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Motorcycle Usage to Increase?

Recently the price of gasoline has replaced the weather as the great social gathering ice breaker subject. One way to manage your use of expensive fossil fuel is to ride your motorcycle to work instead of driving. Motorcycles by their lightweight nature enjoy better gas mileage than four wheeled vehicles, although they usually are not purchased with their MPG in mind. No official EPA testing is done on motorcycles as is done with cars, so it is difficult to make objective comparisons between the two.

The downside of motorcycles are not only the obvious, like safety and weather, but also hidden maintenance. Tires do not last long on a motorcycle, certainly no more than 10,000 miles in the best of cases. Motorcycles can be maintenance intensive, requiring exotic procedures such as valve adjustments and carburetor synchronization that few automobiles require.

Examining the federal General Service Administration's reimbursement guidelines (www.gsa.gov) for use of personal owned vehicles gives some measure of the potential savings in operating costs. For 2005, the official expense reimbursement rate for POV's is $0.405 for automobiles and $0.305 for motorcycles. Using this benchmark, motorcycles presumably are 25% cheaper to operate than automobiles, all other things being equal.

Another data point are the statistics gathered by the Ride Your Motorcle To Work organization (www.ridetowork.org). Their 2005 fact sheet states the following regarding fuel consumption of motorcycles as compared to other vehicles:

  • Motorcycles 191 million gallons (50.1 avg mpg x 1,800 miles per year per motorcycle)
  • Passenger Cars 74,590 million gallons (22.3 avg mpg x 13,000 miles per year per car)
  • Light Truck/SUV 56,302 million gallons (17.7 avg mpg x 13,000 miles per year per Lt Trk / SUV)

Other stated benefits of riding your motorcycle to work include reduced congestion, higher density parking, and potentially reduced emissions. Motorcycle engines are much smaller than car engines, while fuel injection and catalytic converters are becoming more common.

Then there is just plain old anecdotal evidence that motorcycles are a viable transportation alternative in these days of $3 per gallon gasoline. At the North Bend branch of the King County Library I saw an old Motobecane moped parked in the bike rack that had a note from the owner posted on it saying "this vehicle gets 200 MPG, what's your excuse?"

Okay, maybe I'm not yet ready to ride a moped on my next trip to Alaska, but I am surely going to be riding my motorcycle more frequently than ever before, and that can't be a bad thing!

Mitch Comstock/Summer 05


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