Selling Motorcycles Makes Me Sad

The lucky new owner of the ZX6R. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

The lucky new owner of the ZX6R. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Why is it so hard to let go?

Yesterday was a sad day. I delivered my 2005 Kawasaki ZX6R track bike to its new owner. The transaction went really smoothly; the new owner is a track day friend who I like and who I know will take good care of the ZX, and I got the price I needed for the bike and all the spares. So why is it so difficult to part with this conglomeration of aluminum, steel, rubber and plastic?

I know I’m not alone. Many people I talk with have the same experience as I when it comes to saying goodbye to a motorcycle they’ve owned for a period of time. I’ve been sad every time I watched the taillight of all my previous bikes roll away in the back of some stranger’s truck or trailer. The Honda CB900F, the RD400 race bike, the Ninja 750, the VFR800, the MZ Scorpion racer, and now the ZX6R.

It makes me wonder what exactly causes this attachment to a machine. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Motorcycling is more than transportation. When we ride, we become immersed in an experience and the motorcycle plays an intimate part in that experience. I equate it to having a dance partner whose subtle moves become familiar over time.
  • Bikes are riding “partners”.  You can become more or less involved and attached with a particular bike depending on the experiences you had “together”. For instance, the motorcycles I have had the most epic experiences on tend to find their way deeply into my heart.
  • Motorcycles become part of a rider’s identity. Deciding to sell a bike that you were proud to own can require you to rethink your identity and sense of individuality. The act of letting one bike go to make room for a new motorcycle requires a certain amount of personal reflection as we transition our identity to the new machine.
  • We invest in our motorcycles, both emotionally and financially. Many of us care for our motorcycles as if they were a human, putting the “good” oil in her,  lubing all the necessary parts, and keeping her clean. We spend money on personalizing our machines so they fit our identity and needs. Whether this is crash protection, chrome or carbon fiber bits, or luggage or navigational farkles that we bought with the idea of finally conquering those epic adventures.

Goodbye ZX6R

My ZX6 spent last night in its new owner’s garage. I can’t help but feel sad, even though it’s new chapter will be as bright as the old. But, does the green ZX mourn for our severed companionship. I hope not. I would hate to think that it felt abandoned like a child left on a doorstep. If there is any consciousness the ZX has, I hope it understands how much I appreciate its friendship and that it will always have a special place in my heart. *sniff

Tell me about your experiences with selling bikes.
What bikes were the hardest for you to let go and why?

A thought on selling race bikes

I’ve sold three race/track bikes. The thing about parting with a bike that you’ve relied on to not only perform well enough to allow you to beat the competition, but also to be solid enough to keep you safe when flirting with the hairy edge of control can be extra difficult. Race bikes require an extra level of personalization so that the suspension, controls, and engine/fueling performance is suited to your individual preferences. A lot of time and money is spent getting a motorcycle right so it can perform on a racetrack at an expert level.

That said, many racers look at their race bikes as journeyman tools that have one purpose; to get the job done. Once it becomes uncompetitive, it is cast aside for a sharper instrument. I don’t mean to sound cold, but the mindset of a serious racer is different than a street rider who takes pride in being a motorcyclist and chooses a particular bike not only for how it performs, but also for the pride the bike gives its owner.

My ZX6 was unique in that it was a track weapon, but not to win trophies, rather to do my job as a track day instructor, and to provide me with fun when I got to run hot laps on my own. As such, I have shared countless miles with it revving over 12k rpm and at sometimes crazy lean angles. It was a companion that made me feel (and look) good. I will miss it dearly.


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Ken is author of "Motorcycling the Right Way” and "Riding in the Zone" (book and blog). He is also the "Street Savvy" columnist for Motorcyclist Magazine, and former longtime author of the Proficient Motorcycling and Street Strategies columns for Motorcycle Consumer News. Ken is Lead Instructor for Tony's Track Days, a 20 year Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, and owner of Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training.

Posted in All Things Motorcycle, Motorcycle Musings, My Motorcycles, Track Days
20 comments on “Selling Motorcycles Makes Me Sad
  1. João Lopes says:

    Wow, I kinda knew this would be common amongst riders but not that all be willing to openly talk about it. Thanks all for sharing.

    I believe this feeling can happen with any object that goes with us in relevant journeys, from keychains to vehicles. But motorcycles, we tend to think of them not only a practical machine, but almost a living thing: it was born, we nourish it, we shared amazing experiences with it, it can get hurt (and hopefully treated) and can die.

