Buying from Fastbike.

The most stressful and risky thing about this whole business has been buying a motorbike from someone over the internet who I’ve never met and who lives hundreds of miles away.

I first heard of Fastbike (Anthony Hardie) when I visited the Gaijin Riders forum, which I found through a Google search while looking for information about getting a bike licence in Japan. I posted on the buying a bike thread that I was looking to buy a bike in the Nagoya area and he very quickly offered to sell me a bike, a Honda Magna 250. I was immediately wary of buying anything from a stranger over the internet and declined the offer.

However, the more I hung around the Gaijin Riders forum and got to know some people, it transpired that many of the forum regulars had bought bikes from him and were recommending him highly. I asked one guy from Nagoya (close to me) who’d bought from Fastbike how things had gone and he gave a good recommendation. He had been in my situation and had never met Fastbike, but went on a recommendation and was very happy with the experience.

So on that recommendation I asked Fastbike to get me a bike at the Tokyo dealers’ auction with my seriously low budget of ¥180,000 all in, including shaken, insurance and registration. With Fastbike’s fees and transport costs included in that figure he could only really spend around ¥120,000. He asked me what sort of bikes I was after and he’d send me the auction cards of bikes due to come to auction on any given Wednesday. If I liked the look of the bike, he’d go to see it in the flesh and tell me if it was clean or not. If I liked it, he would bid. We tried several bikes as you can see from earlier posts, but my budget was just too low.

Then we missed on out the Yamaha FZ400 (see previous post), but the Transalp 400V (1991, 44,000km on the clock) was also up that day and Fastbike bought it for his own stock. He was due to come down to Nagoya to deliver another bike the following weekend so I reckon he was hoping that I’d buy it from him, seeing that we’d tried for a Transalp before and it was one of the bikes on my wishlist. He told me it was a clean bike so I finally decided to go with it. It also has almost two years shaken on it, which is a major bonus. It’s effectively worth ¥30,000-40,000, which I’d have to pay if it didn’t have shaken and go to a whole heap of trouble putting it through the shaken process.

He arrived down the following Saturday with the bike. I had a look at it and liked it, although it was showing a bit of neglect on the surface. There was rust caked on the spokes and other patches around the bike and a piece of the fairing had been separated from its plug needed to hold it on to the bike and was flapping off it. Fortunately the plug was still in the socket on the bike frame so I was able to glue the two together and it’s pretty solid now.

I have no idea about bikes really so I just had to take Fastbike’s word on the mechanical integrity of the bike. He told me that the engine was solid and that the bike was in good order, needing no work to it apart from maybe changing the chain, but that it was not immediately necessary. He said that I should get a couple of years out of the bike in its current condition, without having to spend very much to maintain it (the front tyre and chain he said would need changing within the first two years). I knew that with the money I had to spend I wasn’t going to get a really spotless bike, so I settled my mind on it and did the deal.

The next week I got my test and sorted out the bureaucracy, and then got out and about on the bike. I noticed that there was very little oil in it so I topped it up and then took it to a local bike shop to get them to do an oil change. While I was there I asked them to give me an assessment of the bike and they reported back with ¥100,000 worth of work they said I should consider having done. It was a fairly long list of things, including getting work done to the brakes, replacing the chain and the front tyre, replacing the rear sprocket and other things. I was a bit shocked to be honest, but, again, I tend not to trust people who would be happy to take my money off me. So I thought I’d get a second opinion.

I have a colleague who rides. He owns about six bikes and has done a bit of racing at the Suzuka circuit here in Japan. He offered to introduce me to his mechanic, a fellow racer and certified bike nut, so I suggested that we take a run out to him to have him look over the bike. At this stage I was not sure if the bike was all that Fastbike had said it was. I was having doubts and feeling a bit sick to be honest. I was scared that I had been ripped off. That’s only natural really. It would be very stupid actually to take at face value anything anyone selling you something was to tell you about what you’re being sold. So off we went to get the bike checked.

The mechanic is very impressive. He races minibikes and spends an inordinate amount of time it seems building and rebuilding them, putting great effort into honing the engines just to squeeze another 1cc out of them. With tremendous concentration he examined the bike. He checked it in real detail for about 15-20 mins and then gave his assessment. He reckons the rear sprocket could use changing, but that it wasn’t necessary. The sprocket has some life left in it, but he recommends changing it in the not too distant future. He said that the front brakes calliper is sticking and that would cause higher fuel consumption as the bike would have partial braking sometimes when I didn’t intend to brake, slowing the bike down. He said that the front tyre was fine for another 5k, just like Fastbike had said. He said that he could see nothing else wrong with the bike and nothing urgent needing done. He said that the bike is in good working order and certainly not in a dangerous condition. If fact, on close examination of the engine, he spotted that the seals around the cylinder heads and the clutch compartment were new and he said that the engine has had a refurbishment.

When we asked how much it would be worth at auction (including the 2 years shaken) and he said about \180,000 (Fastbike got it for \166,000). I told him that I had paid \210,000 including delivery to my door from Tokyo and he was impressed. He said that I had bought a good bike for that price and said that if I were to buy it from a shop I would need to pay as much as \300,00. When I told him that Fastbike had also turned up with a Krauser K2 top box and mounting bracket and gave it to me for nothing he was even more impressed. I forgot to mention the Krauser box earlier actually. It’s worth \10,000 for sure.

So there you have it. Fastbike did what I asked of him with honesty and decency. He got me a good bike for a good price, just like he said he would. If I were to hear from anyone looking to buy a bike I’d immediately recommend that they contact him. The Transalp 400V outside my door is fundamentally a clean bike, has shaken until Nov 2011, and needs very little work done to keep it in good working order. It’s the sort of situation I was hoping I’d find myself in and I can thank Fastbike and the folks at Gaijin Riders for the help and copious advice they gave me from the very start. They have a good community stretching from Tokyo to Nagoya and beyond and I’m sure that, in the not too distant future, I’ll be meeting with some of them on one of their rides.

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