1. Motorcycles are expensive
If you’re buying a motorcycle as a “toy”, this probably won’t phase you, but if you’ve been convinced by the salesman that riding is cheaper than driving, there’s more you should know. Sure, they’re cheaper than a new car (unless it’s a Red Headed Italian Supermodel or has a bar and shield on the tank…), but you may find that that gently used bike you just brought home on the trailer has some additional expenses. Sure, 46 MPG on a bike is common, but it’s really not that gas, it’s the new tires every 5,000 miles (~$150 a tire, plus mounting and balancing), the oil changes every 6,000 miles (likely $200+ at a shop), and the gear you’re likely to accumulate (which could exceed $1000). You could squid it up if you choose, but in many states helmets are mandatory, at least for the first year; that’s easily a hundred bucks right off. Before long, you’ll probably want a good riding jacket, so the sleeves aren’t so damn short, and well, it gets cold when the sun goes down (that’s another $200, easy). Chaps or riding jeans are likely to set you back another hundred, and there’s also that whole “rain suit” thing. Not to mention what insurance is going to cost you, suddenly that driving record with a couple speeding tickets makes that new R6 a little steeper than you originally planned.
2. Motorcycles don’t have to be expensive
Right now you’re saying “but you just told me they were expensive?” Yes, I realize that, but if you’re not one of those people who buys things to improve your image, isn’t looking for an instrument of a mid-life crisis, and is otherwise frugal, riding a motorcycle can actually be cheap. This of course implies that you’re going to buy something of small displacement, used, and preferably pay cash. This also implies that you’re prepared to make steep, and I mean steep, sacrifices in the comfort department and ride virtually year-round and in inclement weather. I have heard many stories about folks, even here in Dayton, Ohio, that have had a motorcycle as their only vehicle (I assume this was in the 80’s…). Most (American) riders aren’t prepared to make sacrifices in lieu of comfort, or be caught dead on a 250cc bike (or God forbid a scooter) after holding their full endorsement for more than 3 months. However, for those willing to fully commit, one can actually experience a savings on gas, and in the city probably even on parking. A cheap, used, paid for, reliable Honda (or other UJM) can probably handle more than its fair share of abuse and neglect and is therefore probably not the “Garage Queen” Ducati I previously described; just a few quarts of oil and some “reliable” rubber on the rims and you could make out like a bandit. If nothing else, you’ll definitely have cash left over to buy suitable gear for the inclement weather you’re about to experience. Your motorcycle of choice is unlikely to place in any motorcycle shows, and your friends and family are going to call you “Crazy”. However, in the event gas prices reach $4/gallon again, you’ll start noticing how rarely you hear comments about your boring bike or how crazy you are for riding below freezing.
3. Rain is going to terrify you, but it doesn’t have to
Frequenters to the blog have read my comments about this before. On my previous bike, I was borderline terrified of rain. It didn’t handle especially bad in the rain, it was mostly the riding position when the rear wheel broke loose that bothered me. This really isn’t about me though, it’s about you as a first time rider. There you are, a few months under your belt, you’re out riding and the skies open up with nowhere to hide. You start asking yourself “will the front wheel hold?” and “How far should I lean?” Worse still, in the event you actually do spin the rear tire and get that exciting motorcycle fishtail thing going, the pucker-factor cranks up a few more notches. That lack of trust in your tires combined with not having the right gear to combat the elements often makes for a “once bitten, twice shy” situation for some riders, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I personally recommend that you make it a deliberate point to push the bike out into the driveway on a rainy day, and take a short ride around roads that you know just to get acclimated to how the bike handles in the rain. You’ll probably be surprised but just how well most modern tires stick to the pavement. If you’re a selfish guy like me, you might even find that you enjoy the (mostly) empty roadways you find when it’s raining, especially on the weekends. However, if you decide you’re strictly a “Sunny and 70” kind of rider, you may never outgrow this fear.
