Field Guide To Common Internet Motorcycle Wackos | Mega Phone

By Ed Milich, Photography by Ed Milich

When eBay announced an insertion fee sale last December, I coughed up the $2 and put my 2000 Moto Guzzi Quota online. It's an "adventure-tourer," aka an underpowered, overweight "dirtbike" ill-suited to rough terrain. And although someone said there are no dumb questions, with an eBay ad you can expect monumentally annoying ones. Maybe it's my fault for wading in the shallow end of the motorcycle economy, but placing an online ad is a great way to study various species of Common Internet Motorcycle Wackos.

Let's start with the Dreamer. After spending way too much time on, this guy wants to ride my Quota to Alaska. Imagine it: Basking in the solitude between Coldfoot and Prudhoe Bay, emblazoned with stickers bearing his discussion-board avatar as Wagner's Die Walkre fills the thin mountain air. Compared to this guy, Walter Mitty was a pragmatist. The truth? He couldn't swing a long weekend away from his tech-support desk at the sewage-treatment plant.

The Time Waster: After coaxing you out of your cell-phone number, alpha males of this species feed on painful long-distance conversations. The Waster still lives with his parents, so can afford to cough up a few grand for your motorcycle. Armed with more time than money, this one spends hours dreaming up questions. Obscure is good. Inane is better. Ask me just about anything and I'll try to answer it. But after four trips to the garage to see if I used 8.8- or 10.9-grade brake-rotor bolts and to check tire date codes, don't expect a fifth. Wasters aren't shy: "Can you swing that 10-hour clutch rebuild so I can ride home to Quispamis?" Sure. It's the least I can do for $4000 Or Best Offer.

Meet the Cheapskate, aka the motorcycle economist: He's memorized the Kelley Blue Book and can quote the mean value and standard deviation of used motorcycle prices from Burbank to Bangor. Confronted with a bike priced 20 percent below said mean, he cranks out a few enthusiastic e-mails before reality sets in. With the plane ticket, gas, food and shelter for the trip home, that $5000 Quota 50 miles away in Laramie beats my $4000 Quota 1000 miles away in L.A. But the Cheapskate knows full well that auction-ending prices aren't necessarily actual selling prices. He's learned from another familiar species: the Backpedaler. Win the frenzied bidding war, but after paying for the dachshund's emergency hemorrhoid surgery that very morning, there'll be no $3497 cashier's check. Sorry.

Then there are the Weenies, devotees of all relevant/irrelevant Internet bike forums. They recite drive-spline lubrication intervals for BMWs and provide critical arguments regarding the use of steel and/or aluminum gear drives in vintage Guzzis. What they can't do is make decisions or root out poor advice. Instead, Weenies regurgitate groundless innuendo, rumors and other bad information until it's taken as testament. Weenies interrogate you about the riding, maintenance and bathroom habits of the last three owners in a vain attempt to figure out how far they can go before the rod bearings wear out. To the Weenie, I offer a corollary to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Stuff breaks.

BMW Riders: This Internet wacko is indigenous to the BMW motorcycle classified ads, which he uses to pester, provoke and generally annoy future ex-BMW owners. Certain BMW Riders spend more time compiling maintenance service records than photo scrapbooks of their children. Some BMW groups promote 50-question bike-buying checklists. What sort of mood do you think the seller will be in after Question 49? Yes, certain BMW Riders expect you to jump through all 50 hoops before making an offer.

I was half-hearted about selling the Quota anyway. So getting exactly zero bids after 10,000 hits and more than 100 e-mails was no big deal. But do me a favor: Examine yourself for the characteristics of these scorned species of cyber-kooks the next time you bother some poor schmuck trying to pay to fix his kid's crooked teeth by selling his two-wheeled pile on Craigslist. Otherwise? May the invisible economic hand of the motorcycle market wind up and give you a nasty bitch-slap.

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