Monday, June 09, 2008

Catching up.

Dean is a fellow instructor and good friend. He's recently taken to reading and commenting here. He and I cross paths pretty often in our various functions with the training program. Both of us are certified to teach our Advanced Rider Training Course and things in between.

The reason I mention Dean is that I'm looking for an ally here. I'd certainly hope that I'm not the only one psycho enough to give up so many of my weekends to improve the lot of motorcycle riders!

As Dean will hopefully readily attest to, once you have the training bug, it can hit pretty hard. Like anything we have a passion for, once we find an outlet for it, we become addicted. That's how the month of June, which was supposed to be a very light training month for me, ended up seeing every weekend save one filled with teaching duties. There's a huge demand and my passion makes it hard to say no. Between work during the week and work on the weekends, I'm finding myself in a position of playing catch up with the blog and many other things.

An old friend of Katie's is getting married in Richland, Washington on the 21st. I've already turned down several teaching opportunities to keep that weekend open. Out of honor to my best buddy, I'll make sure we can go to the wedding together. Richland is something like 5 hours away so we'll make it a mini-vacation weekend and stay at a nice hotel.

The demand for training classes seems to be going up again. Last weekend was a "train the trainer" event for me. In the process the instructors participating in the activity tooks turns stepping in to work with the students. We call it Step-up Training. It's a great chance for instructors to hone their craft. It's not mandatory by any means. To the great credit of our instructor corp, each session has a decent turnout. Actively teaching allows opportunity for instructors to visit with the students. This class drew students from the Portland area. This is the largest city in Oregon. More and more students, this class included, are citing the rising fuel prices as their reason to ride. Little by little the sport of motorcycling is become a little less sport and a little more utilitarian.

I don't know how long the situation will last but for now the number of people riding to work is increasing. I'm seeing more bikes in business parking lots. There's also plenty of bikes in places like this one near the OSU campus. That's Sophie in the foreground with my 'Stich thrown over the seat.

About three years ago I did a cost analysis between riding Sophie and driving a small car that gets thirty miles per gallon. My comparison was based on twenty thousand miles, which I easily do in a year. My actual number of miles is higher. Since August 15, 2006 I'm at a little over 48,000 miles. Continuing at the same rate, my average will be 27,428 miles for the two years ending this August.

For the first time, it actually comes out cheaper overall, not just in fuel costs, to ride a motorcycle. In the previous comparison, the car came out slightly less expensive. This was figuring in the cost of tires, insurance, maintenance, and fuel. The biggest factors were the 16,000 mile valve adjustment intervals and higher tire costs for the Honda motorcycle. The difference between 30 miles per gallon for the car and 46 miles per gallon for the ST just didn't bridge the gap. Today, though, it is an entirely different story. Remember, we're talking about cash outlay. There's no way to put a value on the non-economic side of things, you know. Passion for riding? Priceless!!!

The car will use 769 gallons of fuel. The bike will use 435 gallons for the same distance. Figuring a price of $4.00 per gallon, the savings are now substantial. Even with the greater expense of tires and maintenance, the bike is $948.00 less expensive to operate for those 20,000 miles, Broken down to the basic cost per mile, the car requires an outlay of .1845 dollar per mile compared to .1371 dollar. In other words, including maintenance, tires, and insurance, it's almost 14 cents for the bike compared to eighteen and a half cents for the car.

This is certainly on the minds of those stepping into our two-wheeled world for the first time. Most are opting for scooters and small displacement motorcycles like the one in the picture above. There's a couple of obstacles, however, facing these new riders that we can help with.

Firstly, these riders are going to have to deal with the weather. We can help with recommendations on gear. The right gear can make all the difference in the world, as we all know. Sharing what we've learned can help these new riders stay with it. One of my common messages is that bikes can be used in place of cars to a great extent. Which includes riding to work for as much of the year as possible. To that end I try to be of as much help as possible.

Secondly, we need to encourage these riders to seek training. Some bikes and scooters don't require an endorsement. This, combined with the fact that these steeds are smaller, seems to make people feel "it's only a scooter". That can be a deadly attitude to have.

All participants in things two-wheeled are going to have to mix it up in traffic. A fast moving Buick unseen by the rider will do the same damage no matter the size of the bike. Accident avoidance skills aren't needed only by riders over a certain displacement. Them or their bikes, if you know what I mean. Ok, that was bad humor, but it's my blog! Physical and mental skills are critical for all riders. Professional instruction is vital to success. Spread the word.

