I love riding my motorcycle! Who doesn't? Everyone I know who rides, either on the dirt or the street, loves to ride! I want to ride at every opportunity I can find. I don't understand why more riders don't feel the same!?
Most American motorcyclists ride only for pleasure. Most don't commute to work on their motorcycles. More scooter-riders commute to work on their bikes than do the owners of dirt bikes, cruisers, sport bikes, and touring bikes.
Obviously, I work in the motorcycle industry. Everyone I work with rides! Most of my workmates ride dirt bikes. Some race Motocross and some ride trails and dunes. I ride trails, too. What I don't understand is why more of our dirt riders don't ride a street bike. Many don't even have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver's licenses, and MotoSport pays us to get it! I know why many people would prefer to ride in the dirt for fun rather than going to work. No stop signs or speed limit. Nobody's gonna slow you down. It's fun! So, fun is fun, but most of us need to go to work to pay for our fun. Why not have some fun going to work?
Some of the most dedicated Motocross racers I know ride once or twice a week, somewhere between 52 to 77 times each year, at best. I ride to work five days a week and at least once on the weekends adding up to more than 300 times a year, not including the occasional long-distance tour.
Commuting on Motorcycle - Benefits to Society and the Community
Traffic gridlock is an ugly and genuine reality in most cities, especially in our most vibrant and thriving urban areas. Too many cars and trucks are being utilized by only one person. Increased traffic congestion can be directly related to increased incidents of road-rage. Vehicles stuck in blocked or slow moving traffic consume more fuel, and emit more toxic fumes than do moving vehicles.
Motorcycling to work is a social good. Motorcyclists take up less space on the roads, freeing up space for others. Motorcycles create less wear and tear on the road surfaces than do cars and trucks. Most motorcycles consume far less fuel than the most economical cars. Motorcycles take up less parking space. With over half of the world's population now living in cities rather than in rural communities, scooters and motorcycles are excellent solutions to urban and environmental concerns. If more riders used their motorcycles for going to work, we could reduce traffic congestion a lot! By reducing traffic congestion and emissions, everyone benefits if more commuters leave the cars at home and ride the motorbike.
In fact, a recent study in Belgium found that if 10 percent of commuters switched from driving a car to riding a motorcycle or scooter, traffic congestion can be reduced by 40 percent.
Benefits of Commuting by Motorcycle
Scooters and motorcycles are fun, and for properly trained riders, they can be safe, too! I find that commuting to work on the bike is nearly always more fun than driving my truck, in almost all conditions, whether it be cold, or rain, or dark.
Commuting to work in the car is boring! This is why drivers listen to the radio, talk on the phone, drink coffee and eat, while driving. Riding the motorcycle in traffic is engaging and all consuming. Personally, I don't use any electronic communication while on the bike. I am 100 percent focused on the traffic around me, and the conditions. It feels good to intensely focus on one task and not be distracted. It's better than a video game. Most motorcycle commuters develop their sense of concentration and risk awareness by practicing daily.
We can see further ahead on the motorcycle than we can in the average car. This allows us to scan ahead and predict congestion or other hazards. The motorcycle allows us to change lanes more easily than a car. We can accelerate quicker to get around hazardous congestion. We can jump ahead when the light turns green without breaking the speed limit. Motorcycles use less fuel. Motorcycle insurance is far less expensive than automotive insurance. I receive a discount on my auto insurance that considers the very few miles I drive my truck each year.
Motorcycles are permitted to use the car-pool lanes during rush hour on all federal freeways. Most states permit this on state highways, too. Most of the world permits scooters and motorcycles to filter between lanes of slow and stopped traffic.
We can arrive to work feeling invigorated, awake, alert, and energized. This can all add up to a better day on the job.
Cons to Commuting on a Motorcycle
Does it save time? Maybe or maybe not. Probably not when we consider the time required to suit-up, pull the bike out of the garage, and then dress-down when we get to work, compared to hopping in the car and turning the key. You might thread through congested traffic and shave a few seconds or a couple of minutes off the total drive-time.
Does it save money? Although you should save money in fuel expenses, owning a street bike requires that we purchase specialized riding gear and helmets, which can be expensive. People who ride often own several riding suits, jackets, pants, and gloves for different conditions. Most motorcycle tires are more expensive and less durable than car tires. Unless you plan to get rid of the car, you will have to pay for insurance for both the bike and the car.
