How To Get Your College Ride – Why Motorcycles Make Sense For College Students

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Cheap to buy, cheap to run, easy to park and never stuck in traffic. This is why a form of transportation that’s often viewed as dangerous, irresponsible and socially unacceptable actually makes total sense for a college student.

I write this article from a position of experience. Attending university in London, motorcycles were my only transportation. In fact, they still are; I haven’t owned a car in over 12 years. Despite that, I still managed to move between apartments, pick up friends, commute through rain, snow and every other form of inclement weather and, even once, avoided a terrorist attack thanks to my choice in transportation.

Rather than the silly, dangerous toy most people think they are, bikes actually represent a much more sensible form of personal transportation than cars do. Hopefully this article helps you understand why and gives you the tools to carry that argument to the people around you. So, let’s look at the common reasons why bikes are dismissed and address each one in kind.

I’m Broke!
Well let’s assume that, like pretty much every person in this country, you need some form of transportation beyond a bus pass. A motorcycle will cost you less money than a car. Take a brand-new, shiny Honda CBR250R for example. That bike will do everything you need it to (slowly), including cross the country. Financing one runs as cheap as $85 a month. That’s likely less than your phone bill.

Compared to any sort of reasonable car, that little Honda (or anything like it) is going to be cheaper to buy, cheaper to service, cheaper to insure and consumables like tires are going to cost far less money too. I used one as my only transportation for a couple weeks a while back and, even running between LA and Orange County and riding all day every day, my weekly fuel bill never topped $12.

I just ran an insurance quote for that CBR250R through Progressive for a 20-year old male living where I do in Hollywood: $214 a year.

Motorcycles do bring a larger upfront cost than cars when you factor in riding gear. I mean, all you need to start driving a car is a jaunty pair of string back driving gloves, whereas on a bike, you need an entire outfit. Let’s look at the cost there:

Helmet (Icon Alliance Dark): $150
Suit (Aerostich Roadcrafter Ultralight): $727
Boots (Teknic Chicane): $120
Gloves (Alpinestars SP-8): $90
Total: $1,087

And that’s all super nice stuff that you can wear nearly year-round and will last for ages. And we’re assuming you’re starting from scratch, with no existing gear or hand-me-downs. If you already ride or someone in your family does, then your total expense will be even less.

When calculating the cost, make sure you compare apples to apples. Sure, a Ducati costs more than a 1993 Ford Escort. But how much is a ’93 UJM? Hell, that Ford is probably worth more than the deposit on that CBR, plus all that riding gear. Selling your car, just about any car, will buy you a bike, gear and fund a year or more’s riding.

It’s Dangerous!
It actually is. Per miles traveled in 2007, American motorcyclists were 37 times more likely to die in accident than car drivers.

But, the results of other studies start putting that staggering number in perspective. The 1981 Hurt Report — the largest study ever conducted on motorcycle accident causation — found that alcohol was a factor in 50 percent of all fatal bike accidents. So don’t drink and ride and, statistically, you’re only running 18.5 times the risk of driving a car. 60 percent of those killed weren’t wearing helmets. So now we’re only at 11 times the risk. Factor in training, ABS brakes (available on that CBR250R), full safety gear and the fact that you promised your mom that you were going to be really, really, super careful and that statistical risk falls even further.

For a time, I used my bike to get to the laundromat.

I Need To Carry Stuff!
Giant 87-roll economy packs of toilet paper from Costco; full-size sheets of plywood from Home Depot; the entire contents of your dorm room or apartment; 12 kegs of beer for the frat party. How can you get that stuff on a bike?! The honest answer is you can’t. But how often do you really need to? Once a month? Even less?

Assuming you’re not a complete misanthrope, you’re probably going to make some friends at college. One or more of those friends is probably going to have a car. Ask nicely and they might even give you a ride sometime. Car sharing services like ZipCar are also now omnipresent in college towns and you can rent a UHaul van for the big stuff starting at $20 a day. Even if you’re using those services on the regular, they’re going to be cheaper than monthly car payments and other costs.

Need to go pick up some tools and general apartment stuff from Home Depot? What I’ve been doing for over the past decade is simply offering to come fix something on a buddy’s house or car in exchange for a little help on their end. Moving apartments? A UHaul, pizza and beer for your buddies will cost you less than $100. Going home for Christmas? Put a couple sweaters on under that Roadcrafter.

Heck, I have a 70lbs puppy, am fixing up a house, cook most of my meals at home and go camping like once a month and I haven’t owned a car in over a decade. It’s much less of a problem than you think it’s going to be and the time/money saved, plus the quality of life added by riding a motorcycle way more than makes up for having to bum the occasional lift.

For personal transportation, a truly personal form of transportation that doesn’t create congestion, is easy to park and saves you money, combined with the occasional lift or car share, is simply superior.

  • akvamme

    plus, let’s be honest. motorcycles are way cooler than cars, anyway.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Reason #5792 to ride a motorcycle: other dudes will think you’re awesome.

      • Maverick

        Unless it’s a 250 (as per article’s poor recommendation). Unless you can’t get a license, and need under 50cc’s, getting anything less than a 400 is stupid.

        • james slinger

          Except for the fact that the 250′s are very capable machines, and will cost less per month than a 400.

