The other day I asked if anyone could give me a single reason not to buy a motorcycle. See, my parents return to Miami in a couple of weeks to re-claim the car I’ve been sporadically using for the past half year. When this happened last year, I decided to try living with just a bicycle. And while that experiment worked out pretty well, I’m not just exactly 100% sure I want to go through again just quite yet.
But a car is just such a hassle, right? I used to be able to drive around with a copy of Autotrader and $3,000 for a day and end up with, usually, a perfectly impressive old BMW that’d last me 5 years or so (usually until some asshole hit me and destroyed it, which actually is preferable to the protracted and heartbreaking death my 1988 528e died), but it appears that that is no longer the way of the world. So the options are
- Bite the bullet, and get, maybe, a used Mini Cooper, which seem to be running $8,000 for a 2002 with maybe 80,000 miles.
- Do the bike thing again, and pocket the cash.
- OR, right, a motorcycle is an interesting compromise when you look at it this way, no?
Well, people did have some noteworthy downsides to the motorcycle. “You will die,” more then one person said. “In Miami there is a rainy season when it rains every day.” And thirdly, a motorcycle does not have a trunk.
You can see though how coming off a 6-month bicycle existence colors these considerations. E.g., I had no problem grocery shopping. But you have to give some consideration to the danger. Motorcycles account for 3% of vehicles registered in the US, but 13% of all vehicle fatalities. Motorcyclists are about 35 times more likely to die per mile driven then someone in a car. And here the comparison to a bicycle breaks down, because while cycling home late at night in the rain after a few beers turns out to be something that just does not happen, you can certainly picture that set of circumstances with a motorcycle. And, um, alcohol consumption correlates with a sharply increased risk of death, and (in I guess the unlikely event of a lack of death) with increased severity of injury. Also, anecdotally, Miami drivers are the worst in the entire universe, and even people who would and/or do drive motorcycles in other places are wary of doing it here.
All of which is some sobering stuff! But the response that I have for you is that I’m not signing up for a lifetime of 2-wheeled exclusivity. I’m looking for a way to get around for 6 months, and I’m still going to be on the bicycle more often than not, and I’m going to wear my helmet. Like your pal Dan Savage says, people take all kinds of risks to have different experiences, and why not live a little? (Plus, by this logic we should all be riding the bus — the difference between how safe a car is and how safe a motorcycle is is much smaller then the same difference between a car and the bus.) Think of the fun! And think of the money — not just from the initial purchase, but the laughably small amounts you’d be spending at the gas station. Also: you can park anywhere. And is there not the intangible yet undeniable prospect of being a total and complete badass?
Still, in some ways it’s the worst of both worlds. An examination of ebay motors suggests that while a decent 2-wheeled vehicle is cheaper then a 4-wheeled one, it’s not quite the order-of-magnitude difference you’ve been led to believe. Also while the mpg is drastically better, it again is not quite the difference between night and day: motorcycles get I hear 40-50 mpg highway, while the Mini gets 34. And the rain is a real thing — you don’t care if you get wet on a bike because you’re going to be sweaty anyway so you have to make provisions to change/shower or whatever. But get caught in the rain on a motorcycle, and you’re just plain soaked. Then again, that would be part of the aforementioned experiential thing, right? We are not made of sugar, and we do not melt, and whatever does not kill us makes us stronger. At least, until it really does kill us.