I’m about to get my bike out of storage this week…here’s some good reasons to make the leap to a motorcycle! (or scooter)
Now that spring is officially here — ignore that snow — it’s time to start thinking about motorcycles again. Here’s why you should ride one, or learn to ride one, this year.
1. Your gas costs will be cheaper. The average motorcycle consumes fuel at about 5 L / 100 km (55 m.p.g.), which is on par with the real-world consumption of a Toyota Prius hybrid. That includes big Harley-Davidsons and peppy sportbikes. More important, that’s riding them as they’re supposed to be ridden, with little concern for saving fuel. Bikes are much lighter than cars and have smaller engines, so the saving is considerable. Scooters, the most miserly of all, will return consumption of better than 2 L / 100 km (140 m.p.g.).
2. Insurance is cheaper this year. The cost has dropped this season, but that’s because the level of insurance that a rider is required to carry has been reduced — shop carefully for the best policy, and not just the cheapest. Talk to a broker if you’re uncertain. As for all the other costs — maintenance, parts, gadgets, etc. — they’re pretty much the same as for cars, so don’t expect to pocket savings all season long, except at the pump.
3. They don’t congest. This is the best argument of all: In the city, the “footprint” of a motorcycle or a scooter is far smaller than any car; a hundred cars sitting on the Don Valley Parkway take up far more space than a hundred two-wheelers. This is why the City of Toronto changed the rules in 2008 to allow motorcycles to use the carpool lanes, just like every other municipality in North America — oh, except Ontario. The provincial government still refuses to admit it made a huge mistake in requiring motorcyclists to carry passengers to use the lanes. Dumb dumb dumb. So don’t feel guilty using your bike to get around town. Unfortunately, motorcycles and scooters do pollute far more than any car because their muffler systems and catalytic converters just aren’t big enough to trap nearly as many emissions, but let’s not think about that for now. . .
4. You can park for free. The City of Toronto realized a decade ago that parking meters that provide paper tickets just aren’t fair for motorcycles, because there’s nowhere to keep the tickets on the bike without them being open to theft. So the council committee agreed to just not charge motorcycles for parking, which also encourages their use in town and discourages the use of the riders’ cars. Smart thinking all round! However, bikes parked at a meter for more than the maximum time — usually three hours — can still have their tires chalked and be given a ticket, though apparently this is rare.
5. You can always get on the ferry. Outside of the city, any good road trip should always include a ferry crossing. In the summertime, if drivers don’t pre-book, their cars probably won’t be admitted. Motorcycles, though, are usually asked to board either first or last, and they’re parked in the wedge areas where cars won’t fit. There are only a limited number of spaces for them, with tie-downs and straps, but even so — in 30 years of riding and turning up at the last moment without a reservation, I have never failed to get on a ferry.
6. You can make friends. There are literally dozens of motorcycle and scooter clubs in the GTA for any level of rider and any make or style of motorcycle. If you’re new to riding, it’s probably a good idea to join a club to find out more about your bike or what it can offer you. Or just go it alone — I’ve never joined a club, and I’ve never had a lack of friends with whom to ride or hang out. With a motorcycle or a scooter, it’s always easy to strike up a conversation and if you want to, you can make friends wherever you go.
7. You get to wear cool clothes. Okay, this one’s a bit shallow, but motorcycle fashion is hot. Not just Mad Max boots and faded functional leather, but everything from trim Gore-Tex to punky scooter jackets and pink helmets — every bike has its uniform, if you want to adopt it. Just, whatever you do, wear protective clothing. Asphalt doesn’t forgive your skin if you end up sliding on it.
8. You get performance you couldn’t otherwise afford. If you want it, zero-to-100 km/h in 2.5 seconds; top speed of more than 240 km/h, and that’s from a machine that costs $10,000. Probably not cheap to insure, and it takes experience and ability to get good enough to ride safely at anywhere close to those limits, but a track day on a sportbike is way cheaper and way quicker than in any car that doesn’t cost six figures. Don’t expect similar superiority in braking, though: bikes have much smaller tire contact patches against the asphalt than cars, and very few (outside Honda and BMW) have ABS, so effective braking takes a much higher level of skill than on four wheels.
9. You’ll be a better driver. Riding a motorcycle makes you more aware of your surroundings and more concerned for your driving environment. You won’t be as distracted as in a car, and you’ll be more alert to all those lousy drivers around you. You’ll understand the feedback that your motorcycle provides directly from the tires and through the seat and handlebars. You’ll probably enjoy your riding education more, too, and treat your bike with the respect it deserves and not just as an appliance for transportation. And that greater ability rubs off when you get into a car and behind its wheel.
10. They’re the last form of affordable powered travel that’s still any fun. Actually, all those nine reasons above? They don’t really matter. They’re a justification to others. The only real reason that matters is that motorcycles can take you places that no car can hope to reach. As I once wrote in my book Zen and Now: “The only way to truly experience a road is to be out in the open — not shut up in a car but riding along on top of it on a motorcycle. It’s tough to explain to someone who’s only ever travelled behind a windshield, sealed in with the comforting thunk of a closing door. On a bike, there’s no comforting thunk. The road is right there below you, blurring past your feet, ready to scuff your sole should you pull your boot from the peg and let it touch the ground. The wind is all around you and through you while the sun warms your clothing and your face. Take your left hand from the handlebar and place it in the breeze, and it rises and falls with the slipstream as if it were a bird’s wing. Breathe in and smell the new-mown grass. Laugh out loud and your voice gets carried away on the wind.”
That’s a good day, of course, with a warm wind and a dry road. But on a motorcycle, with the right attitude, there really aren’t any bad days.