What Is High Mileage for a Motorcycle? How Long Do Motorcycles Last?

What Is High Mileage for a Motorcycle? How Long Do Motorcycles Last?

When looking for a used bike, it can be quite hard to determine if you’re getting a great deal or not. In fact, the first question that most people consider is, “What is high mileage for a motorcycle?” The answer to this question will affect how much you should offer for a bike with a specific mileage.

While mileage isn’t everything when looking for a motorbike, understanding the mileage can give you a great indication of the bike’s age. Mileage is a great litmus test for determining the health of a motorcycle. Plus, it plays a crucial role in the overall price of a motorcycle.

You might have found numerous bikes with over 20,000 miles that are in great shape and wondered if it is the reasonable mileage. And with everything staying the same, you might end up paying more for a 5,000-mile bike than for a 20,000-mile one. So, if you want to know what is high mileage for a motorcycle, read on.

How Many Miles Is a Lot for a Motorcycle?

The answer to this question varies with the condition of the bike. A bike engine with about 40,000 miles is considered to be a high-mileage motorcycle in some circles. However, if that bike has no physical damage, no engine leaks, and has complete maintenance records, it is considered a great purchase. The key to the longevity of a motorbike is maintenance. Regular service and oil change after every 3,000 miles will keep your motorbike going for a very long time.

A sports bike with a mileage of 25,000 miles is considered a high-mileage bike. And that is because they are driven aggressively and have high-revving engines.

Therefore, it is more about how the rider is driving the bike and less about the motorcycle. That is actually the main reason why sports bikes have a shorter life expectancy than all the other bikes. So don’t be surprised if you purchase a sports bike and discover that you need an engine rebuild after attaining 25,000 miles.

Fortunately, there are numerous other factors that are more important than Mileage. For example, water-cooled engines last longer than air-cooled options. And that is because they run cooler, which plays a huge role in a bike’s longevity.

motorcycle on a mountain road

What Is the Average Annual Mileage for a Bike?

Generally, bikes are ridden for fewer miles per annum than vehicles. While a vehicle can cover about 15,000 miles per year, a bike covers less than 5,000 miles annually. In fact, the average annual mileage for a motorbike is about 3,000 miles. Some bikes cover less than 2,000 miles every year.

How Long Do Motorcycles Last?

The life expectancy of a motorcycle varies. You can find a 20 years old Gold wing with more than 280,000 miles still running perfectly. And the owner still puts over 6,000miles on it annually. Therefore, a well-maintained bike can serve you for several years with very few mechanical issues.

In fact, a considerable percentage of the people who ask about a bike’s mileage is more concerned about longevity than book value. The longevity of a motorbike is determined by numerous factors, and mileage is just one of them. Some of these factors that determine how long a bike lasts include:

Model, Make, and Year

The model, make and year of a motorcycle play a vital role in the longevity of a bike than mileage. Bikes made for learners are made using cheaper materials than those designed for seasoned riders who are always ready to pay more.

A motorcycle made for touring for an entire year can have a longer life expectancy than an off-road bike. And that is because the manufacturer designed the touring bikes with durable materials and for owners who are ready to spend more.

Manufacturers of dirt bikes expect their clients to drop and bang their bikes regularly. Therefore, they will need more spare parts, and their engines wear out faster. And for this to be possible, they need to make the bike affordable for their clients.

Touring motorcycles come equipped with low revving engines that provide more than enough power. On the other hand, dirt bikes must work hard to cover short distances. Unlike touring bikes, dirt bikes work hard in very short bursts. They need engines that exert maximum power for a short period.

With the above details, you can find a cruiser with 120,000 miles and a dirt bike with 20,000 miles and decide to purchase the dirt bike. But that would be a huge mistake since the dirt bike will have experienced more stress in the 20,000 miles than the cruiser.

woman and motorcycle

Who Was Its Previous Owner?

A motorbike that has been owned by one rider for over half a century is likely to be treated better than the one that has had numerous owners. A seasoned rider will take great care of a motorcycle that he/she has owned for a very long time. Having numerous owners isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but having one owner for an extended period can be a great thing.

An older owner has a high likelihood of being aggressive with the maintenance budget and conservative on the throttle. However, a younger rider has a high likelihood of being aggressive with the motorcycle. At the same time, a bike that has been passed through a family of kids can suffer more than a weekend bike bought by an experienced owner.

How Was It Driven?

Is the bike driven gently, or is the owner always on the throttle and shifting without holding the clutch? Is the owner always pulling the stand and then slamming it down every time? Is the rider always banging the engine off the rev limiter whenever he/she gets an opportunity? Is the motorcycle being used in sand, dust, or dirt? All these factors play a key role in shortening or extending the life cycle of a motorcycle.

Where Is the Bike Being Stored?

Even if it’s not ridden regularly, a motorcycle should be stored correctly. A bike that was stored in the open will exhibit a high percentage of wear. When a bike is exposed to all elements, the paint will fade, the vinyl on the seat will crack, and the steel will start rusting. Precipitation, dirt, moisture, cold, and heat can take a toll on your bike.

A motorcycle should be stored in a structure that reduces wear and tear. And placing it in a temperature-controlled room will play a key role in its longevity. So take notice of where the motorcycle was stored before purchasing a used bike.

starter motorcycle

Was It Driven Regularly?