    PS: I’m in the process of selling my beautiful 2002 CRB 600F4i, my first “high power” motorcycle, after 30.000km (~19.000 miles) due to moving abroad (to a more rainy country) with little to no option of carrying it over, and I know I’ll mourn it. I’m trying not to feel sad, but happy about all the moments “we’ve been together”.

    Cheers everybody

  2. JD says:

    Thank you for this post.
    I traded my 2015 Harley Davidson CVO Limited yesterday for the newest, Anniversary CVO. The new bike is a hard to get, limited edition, top of the line, mechanically superior machine. It was a coup to get, as only 8 will be delivered in all of California and I’ll be envied by many and blah, blah, blah.
    I was very surprised to find myself grieving late last night and this morning. My old machine took me 35.5k miles in the past 2 1/2 years and I felt like the machine was a part of me. I’ve been searching Google to see if I am crazy and need a shrink or if others have experienced this odd transition. It’s good to see I’m not crazy (or at least I’m not alone in my craziness.). I plan to go out and break in the new bike today and look forward at the road ahead. Thanks for your Post!!!!

    • Ken Condon says:

      Thanks for sharing, JD. Most people cannot relate to how we riders connect to our machines the way we do. Once you get some memories attached to the new EVo, you’ll be just as attached as you were to the old one. Beautiful bike, BTW.

  3. Hilary Schweiso says:

    Thank you for your postings and I can relate. I am a single 52 year woman that has been riding for 9 years. It surprised my family and boyfriend when I took it up and bought my first motorcycle. I recently sold my 2008 650 bright red Kawasaki Ninja after riding 16,000 miles over 7 years with no accidents or injury. It taught me so many life lessons and got me through cancer. I feel sad, but I feel different as a person too. Ninja was never a thing, but it is an end of a relationship.

  4. Mark says:

    I sold my mt 125 yesterday so I could buy a van for work but I regret it now it feels like I have lost a part of me , her name was nemo and we travelled a whole 11000 miles together through rain and sun , I thought I was weird but you have made me see that it’s normal to have a attachment to our bikes

  5. Ducati Hangup says:

    Today I committed to selling my air cooled Multistrada and this article came back to me…

    After 35K miles, the emotional side of my brain craves for the Multistrada. When sitting on the new ride on the showroom floor it approves, briefly. Now I’m sitting at home and the new bike is out of sight, and the emotional side goes back to craving the familiar ride. Some seat time with the new ride is needed to re-program the craving.

  6. Dave S says:

    Agreed. I too get sad and have for all of the motorcycles I’ve sold. Even when I could keep them I know they won’t get ridden enough and will still need care… and I would rather ride than wrench so off they go.

    Aside from the reasons mentioned already, the thing about bikes is they are very specific and each is unique. Even if you buy a different touring bike the bags are a different shape, the mechanism is different to open and close, the seating position is different, the airflow is different at speed, and so on. This is true of cars and trucks too but it isn’t as big a deal for most of us. I can take my bag and throw it in the back seat of an M3, Accord, or S4 and then hop into a very similar seating postion and scoot off. Different cars to be sure but I can just throw my stuff in and go and none of them connects me to the engine and mechanical bits as much. I say this as a person who gets sad selling most cars too. 🙂

    Dave

  7. Ken says:

    Great to hear all the replies. It sounds like I’m not weird after all…either that or we’re all nuts. 🙂

  8. Jeffrey Meyers says:

    Thanks for this great post, Ken! As the new owner of your beloved ZX6, I vow to take good care of her and endeavor to ride half as well as you at some point in the near future. Knowing that parting with your ZX6 is difficult for you is bittersweet for me – I am sad that you will miss her, but I am happy that you care so much about losing her because it reinforces that you took good care of her and infused her with good motorcycle karma! I need all of the positive energy I can get, and the ZX6 has it in spades. Thanks again, and I look forward to a great season doing track days, getting lessons and spending time hanging out next year.

    Jeff

    PS – I too feel emotionally connected to many of my past motorcycles, some more than others, but parting is never easy. I contemplated parting with my current road bike recently. But after a ride today on my 2001 Aprilia Futura, I realize that my relationship with this motorcycle is a perfect fit – I mold around her, we work as one, I know what she is thinking and feeling and she allows me to become one with the road and the environment so perfectly that I realize I will have her for a very long time to come!!

