How Long Do Motorcycles Last? A Helpful Guide


Old Indian motorcycle in garage

Motorcycles are the source of great joy, and riding your dream bike is an experience like no other. However, motorcycles do not last forever, and they eventually must be retired. How old is too old for a bike, and when is it time to let your dream bike go?

So, How long do motorcycles last?

Motorcycles can last a lifetime if maintained well. A poorly maintained motorcycle may only last 20,000 miles or less. A well taken care of bike may last for more than 100,000 miles. How long a motorcycle lasts depends on how it is maintained, how the owner rides the bike, and the type and size of the motorcycle. 

The lifespan of a motorcycle depends on many factors. The overall treatment of a bike determines how long the bike will last, and the person that owns the bike is ultimately responsible for this.

Still, there are ways to help a motorcycle last longer, while some practices will diminish its lifespan significantly.

Motorcycles are fantastic things, but they, unfortunately, do not last as long as we may want them to. Aside from crashes, the lifespan of a motorcycle entirely depends on how it is kept, maintained throughout its lifetime, and ridden.

Not every motorcycle is built to last as long as others. Touring bikes, for example, last longer than
sportbikes, and more significant motorcycle engines last longer than smaller ones. However, every bike
is capable of a long lifespan if it is well looked after.

An average motorcycle can last for more than 80 000 miles (almost 129,000km) if well maintained and ridden sensibly in terms of distance traveled. If the same motorcycle is not maintained well and ridden recklessly, it may reach the end of its life span in as soon as 5000 miles (8000km).

There are reports of well-kept, larger-engined bikes lasting as many as 200 000 miles (almost 322 000km). That’s a significant amount of mileage!

I covered over 85,000 miles on my 2009 Honda Varadero 1000cc, for example, before I sold it, and if the new owner keeps it well maintained, I’m sure it could still be out there on the road today. In fact, when I’m out and about around my city parking my motorcycle, I quite regularly see motorcycles with 50,000 or more miles on them.

The general rule of thumb is that motorcycles that are carefully maintained, serviced regularly, kept in ideal conditions, and not ridden too hard are likely to last as long as the average car, or even longer.

Motorcycle in garage during servicing
Regular maintenance is vital to the longivity of a motorcycle

Modern motorcycles are likely to last a long time if they are taken care of, as they are built to such high-quality standards in this day and age.

Modern bikes can last a lifetime without having to be replaced. Modern engines may last for as long as 15 years without needing to be rebuilt or replaced as the technology and materials used have been enhanced significantly throughout the years.

Older bikes do not last as long as modern motorcycles, simply because the technologies and materials used to build these bikes were not as advanced as they are today.

That being said, there are plenty of examples of older bikes that have lasted their owners decades without a fault. However, this heavily depends on how the bike is ridden.

For example, it goes without question that if a motorcycle is pushed to its limit every day, ridden about constantly at high RPM’s for instance, it is likely not to last as long as a bike that is taken onto the highway for a cruise, every weekend and runs at three-quarters of its full power.

The way that a motorcycle is built and the type of the bike also determine how long it will last.

A big-engined motorcycle with a well built high-quality engine that is designed for touring, for example, will last far longer than a small engined unbranded commuter bike.

Sportbikes also tend to have shorter lifespans because they are usually ridden very hard. However, they can also last a lifetime, depending on how many times they are used in a year.

My next-door neighbor has a Kawasaki Ninja 1000cc sports bike. Last year he only rode the bike 350 miles on warm sunny days. I would have thought he could have this motorcycle 20 years or more if he chose to, with regular maintenance.

Another factor to consider is that high-end, high-quality bikes will live longer than bikes on the lower and cheaper end of the spectrum.

The lifespan of a motorcycle can even be determined by the manufacturer who produced the bike. Some manufacturers build bikes that last much longer than other manufacturers who build bikes in the same price range.

Japanese sports bike

The Japanese usually make the bikes that tend to last the longest. Manufacturers such as Honda and Yamaha have excellent manufacturing and design technics and are currently unrivaled for the quality of their mass-produced motorcycles.

The factors that determine how long a bike will last are almost endless.

So this takes me back to my original question:

How long do motorcycles last?

If you look after your motorcycle from day one, keep it well maintained (regular servicing), using high-quality engine oil and replacement parts, and store it away correctly when not being used, you may very well have the same bike for the rest of your life.

Good quality high-end replacement and after-market parts can be expensive but are well worth the money.

I have written an article ‘Why Are Motorcycle Parts So Expensive,’ which you can read by clicking HERE.

What is considered high mileage or old age for a motorcycle?

The mileage that a motorcycle has covered is not always an indication of how well the bike is running
or how much life it has left. Some motorcycles have been known to give up after just a few thousand miles, while others keep going for many hundreds of thousands of miles.

It really does depend on how the bike is kept.

That being said, some general guidelines can be followed to help determine how long a bike has left in its life.

Sports bikes that are ridden hard are considered to be well used when they reach 20,000 miles (32 000km). These bikes rarely make it past 50 000 miles (80 400km).

High-end touring bikes are well used when they reach about 80 000 miles (128,700km) and are usually done by the time they reach more than 100,000 miles (161,000km).

When riding a motorcycle every day, it may reach these numbers within just a few years. If, however, the bike is reserved for weekends, it may take a lifetime to reach those distances.