          • Gonfern

            every chance I get, I still hop on my friend’s ninja 250 (a hand-me-down from me) and go put some shame into the Gixxer Thou’ Yo! bros down at the local twisties. Educating the motorcycle community one squid at a time. :)

        • JR

          Clearly, you’re a fool. But that’s OK.

        • Stuki

          ???

          I’d take the WR250R over a DRZ-400 any day.
          You’re living in the past. New, liquid cooled, fuel injected, 250s are perfectly adequate, perhaps even preferable, to bigger bikes for many utilitarian chores.

          • Maverick

            We’re talking streetbikes, not enduros. The only way ‘dudes’ will think you’re awesome is if you’re on a motorcycle – not some bitch, 18hp look-alike version of a real one. Stick with your single rotor front brakes, please.

            • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

              I bet you have a HUGE penis.

              • Manny S

                It’s funny because it’s true. I’ve have an interesting job over the past 20 or so years in which I often travel to my job site via parachute, have visited around 30 countries in which the local past times tend to be bullet and bomb dodging, and generally doing the things Hollywood likes to exaggerate about because the truth isn’t interesting enough. Clearly I need to compensate. My ride? A CBR250R. Why? Because every day I ride that instead of my Red Necked out Land Rover I save about $20 on fuel alone. That and I don’t give a crap about impressing naive young “mavericks” anymore.

            • Stuki

              What’s this sudden obsession about what dudes think? Unless your riding is just an excuse to wear tight leathers, and perhaps buttchaps……?

              • Maverick

                I ride a bike, a 1989 GSXR 750, that cost me $1,000 and needed about $600 in parts. This is important, because I learned lots while doing repairs about how a bike like this works. It’s also important, because a bike like this demands attention – both as a rider, and as a ‘dude’. I can jump on any bike now, whether it’s a Vespa or an R1, and be confident in riding it. Take some squid off a 250 and give him a 600 cc sports bike and hope he doesn’t kill himself. Again, unless you’re getting a scoooter (which has all the benefits of the above article, is cheaper, and technically safer), get something with guts. Here’s what I ride: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_4q3AjP-9pUQzhsalVQZVFrczA/edit?usp=sharing

                • Stuki

                  Cool bike. And I hear ya about repairs et al. If you know how to fix stuff, and corollarily how to determine the value of used stuff; today you enjoy such a tremendous asymmetric advantage over 90+% of the population, that you can live almost like a king, for less than most people spend living like a serf.

                  I’m pretty sure that, all else being equal, most guys would prefer your knowledge and your bike, to being someone mechanically clueless with a rock bottom new bike. But, acquiring all that experience/knowledge isn’t cost free. And today, most people have shown with their actions that they would rather outsource all that to manufacturers/dealers. And put up with getting less bike for more money, in exchange for less time, effort and agony invested. That things are thus, may be unfortunate in some absolute sense, but does not invalidate the argument that the CBR250R is still way cooler than any $4000 car anyone not knowledgeable about evaluating and fixing used cars will likely be able to buy and run.

                  Personalized classic 750 > New 250 >>>>>>>>>>>>> Beater car, in other words.

                  And, Scooters are bad for your back, and suck at any speed above 50mph. The CBR250R (I’m extrapolating. I’ve only ever ridden the 250 Ninja), is closer to a 750, or even a Panigale, than it is to a bloody 2 inch suspension travel scooter. Motorbikes are cool, period. And while we can argue some are cooler than others, they are all cooler than some cage.

                • Maverick

                  Well said, and you’re right 90% of people probably can’t explain a combustion cycle let alone what a venturi effect is to make a carb work.

                • Robert Horn

                  Knowing how carbs work is right up there with typewriter repair experience and proficiency with roadside horseshoeing.

                • Dustin Coury

                  False.

            • Guzzto

              You’re very new here aren’t you?

              • Maverick

                Yes, apparently you’re all softies

            • Piglet2010

              Women like my single front rotor Bonnie – even the purple/white colorway.

            • Guest

              I get more looks and comments on my cb125s than I do on any of my other bikes, from men and women alike.

            • Dan.

              I get more looks and comments on my cb125s than I do on any of my other bikes, from men and women alike. I’ll stick to my front drum, you can have two rotors to stop you from 30mph.

          • Andrew Karmy

            THIS.
            My XT225 is just better than the 1200GS for nipping around town at 20-45mph. Big bikes are for transcontinental runs and going FAST. Weight mattters.

            • Piglet2010

              One can hit big potholes without problems on a TW200.

            • Stuki

              The XT is really cool for riding slow, which is all you really do in tight city settings. I have never been on a bike that turns tighter than that one. Even normal dual sports feel comparatively clumsy in tight city maneuvers. I remember last time I tried one, and the first thought that came to mind, was “this thing feels like a cheap, heavy mountainbike with an engine; in a good way.”

              Another cool thing about the XT, is that you can easily “park” it simply by laying it down on it’s side. It’s easy to pick up even for a 250 dual sport, and there’s nothing fancy to scratch up. Which can be is awfully nice when your buddies live halfway up a long, steep, windy hill in San Francisco.

              • Piglet2010

                The only thing really wrong with the XT is that it lacks the funkiness of the TW200. ;)

        • Loren Andrews

          Most people cant even tell what CC your bike is unless they’ve ridden it themselves. And trust me a 250 is plenty for city and occansional freeway.

        • Mykola

          Unless you’re hanging out with Gixxer Bros, even a Virago 250 is cool at university.

