't get worn away (Maybe the outside+rust, but even that should outlast you) Pistons will eventually wear out and the Cylinder sleeves as well. BUT yeah, keep working on the engine parts with maintenance... the Block itself will last forever. SO down 250,000 miles (depending on the bike you have) There will be some replaced parts that are not original.

So That's my view on "Life" Span


Edit: I was very tired writing this, i hope it makes sense lol.
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Old 03-05-2013, 07:54 AM   #34
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I would consider lifespan to be miles before a major rebuild and mostly original engine parts. There is some grey area there as well.

There are a few motorcycles out there with over a million miles, but many of the parts have been changed out and rebuilt several times.

Harley Davidson has a program where you can have your engine factory rebuilt for around $3000.
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:43 AM   #35
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You also have to consider the value of the motorcycle itself when making engine repairs too. There comes a point for many bikes when the cost of repairing a damaged motor far exceeds the value of the bike as a whole, so off to the scrapyard it goes. A lot of otherwise repairable and ridable bikes are taken out of circulation for that reason. If it stays around long enough though, some bikes will again rise in value and desirability to the point where it's again worth repairing them. If you have a Harley or an older British bike then that value is almost a sure thing, but on some other brands it can be a little dicey.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:44 AM   #36
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You're generally correct about Sportster values, however, it depends on the condition of the bike, and the desirability of the bike. (Any bike.) A 1974 H2 here, in average condition, just sold for 5.5k. A 1966 Sportster in good original (but not pristine) condition just sold for 9.8k. A decent XLCR can run you 20k. These are all exceptions and are not at all common.

But the fact is more Sportsters of any given year survived then other brands. If you don't believe they were built better then you have to admit they were more valued. The fact is most Japanese bikes reached a point and were tossed. Many more Harleys reached the same point and were kept and resold, simply because they were Harleys.

So now you can buy hand-fulls of ragged-out Ironhead Sportsters from the 70's for about 3k each, many less. You can buy most ragged out Japanese bikes from the 70's for well under a grand, if you can find one. Sure, you can find examples of certain very sought after Japanese bikes that will sell for more then many Harley's, but as a general rule a Harley will hold more value for much longer then most Japanese bikes in similar condition. It's just the way it is.
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Old 03-05-2013, 08:02 PM   #37
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Here's an air-cooled engine that's 57 years old. There's no way to know how many miles it has, but I know it's been a daily rider for 17 of the last 20 years.

It's had at least one top-end job with both heads being replaced, (with heads from the year BEFORE this one was built,) but from what I was told and from what I have seen so far the bottom end has never been done. The cases have never been apart and the crankshaft assembly, connecting rods, crank bearings, and cylinders are the originals.

It was running fairly well when I started it's first-ever, (I think,) total rebuild last week. I'm doing that to clean it up and make it pretty again, as well as blue-print it and get it all ready for it's next 57 years.

1956 FLH Super Sport Solo. 74 c.i. (1200 cc)

Isn't all that rusted chrome against some Harley law or something . Just kidding. It's a nice looking bike, man.
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Old 03-06-2013, 09:42 AM   #38
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The FXR is, in my opinion, one of the best riding frames Harley ever made.
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Old 03-06-2013, 09:43 AM   #39
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Isn't all that rusted chrome against some Harley law or something . Just kidding. It's a nice looking bike, man.
It is against a Harley commandment, yes. LOL.

Hey, did you get the pics I sent of your "enlightenment?"
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Old 03-06-2013, 09:55 AM   #40
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It is against a Harley commandment, yes. LOL.

Hey, did you get the pics I sent of your "enlightenment?"
Yeah, I did. Thank you, they turned out pretty good. I didn't post them anywhere, though, as it is your bike.
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