Generally speaking, 10 – 15 years is considered to be old for a motorcycle, but many bikes have surpassed this benchmark and continued to serve their riders faithfully for many more years.

I have written an article about high-mileage motorcycles, ‘What Is High Mileage For A Motorcycle?’, which you can read by clicking the link HERE.

How can you extend the life of a motorcycle?

  1. Store the motorcycle correctly when not in use
  2. Maintain the motorcycle correctly from day one
  3. Run the engine in correctly
  4. Do not ride the motorcycle to the limit every time
  5. Reduce hard acceleration and stopping
  6. Carry out regular servicing to manufacturers specification
  7. Use high-quality replacement parts
  8. Use the clutch correctly
  9. Keep the motorcycle clean and protected using ACF 50 or similar
  10. Ride the motorcycle in a professional manner

How should you run in a motorcycle engine?

The best way to ensure that a motorcycle has the most extended lifespan is to maintain the bike from day one properly. Every bike has a different break-in procedure that should be followed for the correct amount of time specified by the manufacturer. This information is found in your motorcycle handbook.

I still consider myself running in a new motorcycle engine up to 3000 miles and build up the revs I give the engine in stages.

For example, for my Honda CB500x, I do not take the engine over 3500 revs for the first 600 miles. Then between 600 and 1500 miles, I only take the engine’s revs up to 4000. Between 1500 and 2500 miles, I will not go over 5000 revs, and up to 3000 miles, I will not take the engine over 6000 revs.

This running-in procedure may be overkill for a lot of people, but this procedure is to ensure that the bike and its engine are not pushed too hard too soon and allows the bike to be broken in before taking it to the limit.

Depending on my motorcycles’ size, I will increase the revs for larger engine bikes and decrease the revs slightly if riding a smaller-engined motorcycle.

Throughout my 20 years or so of riding motorcycles, I have never had a problem with any of the engines of the motorcycles I have owned and put this down to how I treated the bike’s engine when it was new. ( Or it may just be good luck, but I’m not convinced on that point).

Regular services, oil changes, including oil filters, lubrication, tire maintenance, and air filter changes,
are imperative for the longevity of a motorcycle. Keeping up to date with necessary maintenance as specified by the manufacturer is the best way to keep a bike running well for years.

Using high-quality replacement parts and high-quality after-market parts will add to the length of time a motorcycle will last. In my opinion, cheap parts will not last the same amount of time as the more expensive high-quality parts. I do believe in the saying, but cheap buy twice!

The way that the bike is ridden is a factor here as well. If you use your bike for rushing around crowded city streets, stopping and starting, revving high, accelerating hard, and slowing down quickly, this is not conducive to keeping a motorcycle in good condition.

This type of riding will put unnecessary wear and tear on the motorcycle and its components and drastically reduce its lifespan.

motorcycle riding tricks. Man riding motorcycle on back wheel only
Riding a motorcycle sencibaly will add years to its life.

Conversely, if you use your bike regularly for open highway cruising, bringing the bike up to speed slowly and keeping it there for a long while at say three-quarters of its maximum capacity before slowing down. This causes surprisingly little wear and tear on the bike, helping it last longer, even if it increases the mileage of the bike.

Hard acceleration and heavy stopping will reduce the bike’s lifespan as this riding puts a lot of strain on all the parts of the motorcycle, causing premature wear.

At the end of the day, to keep a motorcycle running well for a long time, regardless of mileage, maintain it well, and ride it sensibly, being sure to take good care of it along the way.

Which motorcycle will last the longest?

Not all motorcycles are made equal. Some are designed to last longer than others, and some are built to a higher level of quality, which leads to a longer lifespan.

Japanese motorcycles tend to last the longest in terms of years due to how well these machines are built. Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki are all brands that produce long-lasting motorcycles.

Touring motorcycles last longer than racing bikes or sports bikes. This is due to how they are ridden, how they are built, and the size of their engines.

Sports bikes are pushed to their limit very often, which reduces how long they last. These motorcycles are also built from lightweight, fragile components that are more likely to fail than the more rugged parts on heavier bikes.

Small bikes with small engines do not last as long as bikes with bigger engines, as they wear out more quickly.

Statistically, the bikes that last the longest are big, touring motorcycles with 1000cc engines or more, and are built by Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. This is a general statement, but if these bikes are maintained well, they last for an incredibly long time.

Conclusion

The only way to tell how long a motorcycle will last is to consider how it is maintained. Well-maintained motorcycles last for many years, and poorly maintained motorcycles may only last for a short time, fact.

Motorcycles that are well kept may last for decades and easily reach more than 100,000 miles (161 000km).

Poorly maintained bikes are lucky to reach 5000 miles or so (8000km).

That being said, the mileage of a bike does not always indicate how long it will last. Bikes with high mileage that are well maintained have more years left in them than poorly maintained bikes with low mileage.

Japanese bikes and larger bikes that are built for long-distance rides last longer than any others. Still, any bike can last you for many years if you keep it in good condition and service it regularly.

Happy riding!


References

letsridemotorbike.com

Robert Blake

Hi, I'm Robert and I've been riding motorcycles for nearly 2 decades. The intention of this blog is to give reliable up to date information to other motorcyclists who are looking for answers about all different aspects of motorcycling. All the information is either from my personal experience or investigational work I have carried out myself. Happy Riding!

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