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  Use this valuable checklist from James Russell Publishing to help you buy the V-twin cruiser motorcycle that is right for you.  Take the list with you into the dealer showroom and compare the motorcycles they have with this list of items you require.  You will quickly locate the right bike for you and help you establish some preliminary pricing before striking a deal. Take this sheet with you to each dealer you visit (copy as many as you need, it is free). 

  Visit James Russell Publishing website for more free articles and helpful advice.  We even have free articles on buying a Harley-Davidson.  Sometimes motorcycle accessories will conflict with other accessories.  This list will help you sort out some of the major conflicts.

 This list is to be used "after" you have evaluated each cruiser motorcycle make and model, and now you are ready to buy one of the three choices.  This list will help you narrow your search down from three to one bike to buy.  Extra space is given for other items important to you.  Print three copies of this checklist form and then go to three dealers.  Examine each item one-by-one.

MOTORCYCLE MODEL & STYLE _____________________________.

DEALERSHIP NAME ____________________________________________.

SALESPERSON NAME ______________________________________.  Date: _______________.

  1. Fuel tank capacity at least 5 gallons.

  2. Handlebars can be raised or pulled back 4" without cutting cables, wires or brake line.

  3. Throttle has friction device to maintain throttle position at highway speeds (or cruise control).

  4. 16" tires minimum size front and rear.  Tires may be larger, but not smaller.

  5. Clear windshield - adjustable or tall enough to cover eyes and forehead from sleet & hail.

  6. Self-canceling turn signals (handy to have).

  7. Fork mounted wind deflectors available to assist windshield.  Part #__________________. $________.

  8. Windshield-mounted storage accessory if available.  Part #_____________________. $________.

  9. Front fork mount extra headlights.  Part #_____________________. $________.

  10. Cast wheels - spoke wheel rubber inner tube flat tires can't be fixed on side of road or at a gas station.

  11. Large saddlebags, easily removed.  Quick detachable is desired for repair work (see #20 & #21).

  12. Rear axle can be removed to fix or replace tire without removing exhaust system & saddle bags.

  13. Custom exhaust system available part #________________________.$________ (see items 14 & 16).

  14. If custom exhaust prevents removal of axle.  Axle can be reversed so axle nut is on the other side of bike?

  15. Can baffle be easily removed from the custom exhaust without removing exhaust pipes from motorcycle?

  16. Custom K&N high performance air cleaner part #_______________. $________.

  17. Price to jet carb or map fuel injector for custom air intake and exhaust system $___________ (see #71).

  18. Floor board foot rests are better than foot pegs for long rides and allows you to relocate feet for comfort.

  19. Seats two riders comfortably.  Are better seats available?  At what cost? $________.

  20. Tall sissy bar and back rest pad will accept a tall T-Bag luggage (see item 21).

  21. Rear fender rack for T-bag to rest on (must not conflict with saddlebags item #11).

  22. Shaft drive is better than belt drive - can't be cut and cheaper to repair, but belt is okay.

  23. Is front or rear fender so low the bike must be lifted dangerously too high to change tires?

  24. Oil change using one oil drain point is faster than using three different drains as a Harley Davidson.

  25. How did the magazines rate this motorcycle?  What do they recommend you buy for the bike?

  26. Obtain a 3 year or more extended warrantee.  Motorcycle parts and labor is too expensive without one.

  27. A maintenance contract is included for $________________. (#26 is most important).

  28. Cost of tire replacement with ____________ tires at this dealer $________. (See #12).

  29. Cost of detailed maintenance manual (not owners manual) for this motorcycle is $________.

  30. Cost of special tools for owner to perform oil change, valve clearance, etc. $________________.

  31. Can customer easily install different light bulbs in turn signals like LED lights, or a power conditioner required?  Some motorcycles like Harley Davidson use alarm systems in turn signal circuits, so only stock light bulbs should be used.

  32. Is there room to mount a tool pouch on front fork or handlebars?  (See #8.  Any conflicts here?).

  33. Annual cost to insure this bike?$________. Insurance premiums can be expensive on some bikes.

  34. Annual cost for registration $________ and license $________.

  35. This dealer is offering $________ in accessories or cash rebates.

  36. This motorcycle will fit in my pick-up truck, RV or automatic motorcycle loading ramp system?

  37. Are there any known defects or safety recalls anticipated for this motorcycle?

  38. Are there any dangerous design flaw or other conditions unique to this motorcycle?

  39. Before purchasing I checked magazines and the Internet for reviews on this bike.  Yes? or No?

  40. Brake shoes are easily replaced without removing axle, exhaust pipes or saddle bags (both wheels).

  41. What is the largest size tire that can be installed on this bike?  Front __________.  Rear _________.

  42. Are air deflector wings available for this model? _________. (wind may by-pass windshield).

  43. List any other optional equipment below that you want on your bike the dealer to install.

  44. ______________________________________________________________.

