If your bike breaks it’s not always right or easy to point the blame and claim off someone else
I bought a 2004 RSV Mille R a little over two years ago. I had put 3,000 miles on it before I put it in for its service at a non-franchised but perfectly reputable dealer, but about 1,500 miles after the service the engine seized.
I do not really know how. I did the basic maintenance but had the more complicated stuff done by a bike shop. I have not touched the engine or gearbox. I have asked the original dealer for my money back as the bike was unfit for purpose but he has very rudely refused. First of all he was mildly sympathetic and started telling me about how bikes get more fragile with age but when I started to press for my money back he got dismissive and rude.
I have tried to compromise by offering the bike back as part exchange at 80% of what I paid for it. I told him he can inspect the bike but he has emailed me back and said: “You bought the bike second hand, nearly two years ago. It has been serviced by somebody other than my company. You have not told me how the bike has seized in the 4,500 miles that you have had it for, so I have no offers to make, and I am not going to speak with you or email you again. I am not wasting my time stripping down a bike which I sold nearly two years ago and I have not seen since you bought it.”
Basically he has said “if you have a case, you had better go to the Small Claims Court”. I have gone to trading standards but they are not prepared to take any action. Should I take the dealer to the Small Claims Court?
No. You really have not got any realistic chance of winning without gambling some quite big money at poor odds. The dealer has summed it up well, if bluntly, but I go further.
You rode the bike for 3,000 trouble free miles between the sale and the first time you had it serviced; the bike cannot have been unfit for purpose and then ridden for 3,000 miles. Then you put another 1,500 miles on it.
Fundamentally, you do not know why it has seized. If it has seized because you let the oil levels drop, then you have got absolutely no hope, but you know that. I don’t think you are some sort of mug who can’t check his oil, and as you say you did the easy bits of maintenance.
It it seized, say, because a chunk of gearbox broke inside a properly serviced bike, then you may have an arguable case, but a second hand bike seizing up after twenty-two months and four and a half thousand miles since purchase really is evidence of nothing. You will need to show what the cause was.
You can only do this with expert engineering evidence. The bike will have to be stripped down, and you should invite (even it he does not take up the invitation) the seller of the bike. If the bike had a fault which led to the seizure then you have got a case, but you have to prove it. I do not really blame the vendor for effectively telling you to either pipe down, or put up some evidence. He does not really have to listen to you moan without you putting up some evidence.
A consulting engineer’s report with a strip down is likely to cost you the thick end of about £1,200. Bearing in mind that the bike’s value is going to be less than £10,000, with this type of bike at your type of age and mileage hovering around the £4,000-£5,000 mark, you will have to deal with this case in the Small Claims Court. You will not recover the full costs of your expert evidence, which is capped at £750.
Sickening as it might be to you, to have your pride and joy with a seized engine even though you paid for servicing on it, I do not really think the law is your remedy. I think you would be better off spending £1,200 fixing your engine rather than spending it on an engineer, and the area of law which you are going to have to enter into, that is if there is a ‘latent defect’ – that is a problem which had not been discovered in your motorcycle since 2004.
I suspect most District Judges hearing your case at the Small Claims Court would observe that you have a 14-year-old bike, which you can run for 4,500 miles and nearly two years after it was sold to you, it seized up. I think most Judges would require pretty compelling evidence that the motorcycle was defective at the moment of sale, especially as it has had a service which picked up no faults.
It seems to me that you really have two fundamental choices, you either go after the dealer, with engineering evidence, and try your chances at the Small Claims Court, or you put the money that you would be spending on consulting engineers and court fees, and I think on balance you are unlikely to recover them, and spend it on repairing your bike. I know which option I would take. I would be spending my money on repairs, or a new bike, rather than engineers and potentially lawyers for a case which I strongly expect you will lose.
Fast Bikes January 2019