We must always drive cautiously, whether in the car or on the bike. Riding the motorcycle in heavy traffic requires more awareness and concentrated attention. Shutting off the radio and not drinking coffee while riding makes it easier to focus on riding in traffic.
What about dressing for work? We should look into the options of keeping our work-clothes stored at work, or carrying our work-clothes.
Riding in bad weather. Most recreational riders avoid the rain entirely - it scares the poop out of them! I can tell you that the rain is not so bad. The only way to gain confidence and comfort to ride in the rain is to ride in the rain. Get a rain-suit and a full-face helmet.
Preparation for Commuting to Work on a Motorcycle
Take a motorcycle rider's safety course. If you have already passed the beginner's or basic course, take an advanced course or a track-day class. We should always develop our skills and never stop learning.
Of course, we should always wear protective motorcycle clothing to reduce injuries in a crash. We must also prepare for the weather. Weather can change unpredictably. We might probably need to invest in rain gear, waterproof gloves, and maybe electric-heated gear. I always carry lens cleaner and anti-fog treatment for my helmet faceshield.
We need a way to carry stuff. Our first inclination might be to wear a backpack or messenger's bag. It's pretty easy to carry a bungie-net stashed under the seat to carry other unexpected items. Saddlebags and panniers allow us to carry stuff more comfortably - off our bodies. Panniers also allow us to stop at the store on the way home from work to pick up a bag of dog food and a 24-can case of soda pop.
It's almost winter. I currently have an extra sweater, gloves, hat, and raingear stored in my luggage, along with my tools.
You may need more time to get ready to go to work and get out the door. You'll need to check the weather forecast. You'll need to allow yourself time to suit-up and roll the bike out of the garage. If you're running late, it might be best to not take the bike. It would be unsafe to try to make up for lost time by riding too fast, which is terribly easy to do. It might take less time to hop in the car and turn the key.
You can commute to work on any scooter, cruiser, sport-bike, or dual-sport. You can see farther if you can sit up straight with your head held high. A big windshield or fairing, enduro style handguards, and heated grips are nice to have in bad weather.
Motorcycle Commuting Tips
The motorcyclist needs to be hyper-aware, hyper-alert, and be prepared to deal with hazards. In the majority of collisions between motorcyclists and car drivers, it's the drivers who are most often at fault, but it's the motorcyclists who suffer the worst injuries and damage. We need to see farther ahead and prepare for the worst possibilities of someone making a mistake. We have to plan an escape route on the road up ahead.
Always position yourself in the lane for the longest possible view. Because we are not belted to a car-seat, we are not stuck in the left portion of the lane. If we can see farther by moving to the right, then move to the right. Be prepared to adjust your lane position moment-by-moment based on traffic around you and your line of site.
Always avoid being directly behind or directly in front of other vehicles. Hug either shoulder as much as traffic will allow. This will reduce our risk of being rear-ended in a traffic jam and give us a longer view up ahead. Although many jurisdictions do not permit motorcycles to filter through stopped traffic, practice riding in the lane-filtering zone so that you can see that forgotten 4-foot to 6-foot wide space between the cars that seems like it was made just for motorcycles. It's up to us to be aware of the law and to be prepared for the consequences.
Watch for tailgaters! You can recognize tailgaters by how their brake lights light up repeatedly on and off. This brake light activity also could point to a distracted driver, talking on the phone or sexting. Back off, and change lanes when you have the opportunity. .
Leave a good following distance to be better prepared to slow down or stop for congestion. Look for the path of least resistance. Choose the lane with the least congestion. Although motorcycles require less space to make lane changes, be courteous and inform other drivers of your intentions. Signal well before making the lane change, move to that shoulder of the lane, and allow other drivers the time needed to see your turn signal before jumping in to action.
Communicate. Let other drivers know you are there. Whenever you can, wave at drivers as a way of saying "thank you." Avoid the using the single-finger wave, even if someone flips it at you. Retaliation can ruin your good mood and the other driver's, and if it comes down to a demo-derby, the motorcyclist will certainly loose. Just ride away and chuckle, leaving the offensive finger-flipper in the dust.
Ride to Work - Work to Ride
Motorcycles are so much more than just toys. Riding your motorcycle to work can be better for your own attitude and is certainly better for the environment and for the community. Riding to work will help you to sharpen both your physical and your mental riding skills. But, riding to work also requires a higher level of dedication, concentration, and preparedness than does going out to play on the bike.
I know that you will enjoy your commute to work on the bike better than you do in the car.