Friday, January 15, 2010

The Hunt Moves to Connecticut

Today I took my hunt for a used Harley to the neighboring state of Connecticut. I had a fairly long drive, but I planned to look at two bikes that happened to be located fairly close to each other.

My first stop was T.S.I. Harley-Davidson in Ellington, Conn., about a two-hour ride from my apartment. I had printed out driving directions from, but made a wrong turn as I got near the dealership. I don't think I have EVER had a set of Mapquest directions that got me to my destination without an unplanned detour, or at least some uncertainty. I would have kicked Mapquest to the curb long ago, if it wasn't free.

Anyway, at T.S.I. Harley, I met Kevin, who had a 2001 Dyna Wide Glide for sale on Craigslist. It was around lunchtime, so I followed Kevin (who works in the dealership's service department) to his house nearby to look at the bike, which was black, my favorite color. Kevin told me he had bought the bike cheap from a guy going through a divorce, with the intention of reselling it for a profit. The bike had about 18,000 miles, but it was not what I'd call a clean bike. There was some pitting and corrosion on the chrome (including the spoked wheels), and flaking paint and rust on the lower frame. There were also some questionable wiring splices that looked like they used a good portion of a roll of electrical tape. The engine sounded good and the exhaust (Vance & Hines Short Shots) was loud, and as I revved it and let off the throttle, it had that backrap sound I always associate with hearing Harleys in the distance.

Kevin was asking $7,900, and I offered $7,500, but he said the price was firm, so I shook his hand and went on my way. Truth be told, I wasn't impressed enough with the bike's condition to even pay $7,500, but I was curious to see how flexible he was.

After stopping for lunch, I went back to T.S.I. H-D to look at their used bike inventory. I sat on a few bikes, but they had nothing that interested me. I decided I don't want a Heritage Softail or a Fatboy, because I don't like floorboards or the angle my knees were bent while sitting on those bikes. I like the leg position of the forward controls on a Wide Glide much better.

Next, I drove about 10 miles to Shark Cycle, a Victory motorcycle dealer in Stafford Springs (and got lost again - thanks, Mapquest!). They have a 2002 Dyna Low Rider listed for about $7,300 on I had called about it a few weeks ago and the dealership's owner, Bob, said someone had put a deposit on it, but was unable to pony up the rest of the money, so he said if I wanted the bike, it was mine. I got busy and forgot about this bike, until I decided to go look at the other bike and figured I'd kill two bikes with one stone, as it were.

My first impression of Shark Cycles, was, well ... not too impressed. The used bikes were crammed so close together that I could not sit on one, or even closely inspect it, without the salesman having to move other bikes. And when I told the salesman that I wanted to start the engine, he tried to see how serious I was about buying it before he walked it outdoors so I could hear it run. C'mon guys ... looking at a bike shouldn't be this much work, should it?

The bike, which had about 15,000 miles, was clean and had forward controls, and its engine also sounded fine. The rear tire didn't have much tread life remaining, but I wondered if the bike had been dropped in the past (the dealer took the bike as a trade-in). There was a dent in the left side of the gas tank; the stock handlebars had been replaced; the rear fender was off-center; and the front tire was worn more to one side (although I've been told that any one of these things doesn't necessarily indicate accident damage).

I noticed something else a bit odd: The tachometer and speedometer housing on the gas tank was crooked, and the rubber gasket was cracked, faded and loose - it didn't fit the general condition of the rest of the bike, and something seemed "off," even though I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Just intution, I guess.

Of course, the owner and salesman tried to get me to commit to the bike with at least a deposit, but I told them I would have to think about it. They would not lower the price. Before I left, I used their bathroom, which had perhaps the weirdest sign I've ever seen posted in a rest room. It read, "Please don't go #2 in here. Ask us about a more private bathroom."

I returned home, having logged 200 miles on my van with no Harley to show for it. Tomorrow, the hunt continues ....

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