        • E. Bell

          Do you also insult people who drive Corollas because they don’t drive Ferraris? Do you track down people on comfort bicycles and tell them they should nut up and get a carbon tube fixie? Jesus Christ. Not everyone is obsessed with being “badass” or even with going fast. Go back to the frathouse/truck rally.

        • runnermatt

          Your forgetting, most people put motorcycles into three categories: A cruiser is a Harley (regardless of the actually brand), A sport bike is Japanese (again regardless of actual brand), and if it doesn’t fit those two categories they just call it a motorcycle and that is all they know.

          In regards to cars, it bothers me that some people don’t know there is any type of transmission other than “automatic”, they don’t know what the tachometer signifies, and all they do know is that you turn the key to start the car and R is for backing up and D is for going forward and you turn the wheel left/right to go left/right.

        • mikki sixx

          Cool blanket statement, bro.

      • Stuki

        Dudes?????

        • http://stellarplum.tumblr.com/ Marie Delgado

          The ladies too, dude.

          • Stuki

            OK. I feel better now :)

          • 200 Fathoms

            Unless you’re riding a Bonneville. Then it’s just dudes. 60-year-old dudes.

            • Piglet2010

              No, the 60-year old dudes want to tell you about how their brother’s cow-orker had a Bonnie in 1971. :(

      • Mr.Paynter

        This. Those sideways longing stares out the car windows of suburban dads.

      • Stephen Butt

        Soo much truth here, bought my first bike last year and the usual “I’m sure the chicks will dig this” went through my head. Sure enough I get a least one comment every time I ride from some guy telling me how cool my bike is, the women have just yet to show up. Now a dog on the other hand is an entirely different story! I Borrowed my friend’s Husky puppy the other weekend and life was grand.

        So my conclusion: Want to get noticed on your bike? Purchase a side-car and put a puppy in it…..

        • OtisGerald

          I’ve actually had surprising luck with the bike attracting girls thing. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I live in NYC and most people don’t have cars, let alone a motorcycle, so any form of transportation is appealing.

          I tend not to bring my helmet into bars, but at least 3 times in the past 6 months the jacket alone (simple black cafe jacket) has been enough to tip off a girl to the fact I have a bike and result in a ‘ride’.

        • Dan.

          my dog rides in my backpack, and I’m currently cutting apart a second gas tank to turn into a clip on side pod w/ roll cage for the dog. women love the dog+motorcycle thing.

    • Gonfern

      FACT! In Highschool I had a sweet Mustang that I spent every penny on to make sure that it did panty dropping burnouts. Number of girls impressed? zero…dudes thought it was cool though. Sold it and got my first little 250….dudes thought it was sissy, chicks thought I was Tom Cruise in Top Gun….desired effect achieved.lol

  • susannaschick

    is that EBoz in the sidecar?!?!

    Also, there’s a typo. “…. dangerous toy most people think they are.” should read “… dangerous toy most Americans think they are.” In the rest of the world, people weren’t brainwashed by the automotive industry. People can also rent my track day bike hauler (a Toyota 4Runner) on relayrides.com It’s currently in Santa Monica, earning me $450 for the month.

    Yes, riding to school is way cooler than being driven…

    • TP

      That’s pretty sweet that you can rent out your truck. On my to do list to put up my Ranger…

  • Zachary Church

    Awesome article, I love it! Correct me if I’m wrong though, when buying a new bike (with a loan), You are required to have full coverage insurance. Which runs about $600-800 for a 21 year old with one infraction in the last 3 years (Me with Progressive).

    • JR

      Depends on the type of loan it is. Many unsecured credit options exist to purchase a bike. Given the higher interest rates, it’s not the best choice necessarily, but since a “beginner” bike is usually around 6k or less, the high interest rate won’t make the payments out of reach. Each buyer should research and decide the best option. Of course.

    • C.Stevens

      That’s still cheaper than car insurance.

    • E. Bell

      At 35 with no recent infractions, living in a medium sized major city, my insurance on a 250cc bike with maxed out coverage runs me less than about $160 per year. A 650 or larger would be close to twice as much last I checked, which probably holds true across ages and driving records.

      • Zachary Church

        Well there is a large difference between 21 and 35.

        • E. Bell

          Yeah, for sure. I’m just saying the value proposition of a 250 is
          probably about the same when it comes to lower insurance rates. No doubt
          it’s way more expensive in total for a 21 year old. But, you know, “it gets better…”

    • Piglet2010

      When I bought a new TW200, Progressive jacked up my rate $4/month for full coverage. :)

  • Stuki

    While bikes make way more sense for hauling 1 person around urbanity than cars, your place of residence (SoCal) does make the tradeoffs a bit more bikesided than for those living in, say, Minneapolis.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Sure, and there’s also cities like New York where owning any sort of vehicle beyond a bicycle makes no sense at all.

      • UrbanMoto

        Love having my moto in NYC, though I guess I don’t really know if it make sense and I’m pretty jealous of my Cali buds.

  • Stuki

    Non gas consumables tend to be higher on bikes than cars. The kind of cheap, everlasting hardrubber tires that work perfectly well on a beater car, is still going to feel borderline suicidal on wet pavement on a bike. Then there’s more frequent servicing, chains, sprockets, chain lube etc., etc.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Again, you need to compare apples to apples. Sure, tires for a ’93 Escort are going to be cheaper than tires for a Panigale, but tires for a CBR250R are going to be cheaper than that Escort.

