Episode 23, in which we talk to clinical psychologist Mark Barnes about the cost of used motorcycles

Once upon a time, I found myself stuck on an article.

“I know what I need!” I thought I thought, when in reality I said it out loud. “A psychologist!” My family agreed that I did, indeed, need a psychologist, but they had reasons separate from my immediate needs.

Like most people nowadays, I went to Facebook. “Hey,” I posted. “I need a psychologist that rides motorcycles. Anybody know one?”

Within a few days, a mutual friend (Facebook for me, in real life for him) connected me with Mark Barnes. Dr. Barnes is not only a clinical psychologist, but he has been writing a column for Motorcycle Consumer News for many years and recently published a book titled Why We Ride. Over the course of some emails and phone calls, Barnes agreed to let me pick his brain for the article, and that led to him agreeing to be on the podcast to talk about how riders pin a value on their motorcycles when they want to sell them.

I suppose I should tell you a little about what I was writing about – and that is the inflated prices people ask for their used motorcycles and why they do that. I thought it would be a mixture of sentiment and knowing how much the rider had spent on the bike in its lifetime, but based on some research I was doing my best to keep an open mind.  You see, back in 2012 I stumbled across a paper published the year before called The IKEA Effect. The idea that people up their perceived value of a pressboard Billy bookcase just because they put it together themselves not only fascinated me, but caused me to reevaluate my own Billy bookcases on my renter’s insurance disclosure forms. Not long after that, I heard about a small change Betty Crocker made to their box cake mixes back in the 1950s that sent sales through the roof.

A few years ago I started working part-time at a motorcycle repair shop (BMWs and Urals, which are basically BMWs but Russian), which exposed me to dozens of customers and hundreds of motorcycles in a short period of time. I became adept at sizing up the value of a bike based on its condition and my ability to strip it to the frame for our parts shelves should the need arise.  I quickly realized that there was a disparity – often a wide one – between what I (or my boss) thought a bike was worth and what its owner thought it was worth.

For instance: A customer came in with a decent condition 1996 BMW R 1100 GS he wanted tuned up and cleaned up so he could sell it. These are big bikes and popular among the adventure riding crowd.  I owned two of them, one red and one black. I remembered how much I sold mine for and told the customer (when he asked, of course) that I thought he could get $3,500 for it.  He was incensed, saying that because of all the things he’d added to it and all the money he’d spent on maintaining and repairing it, it was worth at least $5,000 and he’d be listing it for $5,500.

He came back in about six months later with a new bike and told me he’d sold the old GS for $3,750, just $250 more than my estimate of its value.  He said he had to keep dropping the price week after week because at first, nobody was even calling him to ask about the bike.  His first phone call came when he got the price down to $4,500, and that guy had offered him $3,000 on the spot.

Between that GS-valuing experience (and numerous others similar to it), the IKEA Effect paper and the knowledge of Betty Crocker and the Egg, my thoughts about the article I’d been pondering for several years started to coalesce. Anyway and entirely by coincidence, Dr. Barnes was in the process of selling some of his own motorcycles, so I hit him up for an interview at a great time. I clued him into the IKEA Effect and the Betty Crocker thing a couple of weeks before our discussion and we took it from there. See the embedded player below to listen to Episode 23.

Show breakdown
0.00 Intro
0.40 News
7.07 Discussion with Mark Barnes
57.18 MOA Plug: Brian Hinton talks about the MOA’s National Rally
59.54 Wrap-up
61.46 Fin


Don’t forget to check out the episode before this one, 022 in which we talk to Dakar Rally racer Bill Conger.

Thank you as always for continuing to listen and support Chasing the Horizon. I’ll see you out there somewhere on the road – or off it. Ride safe!