  45. ______________________________________________________________.

  46. ______________________________________________________________.

  47. ______________________________________________________________.

  48. ______________________________________________________________.

  49. ______________________________________________________________.

  50. ______________________________________________________________.

  51. What is the cost to replace brake pads $______.  Oil Change $_____.

  52. Can you buy custom cast wheels for this bike? _______.

  53. The wheelbase size _______ and total length of bike is __________.

  54. What is the ground clearance _______ and will it destroy any engine or frame part going over a tall bump? 

  55. Can you slip a hydraulic jack under this bike to change tires, etc.?

  56. Are hose clamps used to secure heat shield on exhaust system?  They break from heat & rain shock.

  57. What is not covered in the extended warrantee? _____________________________________________.

  58. I have tried to obtain a better price with the sales manager and I will buy right now if price is right. Y or N.  Have you shopped with dealers out of state?  Y or N.

  59. Price has not changed, but the sales manager gave me accessories I really needed. Y or N.

  60. Dealer's mechanic will give me a walk-through on how to change oils, filters, grease, brakes, etc. Y or N.  What is tire sizes and cost to renew them?  ________________________.

  61. What is the color scheme of this bike?  _______________________,  Never buy a bike you do not like.  Green has always been a bad luck color with motorcycles... avoid this color. 

  62. Did you get the salesperson's business card?  If not, get it now and staple it to this page.

  63. Is the motorcycle comfortable to sit on?  Is it too big for you?  Too small?  Cramped feeling?

  64. When you sit on the bike are both your feet firmly planted to the ground?  Y or N.

  65. Did the dealer let you test drive the motorcycle?  Y or N. 

  66. Did you consider renting an identical bike for a day to make sure it is right for you?  Y or N.

  67. If you rent from the dealer and decide to buy a new bike, will he credit you the rental fee?  Y or N.

  68. Go back over this list of options and bike model and make sure that each option you purchase can in fact be installed.  Sometimes not all options can be installed due to conflicts.  If so, what items are causing the problem? ____________________________________.

  69. Did the salesperson check with the service department on item 68 or is it just his opinion?

  70. Are there any hidden fees I should know about that increases the bike's final cost? _________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________.

  71. What if anything included in this purchase will void original manufacturers warrantee? ____________________________________________________________________________________.

  72. What do other bikers think about the bike you are planning to buy?  You may learn that it is not the right bike for you, or maybe it is.  It is good to obtain multiple opinions.  The final decision should be yours.

  73. If the motorcycle has a belt drive how much will it cost to replace a broken belt?  $___________.  Some bikes require major drive train disassembly and are very expensive to replace.  Belt damage is rare, but it does happen enough to be prepared to pay the bill if a belt fails on you.

  74. What is the maintenance requirements and the costs for the first 15,000 miles?  $___________________________.

  75. Does the engine intake and exhaust valves need to be manually adjusted or the clearance checked?  If so, how often? Once each ________miles.  What is the cost? $_________ per adjustment schedule.  Note: Some motorcycles the engine must be removed from the frame to adjust the valves.  It is best to avoid such extremes as it will be very expensive to keep that motorcycle running.  You may be surprised that the bike you want has this very expensive requirement.  A better bet is to buy a bike with self-adjusting hydraulic valve lifters (like in a car engine) as they never need maintenance.  Some bikes require the camshafts themselves be removed just to adjust the valves.  Does this bike have this cam removal requirement?  Yes________. No_______.  

  76. How easy is it to change the oil filter? _________________.  Some bikes takes two hours of labor just to remove excessive items to get to the oil filter.  This makes oil changes very expensive.

  77. Does bike have inverted front forks? Yes __________No__________.  These are expensive to maintain so beware.

  78. Accessories on aftermarket you need are readily available and at affordable pricing?  Be certain and check this out yourself on the Internet.

  79. Check Internet and Magazine reviews on this motorcycle.

  80. Have you looked at the new model Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom?  You should.  Read this Article: Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 & Why You Should Buy One - The Perfect Harley Ever Made

  81.  Read this article: What You Need To Know Before You Buy A Harley-Davidson Motorcycle - Twin-Cam Engine Defects Revealed

  82. Read All Our Motorcycle Articles before you buy a bike.  Articles.



  1. Upon visiting this dealer I found the _______________________ motorcycle at $________ to be the best suited for me, but the price is too high, so I must option for the _______________________ motorcycle at $___________ as the best all around bike-to-price ratio at this time.  I may have to buy optional equipment later as needed to save money on this purchase.

