Motorcycle Commuting: First Month

Well, I did it. I set out to ride my motorcycle to work every day for the entire month of May, and I did it. Now I’ve been getting a lot of search hits on motorcycle commuting so I figured I’d share some of the things I’ve learned this month and answer some of those questions that I had and that other people are asking.

Q: What kind of bike should I get and what kind of gas mileage can I expect?

A: Honestly, just about any bike is going to blow your car out of the water on fuel efficiency. My truck is rated at 25mpg highway. My real world mileage is 19mpg. Motorcycles usually don’t have a rating but after a month of tracking mileage, my bike gets 42mpg. Now, my bike is considered a big bike, and I’ve done some modifications to the carb and exhaust, and I still get 42. That’s more than the real world numbers on a Toyota Prius! So I would say buy whatever looks and feels good. You’re amost guaranteed to get way better gas mileage no matter what you ride.

Q: Aren’t bikes dangerous?

A: No bikes aren’t more dangerous than cars, it’s just that crashing a bike has a higher penalty. So motorcycles require a much higher level of concentration and awareness, especially during commute hours. You really have to take defensive driving to the extreme because being able to put the blame on another driver is not going to comfort you when your back is broken. So drive defensively, stay on your toes, and I think you can even out the danger factor.

Q: What should I wear? How do I deal with work clothes?

A: This is a big question because most people can’t go to work in denim and leather. Some guys I know just wear their work clothes on the bike. That works ok if you are into Dockers and polos and you don’t mind being rumpled all day. Personally, I like slacks and dress shirts and I hate being wrinkled so that doesn’t work for me. Besides, dress clothes don’t provide ANY protection on a bike. So what I decided to do was pack my clothes and change when I get to work. I bought a folding garment bag for my work clothes so in the morning I just pack them up, throw on my leather and ride to work. When I get there, I hit the bathroom and change into my work clothes, packing my street clothes in the bag. At the end of the day I change again and I’m on my way. That sounds like a hassle, but it only adds 5 minutes to each end of my day. It’s really not bad at all and I feel protected on the bike, and well dressed at work.

Q: What about helmet hair?

A: Get a buzz cut. The key to avoiding helmet hair is to get rid of the hair. There’s really no other choice. Luckily, shaved heads are in these days. So after the first day or so, nobody will care.

So there you have it. Pearls of wisdom from a 30 day bike commuting veteran. If you’re wondering if I will continue to ride now that my 30 day experiment is over, the answer is yes. The early numbers show that I saved over $100 last month on gas, and I’m really enjoying being on the bike every day. It actually feels weird to sit behind the wheel of a car now too. I got in my truck yesterday and it just felt like such a sluggish turd of a vehicle. Ugh. I’ve included some links to cool gear and stuff I use for those who are interested. Ride safe!