So you are considering motorcycle commuting? Gas prices are astronomical, you long for independence and to do something a little different. Or maybe you are in your 40's and you remember your mother telling you that you can't have a motorcycle. Well, therapy might be the answer for that. Otherwise motorcycle commuting may be just the ticket for you.
The United States is really the only country where a motorcycle is not considered viable transportation, but rather considered recreation. In fact, I have been on a lot of forums and have been surprised when the subject of commuting comes up that there are so many 'nay-sayers' (mostly us Americans). Statistics bear this out, as according to a fact sheet by ridetowork.org, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, "Out of a total 129,141,982 commuters in this country (USA, 2003) 147,703 of them ride motorcycles to work regularly. That's only .11 percent." If you have some flexibility, and you takes some important precautions, You have the opportunity to be part of a sensible (to be decided) and elite cadre of people to do something for the environment, and your wallet.
I am a motorcycle commuter, and when I am very active at it, I will save $30-40 weekly on my commute. As I have a comparatively older bike (1983 Honda CX650) there are weeks that I must resort to a car because I have some parts ordered on eBay. This is, however, part of the joy of the ride. I am a music director/minister, and there are days that it doesn't make the best sense to bike (clothing, playing, equipment). However, I average 150-200 miles weekly, and I have gathered some knowledge on the concept.
THE PROS AND CONS:
Before making any decision, one must examine the pros and cons of the motorcycle commute.
PRO - Exciting commute/ CON - Exciting commute
PRO - Beautiful weather/ CON - Horrible weather
PRO - Motorcycle runs better being consistently ridden/ CON - Hard to keep that bike clean looking, constantly on the road.
PRO - Amazing mileage/ CON - Amazing lack of climate control
PRO - Less wear on your car/ CON - More wear on your bike
The big "CON" to consider is that you have less protection and therefore smaller allowable margin of error in your daily commute.
- Parking benefit (according to ridetowork.org, 3-5 motorcycles can fit in a single parking spot.) I often parking in the little rounded ends of the painted lines in lots, never had a complaint.
- Often the ferry fares for motorcycles are less than cars. Motorcycles do not have to wait in line at the ticket booths and board first.
- Use of HOV lanes and carpool benefits (see city and state laws).
- Some toll plazas allow motorcycles for free.
- Fairly cheap insurance and taxes.
As you might imagine, there are some costly prerequisites to commuting, other than the obvious, which is a motorcycle (Windshield preferable), if you are on a parkway or interstate, think 650cc's and up. But wait, there's more!
A DOT approved Helmet is a must. I may, of course, get some boos on helmet wear, However, I ride almost everyday. There is risk involved and lots of intersections. I put down a bike once, and the helmet "saved face" so to speak. That being said, I am strong believer that helmet wear is a choice.
Saddlebags, or tank bag are a must. You have to store things, even if it is the occasional lunchtime cheeseburger run. I currently use a tank bag, and bungee my shoulder bag on my back seat.
Regardless of your history and abilities, I would strongly encourage you to complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. This 3 day course is inexpensive and fills in the gaps of knowledge that you may have. Plus, you get to ride around on their bikes for two of the three days!
Where you work, having a place to change and stow gear is crucial. Weather conditions are exacerbated on a motorcycle. If it is chilly, it is freezing on a bike. If it is sprinkling, on a bike it feels fairly torrential. This is why good gear is so important. My wife shared a Swedish proverb with me, "There is no bad weather, just bad clothing." That really is true on a motorcycle. Good gloves, a rain suit, boots all take up room. On the issue of clothing, one of my favorite pieces of gear is the balaclava. Under your helmet, and tucked in my rain suit, it has kept me amazingly warm. Make sure your clothing is reflective!
Though, this may sound wimpy a car is simply necessary for me sometimes. You may be able to get past it. I drive naturally more on rainy days, and snowy/icy days.
Other niceties include: A garage or a dry, somewhat warm place to store your bike is important, insurance companies will ask you whether you keep it locked up. Good lights (engine block lighting is great for intersections) and Repair manual (you're gonna do a lot of riding).
Preparing for the commute:
Ride it on a Saturday, full gear and necessary equipment. Study intersections, look for possible escape routes, locations of gas stations. If you do this on a day you're not working you won't feel pressured by time. You also will have time to do a little exploring. Know how much your tank holds, and how many miles you have after going to reserve.
Other Things to Consider: T-CLOCS (Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis, Stands) is a handy checklist put-together by the Mototrcycle Safety Foundation, it is recommended to do everyday. Because this is a slow-down in the mornings, I do a thorough T-CLOCS on Sunday night, and quick lights and tires check every morning.
Also consider keeping a Mileage Log, helps to determine how well your machine is working and you can keep track of maintenance.
You will really enjoy this pursuit, I get a kick out of stopping for gas and having young men and women coming to look at your bike and talk about old bikes. Recently, I was talking to a guy who had almost the same commute at the pumps when we contrasted our gas consumption My fill-up for $9.50, his was $145.00.
Be safe, and have fun!