      • Stuki

        Even correcting for expected mileage? El Cheapo car tires can last 100,000 miles on a small, underpowered beater car. I always assumed any bike would start feeling scary before 1/5th of that.

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          Nah, they’re going to last less miles obviously, but they’re super affordable to replace on small bikes like that. You’re looking at ~$200 fitted.

      • Maverick

        Comparing a CBR250R to a Panigale, in any sort of comparison, is like comparing a Miata to a Veyron. Don’t be that guy.

  • msay

    The lack of legal lansplitting in the rest of the country means traffic does apply to bikes more often than not. Traffic is easier to negotiate on something so much smaller though. I really wish the AMA would push for lanesplitting in the rest of the country, fighting helmet laws is a waste of time.

    • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

      Couldn’t agree with you any more. Had to comment because upvoting just wasn’t applause enough for your comment.

    • Dan Sciannameo

      its only illegal when cops are around

      • Stuki

        And not stuck in traffic themselves……..

        • Guest

          Slim chance…

        • Mykola

          Slim chance, they’ll come up behind you riding the shoulder faster than you’ll safely go between the #1 & #2 lanes

          • Piglet2010

            I cannot understand police departments that have cops riding without full and proper gear.

          • Stuki

            OK, guys! Most highway cops are just as caged up and stuck as the rest of mundane humanity.

            And, in those crazy, totalitarian whacklands where even something so natural as lane splitting and chewing gum is banned, do they even have motocops? Don’t they consider it unfair that some copes get to ride around free, while the rest are stuck in cages? And, if they do, are said motocops allowed to lane split tocatch up to you? I thought that was too dangerous….

    • Randy S

      Plus one on this comment all around, but especially on the lane splitting piece. It would be huge.

      Anyone have ideas on how to go about lobbying for this in a given state? Surely the AMA isn’t the only route these days.

      • Piglet2010

        Lane-splitting was proposed in Illinois, but killed by ABATE lobbying, since the bill also included mandatory lid use. :(

        • Mykola

          I would trade no-helmet-law status for lane splitting in a heartbeat

    • Kr Tong

      This is probably why UC and Cal state campuses have several ridiculously large motorcycle parking lots.

    • Tune

      I definitely agree, I don’t really see why any logical person would oppose wearing a minimum of a helmet when riding. I’d much rather see lane filtering/splitting become the norm then people not wearing helmets. It might be your choice, but I find not even wearing a helmet a pretty dumb one. It’s not like when we were little kids not wanting to wear a helmet going 1mph on a kid’s bike since it looked lame. It’s pretty cool looking to be decked out in gear on a motorcycle much like it is cool to be decked out in your full gear when playing football.

  • http://stellarplum.tumblr.com/ Marie Delgado

    YES! I just started my fall semester today and let me tell you how damn awesome it is to ride my motorcycle there. Motorcycle parking is FREE while cars pay $60 a semester and they are fighting for parking spaces and circling around the garages.
    My moto is the ONLY way I can sanely commute around los angeles as a college kid. I need to get my friends on two wheels too.

  • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

    When I sold cars I remember watching traffic go by at one of the busier intersections of town and noticing 95% or more of the cars had precisely ONE person in them. Same for the big monstrosities of SUVs. That was the moment I realized how stupid most American vehicle purchases are, sold my car, bought a 620 Multistrada and never looked back.

    • Shanged

      You must be a fine-arts major:
      http://rideapart.com/2013/08/back-to-school-bikes/

      On second though, 620 may not count. I’ve got one, and I’m an engineer.

      • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

        LOL. I saw that. Not a fine arts major, actually just going back to school (15 years later) for electrical engineering myself. I wanted a Monster, but the guys at my local dealership convinced me to try the Multi based on my size, usefulness of the bike, etc. One test ride and I was signing papers for it.

  • MotoEnthusiast

    I always wonder what type of motorcycles you guys ride personally.

    • thepierced

      Ya know, that would make for a good article. We hear a lot about the bikes you are riding currently, whether they be press bikes, or for review/evaluation. I second the motion. All in favor? :)

    • Afonso Mata

      From what I’ve implied from RideApart’s staff’s posts, I’d say Sean owns a GSXR1000 and Wes owns an RSV4. As for the rest of the contributors, I have no idea, except for Jamie’s epic “ratrod” CBR600RR.

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        i think a stream of comments as to what you think we own and why you we own it/it fits us is a way more interesting read.

        • MotoEnthusiast

          So… you want a RideApart Roast. Seems easy enough.

          Disclaimer: This is all in jest, I really like what you guys do here.

          I’ll start with Wes, hmmm.. what would I ride if I was a “6-4″ pedantic, English schooled, super douche, know it all? It would obviously have to be something fast so i could brag about all the horsepower I have to my buddies but more importantly it would give me an excuse to bring up the Hurt Report for the ZILLIONTH time. There I’d be able to yet again slay the naysayers with my vast knowledge of the 1981 study. Let’s see, let’s see I’m not a fan of the HP4 because I’m so immensely skilled that I hate all the help from the electronic aids because they simply don’t provide me with enough “feel”. Owning a Japanese bike is out of the question (not exclusive enough)…. If I’m Wes I own a RSV4, it’s fast, extotic and more importantly squids can’t afford it.

