Out of curiosity, I decided to examine if there is anything to gain by commuting to work on my motorcycle. I’ve seen many people post on Reddit asking for advice on commuting as a way to cut down time due to traffic, fuel cost, and price difference between buying a car or motorcycle. Unfortunately for most readers, I fall into the category where none of those variables affect me, but nonetheless this post should give you something to think about if you are considering commuting on a bike.
For those new here, I live in the Bay Area in California and work a few miles from home. I have normal work hours: 9am – 6pm, Monday through Friday. My commute is a straight 8 miles down a busy street that gets congested in some areas. After work, I will either take the same route back home, take a 10 mile route on the highway, or take a 10 mile route on back roads.
I typically wake up and start getting ready at 7:40am. If I am commuting in a car, I leave at 8:25am and arrive to work at around 8:50am (25 minutes). Once I arrive, I have ~5 minutes left to spare.
If I am commuting on a motorcycle, I wake up at 7:40am, get my bike warmed up at 8am, gear up, and head out at 8:15am. I arrive to work at around 8:45am (20 minutes). Once at work, I get dressed into my work attire, fix my hair & make up, and usually have 5 minutes left to spare.
When I’m driving a car, I hate to admit that I’m not “fully” awake. I feel like I’m a very passive driver, not paying too much attention, and not 100% alert. It’s mainly just stop and go for those 8 miles, without changing lanes or making any turns. I would describe myself driving in a car as being reactive instead of proactive.
It’s the complete opposite when I’m on my motorcycle. On my bike, I feel like I’ve had 6 espresso shots and a Red Bull. I am aware of what I’m doing, what others are doing, what others might do and how to get away. I lane split in the areas that get congested and at traffic lights. It is mentally taxing on me, especially since I am not a morning person. I arrive to work in a hurry because I know I still have to get out of my gear and change into my work clothes.
As soon as I start my car, and depending on the season, the heater/air conditioning gets turned on full blast and I drive comfortably into work.
With the right gear, the cold hasn’t affected my decision to commute on my bike. As long as it isn’t projected to rain, even in the low 40’s, I’ll still ride to work. In the summer I avoid riding on hot days because I tend to get sweaty and feel uncomfortable when I change into my work clothes. If I were to shower at work this problem could be solved, but again, I am not a morning person.
I tend to carry a lot of useless shit with me in my car. Trash, receipts, extra scarves, books, a big lunch box, you name it – my car is my second home. On my motorcycle, everything I’m carrying to work needs to be preplanned and useful. Work clothes, sealed lunch, water bottle, etc. I can’t carry any papers with me or else they get folded/wrinkled and I can’t take anything larger than the size of a laptop with me. On my motorcycle, I’m confined to my backpack.
My office has a designated parking lot, so I have the luxury of not having to deal with street or limited parking. The area is secured and there are more than enough spaces for all employees in the building to park.
I have one of the most fuel efficient cars, aside from a hybrid/electric car: a Honda Civic.
In a car, a full tank of gas will cost me $30 and take me around 400 miles. The cost per day to drive my car (only to and from work) is $1.50. This adds up to $7.50 per week, $30 per month, and $390 per year on fuel just to get to/from work.
On a motorcycle, a full tank of gas will cost me $7 and take me about 120 miles. The cost per day to drive my car is $1.16. This adds up to $5.80 per week, $23.20 per month, and $301.60 per year on fuel just to get to/from work.
Looking at fuel alone, and not including cost of the vehicles, insurance, maintenance, and gear, there isn’t a huge difference in cost of riding vs. driving.
There really isn’t much I gain from commuting to work and my situation isn’t the most interesting to examine.
If you’re commuting over 30 miles, you’re more likely to see a difference in fuel cost, depending on the type of vehicles you own. Commuting on the highway, in congested traffic, and over long distances is favorable to the motorcycle, at least in California where lane sharing is legal. In these situations, you’ll more than likely cut down your commute and save time by riding.
One of the biggest factors that goes unmentioned when weighing your options on riding vs. driving is mental exhaustion. Commuting is mentally taxing and can be exhausting if you’re constantly on high alert. You can’t split lanes feeling relaxed and at ease, well at least I can’t. It can be draining, especially over a long period of time. I salute anyone who commutes on a regular basis because it takes a ton of strength and patience to deal with assholes on the road.
Not only that but you have to be level headed when you ride. Was Becky was acting like a bitch today at work and pissed you off? Are you stressed about a promotion/review? Are you tired from working 12 hour days? You have to be 100% when you ride and can’t let your emotions affect you. Riding too aggressively because you’re mad/sad/tired can get you into trouble and you don’t have that cage to protect you.
I’m lucky to live in California where it doesn’t snow and only rains a few times a year. I choose to not ride in the rain because of my skill level. I see many riders with their waterproof and hi-viz gear commuting every day, not matter the weather. In states where it does snow, you could be limited to riding only 3 seasons out of the year.
Because I am on a sportster, and choose not to get saddlebags, I limit myself to what I can carry on my back. If you have saddle bags or a box, you have the luxury of packing on a few more items. You are still limited to what you can carry, so think twice before you agree to take home an office plant or large books.
Again, I work in the suburbs of the Bay Area, so I’m not limited to parking. If you work in a downtown area where parking is limited or at a high cost, a great option would be to ride. In San Francisco especially, parking is favorable to a motorcycle because there are designated “motorcycle-only” parking spaces. Usually these spots have cheaper flat rate vs. per hour prices. You do still have to worry about theft, but it can be another opportunity to save money on a monthly parking space at a garage lot.
Overall, there are many variables to consider when commuting, including some I left out because they are not relevant to me (like kids, working part time or multiple jobs, or grocery/home shopping), but at least this post provides some insight on commuting. Even though my decision to commute to work on my motorcycle depends on my mood and the weather, I can honestly say that I always get off my bike with a smile on my face.