The Awful Truth About Motorcycles

I originally wrote this in 2008 when I had been riding for just a little over 2 years. It’s still relevant today and thought I would repost with a little editing. So with out further ado I give you Motocynic 5 years ago.

I have been getting a lot of questions about motorcycles lately. People are really feeling the crunch of high gas prices and we really don’t expect for them to go down much in the near future. Motorcycles are believed to get great gas mileage, so lots of people are thinking of getting one to save on gas. They are much smaller than cars so they should use much less gas to move them around. So they’ll be a lot cheaper than driving a car. Right?

Well this is true… to some extent. However, most motorcycles are not designed with gas mileage in mind. Most are designed for power and speed. Either that or they are using some archaic engine design. (air cooled twin like my Ducati and all Harleys) None of this leads to great gas mileage. I would guess that on average most motorcycles get around 40mpg. Of course there are Motorcycles that get much better than this, but most race replicas and big cruisers get only 30ish. So if your an average American getting 25mpg driving to work in your car you’re saving some gas, but is it enough? Fifteen mpg more is nice and with a 20 mile commute to work each way that would be about $2.50 each day saved, $650 a year (if you could manage to ride year round, which would be unlikely). Sounds good until you realize how much other maintenance a motorcycle takes.

Using our above example the annual mileage would be around 10,000 miles. That’s the average life on a front tire on a motorcycle. A rear lasts about half that. The best I’ve gotten out of a Rear tire is almost 8k. On a car? that’s about 1/4 of the life of a tire, and average car tire only costs maybe $100, while a motorcycle’s will cost 120ish each. Also any chain driven motorcycle (almost all sport bikes) will go through a chain in this time. Another $100 easy. Both vehicles will need some sort of servicing. A motorcycle will need at least two oil changes and most will need a valve job costing about $500 The Car will need at least an oil change, costing $150ish? So that $650 you saved in gas gets used up in other maintenance costs pretty quickly.

So on average… not going to save money on riding a motorcycle. Even more damaging to all this is the simple fact that most likely you will own a car anyways, so adding the cost of a bike and insurance to this makes it really silly 🙂 Also, you can’t (or shouldn’t) ride a bike in your street clothes. At least you need a helmet, but I would recommend a jacket, gloves, pants and boots to this. You can spend $1000 pretty easy just getting started with gear. Of course there are motorcycles out there that are cheaper to run, longer service intervals, better gas mileage, belt or shaft drives. Really all I’m saying is don’t assume you’re going to save money by riding a motorcycle. The reality might be quite different. Just as a point of interest. I did the math comparing my MINI Cooper S to my Ducati Monster 620. It turns out that I spend about $100 more a year riding my motorcycle than if I drove my car. For me it’s worth it.

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About MotoCynic

I started riding motorcycles in 2006, and there is no going back. I've ridden more than 100,000 miles, most of it on a Ducati Monster, and despite setbacks and murderous BMW's I'm loving every mile.
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