          Now on to Sean. Yeah you know what’s coming hipster, hipster, hipster. “Oh I’m Sean I can’t possibly buy a new bike it’s not ironic enough. That’s why I’ll never get rid of my 1970′s CB750. She breaks down on me and i just fix her riiiight up, isn’t life swell?” (I say swell because existentially it’s just better. Unexpected right? That’s my credo). But besides that rust with wheels no hipster on Earth can say no to anything Matte black that’s why my Ducati Monster with cafe bars, off road tires and upside down bar end mirrors is my other go to.

          As for Tim, Tim’s old, I love his articles but I’m not that invested into which Harley he owns. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I found one of the original GSXR’s in his garage just so he could say he’s tried the sport bike and didn’t like it.

          • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

            best. comment. ever.

          • Piglet2010

            I dunno – Wes seems more of a MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR type of guy. :)

      • Khali

        I think it was a GSXR750, the 1000 is too much for public roads, and they have always said that the 750 was ideal.

        And “The other Sean” had a bonneville and has now a NC700X if im right.

    • Mark D

      Constant stream of top-of-the-line pres bikes > Owning your own.
      I think.

  • Francis Nguyen

    Totally agree with this! I’m in my third year of university and have to commute to uni (located in the city). Commuting is such a breeze, when I can filter and park for free right in front of the doorstep when cars pay $4 an hour. Also, my commute is cut in half when I ride compared to taking public transport!

  • james

    your both lucky its 25$ a day to park at my university, sydney uni australia.

    • TP

      Holy fck.

    • Stuki

      A day??? On a motorcycle? What the heck does it cost to park a car? $100/hr?

      One way of funding “free” public education, I guess……

      • james

        Sorry i should have said thats for cars, bikes are free of course! but yes, the consequence of having a city spring up around your uni a hundred years after you built it.

        I guess tp is still unlucky by having to pay for his bike, but 70 bucks a semester is at least not a crazy sum.

      • stever

        lololol

        Yeah it’s totally socialism when you allow the free market to set prices instead of subsidizing things.

        http://stephansmithfx.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Supply-and-Demand-Graph.png

        • Stuki

          At a current equilibrium of $25/day for a motorcycle, in any market bearing any resemblance to anything to do with freedom, the supply of motorcycle parking spots wouldn’t stay fixed ad infinitum, would it?

          Or, is your idea of a “free market” one in which every parking spot on Manhattan is zoned out of existence, except one; with the result being some Goldman exec paying the “equilibrium price” of $1000/day to park his Panigale R in it, while everyone else walks?

  • jonoabq

    I could never get the math to work out, but I ride a motorcycle anyway. The seventeen year old, paid for long ago Subaru mostly sits in the driveway until it snows.

    • akvamme

      same for me. i have a pickup i drive in the winter… and to recover broken bikes, etc. in the 6 years i’ve had it, the damn truck has only driven 19,000 miles. 2 wheels = better.

      • Piglet2010

        Need a truck for hauling your bike to track days/races/OHV areas.

  • Michael Love

    My Dad made me get a bike for University. I am now starting to teach at said University and still have never owned a car.

  • runnermatt

    My CBR250R costs:
    Payments: $98.29 per month @ 4.99% for 48 months
    Insurance: 1st year (2012) @ age 32 ~$180. 2nd year (2013) @ age 33 $141.
    Fuel: I usually get around 67 mpg. I’ve been working on my car since mid July and have been riding the 250R almost exclusively. July I drove/rode 2083 miles and spent $258 on gas. So far in August I’ve driven/ridden 1685 miles and have spent $177.69. In the winter when I don’t ride I usually spend close to $425 on gas for the car.
    Gear: I would say I’ve spent around about $1000 for helmet, jacket, pants, boots, and gloves. I bought a D38 Dryspec bag from Twisted Throttle to put my lunch box and other stuff in when I go to work. It is a HUGE bag.

  • Maximus

    Nice article, Wes. Although your statistical assumptions need some work… (unless I’m reading this way too literally and you’re just messing around).

    Just because alcohol was involved in 50% of fatal accidents, it doesn’t mean that had it not been involved that there would not have been a fatal accident. Same goes for helmets; while wearing one may have saved the rider, it does not guarantee that it would have.

    But I still ride. Statistical odds totally not in my favor.

    • mrtasty

      Not a math whiz here, but I don’t think he’s saying that you won’t get in a wreck/die if you don’t drink – just that if there are 30 fatal accidents a month (in hypotheticaland) and in 15 of those the rider was drinking, you’d be 50% less likely to die if you don’t drink and ride.

      That said, I wonder about the number of those 30 that were both NOT wearing a helmet and HAD been drinking – the compound effects probably make the math trickier than what Wes did in the article.

      The bottom line is that there are many things you can do to make yourself statistically less likely to die while riding a motorcycle, but there are no guarantees that you won’t. Same as with anything else; although with a bike on public streets you will generally always have a statistically greater likelihood of dying than while driving a car or riding in a commercial jet.

  • Piglet2010

    Sorry, but what really makes sense for a college student is not having a motorized vehicle at all.

    As for year-around use, I have ridden my TW200 on snow covered back roads (where there are few idiot cagers sliding out of control), but only after they are plowed – when the wind drifts the snow up, even a 4WD pick-up with chains is challenged to keep moving. And even with heated gear, 500+ miles per day is no fun when temperatures drop below 20°F.

    • Afonso Mata

      wow a college student that lives 250+ miles away from college campus is something I’ve never heard of.

