Motorcycle Commuting: Year 2

It’s springtime in sunny California, and that means it’s time to polish up the bike, save some gas, and start riding to work every day. Last year during the monster gas prices foisted on the American public, I was forced to commute by motorcycle just so save money. Gas was $4.50 a gallon, and with a motorcycle that gets over 40mpg  just sitting in the garage, it made sense to ride.

This year the story is a bit different. My wife is not working this year, which means she’s not driving as much and gas prices are under $2.50 a gallon, so cost is not so much of an issue. However, my daughter got her license this year and so now we’re often a car short due to conflicting schedules. So it’s back on the bike for the summer.

This is my second year commuting by motorcycle and so I’ve learned a few things since last summer. Since the number one post on this blog is about my commuting experiences, I figured I’d write an update with some things I’ve learned and how I’ve changed my strategy for getting to work alive, on time, and un-rumpled. So here are some tips and tricks to motorcycle commuting.

  • Hair: As I said last year, buy a set of clippers and buzzcut your head. It’s the only real soluion to helmet hair and is perfectly acceptable in most social situations.
  • Clothing: Last year I bought a really cool garment bag for my motorcycle to hold my work clothes and then changed before and after work. That wasn’t too bad and only added a few minutes to each end of the day, as long as the bathroom was clear. This year however, I’ve decided to go a simpler route. My company allows us to wear jeans, as long as they are black. So I’ve ditched the highly uncomfortable dress slacks. I’ve also ditched my button up shirts in favor of Polos. Now if you know me, you know I hate Polos with all of my being. They always look like crap after two washes, the collars curl up like little cotton/poly blend taquitos attached to your neck, and they basically make you look like a Best Buy salesman. This year though I tripped upon a most acceptable polo shirt made by Nike. It’s made of breathable polyester so it’s cool, it will not wrinkle so I can wear it under my leather jacket, and they aren’t very expensive ($25 at Costco or $35 elsewhere), oh and they don’t make me look like a dork. So the only thing I have to change when I get to work is….
  • Shoes: Shoes are an important issue for a motorcycle commuter. I could just wear my dress shoes on the bike, but if you look closely at any vehicle accident, especially one involving a motorcycle, there’s always random shoes laying around. This is because a bike wreck is a wicked violent event, and your shoes will literally be ripped from your body if they are not attached properly. In addition, your feet may also be mangled if covered by nothing but a pair of loafers or wingtips. Therefore I wear steel toed, high top work boots to keep my little piggies safe. I throw my work shoes in a bag and change when I get to work.
  • Other Stuff: OK, so what do you do about lunch and other stuff you gotta haul to and from work? I got an Iron Rider bag for the back of the bike. It’s got a steel frame so it holds it’s shape, it’s got plenty of room for my shoes, my lunch, bike cover, gloves or whatever else I need, and it goes quickly on an off the bike. I swear by these bags. Best ones on the market.

So my routine looks like this; Throw my shoes, my lunch, sunglasses and reading glasses in the bag. Throw my leather jacket over my work clothes and hit the road. When I get to work, I throw my cover on the bike, grab my bag and head in. Once inside, I change my shoes at my desk, drop my lunch in the fridge, and I’m good for the day.

Now the only other thing to worry about when bike commuting is the route to and from work. For me this has been kind of a hairy situtation because we have a wicked interchange that is just chock full of oblivious morons in the afternoon. So I take the freeway in to work when it’s early and pretty empty, then on the way home I’ll take surface streets. Yeah it’s a little hotter and so I may have to rethink my strategy as we start hitting triple digits, but for now, it works pretty well. I suppose I could also just take surface streets out of downtown and then hop on the freeway after the interchange from hell.

So that’s my motorcycle commuting wisdom. Hope that helps somebody commute a little easier, or make the desicion to try motorcycle commuting. I will say this as well, that there’s no better feeling after a rough day, than getting on that motorcycle.

Ride safe.