  2. When visiting this dealer the complete out-the-door cost for __________________ motorcycle is $___________. Make sure dealer gives price quote of all fees, delivery / shipping charge, license, registration fees, taxes, etc. for this price, including any accessories and extended warrantees (insurance need not be included).

  3. Complete and total cost of motorcycle with insurance premium paid for one year $______________. 

  4. The VIN number for the bike I want to buy is ___________________________________________.  Make sure the bike you finally buy is the bike with this number the salesperson and you agreed upon in your discussions and is written into your sales contract.

  5. Ask for written evidence of proof of any statement a salesperson tells you, especially when it comes to extended warrantee facts and what will void the motorcycle's warrantee.  Even some dealer options can void a warrantee so beware!  Read the manufactures policy, not only the dealership policy!  The manufacturer's policy is the final authority in such affairs.

  6. Call your insurance company and get a quote for cost to insure $_________________ each year.

  7. Delivery Date is ____________.  Note:  Before the motorcycle is delivered to you make sure "all" of the options are installed or do not accept the bike.  Otherwise, you will be constantly coming back to the dealer, waiting for the optional equipment to be installed, piece by piece, day by day.  It can be a nuisance and a waste of your time. 

  8. Get a written statement if the motorcycle is not delivered by the stated delivery date that you will be entitled to a full and complete refund with no fees charged to you.  Some customer's have had to wait a month or three for a model to arrive when some inventory or paperwork error occurred.  The bike you wanted was sold and the salesperson did not realize it at the time, etc. 

  9. Be aware that some aftermarket products may or may not void your new or extended motorcycle warrantee.  Check with the dealer and your owners manual before installing aftermarket accessories.

  10. When trying a new custom seat, make sure your feet can still touch the ground fully so you will not become unstable when stopped.

  11. All information collected herein is placed in writing as part of the sales contract?  Yes, it better be!  Verbal statements and promises are worth nothing when conducting a business sales transaction.  Make certain everything is in writing.   Even this entire buyers guide after it is filled out can be attached to the sales contract, but it must be signed and dated by both you and the authorized salesperson or manager.

  12. This completed, dated and signed consumer checklist to buy a cruiser motorcycle document is to be included in the sales contract.  Buyer _____________________.  Seller _________________________.  Date________________________.

  Now, with all the information you have above it should be easy to decide which motorcycle you will buy.  Some riders consider cost / value and others deem sheer desire over expense.  This form will serve both purposes.  It will also help prevent making a major mistake like buying a bike with spoke wheels instead of cast wheels (tubeless wheel).  You can be stranded if you get a flat tire and you will need to be towed unless you have a new tube, tools, patch kit and a set of tire irons with you.  In a hot desert, a cold mountain or storm conditions it could cost you your life from exposure trying to get help to arrive.  There are "spoke cast wheels" available that are tubeless in design.  This way you can have the looks and the convenience of tubeless tires, but the cost is high (mag is a term I use for cast wheels).

  PUBLISHING RIGHTS - the article is copyrighted August 24, 2004, 2009, 2013 but you are granted the right to publish the article herein titled "Consumer Checklist To Buy A Cruiser Motorcycle" in perpetuity.  You must include the entire article as is, with no changes of wording.  That includes the commentary section by James Russell.  We do request you give full credits to James Russell Publishing.com and to post an active Website link to James Russell Publishing Website.  This publishing right may also be arbitrarily rejected and withdrawn if the article is misused or employed into an obscene or an offensive environment of which it was not intended to be portrayed.



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  Many motorcycle manufacturers are using the rubber belt drive to replace the steel drive chain, but not all and there is a good reason for this reluctance to switch.  Here's why...

  Before you buy a motorcycle you need to know about the belt drive defects.  At least you will be informed as to what you are getting.

  The rubber belt drive was a great invention to replace the steel drive chain that was always flinging dirty oil onto the back wheel rims.  But with the new chain lube like Dupont Teflon Chain Lube which is the best you can buy that will not fling off unlike other brands say, but do.   Dupont won't fling off!  I have tried all the other products that claim will not fling, but they do and they make a terrible mess of the rear wheel and even the motorcycle frame.  So if you are looking for a good chain lubricant that won't mess up your wheels Dupont is the product to buy!  Ask, no "demand" your motorcycle dealer to stock it.  It can be found on Amazon.com and Lowes hardware stores.

  Getting back to the belt drive:

  The belt drive will wear out.  Yes, they do last a long time about 80,000 but when you do have to replace one it is going to be very, very expensive.  About $700.  Why so much money?  Labor.  The motorcycle swing arm must be removed along with major engine components; the entire primary drive system!  This is the major drawback with belt drives as the cost to replace them is outrageous.  To replace a chain and sprockets at 30,000 to 60,000 miles is way cheaper, about $280. 

