Since I have a vehicle that only gets about 12 miles to the gallon driving like a grandpa, I decided to look into what vehicles are very fuel efficient. I then discovered the magic of motorcycles.
Yes, a motorcyclist is inherently more vulnerable in the event of an accident however, a good motorcyclist is far more alert to the possibility of an accident than car drivers and always plans for the worst, seeking out escape routes just in case. The feeling of being “in-the-zone” on a motorcycle is hard to describe, but it is a sort of hyper-awareness that I never knew I had. I am always considering whether the oncoming driver is going to do something silly, or if I need to take a curve a little slower.
If you learn to be aware of your surroundings, it will probably save your life, but for when it does not, there is protective gear. The majority of motorcyclist deaths involve the rider not wearing a helmet, and abrasion injuries can be greatly mitigated with motorcycle jackets, pants, gloves, and boots. If you want to ride a motorcycle, at the very least you need a decent helmet.
Getting around on the cheap has been my interest for some time; I once fooled around making biodiesel but I decided that is not worth my while, and riding a bicycle is not very doable where I live though I may yet give it a try. My truck gets a sorry 12MPG and my old BMW 330i gets between 28-30MPG; understandably, the truck never goes on long trips, but it is there when I need it for animal feed or a lumber yard visit.
I discovered that even the worst motorcycles still usually get around 35MPG, so I started exploring that possibility. Luckily, I have an older friend who let me borrow his 2014 Honda Rebel 250 to learn on (He reports around 80MPG on this bike). After practicing on that bike and finishing up a Motorcycle Safety Foundation BRC for training and a license waiver, I purchased a 2007 BMW F650GS, and it has been wonderful so far. After clocking my first 200 miles on the bike, I calculated a whopping 69MPG. Not bad for a 650cc.
If the weather is agreeable, and I do not need much in the way of cargo, I take my bike wherever I need to go. It is a very economical way to get around, and its a lot of fun.
Further, motorcycles in general are pretty cheap brand new, minus the luxury American manufacturers like Harley-Davidson and Indian. The Japanese bikes in particular are very affordable, most being less than $10,000, with smaller displacement motors being less than $5,000.
(Note on displacement: do not pick your displacement based on skill as much as on need. The Rebel 250 for example is just not powerful enough to keep up on the roads where I live, and taking it on the interstate I bet is downright frightening. It would probably make for an amazing bike for a city dweller. A 650cc however has no trouble negotiating the 55MPH and 70MPH speed limits where I live, with plenty of passing power on tap.)
Motorcycles are a bit more maintenance intensive however, requiring more frequent oil changes and tire changes. But both of these are done much cheaper than on a car: for example, it cost a whopping $1000 to put fresh rubber on my ‘04 BMW 330i (wide, sporty tires), and $500 for the ‘73 Ford F100. The F650gs tires, even post-installation at Cycle Gear, was less than $300.
Therefore, economically speaking, motorcycles are far more efficient than most cars in terms of fuel consumption and overall cost. As an added bonus, they are more fun as well.
If I have sold you on the idea of getting a motorcycle, great! Don’t do it until you take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Beginner Rider Course though. At the BRC, you will be trained on the absolute basics of how a motorcycle works, how to negotiate curves, clutch control and gear shifting, and accident avoidance that is critical to new riders. Sure, you can figure a lot of this stuff out on your own, but being trained really helps, plus the completed course is a license waiver in most states: just take your sealed paperwork to the DMV and they will give you a motorcycle license without taking their test.
Choosing a Bike
I am not going into the details of what to get, but here is an example list of trustworthy manufacturers:
I think you will be pretty safe picking from any of these manufacturers, though truthfully, Harley does not make a truly beginner-friendly bike, so I would not recommend a Harley for your first. Also, don’t be silly and buy a 1000cc as your first bike.
Yes, I mentioned BMW, not because I’m a shill for them, but because I have literally never had a major problem with my 19 year old BMW car nor my 16 year old bike. I’m pretty convinced the whole notion that Americans have about European vehicles being unreliable and expensive is a lie made up by the likes of Ford and GM for sales. Sure, the parts are a little more expensive but that’s mostly a logistical problem, but reliability? Tell that to the BMW and Mercedes owners with 40+ year old cars still running with little more than regular maintenance. The Japanese vehicles are probably even better in terms of reliability, but European vehicles, in my experience, can take much more of a beating than any American vehicle. Short rant over.
I hope this is enough to pique your interest in motorcycles. I don’t know why I never considered motorcycling until I was 26 years old, but I wish I would have started about 10 years ago. How many things are both fun and economical?