Failed Attempts at Buying a Ninja 250


First Time Rider

While working full-time and being a part-time/full-time student at San Francisco State, I had to figure out a way to get around the city quickly and save money on parking. Most days during the week, I would have to go to work, then in the middle of the day head back and forth between work and school depending on when my classes were. Parking at college can be difficult and almost impossible for some schools.

At SF State, there are a number of options for parking: find street parking nearby limited to 1-2 hours, risk parking at the nearby mall and risk getting towed, paid parking at the parking lot (costing $10-$20 for the day), and free unlimited motorcycle parking on the street. The last option was a no-brainer, plus the motorcycle parking on the street is right next to the building where most of my classes were located.

The next step was to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Beginner Motorcycle Class. Passing this class waives the riding skills test at the California DMV. I took the MSF class on a Saturday and Sunday, and then took the written class at the DMV. After getting my M1 license, I needed to find myself a bike!

Why the Ninja 250 (EX250)

The most recommended motorcycle for beginners to get is a Kawasaki Ninja 250. When I got my M1 license, it was around the late 2000’s and the used Ninja 250’s for sale at the time were the EX250’s. These are low powered bikes that won’t get new riders into too much trouble and are very easy bikes to learn on.

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Seeing these bikes now still gives me an incredible sense of nostalgia because I remember the excitement I had during that time as a new rider. I know, they aren’t the best looking bikes around and obviously are severely under-powered. But for a beginning rider just getting into motorcycles, this seemed to be the perfect bike.

And I wasn’t alone, there were tons of other people getting into motorcycles. And it seemed like they all had the same idea. These Ninja 250’s (especially in the used marketplace) were in high demand. Finding one in decent shape for a nice price was a struggle. And when you did find this combination of value, it was even harder to nail down the seller to make the sale.

Craigslist (Mis)Adventures

Craigslist has primarily been my go-to when looking for a motorcycle to purchase. Unfortunately three different times, I arranged to meet with someone selling their Ninja 250 and I ended up walking away empty-handed. I’ve talked about Craigslist etiquette in the past and in these three scenarios, the sellers could use some, that’s for sure.

The Seller who Changed their Price

I found this pristine bike that was located around the San Jose area. The person who listed the bike was apparently the nephew of the owner. The story was that the owner had a leg injury and therefore couldn’t ride his motorcycle anymore. So the man had his nephew list the bike for him on Craigslist.

I reached out to the nephew and told him that I was able to meet right away. He agreed to meet and I started the one hour drive. I asked my brother (who was lives in San Jose) to meet me there so he could help me look at the bike.

My brother and I arrived roughly around the same time. We spent some time inspecting the bike and were ready to pay for the bike, so the nephew said, “Let me get my uncle.” When the uncle came out, we chatted and then I said that I was ready to pay.

The uncle then asked his nephew, “How much did we list the bike for?” The nephew replied with $2,000. Uncle then quickly replied, “No no no, that’s too low, we’re selling it for $3,000.” I was pissed off that he would change the price like that; he should have listed the bike himself if he didn’t want the bike listed at the incorrect price. I left with him without saying a word.

The Seller whose Bike Wouldn’t Start

So this bike that I saw on Craigslist didn’t look like it was in as good of shape as I would like it to be, but I wanted to check it out still. I met with the seller and already could tell the bike was a bit worn. He asks me if I want to hear the bike running and then puts the key in the ignition, turns, and… nothing.

It wouldn’t start. He insisted that the bike was working perfectly up until that moment. Riiight…

The Seller who Couldn’t Keep Track

I still wanted a Ninja 250 so I persisted. There was this really clean bike in Santa Clara, which was about an hour away from me. I talked to the owner over the phone and we agreed to meet so I could check out the bike.

When I started driving, I made sure to call the seller to let him know I was about to start driving and it would take me almost an hour to get there. He said okay, and I took off.

When I got the condo complex, the bike was parked right outside of their opened garage. I walked up and there was a woman who was talking with another man. When I spoke to the woman (who ended up being the owner’s wife), I told her that I arranged a meeting with the owner to see the bike.

The woman looked at me with a petrified look on her face and said, “Oh no! I’m sorry, my husband is upstairs now doing the paperwork to sell the bike already…”

Fuming, I told her how I had driven an hour to get here and the her husband knew I was on my way. She seemed very apologetic; plus I knew that it wasn’t her fault. Her husband just has no sense of managing who was coming to meet with him to buy the bike. There’s was nothing left for me to do but to leave.

What Next?

These bad experiences led me to start thinking about alternatives to the Ninja 250. There was just too much demand at the time and I was running out of patience to lock down a good deal on one. I started looking for other bikes; this allowed me to branch out of my normal search filters.

It just so happened during that time that one of my co-workers was selling his old bike, a 1999 Honda CBR600F4. He showed me the bike at work one day and it was glorious. No flaking, no issues with bike, no competition with other potential buyers.

I was just so happy that the transaction was easy, quick, and painless. Sometimes it’s better to deal with someone you know than a stranger on Craigslist.

Scott enjoys fixing and improving cars, motorcycles, and his home in his spare time. He does his best to transcribe his journey as he navigates across unknown territory, finds himself in peculiar predicaments, and figures out how things work in the process.

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