Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reserve Not Met: Death of the Chopper

Looking to find out how much your beloved two-wheeled steed is worth? Forget about the Kelley Blue Book or the classifieds, they'll only give you a static image of a motorcycle's worth. Rather, surf on over to eBay and check out what the going rate is.

That's exactly what I was doing last week, as a sudden onset of spring fever following a trip to the local dealer to get a new battery (innocent enough, eh?) got me thinking of selling Silver to buy myself the latest and greatest. But alas, after a few minutes on eBay it was all too obvious that Silver's worth much more to me as a daily driver than on a trade-in.

I did notice one thing, though. Choppers don't sell. Forget about all the hype and the reality TV soap operas starring the Teutuls, Jesse James, and others with a clear lack of chlorine in the gene pool. These rolling chrome altars just aren't selling. Out of the twenty or so listings I checked out on eBay whose auctions were going to wrap-up in the next 24 hours, fourteen had not yet met the reserve price and eight hadn't even gotten a single bid! Seems a few years ago, these bikes were selling like hotcakes... so what happened?

The simple answer is: it got old. As with all that is fashion, people get tired of something when it goes from being exclusive to mainstream. And yes, I do consider choppers as being little more than a fashion accessory. They aren't really meant to be ridden, only flaunted. This was most evident in recent reviews of OCC's "production" choppers by Motorcyclist and Cycle Canada. Besides, Japanese production bikes are getting closer and closer aesthetically to these one-off creations, and the Nippon production bikes have better handling and reliability without breaking the bank. You want custom? Order some bling from the catalog and get a paint job!

To me, the great irony has always been how these neo-choppers are the furthest thing from what a true chopper is supposed to be. At least, in the historical sense. GI's returning home from World War II were disappointed with what Harley and Indian had to offer, as they found these bikes too heavy when compared to the bikes they had seen in Europe during their service. As a compromise, they started chopping off bits and pieces to make the bikes lighter and handle better. Some of the first things to go were the prominent fenders, then smaller tanks were installed, and on it went. But they weren't doing this uniquely for looks. They were trying to squeeze every last bit of performance out of them.

Anyhow, as the baby boomers move on to convertibles, power boats and motorhomes and move away from motorcycles we should be seeing a considerable drop in the used bike market. Which is a good thing if you're looking to buy!

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