That's my soapbox and I'm sticking to it. I'm hoping the continued exploration of motorcycles as basic transportation will continue to grow. It might be initially instigated by the skyrocketing rise in fuel, but I'm hoping riders will come to know the really fun side of riding in the process. The only way for it to continue to be fun is with success. That means good gear and training.

So, my people, go forth and spread the message! Welcome and nurture those who are joining us in our enlightment!

Miles and smiles,



Stacy said...

I thought I saw Sophie parked in that first spot as I rode by this afternoon!

I should probably give my full attention to the road and the students who like to step out into traffic without looking, but I can't resist taking a peek at that free motorcycle parking area whenever I ride by. :)

Kano said...

Thanks for doing the math irondad. Now I've got some statistical ammo that I can show my wife. She's been trying to talk me out of my motorcycle for 8 years now!

BBC said...

Ah, Richland, in my younger life I was the service manager at the Ford dealership there. I never have liked that town. Good area for biking back then on my 250.

Lucky said...

I have also seen a lot more bikes on the road lately. I'll be interetsed to see how many are still out there in August.

I'm going to have to figure out the commuter-costs for the Triumph. Somehow, I don't think the (scheduled) maintenance costs will balance out as nicely as yours did. Time to pick up a KLR, or another scooter...

Dean W said...

I remember, during a phone interview in early 2002 (before I started teaching for Team Oregon), being asked how many classes a year I thought I'd teach.

That was a tough question, and I figured a safe answer was 8-10. The interviewer asked if I could maybe go as high as 12, if needed? Wow. one weekend a month, that seemed like a lot, but OK.

My first year I taught 17 classes in six months, and since then I've averaged 25 classes or so a year.

Dan, we should do a TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for a bike vs. car sometime, including purchase and resale, buying new vs. buying used, etc.

The only flaw with a "bike vs. car" cost comparison is that most people will own the car anyway, and the best they can do with a motorcycle is reduce how much they spend on the car, or how many cars a family owns (one instead of two).

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

"it's only a scooter"

I started out on a 125cc scooter in 1990, after I'd moved out of my parents' house and gotten my first Real Job (so I could pay for the thing, and because they wouldn't let me have a motorcycle).

If I'd known there were training courses (say, maybe the dealership had mentioned it or had a sign) I'd've taken one. As it was, I learned on the fly, and in looking back I'm surprised I didn't get hurt.

I did have the sense to get an automatic (CV drive) so I could concentrate on learning to ride, then worry later about shifting.

Now I talk up safety training to everyone I can, along with safety gear. (You should see some of the 'discussions' I've gotten into on the Rants & Raves section of Craig's List!)

irondad said...

I've noticed that about the students. They seem to think they can just insolently step out and traffic will magically part for them. The fact thst it's near so many eating places makes it worse. The motorcycle parking area is like a bike show. What a conflict!

The figures are for my situation. Like anything, your results may vary. Both with the bike and the wife!

You've migrated a little South from Bill's blog, eh? Nice to see you here. I agree with your assessment. Although I always thought Pasco was a little worse. Especially near the Top Hat! Is that still around?

Like I said to Kano, your results might vary. I'm on the open road so much a scooter wouldn't work. However, if I was commuting a few miles to work, a scooter would be nearly perfect for me. Did I just say that?

What have these scooter folks done to me?

See? You are as crazy as me. You're right that most folks would own both a car and bike. Things wouldn't be exclusive either way. Although, if the car sat while the bike was ridden to work, we could at least compare the cost of getting to the job.

As to the total cost of ownership, that's something for a more analytical mind like yours. Care to run it out? I'd be glad to do it as a post here.

Around here, most of the dealers have our brochures which is a good thing. I didn't know before that you started on a scooter.

Thanks for being such a vocal advocate of training and gear! Who knows what influence you might have had and not been aware of?

Take care,


Dean W said...

Dan- here's a start:

Dan/Stacy- did you know, it's against the law (in Corvallis) to cross against the light at a crosswalk... but not in the middle of the block. Go figger.

Maybe we (the royal "we") need to start offering pedestrian safety classes...

Heinz & Frenchie said...

We are all for the training. We took a course prior to buying our scooters and really appreciate all that we learned. It was well worth every dollar. Since we don't have to have a lot of riding gear here in hot South Florida, and we ride scooters, we may be saving even more than your calculations. That was a great study by the way and thanks for doing it for us. We always get enlightened by your blog.

irondad said...

The problem is that there's no light in sight. Students are everywhere! I'll have to check out that website.

Heinz & Frenchie,
You can never know the cost savings of good training. The only way to compare would be to run the scenario twice. Once the right way and once the wrong way. I'm thinking I'd rather just guess than find out for sure!

Take care,