4. You meet people…
At a gas station, at a stop light, or in the parking lot while you’re putting on your gear, people stop and talk to you. Sometimes it’s simply “hey that’s a nice bike!” and they move on. Most of the time it’s “Sure is a nice day to be out riding!” or “Be safe!”; but sometimes it’s an older guy who wants to tell you about his old ’68 Bonneville that he loved so much (I call this the “Triumph Experience” which occurs frequently at gas stations when I’m filling up). If you like attention, you’re likely to find it on a motorcycle, but be warned, while you, young man, are looking to pick up “Chicks” with your hot new ride, know now, per my comments above, motorcycles are actually dude magnets.
5. No, you REALLY meet people
Despite wearing a full face helmet and tinted visor, you see a lot more while riding. Part of that is of course riding in “the zone”; being ultra-focused on everything going on around you, because if you’re not, it may literally kill you. However, the fact that you don’t have an A-pillar at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock blocking your view, you also see a lot more of what’s happening in front of you. Between that and the fact you’re watching every car within 200 yards of your bike, you start to notice what other drivers are “doing”, and in many cases, not doing. While many drivers also notice this, I find that the higher perch on my Scrambler has provided me with a superior view of someone’s game of “Angry Birds”, watching them read “War & Peace”, or occasionally having a bowl of cereal. Text messages and (hopefully) GPS functions are easily the most frequent thing I notice from distracted drivers, but without fail, you’ll see how fellow commuters spend their time behind the wheel.
6. This isn’t your dream bike
There I was, standing in the dealership about to take home the bike I had lusted after for two years. Then, after a couple, years you suddenly begin to notice… flaws… in your dream bike; be it, not enough power, not enough storage, or simply because you’re bored with it. There are exceptions, I have a co-worker who’s first motorcycle (ever!) was a ’07 Heritage Softail, and he still has it to this day (and no other bike). However, considering you’re not a seasoned motorcyclist, I suspect that odds are, in a relatively short period of time (2-4 years?), your heart starts to drift from that former love affair. Don’t feel bad, it happens to most of us, just keep this in mind before you pay top dollar for a new bike, make permanent (and irreversible) modifications to said motorcycle (like sweet skulls painted on the tank…), and then get your hopes up about getting anything remotely close to what you paid for it. The problem is, from day one, you honestly have no idea what kind of rider you’ll be, and therefore no idea what kind of bike you’ll need, so plan accordingly.
7. You find solace in solitude
Others have written about that fact that once you buy a motorcycle, you join a club. They mean that figuratively, and literally in some cases. Your circle friends may be the whole reason you’re buying a bike in the first place; however, you may find that you also enjoy riding alone. While riding in a car can be completely mundane, the journey from “here to there” is completely changed on a motorcycle; suddenly find yourself more “in-tune” with what’s going on around you. While I do often ride with various groups, I make a point of “exploring” the rural backroads solo, I stop when I want to, and just enjoy “my ride” at my pace. There’s just something about the smoky smell of wood burning stoves in the valleys and the sun setting behind the corn fields in fall that makes those rides special… you’ll see.
8. It’s Addicting
No really, motorcycles are addicting. While there are unquestionably poor, lonely motorcycles sitting neglected in thousands of garages right now, for many of us, this “hobby” becomes our primary pastime. As I’m writing this, flurries are falling outside the window, so there’s no doubt that others reading this are experiencing the same “winter withdraw” that occurs almost universally among riders this time of year. Come spring time, even riders who typically stick to the “Sunny and 70” rule even start make concessions, just to get back out on two wheels. For some, myself included, you find every excuse to take the bike to any given destination, regardless of what sacrifices must be made. In my case that means an expansive (and expensive) closet of gear to handle each variety of weather challenges; it is “the only way to travel” as far as I’m concerned. For someit’s the speed, and for others it’s “the freedom”, and before long, you start rubbing elbows with more of these people, and now you have social engagements to help exacerbate this addiction. You may also find that you like “tinkering” on motorcycles as much as you like riding them, and similar to the previous comment about dream bikes, you may also find that having only one motorcycle simply isn’t enough. Fortunately for your significant other, there are worse things to be addicted to…