Triple Buying Guide

When contemplating buying a Triple there are several things that must be considered.  This is intended as a guide for those who may not be familiar with various aspects of Triple buying.

First of all, Triples are desired for several reasons.... unique to the purchaser. 
Among them:

-Complete restoration - The term "restoration" means different things to different people. A true restoration is a nuts & bolts rebuild with strict attention to detail making the bike look and be fitted with exact nuts, bolts, fittings, etc., just as it was on the showroom floor.  These days, a true restoration is extremely rare and requires a lot of knowledge and research to do properly.

-Limited restoration - A Triple that is fitted with mostly stock parts, lacking detail but looking largely like an original item.

-Daily rider - This category contains a hodge-podge that focuses on the ability to provide reliable transportation without any attention to originality, detail, or paint.

-Modified - These are Triples that may have original components intentionally replaced for performance reasons and the bike may not even resemble what was on the showroom floor.

A potential buyer needs to know what his intended purpose is as the price and condition of an intended purchase will vary accordingly.


Advertisements of Triples for sale are frequently very misleading. It is not always intentional on the seller's behalf.  Many times, it is just ignorance and a lack of knowledge.  It is not uncommon for an ad to state that the bike "has been fully restored to original condition" when, in fact, wrong model year parts are attached, decals are misplaced or even upside down or running the wrong way.  They may include pictures that look good to the untrained eye in an effort to dupe the intended buyer and create a higher price for something it is not.  In years past, it wasn't such a big deal but now, with the prices being demanded, it can be a very costly error on the buyer's behalf to accept the written word of ads as gospel. Get advice from someone knowledgeable!


What to expect with a new purchase and things to be aware of......

It is age, not mileage, that is important when considering a Triple purchase.  Triples have now accumulated many years since production.  The way that the bike has been stored over the years can have an impact on it's condition today.  Unfortunately, how it was stored is an unknown to the buyer and how it looks today may not directly relate.

-Engine - Unless it is known with certainty that the crankshaft has been rebuilt, it should be rebuilt with new seals and bearings by a competent rebuilder.  This is not inexpensive and requires a complete teardown of the engine.
Cylinders, heads, and pistons need to be inspected for damage, wear, and stuck rings.  They should also be inspected for modifications that may have been performed by a previous owner.
At a minimum, a compression test and crank seal test should be performed.

-Transmission - Proper gear engagement is a result of proper shimming of the transmission gears.  As done at the factory, it was less than perfect.  Over the years, the result of inaccurate shimming has been excessive gear wear and burnt/damaged shift forks. A Triple that pops out of gear while running or accelerating is most likely a victim.  Even if the trans does not pop out of gear, it would be wise to inspect the transmission for proper shimming and gear/shift fork wear as it is a common problem.  This can also be a significant expense.

-Carburetors - It is very likely that carburetors need to be completely torn down, cleaned, inspected, and jet sizes noted even though the outward appearance would not indicate a need.

-Swingarm bushings - There are bushings that the rear swingarm rides in that can become worn and result in instability while riding.  Any movement, side to side, of the rear wheel while not supporting the weight of the bike would indicate need for replacement.  It isn't too expensive to do this but may require special tools to accomplish.

-Headstock bearings - It is common to have worn, pitted headstock bearings. Any "notchyness" while turning handlebars from side to side would indicate need for replacement. New ball bearings and races can be used or a better alternative is to replace with roller bearings.

-Oil filter - The oil tank is fitted with a screen at the bottom of the oil tank where the oil line is attached to filter the oil.  This screen can be contaminated with a buildup of "gunk" the prevents free oil flow to the pump. It should be removed, inspected, and cleaned as needed.

-Check valves - There are check valves built into the banjo fittings on oil line that attach to the crankcase (and carbs on H2B/C). These can become contaminated and springs can weaken.  Air bubbles in the oil lines CAN be the result of bad check valves, although other problems could be the cause.  Either way, air bubbles in the oil lines can indicate a problem.  Bad check valves can result in inadequate cylinder oiling and possible engine damage due to hydrolocking the piston.

-Rear brake pads - It is not uncommon for old, original brake pads to become detached from the shoe. This can cause an uncontrollable rear wheel lockup. It is advisable to check the pad adherence to the shoes.

The above items are things that may not be apparent from looking at pictures or even a hands-on look but a buyer should be aware of them. There are other items to check that are more obvious like brake function, rubber rot, tire condition, rust, leaks, etc.

Keeping the above items in mind, it may make a difference in what you look for in a purchase.  If you have to teardown a "fully restored" bike to check the integrity of the restoration, it may be better to buy a less expensive offering and just start from scratch so you know what you have from the start???  A lot depends on the aptitude, time, resources and tools available to the buyer.  It is a certainty that a Triple owner who actually rides his bike can plan on getting his hands dirty and spend a lot of time becoming educated on how they "tick".