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Common Tread

Project for sale; make offer

Nov 25, 2019

Fearless Editor Lance ha-blah-blahs Español.

Or I think that’s what he says.

You see, as RevZilla’s Chief Word Officer, he knows a lot of words, even some from other languages. (I presume the CWO pay is poor because he supplements his income by offering translation services from Spanish to English.) It should come as no surprise that he’s also translated used motorcycles sales ads, too.

I too, am a Word Guy. I wanted to offer an alternative perspective on what meanings some of my delicately crafted phrases in my own sales ad really belie. A motorcycle I recently offered for sale served as an excellent case study.

Some of the unreasonable ones will be taken under consideration, too. Photo by Lance Oliver.

What’s written:

“For sale is a 1959 Harley-Davidson Sportster.”

What I mean:

It’s old. And terrible. If the title of the ad didn’t tip you off to that fact, the clear picture of this chrome-plated turd really should have. If you have always wanted an emotionally draining financial mistake that also pulls double duty as a bottomless void that can make spare time vanish, this is probably exactly what you are looking for.

What’s written:

“No title.”

What I mean:

This thing doesn’t have a title, and I have zero interest in A) obtaining one, B) helping you obtain one, or C) doing much more than helping you push it up your ramp. Any questions about a title will be fruitless, making the questions pointless.

What’s written:


What I mean:

No title, remember? It’s a parts bike that hasn’t been totally picked over. It needs enough work to even passably run that I elected not to do it. And look, I’m a fairly experienced mechanic. I often severely underestimate the value of my time, and I still recognize it’s not profitable for me to get this heap roadworthy. Don’t ask me what it needs to run. It’s a list. A long, scary, and sad list.

What’s written:

“Comes with parts lot.”

What I mean:

Here’s a bunch of crap that’s either takeoff stuff or things I had in my parts pile that I have tossed in to increase the value of this mess. I know you’ll need some or all of this junk to get this jalopy to make noise on its own.

You can guarantee I’ve picked off the choice items I wanted, followed by my friends doing the same on the carcass. Anything that was both valuable and not heavy is now lying in my swap meet pile so I can really milk the value out of this scooter while doing as little work as possible. I left enough pieces in there to make it worth your time, though.

motorcycle for sale
"Motorcycle for sale." Three very loaded words. Photo by Lemmy.

What’s written:


What I mean:

I bought this for $500 and the seller either had no idea of the true value of the parts, or he was so frustrated at it not starting in the spring he sold it to me for next to nothing. I’ll allow you to beat me back to $1,500, and it’s possible I’ll go lower if you show up with a vehicle that looks capable of taking this thing out of here today and you’re not a complete turd. If, however, you are not from out-of-state and attempt to haggle via text, phone, or email, I will actually start to raise the price. True, that strategy has never paid off for any seller ever. But has haggling over the phone worked for a buyer?

What’s written:

“Partially disassembled; motor appears to spin free.”

What I mean:

This isn’t my pile of junk. My piles of junk sort of run. I have no idea why this particular motorcycle is in pieces, but in my experience, no one opens up a good-running bike just to take a look at things. Happily, the person that broke the motorcycle at least knew enough to keep it dry, so while it doesn’t meet the criteria to call it a “running motorcycle,” it does qualify as “recognizable parts that have not yet turned completely into rust.”

What’s written:


What I mean:


"You can resell all this stuff and pretty much make your entire investment back!" Photo by Lance Oliver.

What’s written:

“Not parting out.”

What I mean:

You can part it out, if you want. I really have next to no interest in being asked eight jillion questions about the condition of obviously well used parts, so I would rather just sell the whole mess lock, stock, and barrel. I also have no interest in hearing folks whine about shipping, nor do I feel like Dumpster diving for boxes. It may come as little surprise that dismounting tires and draining fork legs don't send chills of anticipation down my spine.

I think I am going to spray paint this on the shop door. Or maybe just have it tattooed on my forehead. Photo by Lance Oliver.
In keeping with that theme, my interest in being involved in PayPal disputes because I didn’t notice some minor flaw in this thousand-year-old bucket of bolts is also quite low. So I priced it in such a way that leaves enough meat on the bone that someone who needs a few pieces will do what I did: buy, pillage, and sell off what goes unused. If you are that enterprising individual, please get this steaming garbage pile out of my shed and into yours.

If that doesn’t happen, I will eventually start selling parts. I will sell items based on their weight and their contribution to the “roll-y-ness” of the motorcycle. Something like the engine, for instance, is a prime candidate to be sold individually. It is heavy and hard to move. In that same vein, I will do everything in my power to keep from selling the wheels or fork so I can at least roll this piece of shit around the shop or the bed of my truck to bring it to swap meets. (And likely back home, that’s sort of how my luck runs.)

What’s written:

“Good numbers.”

What I mean:

The numbers are not obviously restamped, and they look passably like law enforcement will not hassle you about them if you acquire legitimate paper for this thing. The guy I bought this off looked like he did meth, but he definitely did not have it together enough to sell meth, never mind take on something more complicated, like engineering the theft of this motorcycle. So I am somewhat confident this is not stolen.

You can do the Vermont title thing, I guess. Please remember, I have zero interest in assisting you with that process beyond wishing you luck.

What’s written:

“Feel free to hit me with questions or ask me to take additional photos.”

What I mean:

Seriously, don’t ask me to shoot photos or ask me any questions. Just show up at the shop and take a look at it. Mostly, please don't bother me unless you are bothering me to give me your money.

And there you have it. Is this translation a bit inelegant? Perhaps. But it’s the truth, and sometimes knowing the whole story is helpful in commerce. Lance isn’t the only master of the nuances and subtleties of our language. Now you, too, are a little better versed in what's hiding right there between the lines.

Feel free to hit me with questions on this article or ask me to take additional photos.