I may have to add an asterisk to the saying that buying things can't make you happy. I bought a motorcycle, and I'll be damned if it hasn't made me one percent happier than I used to be. Then again, we all know that spending money on experiences can make you happy. A motorcycle isn't just a vehicle to move you from place to place-- it's an experience every time you ride it.
My brother has loved motorcycles for as long as I can remember. So has my uncle. But despite "the disease" obviously mixed up in my blood, I never really thought twice about riding a motorcycle. It was sort of like stamp collecting to me-- something other people do, and obviously derive some sort of pleasure from, but I hadn't given it more than a passing thought.
Last December, for some reason or another, I thought that it would be novel for all of my vehicle registrations, inspections, licenses, etc. to be legal and up to date. I drove my RV back to Texas to renew the registration and get inspected, made sure the insurance was current, and paid off old tickets. The only remaining infraction I was guilty of was driving my folding scooter without a motorcycle license, which is required in California.
I don't like holidays very much, so with all of my other friends going to parties or downtown, on New Years Eve I looked online for a motorcycle course I could take before returning to San Francisco. I immediately registered for the one beginning that evening.
Going around the class, each person shared their name and their reason for getting a motorcycle license. I wasn't exactly showered with respect when I said that I had no interest in motorcycles and was only getting the license to legally drive my 74cc scooter.
But my interest in motorcycles materialized quickly on day two. People remember when they first fell in love with their significant other, and I remember when I fell in love with motorcycles. It was during the first hands-on drill, when we bumbled our way into first gear and drove across the abandoned auto lot that served as our driving course.
I flew back to San Francisco, and immediately dedicated a few hours a day to researching motorcycles. I hadn't even decided to buy one, but I was infatuated and couldn't help myself. I initially had my heart set on a Hayabusa, only because it's the fastest production motorcycle on planet earth. I was (and continue to be) terrified to go fast, but I'm a sucker for superlatives. Then I found out that it's so powerful that merely accelerating to 40mph too quickly causes it to do a wheelie, and decided that maybe a motorcycle purchase should come with a side order of responsibility.
I ended up going for style, buying a red 2003 Ducati Monster 620, the least powerful bike Ducati makes. A couple months later I bought a more powerful Monster S2R 800, managing to dodge buying the 1000cc model only because the 800 has a lighter clutch, which is great for city driving.
Unlike any other purchase I can conceive of, a motorcycle changes you. You're not just a guy with a motorcycle; you're a rider. You feel cooler, and you ARE cooler. I remember being surprised at thinking my friend Jonah was cooler once he became a rider. It's because a motorcycle isn't something you have, it's something you do. You ride. You risk your life for a chance to turn a commute into an adventure. An errand becomes a whole-body experience.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance sounds like a funny name for a book. But once you ride, especially your first few times an a highway, you experience complete presence in the moment. You don't think about what just happened or what's going to happen. You don't even think about what is happening. You just experience the moment and react on instinct as you fly down the highway. The wind booms so loudly that you can't hear anything else, or even imagine any other sounds. Each bump in the pavement gently pushes you like a wave on a boat. Your eyes can hardly believe what they see; the motorcycle disappears and you're only aware of the world you're streaking through. The first time I got up to speed and experienced all this, I couldn't help but say "wow" inside my helmet.
I bring all this up not because I think I had some unique nirvana moment on the motorcycle, but because I believe the opposite: anyone can have this experience. I would have never considered riding a motorcycle if I didn't need to get the license, and I worry that other non-riders feel the same way, and may go through their lives without this experience. So my suggestion to you is to go take a motorcycle class and ride. You'll probably love it.
Piggybacking on Lou's comment about engine size vs horsepower:
Tynan, if you're serious about your motorcycle performance and see yourself eventually upgrading again, you really need to analyze power (if you haven't already). The CCs don't come close to telling the story. Even manufacturer stated horsepower doesn't tell the whole story. The best metric you can use is REAR WHEEL horsepower which takes measurement where the rubber literally meets the road, AFTER all the bike's inefficiencies have factored in.
I got my motorcycle learner's permit (where I live you can't get the full licence straight away) a few months ago, and it is one of the best decisions I ever made.
Numerate readers will appreciate the use of Pareto optimization in motorcycle safety.
Do this to cut death risk from 10x (vs auto risk) to perhaps 3x.
1. Zero alcohol.
2. ABS brakes.
3. Wide, brightly colored fairing.
4. Leave high beam on.
5. Avoid busy intersections.
6. DOT-approved helmet.
Sources: DOT and the Hurt Report.
Continued.. poor combination, especially for 150hp sportbikes. I would not advise this just like I would not advise a 1st time driver to buy a corvette. The only difference here is bikes are more affordable. In tynan's defense a) he never advised this and b) 800cc of duc only gets you about 70hp :)
Anyway, none of this matters. Not sure why I even replied in detail here. Even if the risks were as extreme as you say myself and others would still take them. Why? For the same reason people do any adventurous things, like travel to far off places or attempt things they've never done before. Because they're not dead yet, they realize life is finite, and they're hoping to get something out of it while they're here..
Sure, there are risks. I still feel safer on two wheels vs four tho. Sporting motorcycles posses features such as maneuverability, braking, size, and speed that can be used to your advantage to avoid obstacles. I've avoided a few imminent crashes over the years by not panicing and taking action.