      • Piglet2010

        When I was in college, they kicked us out of the dorms for Thanksgiving, Christmas/winter break, and spring break. One year on the last day of spring break I was riding 5 hours back to school in a couple of inches of snow and 20°F weather on a CB400T. I had to stop and warm my gloved hands on the exhaust several times, and was shivering for hours afterwards.

        • Mark D

          I used to own a 70s orange CB400t also. I rode it from Boston to Cape Cod one November night to put it it in its winter home. It wasn’t 20, but it was below freezing, and I’m really glad I didn’t pass out from hypothermia and die on the way down. Not a lot of wind protection on that bike, but that fact that a bike made in 1978 was still running in 2011 is pretty impressive.

          • Piglet2010

            Mine was a 1980 (also orange), and I owned it in the late 1980′s when heated grips and vests were very exotic, and gear such as the Roadcrafter was still a few years into the future. I see the CB500F as a modern version of the CB400T – suitable for beginners, but also capable enough for experienced riders and longer trips.

            • Mark D

              Its true, I never wanted for more engine on that bike. However, calling the forks and disk/caliper on that bike “suspension” and “brakes” stretches the meaning of those two words near the breaking point.

              • Piglet2010

                Unless you ride the CB400T back to back with a Sportster of the same vintage.

  • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

    I’m in college and have a bike. Another great advantage is that you can use it as an excuse and no one will harrass you about it: not drinking tonight, I’m on two wheels; can’t drive your wasted ass home, I’ve got the bike. It sounds stupid to say that motorcycling can should be used as an excuse when we all love it so much, but the truth is, all that ‘sense of independence’ and ‘freedom’ sales pitch nonsense actually exists when you have a bike. Doing something different than everyone else simply because you have a moto is about the only thing that makes you impervious to college peer pressure.

    • Afonso Mata

      Amen! 2 wheels == 2 beer ;)

    • Mark D

      I actually LOVE using my bike as an excuse to not drink. Saves money/my live, plus I can leave the bar whenever I want without a $35 cab ride.

  • Khali

    The main concern to most non-motorcyclists who ever think about riding, is the danger. They dont really mind statistics about how many times youre more likely having an accident than on a car. What they mind is what happens when you have that accident. ‘Your body is your chassis’, they always say. And yes, I talk them about riding gear, but even wearing full gear, chances are, that you are getting hurt on a motorcycle crash.

    So they compare, their car, with ABS, ESP, 6 airbags, a chassis designed for protecting you when crashing, heater, air-conditioner…versus a motorcycle, with ABS, a helmet, your bones, and maybe a silly-looking suit to add some crash/weather protection. It is cold in winter and hot in summer, quite riskier in the rain and unthinkable on the snow. Does that make up for avoiding traffic jams and taking half of the time on commuting? For most people it doesnt.

    My brother is on university now, and I have offered giving him my ’91 katana 600 for his commuting. The bike is mostly restored, fully serviced and mechanically trusty. He just needs a moto license and keep servicing it. He prefers commuting by subway, If he had a car, he would go to the uni on his car, no doubt.Thats how scared of motorcycles most people is.

    • TFR

      This is true in a huge way. I recently joined a ‘riding’ group, and 50% of them barely ride because they’re scared. Admittedly, Portland OR can be a very scary place to ride, due to peoples inability to drive the speed limit or focus more than 10% of their attention on the task of driving, but I’ve ridden here for 10 years safely (mostly). 22 years on a bike has given me good instincts and reflexes, so I can relax and have faith that I can handle what comes at me. As a new rider, though, riding in and around a city would have been a nightmare.
      Anyhow… if you want to ride, then ride. Find somewhere quiet and safe to practice and get up to speed. When you’re finally on the road, PAY F*CKING ATTENTION. It will keep you alive and you will realize more and more that motorcycling is the funnest thing ever, and has huge benefits for body, soul and mind. Like all worthwhile things, however, you gots to pay your dues…

    • Piglet2010

      I think I am much safer on a motorcycle – I am much less likely to harm someone else than if I was in a multi-ton steel cage.

      People need to think less selfishly.

      • Khali

        That’s an interesting point of view, but still most people will think first about themselves, then about themselves, then maybe the others :)

  • Afonso Mata

    I agree 100% with 99% of the article.
    The 1% I disagree is the chosen bike: it should’ve been a scooter.
    Why?

    First off, you can’t beat a scooter on how easy it is to ride. And since we’re assuming that we’re preaching to the scared-sh*tless non-riding choir, that’s a selling argument: “you twist the throttle to go and you have two brake levers just like your bicycle”.

    Then there’s the price: You can either buy an Honda PCX (125 in Europe or 150 in Cali) for less than $3k. It’s good for 65mph and 90mpg. Servicing is cheap as donuts: the oil sump is as small as an 1 liter bottle of 5w30 that you buy for less than $10 and for $100 you can buy a couple of Michelin City Grip rubbers.
    If you make the argument that 12hp is not enough, you can look at the (although Taiwanese-built) bullet proof Sym Gts Evo 300i. You can get it (here in Europe) for around $4k. It’s got 29hp, it’s good for 90mph and returns 60mpg.