  9. Jeannine says:

    Well said Dad. I can certainly speak to at least a few of the aforementioned machines but the ZX, so far, is the hardest of your bikes for me to see go. I was always in love with the ZX6R so it was particularly exciting when there was finally one in our garage, even if it wasn’t mine. The first 05 ZX (red) which is not mentioned here, probably because it was immediately replaced with the green (this story would be so much easier to tell if we named our bikes like Adam!). I now own my own green ZX, the exact model year I had dreamt about since I was 11. When dad traded red for green it became an object of pride that we both rode a Kawasaki green ZX6R. More recently I have been riding his ZX on the track and have always enjoyed our time together. I certainly wish that she could have been mine, but buying 2 bikes in one year is a bit much and I can’t complain about my KLX :). When it comes time to say goodbye to my 2001 ZX6R, which will probably come in the next few years, I will be very sad. A dear friend who I always aspired to own, she and I have gone on many trips, both long and short, with many lessons learned along the way. I feel your pain Dad, both from the sadness I feel saying goodbye to your ZX and the anticipated sadness I will feel when saying goodbye to mine.

  10. Cassie says:

    Great post. I just wrote to my now friend in Maine to check on Merlot.

    Merlot was my 750 Moto Guzzi Breva. Gosh she was a hottie. We went across the country together. We went up the Pacific a Coast Highway together. We did our first track day together. Sigh…

    I picked up a new BMW and couldn’t keep Merlot. Cried watching her pull away but I knew she was going to a super “parent”. Her first night in her new place I got a text from her new mom. It was a picture of Merlot with a Ducati. It said: Merlot thinks her new boyfriend is hot and will sleep well in this garage. She thanks you for a great rides. I picked the right parent for Merlot! And I did pick. A few people looked at her and I knew they weren’t right for her, When they called to say they wanted it I told them it was sold!

    Cheers to the memories! I’m excited to meet your new wheels!

  11. Marlon says:

    I feel the same way. I do think that the fact that we dump money on our bikes makes us get emotionally attached. Also, the pride of putting into the “project.” I have never owned a new bike so putting money into an older one makes me emotionally attached to my own project. lol. I know, I know…

  12. Paul Duval says:

    Mmm, I’m one to keep my bikes a looong time, and tweak them to handle just as I like, and ride them to the limit. Every bike I have owned has been a relationship. I think it’s natural to become intimate with a machine that we use to take significant risks, and to master complex problems with. I’m in the exact same boat right now having just sold my track/street bike.

    I wish I could keep them all, but that’s just not going to fit my lifestyle. Being adventurous and a risk taker by nature might make it easier for me to let go of one to get another. It’s a risk that keeps the adventure rolling.

  13. I can personally relate to this. It happens that I recently sold a bike that I choose after buying and selling 4 different used bikes, looking for “THE” bike. Well I found “THE” bike in a Street Triple R (my first ever NEW bike) For over 2 years I had tons of joy riding it, upgrading it, talking about it’s qualities, etc. Shortly after buying it, my son started racing BMX, and we travel all over so he can race. My poor bike has had too little attention. Realistically, I should probably turn it into a camper. I do have another bike, so all is not lost!

    Last weekend (Ironically, at a BMX race) I met a man with a green ZX6R on a trailer that had a noticeably empty second rail. As we loaded “THE” bike onto it and did all the business stuff, the BMX racers, young and old, ogled over both bikes. Some dreaming of motorcycles in the future, some dreaming of motorcycles that they may have sold to buy BMX race parts. I knew that the Street Triple was going to a good home and would be ridden to it’s potential, way more than I could ever do. I also secretly knew about the potential disposition of the green ZX6R. As I watched it being hauled away and looked at the empty cradle in my trailer, it was bittersweet. I will miss it dearly, but I know it will be loved, and I know that I will get to spend even more time with my boy and the family. Selling a bike is never easy, but worth it in the end!

  14. Adam B says:

    We (My Family) have a fondness for our bikes more so than most. We name them and talk to them as they are our children or friends. They are in a way our product. They take on a personality that is born of our emotion. We care for them and brag about them. We are sad when they are ill and we are happy when they do well. At this point in my life I am officially a collector. I don’t think I can bear to sell any of my bikes. They area all mean so much to me in their own way.

    Great read Ken!!!

  15. Ken says:

    Well said, Ernie. Some bikes make a strong impression that demands a rider’s love, others, not so much.

  16. Ernie Young says:

    Machines all have characteristics that make them unique. Be it a small noise, an odor or a bolt that need attention more often than it should. Over time, as we grow familiar with and accept these characteristics, or character of the machine, a relationship forms. They become old friends, sad acquaintances, fearless companions or bitter rivals depending on our experiences. It is no wonder why a motorcycle, with an abundance of character, coupled with the intimacy that is involved with thoroughly riding can create one of the strongest bonds with man.

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