Of course there are disadvantages as well. You're very vulnerable on a motorcycle (this is what I think scares people the most), you need to maintain a high level of focus to use the bike's advantages, you need to anticipate the actions of those around you to protect your vulnerability, and you need to develop a rational sense of restraint not to use the bike's speed in unsafe situations. Slacking in these areas is easy and I believe it causes a lot of crashes.
..1000cc bikes and new riders is obviously a p
Best post ever!
I have had the same experience. I love riding. It is way to instantly put yourself into a meditative state. If you drift out of it, you die.
Unfortunately I did do that once, crashed my R6. But trust me, I'll be racing dirtbikes and riding street motorcycles soon enough once my financial situation improves.
I love my motorcycle and wouldn't trade it for anything (except maybe another bike). I also wear my gear when I ride. It might be hot, but I can replace a leather jacket when I can't my skin.
There's definitely something to Motorcycle Therapy. I just finished reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Zen and Now. Great books!
That "Read Next" feature might be the single most irritating web popup since eBay ads. Blocking comment text to advertise an unrelated article is not a way to make friends.
"wow" thats exactly what I said under the tip of my breath beneath my helmet along the motorway too..
Mostly, I think this is a pretty cool analysis of motorcycling. Anyone who believes the "death risk" on a motorcycle is 3-10X that in a car is delusional. Lots of motorcyclists are. Most, maybe. In most states, motorcycles are 12-16% of highway fatalities and rarely amount to 0.01% of miles traveled. NHTSA is only now beginning to work on a practical value for motorcycle miles traveled, instead of the nutty 10M miles the MIC is promoting. Since the average motorcycle is used for less than 1,500 miles/year, it should be pretty easy to decide if NHTSA's numbers are credible.
Most motorcycles are a joke, practically. Overpriced, overpowered, polluting, and inefficient, the drive for more power in a 55-75mph world is self-destructive. I commuted for 5 years in southern California on a 350cc Yamaha dirt bike and it was more than enough power and way better handling in emergencies than the usual sportbike or cruiser blimps. Now, I'm riding a WR250X supermoto pretty much everywhere I ride, including some 1500-2000 mile trips. I have a 650, but it rarely gets ridden since I bought the WR.
Last week I went skydiving. It was actually my fourth time going, but since I hadn't been in a couple years, they made me take the training again.
After skydiving, my friends and I went to an arcade. I don't really like arcade games (besides H2Overdrive), so I wandered around until I found one called "Commercial Airline Simulator". You may be surprised to know that no line had formed in front of that particular machine. I played through the entire training mode of it, and was pleasantly surprised at how similar it was to when I flew a plane a few years prior when I took a couple pilot lessons.
The following weekend I took motorcycle classes and got my license. Around that time I started thinking about how awesome first lessons are-particularly those that were swimming around in my mind.
California is a great state to own a motorcycle in. The traffic in San Francisco makes a bike the most efficient way to get around. But being new to the city, I don't always know where I am going. So I took a Magellan 1412 GPS unit and affixed it to my motorcycle. (You don't have to use the Magellan - any touch-screen GPS unit will work) Here's how I did it:
First I purchased a hard-wire conversion kit on eBay. This dropped the voltage from the battery's 12 volts down to the Magellan's 5 volts. The cost is $5 to $20.
Next, I hard-wired a lead from the rear tail light (this was the easiest place on my 2001 Ducati ST2; you may find other place to splice in from). The important thing is to make sure it's a power source that's only on when the ignition is on, and not on 100% of the time.
Lastly, I took a $1 metal spatula from the dollar store and sawed off the handle, leaving only the surface area of the spatula. I bent this in a vice to a 45 degree angle and strapped it on to the handlebars. I put velcro on the front of the spatula, and then velcro on the back of the GPS unit. And viola! I have a functioning GPS unit for waaaaay less than the cost of units made for motorcycles. Below is a video explaining the process.
One huge caveat: I only use this when I'm stopped, i.e., at an intersection. Paying visual attention to it while driving isn't recommended (to say the least). It also has audio prompts that work well in the city (too windy on the highway) but you could likely pick a unit with a bluetooth earpiece or headphone jack if you really wanted to.
California is a great state to own a motorcycle in. The traffic in San Francisco makes a bike the most efficient way to get around. But being new to the city, I don't always know where I am going. So I took a Magellan 1412 GPS unit and affixed it to my motorcycle. (You don't have to use the Magellan - any touch-screen GPS unit will work) Here's how I did it: First I purchased a hard-wire conversion kit on eBay. This dropped the voltage from the battery's 12 volts down to the Magellan's 5 volts. The cost is $5 to $20. Next, I hard-wired a lead from the rear tail light (this was the easiest place on my 2001 Ducati ST2; you may find other place to splice in from). The important thing is to make sure it's a power source that's only on when the ignition is on, and not on 100% of the time. Lastly, I took a $1 metal spatula from the dollar store and sawed off the handle, leaving only the surface area of the spatula. I bent this in a vice to a 45 degree angle and strapped it on to the handlebars. I put velcro on the front of the spatula, and then velcro on the back of the GPS unit. And viola! I have a functioning GPS unit for waaaaay less than the cost of units made for motorcycles. Below is a video explaining the process. One huge caveat: I only use this when I'm stopped, i.e., at an intersection. Paying visual attention to it while driving isn't recommended (to say the least). It also has audio prompts that work well in the city (too windy on the highway) but you could likely pick a unit with a bluetooth earpiece or headphone jack if you really wanted to.