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Common Tread

Savage for sale: Rare bike, highly collectible

Feb 06, 2015

I’m a word guy. Over the years, I’ve made my living writing the news, writing about motorcycles, and fixing stuff other people wrote. Sometimes, people pay me to translate stuff from Spanish to English.

But I also speak another language: motorcycle ads.

That’s right, I can translate your average Craigslist "motorcycle for sale" ad into the truth.

It’s a useful skill developed from countless wasted hours looking at ads when I should have been doing paying work. And now, at absolutely no charge to you, I’m going to share that hard-earned wisdom. Here are some phrases you’re likely to see in “motorcycle for sale” ads and what they really mean.

What the ad says What it really means
Asking $16,000, make offer Someone please give me $10,000
$11,500 firm Someone please give me $10,000
$8,000 firm, no low-ball offers Short of selling a kidney, I have no means of paying off the $7,500 balance on the loan on this $5,000 bike
OBO Just give me two thirds of what I'm asking, please God
Ran when I parked it, needs carb work The 10-year-old gasoline in there has turned to mica
Needs battery I don't have $100 for a new battery, and even if I did, putting in a new battery would only reveal that it won't start
Turns over, good compression At least the damn thing hasn't seized and I'm gambling you won't show up with a compression gauge
Must go this weekend I'm six months late on the rent and the eviction proceedings are starting to get serious
No low ballers The payoff on the loan is way more than it's worth so I have to get an inflated price
Wife says it has to go I haven't ridden it in five years, but I'm the kind of person who feels better blaming someone else
No time to ride I drive my car every day because it has air conditioning and I'm lazy
Over $5,000 in extras I wasted a lot of money on farkles nobody wants
Extended swingarm, lowered Clutch is fried from playing Rickey Dragracer at every light and the bike now handles like a garbage truck
Aftermarket exhaust, sounds great Obnoxiously loud, guaranteed to tick off your neighbors
Stock exhaust but I removed the baffles, sounds great Obnoxiously loud would be an improvement; also, runs poorly
Custom paint Been crashed
Fresh paint Been crashed
New plastics Been crashed
Lots of new parts Been crashed
Cosmetic flaws typical for its age Been crashed
Converted to a streetfighter Been crashed
Salvage title Been crashed really bad
Barn fresh Mice ate holes in the air filter
Barn find Damn, I forgot this junk was still out here
Classic style Looks dated
Instant classic It's old
Collectible I know, because it's been collecting dust in my garage for 15 years while I've been hoping it would go up in value
Good beginner bike Underpowered
Good first bike My only hope of unloading this junk is finding an uninformed and gullible buyer
Mechanic's special Too many problems to list
Needs a little TLC You probably won't make it home from the sale without breaking down
Sold "as is" If you make it out of my driveway on this thing, I don't ever want to see you or hear from you again for any reason
basket case
Vincent Black Shadow basket case. It's all there! Photo by Lance Oliver.
Basket case, everything is there Not even God knows what's in that pile of parts
Tires still good for another season The cords aren't showing through the tread yet
Good winter project I just realized I'm trying to sell a motorcycle at the worst time of the year
Text only, I don't check e-mail Internet service was cut off to my house months ago for non-payment
bike 4 sale call 4 info I am too stoned and lazy to take a photo, use capital letters or punctuation, or type more than six words, so just imagine how well I've cared for this motorcycle
Thinning the herd It finally dawned on me that having six motorcycles, five of which do not run, is stupid
99 Katana for sale: rare bike, collectible Wanted: one clueless buyer with cash
I will send you a cashier's check and you can wire me the balance Please be the one in a thousand who is foolish enough to fall for this

Got some additional translations? Add them below.