What Is High Mileage for a Motorcycle?
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What Is High Mileage for a Motorcycle?

Mileage is something that a buyer will usually consider when purchasing any vehicle. Most people know that a car with 200,000 miles on it is probably headed for the junkyard soon—but what about a motorcycle? What is high mileage for a motorcycle, and should a high number on the odometer stop you from purchasing a used bike? 

If you’ve got your eye on a used motorcycle but are wondering about the mileage, this article is for you. We’ll talk about what is high mileage for a motorcycle, but perhaps more importantly, we’ll also look at the other factors that will influence the bike’s value and longevity. As you’ll see, those can often matter more in the end.  

1. Know the numbers, but look beyond them. 

Generally, high mileage on a motorcycle is anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 miles. For sport bikes, the high mileage number will be on the low end (usually around 25,000), while cruisers and touring bikes typically become high mileage in the 40,000- to the 50,000-mile range. 

But if you’re looking for an easy answer, the simple fact is that a motorcycle’s mileage often doesn’t actually give you much practical insight into the bike’s condition. Mileage is only part of the story with any vehicle because how it’s been cared for counts a lot. With motorcycles in particular, a huge amount depends on the specific model, the owner’s level of care and other factors. 

2. Consider the type of motorcycle. 

Certain types of motorcycles are built to take a lot of miles before they need maintenance. Touring motorcycles are the obvious example. Many touring bike owners put over 10,000 miles per year on their bikes. As long as the owner commits to proper maintenance, this usually won’t be a problem for a bike that’s built for it. 

Sport bikes are basically the opposite in terms of mileage. They operate at a much higher rev level than most cruisers and touring bikes, and they tend to accelerate faster and brake harder. This is why sport bikes acquire the “high mileage” designation much more quickly than cruisers and baggers. However, once again, a sport motorcycle that’s been lovingly maintained will often still do better than a tourer that’s never seen the inside of a service garage. 

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3. Consider the maintenance and storage. 

In many cases, the owner’s level of care for the bike is the single most important factor in determining how the machine holds up over the years. A motorcycle that’s been well-cared-for may be good to make it to 100,000 miles or more. 

Preferably, someone selling a used motorcycle should be able to provide you with at least basic information on how the bike has been maintained and information on how it was stored. Some especially important things to look for include: 

  • Whether the bike received regular oil changes, air filter changes and cleaning
  • Whether the bike was stored outside or in a garage
  • Whether the bike has been ridden regularly or allowed to sit unused
  • Service records, both for major and minor items

Note that a motorcycle that’s been in storage for a long time may not be a good thing. If the owner hasn’t taken the proper steps to prepare the bike for storage, it may have damage to its seals and gaskets, rust from moisture buildup or any number of other problems. 

Of course, if the bike has been through many different owners, this information may be hard to come by in the first place, which brings us to our next tip. 

4. Consider the owner(s). 

A smaller number of owners is generally a good sign when evaluating a used motorcycle. The more hands a motorcycle has passed through, the greater the chance of an unreported crash, deferred maintenance or other undesirable events. For this reason, single-owner motorcycles are something of a holy grail that every used bike buyer looks for because it’s usually easier to find information about the motorcycle’s service history. 

However, here’s where you have to take the big picture into account again. What kind of miles did the owner put on the motorcycle? Are they an aggressive rider who pushed the bike to its limit on track day, or more of a relaxed weekend rider? The number of owners and the owner’s preferred riding style are, in the end, just two more factors to take into consideration. 

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