Why A Motorcycle?

WARNING: Some of the following content can be ... challenging. Do not take my example as what any person should do. This tale is meant for the entertainment of the reader.

Way back when (in 1994), I was poor (like a lot of college graduates) and didn't have a lot of time to mess around with public transport. And I really didn't want to be driving my car to the office. I'd had some motorbike experience, and grew up riding my bicycles all over the mean streets of San Francisco, so I dove in with both feet and bought an $800 Suzuki GS550L. What a brick.

At the time, I had no motorcycle license, nor such insurance. Oh well.

Immediately turned a $4, two-bus, 45-60 minute journey from the top of Twin Peaks to downtown in to an 8-10 minute easy ride, with $0.90 parking for an all-day slot. I never looked back - was honestly able to financially justify the purchase of the bike in less than a year.

Sold that bike for $850 (after a couple of cool cheap mods). It was still a brick.

The reason I sold the brick was an ad for a 1995 Honda CBR600F3 in the mechanic's shop for $4200 - HAD TO HAVE IT. Bought said bike using those checks you get with credit cards, and immediately scared the daylights out of myself. Took the bike out to the great highway (by Ocean Beach). Started from a dead stop at a stop light. Accelerated to 100 mph, then came to a full stop at the next stop light. Those lights are just about 1/4 mile apart. THAT was SOMETHING. Bike was comfortable enough that I rode it everywhere including up to Portland, Oregon with my girlfriend (who had a Ducati Monster 750). Sometimes I really miss her.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this I bought and lived on a sailboat in Sausalito for about 7 years. Got a job at Apple. Occasionally rode the F3 to work, but that's a long ride for that bike (on a commuter basis) and I decided I needed a better bike. I wanted one of those hot Triumph Daytona 955i things. Sexy. Fast. Expensive.

Rode over to Munroe Motors in the Mission, having called them and asked them to have one of the bikes ready for me. Was earning good money, credit was stellar, bike was as good as sold. Well, long and very weird story made very short, Nick screwed me around for three days and wouldn't uncrate the damned 955i. My girlfriend (the one with the Monster 750) told me that despite my thinking I couldn't afford one, I should go check out BMW bikes. Wisdom from the mouths of babes, huh?

Rode over to BMW. Sales guy was super nice. Chucked me the keys to about four bikes and told me to go have fun on them. ... That was a new experience. So I did that. The twins were a little lumpy for my taste, but that sweet sweet K1200RS was an amazing machine. Too bad it was so expensive. Huh? 3.9% financing cause of my good credit? Derp. Okay. $20,000 later I had me one of the fastest and most amazing machines I've ever ridden. And that was 61,543 miles and 18 years ago. (Had to go just now and check the odometer.) I actually rode that very same bike to and from work in Oakland today. And it still ticks over like it was brand new.

BTW - Sold that Honda CBR600F3 (after putting over 10,000 miles on it) for $4,000 three weeks after buying the BMW.

Had a bunch of other bikes in the meantime. Some favorites were a Honda Rebel 250 (bought for another g/f), a Honda Magna 750 (did a sweet custom job on it), a Triumph Daytona 955i CE (finally got the flagship bike from that sexy series), and a BMW R1200C (by far the weirdest bike I've ever owned). I still own the BMW K1200RS, the Triumph Daytona, and the BMW R1200C (it's ridiculous but I love it).

So why motorcycles? My CEO asked me just the other day how much time riding a bike saves me. Answer: a little over half. In a car, during normal commute hours, I can make the ride in a bit over an hour. On a bike, taking it easy, I can do it in 30 minutes. Best time was 26 minutes (during commute hour) on the K1200RS. So: time. The time for any journey you have will be reduced by half.

Forget parking a car in the city. Are you kidding? When I got out of college you could sometimes find parking south of Market for like $11/day. And back then that was breaking my bank. Last time I had a job in the city parking all day for a motorcycle was like $3.50. Maybe $6.00 or $7.00 in one of the expensive spots. Nothing compared to the parking for a car.

Okay, how about public transit? Well, let's talk MUNI. No. Let's not talk MUNI. I rode MUNI plenty in high school, and it was bad back then. Sure it's cheap, but I got sick a lot when I was riding that for work. And slow ... as ... Hell. I don't have time for that. And how about when someone at work says oh hey we're gonna go to (x) location after work, want to come? Or if you need to run an errand which takes you out of the way of a convenient MUNI route. Wait. There's Uber and Lyft and all that. Right. But those fees add up real quick, and you're still stuck in city traffic.

