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.
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:
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 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.