  Beware... the belt may not last 80,000 miles.  They have a nasty habit of picking up small pebbles from the road and even the wind when parked will place stones onto your belt, especially in sandy areas like out West in or near the deserts, but it can happen anywhere.  Even a prankster can place pebbles onto your belt to break it or cut it with tin snips.  This is now a problem as a steel chain will not place you in such jeopardy.  I have had new belts destroyed by stone pebbles.  They fling up from driving on any sand or gravel surface, even at very low speed and they lodge onto the belt and squeeze between the belt and the pulley and puncture the belt like a needle penetrating leather.  There goes $700 with great ease.  You may be lucky and not have this happen to you, but when it does, you will wish you did not have a belt drive motorcycle.  With a steel chain drive, you have none of these worries.

  The belt can break under stress at any given point in time.  Dry and cold weather can stiffen the belt and make it susceptible to crack or tear.  They also can easily jump the rear wheel pulley when passing over small bumps in the road if they are not adjusted tightly and especially so when riding with a passenger as the swing arm dives deep and low, the belt can just slip right off.  A steel chain will not do this.

  So, what if you don't want a steel chain drive system?  Consider a motorcycle with a shaft drive.  It solves all of the problems mentioned above perfectly.  The shaft drive does use up a handful of horsepower, but that is so negligible as bikes with such drives usually are more powerful anyway than many belt driven machines.

  Belt drives are also dirty.  They do dirty up the wheel wheel as they wear the rubber dust contaminates the back end of the bike along with brake pad dust too.  So, the clean wheel theory does not hold up to reality.  Of course, it is better than a typical chain drive with ordinary or cheap flinging chain lube messing up the rear wheel.   

  Now, I would not say don't buy a motorcycle with a belt drive.  But I am saying to "think twice" about it as the belt drive is really a setback, not an advancement (except Twin-Cam Harley's).  A belt drive will set you back an enormous amount of money to replace a damaged or worn out belt and that is not, in my opinion, a benefit for the rider.  In fact, it benefits the dealership more than us riders by far.        

  But don't be adverse into buying a motorcycle with a chain drive.  The o-ring chains are self-lubricating internally, you only need to lube the external part of the chain each 500 miles.  With Dupont Teflon Chain Lube chain lube you will pleasantly be surprised to see the rear wheel will not be smothered in dirty black oil.  You will get some fling off, but it will resemble tiny specks here and there that are  hardly noticeable and easily wiped clean.  Because it is Teflon that will not stick all you need is to wipe it off with a rag and it flakes right off.  Even if it does spray on the back wheel it is near invisible to see so your wheels remain clean looking.  That's another reason Dupont is so good is that unlike other chain lube products, it easily is removed.  I have used other products that is  horribly difficult to remove as it resists degreasing fluids.  You got to try Dupont if you have a chain driven motorcycle.  Any dealer can order it from their parts distribution catalogs. 

  I purchased a Triumph America with a chain drive, I used to use Silkolene on the chain drive and it was better than a lot of products, but nothing compares to Dupont. I am very satisfied with the cleanliness and the chain longevity.  I have over 20,000 miles on the chain and it has only been adjusted twice.  The chain and sprocket will easily go 30,000 miles before needing replacement.  You can do it yourself with a chain breaker and a riveting installation tool.  Even having a dealer or mechanic do the job is still cost effective.  And, if you are a lazy chain-lubing rider who rarely lubes his chain, with Dupont applied when the chain is low on lubricant, you can still get 30,000 miles on your chain.  Some of the "clear" color chain lube will fling off, but little at that, which makes this lubricant very acceptable to keep the rear wheel clean.  Compare with other chain lubes and at 1,000 miles you will still see lube on the rollers where other chain lubes will reveal silvery, dry rollers void of oil lubricant.  That is what makes Dupont Teflon Chain Lubricant way ahead of the competition.  I have tried, by experience, many chain lubes and none measure up to Dupont.  They got it right! 

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PUBLISHING RIGHTS - the article is copyrighted April 09, 2009 and July 2010, January 2013, but you are granted the right to publish the article herein titled "The Problem With Belt Drives" in perpetuity.  You must include the entire article as is, with no changes of wording.  That includes the commentary section by James Russell.  We do request you give full credits to James Russell Publishing and to post an active Website link to James Russell Publishing.com Web site.  This publishing right may also be arbitrarily rejected and withdrawn if the article is misused or employed into an obscene or an offensive environment of which it was not intended to be portrayed.




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