For a while I took the ferry from Larkspur in to the city. Cost me about $6 each way. And $2 for parking. And gas for the car. Then the boat took 30 minutes. Then I had to drive or ride my bicycle to the ferry and then walk or whatever from the ferry building. Oh yay it was all good for me and I got exercise and nice fresh salt air. And it sucked cause everyone suddenly decided to take the ferry and you couldn't get a seat and if you stood outside in the afternoons you'd get drenched from the salt spray AND THE WHOLE TRIP TOOK OVER A DAMNED HOUR.

I could ride the motorcycle door to door in about 36 minutes. The bike took a bit less than 2 gallons of gas. Quite often I found free parking. And bridge toll? Let's not discuss that but for saying the plate readers are really bad. Whatever. I saved a ton of time, quite a bit of money, and had A LOT MORE FREEDOM riding the motorbike. 'MURICA!

In hard numbers, I've figured out that riding a motorbike saves me about $5,000/year over driving a car. I'm considering all of the maintenance and everything else. And, yes, I'm counting my motorcycle gear - even the crazy expensive helmets. (And those $200 gloves what feel like sex.) Oh, and tires for the motorcycles. Ya, motorcycles sometimes eat tires - I'm counting those.

The money doesn't compare with riding public transit. Well, unless you count the doctors visits for being sick - or the psychologist visits for the trauma you suffer at the hands of government-run organizations and the general public. But I digress. Sure you an save money riding MUNI. But I promise, as sure as I've been successfully riding for over 30 years, that if you buy and ride a motorcycle for a bit, you will enjoy it, will save a ton of time, find lots and lots and lots of super easy parking, and learn a ton about yourself.

Oh. Wait. Safety. Look: every damned thing is dangerous. Most of those dangerous things are about as dangerous as how badly you treat them. Piss off a cat? Gonna get scratched. Act like one of those idiots doing the flossing dance? Some random chick will sucker punch you. Ride a motorcycle like some kind of holier-than-thou a-hole? You might have a bad experience.

I've ridden a lot of bikes in a lot of different places for a whole bunch of miles. Does that mean I'm magically protected from crashing? Nope. It means I'm careful (with small exceptions for stupid shit like the CBR600F3 story above), and watch everything around me like my life depends on it. Cause it does. My life depends on my attention to riding EVERY SECOND I'M ON A BIKE. Does that mean I'm a better rider and have a smaller chance of crashing? No. There will always be a-holes out there (like the crazy person this morning in a GIANT BLACK SUV merging in to my lane while I was RIGHT BESIDE HER - like WTF lady - you signaled while I was right beside your window, BUT YOU NEVER LOOKED). The only thing my experience and attention and awareness can do for me in situations like that is know how to react. I didn't flip her off or wave my hands or cut her off. (I did swear a bit - but she couldn't hear me.) I drifted a little left in the lane, knocked the bike down a gear and twisted the throttle. Bike took off like a ground-bound cruise missile and I was out of danger in a second. (You actually have to learn when it's better to slow down OR speed up on a motorcycle.)

So yeah: Safety. Some people say ATTGAT (all the gear all the time), and they're not wrong. Though I don't have good riding pants. I really should. But it's hot. Whatever. BUY YOUR DAMNED RIDING PANTS - PROMISE ME YOU'LL WEAR RIDING PANTS - YOUR MOTHER WILL THANK YOU. And boots. Well, for longer trips. And don't be an ass. When that dude at the bus stop next to you says "Hey motorcycle-man! Do a wheelie!" (And it sounds like he says "wooly" and you remember that for over 20 years because it's distinctive and hilarious.) DON'T DO THE WOOLY. You may not see the oil that MUNI bus dripped there. You may not see the gravel in the intersection dropped by the construction truck. Resist the temptation to do stupid shit and you will thank yourself for every safe mile you ride. (So will your Mom.)

You ~could~ do this like I did, all stupid and ballsy and antsy: just buy a cheap bike with little or no formal training. But I don't suggest it. Go check out a riding school. They usually have bikes for you to learn on, and no matter what your experience level YOU WILL LEARN STUFF. It's not expensive, and it will give you a great chance to experience a motorbike for reals. Then make a decision on what to do.

Riding a motorbike WILL SAVE YOU TIME - LOTS AND LOTS OF TIME. Riding a motorbike can save you money. It can make you new friends. It can bring you experiences you'll never even know how to otherwise have. But that time thing. Wow.

Time is all we have. Why waste it sitting in traffic?

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