Is the bike driven regularly or occasionally? There are bikes with low mileage that experience some problems when returned back to service. When a bike sits in storage for an extended period, its tires start degrading, moisture accumulates, and affect some robust parts.

A motorcycle that isn’t being used and is not prepared for long-term storage can have several mechanical issues. The gas tank can start rusting, the carburetor can clog, and its rings and pistons can seize in their bores. A high-mileage bike used regularly will have fewer problems and a longer life than a lower mileage unit that is not being driven.

How Often Was It Serviced?

Service records are sometimes more crucial than mileage. And a great example of an excellent second-hand motorcycle is the presence of a service record. A service record can help you confirm that the bike was serviced accordingly, ever since it was purchased. It can also confirm that preventive maintenance procedures were done at appropriate intervals.

Remember, not all motorcycles are the same. The manufacturer always outlines some repairs that must be done after a certain period. Therefore, you should check both the recommendations as per the service manual and the service history of a bike.

You could be looking to purchase a cruiser with over 50,000 miles, but if it’s well-maintained, then the mileage count isn’t that crucial. In fact, with regular service, 25,000 miles won’t be an issue with a sports bike. But with poor maintenance, 25,000 miles could mean the sportbike is on its last leg.

Damages can be repaired, reversed, or rectified. So, a bike that has been damaged and repaired perfectly is better than a low-mileage and undamaged bike that has never been repaired. A high-mileage bike with numerous rebuilds on major parts can be more efficient than a poorly serviced unit with low mileage. 

An older bike that has been used by several riders can have miles on it. But, it can also have numerous new parts and can even look better than it did when new and run even better.

Therefore, if you have your heart set on a certain bike and you believe that the mileage is quite high, then you can use the service record to get a discount. And if you are selling a well serviced high-mileage motorcycle, you can also use this as a selling point. You can even ask for the bike to be checked by a licensed mechanic who can easily spot signs of abuse and care on a motorcycle.

motorcycle mileage

How to Keep Your High-Mileage Bike Running Like New

Here are key tips that can help you keep your high-mileage bike running smoothly:

Break It in Like a Professional

If you have just purchased a used high-mileage bike and want to keep it running perfectly, then you need to break in its engine correctly. If the used motorcycle has had an engine rebuild, you should break-in the engine as if it’s a new one. Remember, the break-in period is normally the first 500 miles to 1,000 miles. And during the break-in period, there in high internal friction in the engine, so you should keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid aggressive starts, jackrabbit acceleration, and hard stops.
  • Avoid excess engine speed when using any gear.
  • Never use more than 75% of the throttle during the first 500 miles to 1,000 miles.
  • Try and use the highest gear possible most of the time
  • Try and downshift before you start your motor
  • Avoid lugging the bike’s motor

Follow the Service Manual’s Recommendations

It doesn’t matter if the motorcycle has 50,000 miles or 2,000 miles. Just make sure that you always follow the service manual’s recommendations. The service recommendation includes more than just regular oil change. You should also inspect and replace the primary chains, service its brakes, and check the valve adjustments.

Check the Air Filters

One of the most basic but mandatory maintenance procedures every bike owner should know is checking the air filter. If your bike’s air filter is missing, loose, damaged, clogged, and dirt, then you’re letting your engine suck in debris and dirt. A clogged air filter is not good for your engine.

You should regularly wash or replace your bike’s air filter if you always use it in sandy and dusty places. After all, your engine can break down if it sucks in even a small amount of grit and dirt.

Use a Coolant Instead of Water

If you own a liquid-cooled bike, you should put the required amount of water and coolant in its radiator. Unlike water, a coolant has some additives that can lubricate the internal parts of a radiator. And this can help prevent the radiator tubes from rusting on the inside. But make sure you flush, drain and replace your bike’s coolant after every two years to prevent water pump failure and overheating.

Make Sure You Inspect the Bike’s Final Ride Periodically

Make sure you inspect the bike’s rear-drive housing, sprocket wear, and motor chain regularly. Make sure the chain is lubricated and well adjusted. The above tips will keep your high-mileage bike running like new for a very long time.

Final Thoughts

What is high mileage for a motorcycle? How long do motorcycles last?

The answers to these questions vary. Mileage is a key factor to consider when purchasing a used motorcycle. However, it is not the only factor that can be used to determine the age of a motorcycle or how long it can continue running. You can find a high-mileage bike in great shape and work perfectly than a low mileage option. A well-serviced high mileage bike can serve you for a very long time with little to no mechanical failure.

Therefore, when determining the age of a motorcycle, you should consider the service record. Remember, manufacturers stipulate when a certain type of repair should be conducted. So make sure the bike is serviced periodically. The life expectancy of a bike is also determined by maintenance and its previous owner’s driving habits.

The make and model of a bike also plays a key role in its longevity. Now that you know the factors contributing to the life expectancy of a bike, you can easily get a great deal when purchasing a second-hand bike.

Avatar for Joshua D. Mattie

    Joshua D. Mattie

    My motorbike addiction began with 50cc at 5 years old. I rode motocross as a teenager & into my 20's when I worked as a mechanic. This helped me to see the light—sportbikes & cruisers became a passion. Now I'm building BikersRights to be the #1 resource for everything on 2 wheels!

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