    Then there’s “moving stuff around”. For me this is one of the best selling points for scooters. Not only there’s plenty of room under the seat, but also your bike won’t look any uglier and you won’t look like a dumbass if you attach a top box to your scooter. There are various sizes and various prices for those: you can spend $40 on a little one just for your helmet, or $150 on the mighty Givi 46 liter box, where you can store pretty much everything short from IKEA furniture. You can buy a week’s worth of grosseries and still carry all your books and studying paraphernalia, and then your laptop on your backpack ;)

    To finalize my argument, college boys have to put “the chick factor” into the mix. Some girls like the badass boy racer and the little cbr250 would make them smile. But remember we were preaching to the scared-sh*tless non-riding choir: a small version of a Rossi machine may scare them away. On the other hand, “your scooter is so cute, let me hop on it’s back” has the potential to have you hopping on her back later that evening ;)

    Just for a bit of evidence, here’s a pic of my best friend’s PCX 125 with 25 bottles of beer under the seat:

    • Stuki

      You euros are spoiled! On LA quality roads, 2 inches of suspension travel and glass bottles containing shaken and stirred beverage, is a potentially lethal combination….. The NC is a much better bet over here, if a built in trunk is a requirement.

      • Afonso Mata

        C’mon bro! This was just for fun. 1/2 mile ride from the supermarket at 2mph ;)

    • Mark D

      The only thing a scooter needs to keep running is gasoline. I saw 30 year old Honda cubs that get driven daily in Saigon traffic with a family of four and two pigs on top, and I’d be shocked if any of them have had the oil EVER changed.

    • Piglet2010

      The under-seat space in the PCX is considerably smaller than my Elite 110 (Lead 110 in Europe). I can fit a full face lid and a folded jacket with back protector in mine when I am not riding. :)

    • Khali

      A TMAX will carry all your stuff as comfortably and is FASTER than a GSXR on any road :D

      (any european will know this joke)

  • Justin McClintock

    I’ve gone over this over and over again with friends. I ride because I want to, not because it saves me money. Every bike I’ve got (2003 SV1000S, 2005 DRZ400SM, 1978 DT175) costs me significantly more to operate per mile than my 2001 Honda Civic did. The Civic’s tires were cheap and they lasted 40,000 miles when I beat on it. And that was for kinda sporty rubber. I could have gotten cheaper tires that lasted even longer. Full coverage insurance on the Civic was only slightly more than the DRZ or SV and that’s only because the insurance company (mistakenly) thinks I won’t ride them as much as I’ll drive the car. In the first 100K miles, the Civic needed gas, oil & filters, a couple of air filters, 1 set of front brake pads, and some tires. That was IT. The bikes? They’ll need multiple chains, oil changes 3x as often (and more expensive), tires 5x as often (costing about 1/2 as much per set….not a bargain), brake pads (that cost more than the ones on the car), valve checks (which are only free if you do them yourself…and have the tools, which aren’t free), air filters (more expensive than the ones on the car).

    I love motorcycles as much as the next guy. But trying to make an argument that they’re cheaper than owning a compact car is just silly. They’re not. Besides, I see plenty of dangers in the idea of somebody running around on a bike because they’re trying to save money. I don’t even want to think about what gear that person might be wearing or what corners they might be cutting to save a couple bucks.

    • 80-watt Hamster

      Broadly, you’re probably right, but it can depend on situation like anything else. If parking for a car costs you a bunch at your destination (like the $25/DAY example above, but that’s rare) AND where you live (say $30/mo. if you have to rent a garage or space), but the bike doesn’t, the equation skews significantly bikeways. Or if you have a place to park a bike, but not a car, and have to spend a bunch on taxis and public transport otherwise. It’s not going to work out for everyone, but it’s at least worth a look, yeah?

      • Justin McClintock

        True, there will always be exceptions to the rule. If you go to school in downtown LA and public transportation for some reason isn’t a viable option, a motorcycle (or scooter) would be a great choice. But for the vast majority of college students, a compact cars is about as cheaply as they’ll ever get around.

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          Factor in a city and, for a car, you need to factor in the significant wear and tear and the reality that is parking tickets. Then you’ve likely got to pay for parking (at home and at school) and pay much more in insurance. Cities are the natural enemies of the automobile and that manifests itself in cost.

          • Justin McClintock

            Wes, I live in Atlanta. So I’m keenly aware of the city aspect of things. The car is still cheaper than any of my bikes per mile driven. By a large margin in fact. And if I were to ride the bikes even more, it wouldn’t really help the cause…I already put more miles on them than on the car.

            • Stuki

              Now, if you include any kind of living wage for the number of hours stuck in traffic in a city like Atlanta, suddenly bikes become much more cost effective……

              At least in LA, aside from the actual time saved, the predictability of time a trip takes on a bike is a huge boon. In a car, if a meeting is important, you have to take worst case (freeway accident backing the whole city up 4 hours) into account, as well as the possibility of only finding parking a mile away from where you’re going. So you end up with dead time more often than not. On a bike, OTOH, you can schedule much tighter, since there are so many fewer unforeen events that can affect your schedule.

              • Justin McClintock

                Actually, no. Outside of California, lane splitting isn’t legal in the US. Meaning, if you’re stuck in traffic in a car, legally, you’re stuck in traffic on a bike. And given that tickets don’t sit well within the realms of a college student’s budget, especially one trying to save money, it’s generally a bad idea to ignore the law.

