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Ironhead Sportster Motorcycle Talk (1957-1985) For all those that wanna talk about Ironhead Sportster Motorcycles

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  #1  
Old 21st July 2009
Miller6970's Avatar
Miller6970 Miller6970 is offline
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Default what to look for when buying an ironhead?

i really want to get one but kept putting it off, now im finally lookin at ones i want to buy. all i need to know is some things to look out for when looking at the bike to make sure nothings wrong with it. any help would be apreciated thanks.
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  #2  
Old 21st July 2009
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They are all old bikes and most have been through the wringer.
I look for a bike that is stock not modified. Except for bars (I hate those buck horn bars)
Lots of guys think they are "fixing up" a Sporty by modifying it, I have a different word for it (rhymes with butcher) (oooops!).
Other than that the next is rust, fork condition, wheels straight, pointing the same direction?
Then before going any farther I want to see the papers, it is best when frame numbers match the ones on paper.
Next is the little stuff, will it start, do the tires hold air, what does the chain look like, is it loose or tight, cables good, does it have the dreaded drag pipes, does the owner have all the original parts he took off it?
Is the tank rusty? I don't like alternator years. I don't like SU carbs S&S B carbs or anything big.
Disc front brakes are fabulous, disc rear not so important. I like left side shift and electric start.
Then I talk price and don't be afraid to walk away, do not let the seller control the show it's your money and there are lots of bikes to look at.
Don't buy a project if you plan on riding this year (maybe next).
Don't spend all your money, you need a emergency fund incase it shits the trans on your first ride.
Don't get caught up in the upgrade/chrome disease thing.
Ride it, it will speak to you about it's needs. Attend to it's needs before making it shiny. Do not let it sit and idle to "warm up", you will find out how much a top end costs.
Do not ride it if it is not happy, fix it then you can ride it.
Do not ride it unless you KNOW how much oil is in the primary/trans (trans is the most expensive part of an Ironhead).
If you are going to work on it buy a Genuine maunal and parts catalog.
Do not take it apart unless you have the parts you know you will need to reassemble it IN HAND (or you will surely miss riding days).
Buy a full gasket kit and replace the gaskets you use as needed.
Buy a case of oil and 4 oil filters (so you don't have an excuse for not changing the oil)
Get extra points (if equipped) and plugs, replace as needed (so you always have extras on hand). 5 min to get one off the shelf, could be hours or days even weeks to find one otherwise.
Avoid cheap Taiwan replacement parts.
Find a trustworthy mentor, discover what his vices are and keep him well supplied, follow his direction.
Don't listen to your friends whose bikes are not faster than yours and who do not own antique American Iron, it is your bike and exists to make you happy not someone else.
Do not let your friends ride your bike, a real friend will not ask. Offer it with the knowledge that you might never ride it again.

Most of all "Ride it like you stole it!"
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  #3  
Old 21st July 2009
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Ivan RoachCoach Ivan RoachCoach is offline
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Default That should be listed as required reading for any new members...

...who DON'T own an ironhead and want to join up.
If they don't read and acknowledge Rick's excellent laundry list, they shouldn't enter.

But then again, I can't understand joining ANY ironhead-specific forum when you don't even own one.
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  #4  
Old 21st July 2009
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All good advice there. The closer to stock and the less the bike has been messed with, the better. Age and miles wear these bikes out, but previous owners do far more damage.

Look for one the seller has owned for a long time. Look at his garage and workshop. If it is full of broken sh*t that has been attacked with hammers, if everything around his place looks run down, abused, neglected, broken and filthy, then his bike is probably much the same.

There is some kind of myth that great Harley mechanics operate amid chaos and mess. It is just that, a myth. A guy with a well turned out shop will usually do well turned out work. Guys who pigroot around in grunge and take no pride in their shop, 9 times out of 10 will take no pride in their work or their vehicles.
That is not to say everythng has to be immaculate - there is grease on the benches and parts lying about in every busy shop, but not sh*t that has been there 10 years or more, and not all of the tools lying on the floor all of the time.

I always look at the owner as much as I look at the vehicle, and that has always worked well for me.
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  #5  
Old 21st July 2009
80 Iron 80 Iron is offline
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Sure this all might be great advise but you guys sound like my dad.
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  #6  
Old 21st July 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 80 Iron View Post
Sure this all might be great advise but you guys sound like my dad.
Father Knows Best...
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  #7  
Old 21st July 2009
daggar rider daggar rider is offline
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all the parts..........






sorry, couldn't resist
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  #8  
Old 21st July 2009
madfox22 madfox22 is offline
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Don't !! Don't buy an ironhead unless you know how to work on motorcycles, and enjoy doing it. My old BSA's and triumphs were alot of trouble but I enjoyed the experience of keeping them going. I bought my Ironhead 8 years ago, it is a high maintenance bike. Not so much as the Brits, but it still requires much maintenance, espicially if you plan on riding it hard.
The inital cash you will spend on an Ironhead plus the money you will spend in the next year getting it dependable is alot more than you will spend on a EVO sportster 1200, that you can ride right now. With the economy like it is, there are lots of good buys out there.

Sorry fellow ironhead lovers, but the truth hurts. I love my ironhead.
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  #9  
Old 21st July 2009
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Default tools

tools
ya need a lot of tools
and I mean the good ones
speical tools also like the clutch spring compressor , cam cover puller , sprocket puller , the list is endless

havin the parts befor teardown is a good thing I have bought 3 basketcases & 2 complete motors , also a gasket board full of gaskets and seals when I tear into a bike I'm ready
h#$l I gotta be when building dragsters

also if ya buy it make it yours
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  #10  
Old 21st July 2009
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Ivan RoachCoach Ivan RoachCoach is offline
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Default Madfox22 and Cowboy make EXCELLENT points. An IH is not...

...a casual purchase.
It's not pushbutton-simple, has to BE MADE reliable, and requires more of your time than just an oil change and buffing.

If you're not prepared to do some heavy wrenching, don't have serious information resources (no, this place doesn't count), and a good relationship with some local shops --- an ironhead is the fast track to getting in over your head.

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