                And we haven’t even started to discuss safety gear yet. A car is reasonably safe year round, regardless of what the driver is wearing. A motorcycle? Especially if you’re going to use it year round as primary transportation? You’re looking at having at least two jackets, two pairs of overpants, a couple pairs of gloves, at least two different pairs of boots….even if you can get by with a single helmet, you’ve just tacked on a couple thousand dollars worth of gear if you’re getting decent stuff. And if it snows, well, then you’re just screwed. And believe it or not, that happens on occasion in most of the country. Not every place is SoCal. It even snows in Hotlanta once or twice a year.

                • Randy S

                  For the last 3.5 years, an 1150gs has been my only transportation here in Boston where it snows 3 months of the year and I’ve found the arrangement works really well. This is especially true when everyone in the city has to go out and shovel their street spots. :D

                  Of course I would have to ride a bike regardless of my car situation because I’m basically addicted. That probably goes for most of us on this site, so the hidden message here is that a lot of us could dump our cars and save a lot of money and hassles.

                • Stuki

                  I see your points. I you have to be stuck in traffic like a premature dead guy, why not do it in a coffin, as is customary? But do you really get ticketed for slipping to the front at traffic lights in Atlanta? Splitting freeways I can see being policed, but surface streets?

                  For gear, in SF all you really need is a ‘Stitch. It never really gets either too cold, or too hot. In LA, I wouldn’t want to be without some mesh in addition.

                  I guess there are reasons why Cali is such a center for motorcycling in the US…….

                • Justin McClintock

                  Yeah, that’s why anybody in pretty much anywhere else in the US takes any article about motorcycle practicality written by somebody in Cali with a grain of salt. The rest of us don’t have Cali weather or Cali laws. You try to slip to the front of the line at the light anywhere else in the country and a cop sees it, you’re getting a ticket.

                • Stuki

                  Well, according to the Greenies, you’re all about to get Cali weather; while we’re on track to get the Sahara kind. And, as for laws,wtf is wrong with your statemates??? I mean, Cali is hardly some great example of an clued in electorate, but man……. I just can’t get over how it is humanly possible for someone to be so utterly moronic, as to even bother being aware of whether some moto rider rides in the space available to him. As far as I’m aware, most non riders in Cali aren’t even consciously aware that motorcyclists lane split, unless you specifically ask them to think about it. And ditto for every other country on the planet.

          • Piglet2010

            For me motorcycles cost more, since I have four (five if I count the scooter) but can only ride one at a time.

  • Kr Tong

    Groms should be marketed to college kids in the same way apple computers are. Both make about as much sense for college students too.

  • Khali

    I’d love to see modern studies about motorcycle accidents, with modern gear and helmets.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Problem is, the vast majority of motorcyclists remain knuckle dragging neanderthals who don’t wear gear and don’t know how to ride, so sadly the Hurt report remains pretty accurate.

      • Piglet2010

        99% of the time when I see a rider in full gear (advanced riding classes and track days excluded), I am looking at a reflective store-front window. :(

        • Khali

          Or riding mountain passes for fun. Most motorcyclists I see there are properly geared :)

          • Piglet2010

            Ain’t got no mountains here in Eye-Oh-Wah.

            (No lid or handlebar height laws either.)

  • socalutilityrider

    Just getting ready to leave the office right now and google maps traffic shows that it will take an hour in a car, I will be home in 20-30 minutes on the bike.

    If you work for yourself, and as a student your studies could be an extension of that ethos, and work in a crowded city, motorcycle or scooter is the way to go. I charted it out, and my bike saves me 2-4 hours a week not sitting in traffic or looking for parking. That time goes directly to my work, and I make more as a result. But I live in Socal, so lane splitting is the norm.

    That extra time adds up. And at the end of the day, time is your most precious resource. I for one do not want to invest it uselessly sitting in traffic.

    Also, I love “motorcycles as daily transportation” articles, please keep them up!

    • Piglet2010

      It takes me much longer to get home on a motorcycle than a car or light truck – because I take “long cuts” for fun. :)

      • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

        Time is money. Think of those fun diversions as investments in your well-being. :)

  • LS650

    When I was a uni student, I had a ratty old 10-speed bicycle. I think I bought it for $50. No gas, no insurance, virtually no maintenance.

    I would have liked to own a motorcycle then, but graduating without student loans won out.

  • Stuki

    Come to think of it, between their fascination for black leather, and those helmets, it would seem the nazis may well have been the original ATGATT riding population….

  • Maneesh Joshi

    Here in India, even 100cc bikes are considered too dangerous by parents so they gift their child a scooter when she/he goes to college. A CBR 250 is a luxury buy from the first pay cheque:-)

  • Thomas May

    So true, I’ve ridden a bike all three years of college so far and it’s been a blast! Not only does it dramatically improve my mood, performance and relaxation on a daily basis, it also saves me a ton of time! I leave for university, four miles away, 50 min before I want to be sitting in class. This includes: showering, gearing up, packing tankbag, unchaining/untarping my bike, parking, removing my helmet, gloves and tankbag, and walking to the classroom. I believe the actual travel time is something like 7-10 min, in a car just the travel time alone is 15-35 min depending on how many lights you hit. Not to mention I can park right up at the center of campus! (our car lots are at least 500 yards from anything, which takes 7 min to walk by itself). I love my big kawi!

    Although, I’m not sure how much money you save if you go with a liter bike or hyperbike, my insurance is $330/month (yes, per MONTH) and I have a clean driving record (although I’m 21). Also, 400 bucks for tires every 3000 miles kind of sucks.