Tough Guy or Tightwad? Getting a Motorcycle to Save on Gas
If your middle-aged husband suddenly decides he’s ready to buy his first motorcycle, the words “midlife crisis” may cross your mind . But if he’s safe, smart, and buys a practical street bike, the only woman he’ll be impressing is you with his ability to save on gas!
Yes, it was the “Middle Eastern Oil Crisis” in 2008, where the average price of a gallon of gas in the US climbed just over $4 a gallon, that got my husband off the pot and onto his first motorcycle. He even created a graph depicting the US average gas prices over the last several years to prove his point.
If you asked me two years ago if he would ever get a motorcycle, I would have bet my life on it and declared, “No, not the type, n-e-v-e-r.” Never say never! And while some loving wives might have reacted by saying, "No *&^%*$#ing way!" I said, "Go For It!" Why? I used to love to ride dirt bikes as a kid, I have dreamed of riding my own motorcycle, and usually many of his ideas never come to fruition.
Safety First – The Motorcycle Safety Foundation
His first smart move was taking advantage of the Motorcycle Saftey Foundation Basic Rider's Class. Without prior riding experience, it’s imperative to your safety and the safety of other motorists to get your initial instruction from the experts. The Motor Vehicle Safety Foundation offers a Basic Riders Class in cities and towns all over the US. Simply do a search by state and you will find several locations.
If your goal is to get your license to drive a motorcycle, this course will help you to achieve that goal. Start by getting your written permit, which costs about $30. The Basic Rider’s class is a three-day, 14 hour course that costs approximately $275. Upon successful completion of the course, you will leave with your license.
Benefits of the Basic Rider’s Course:
In addition to receiving expert riding instruction in a controlled, safe location, the Basic Rider’s Course has several benefits:
- The rider leaves with improved skills and becomes a more defensive and observant rider.
- The BR course, in most states, will save you a portion of your motorcycle-endorsement test.
- Many insurance companies will discount, about 10% on motorcycle premiums every year, to students who have successfully completed a BR course.
- Some motorcycle distributors and brand-sponsored clubs will even reimburse all or part of your Basic Rider course tuition.
My husband’s Basic Rider class was a very diverse group of people, including: a doctor (Phd.); the twenty-something guys; the older retirees; and two thirty-something women. One woman, the mother of two kids, was getting her license and training so she could ride alongside her husband. She is an inspiration, but not enough to get me to take the course, yet.
A Practical Choice: The Kawasaki Ninja 250
After researching and reading every last piece of data on all of the displacement street bike options, (did I mention that he is an engineer?)he bought a 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 250, in 2008, for $2,000. This Kawasaki Ninja model remained the same from 1987 to 2007. If you buy a 1998, it is going to look just like an 2007. The Ninja is the most popular motorcycle that Kawasaki manufactures. The Kawaski Ninja 250 has reached cult status as one of the best beginner sport’s bikes, appealing to both men and women starters.
According to Motorcycle-usa.com writer Bart Madson, “The Ninja 250 claims the newbie crown by presenting the most refined package of the four (tested) and is aided by the fact that, at $2999 (new), it is also the least expensive. Of all the beginner bikes we tested, the little Kawi is the one with the greatest potential to keep its rider happy for the most amount of time.” Refer to his “2006 Kawaski Ninja 250 Comparison” article here.
No One Will Know It’s a 250
Look for “250” on this Kawasaki, and you won’t find it. This was another appealing feature of the Kawasaki Ninja. Kawasaki has done a great job at hiding the fact that your “Badass” new bike has a mere 248 CC displacement .
The Practical Features
The Kawasaki Ninja 250 is a lightweight street bike, weighing in at 300 lbs., yet can still reach speeds of 115 mph. A small, nimble motorcycle like the Kawasaki Ninja is great for the starter, because it has a 29.3” seat height. This low seat height is comfortable, and appeals to those riders who have a short inseam. Short riders are able to touch the ground with both feet.
Like an old friend, the Ninja is forgiving. If a new rider grabs too much throttle or grabs too much brake, not a lot happens. This motorcyle offers a gentler introduction to a beginner with its "pliant and forgiving gearbox." The beginner is not likely to spin the rear tire and/or dump the bike.
The Ninja250.org website is the difinitive resource for all things Ninja250. He credits this extremely valuable website for several reasons. Ninja250.org helped him every step of the way to determine the Kawasaki Ninja was the right bike for him. The FAQ section for new riders, and the Ninja 250 Riders club Forums are chock full of great information. This site is where he determined that maintaining his 2005 Ninja 250 would be a piece of cake because everything is all well documented.
The Seasonal Commute
Here in New England, we have the weather to contend with, and usually the winter months are not conducive for commuting on a motorcycle. So for four months out of the twelve, he commutes in his diesel truck, and his commute is approximately 12 miles one way, on all secondary roads. His motorcycle gas mileage is formulated using data from eight months in 2008.
The Tightwad has Made his Point
The Kawasaki Ninja 250 gas tank holds 4.8 gallons of gas, and his average off-highway gas mileage is 75 mpg. He documented and recorded his mileage from every single gas fill-up receipt for eight entire months, using mileage tracker.org so please, refer to the bar graph where the self proclaimed "Tightwad" has made his point.
How Much Money Saved in Gas? The Results
His data compares his motorcycle gas mileage at 74.4 mpg to his 97 GMC K3500 Diesel Truck at 12 mpg. The data was collected over the period of time where gas and diesel prices peaked in 2008.The price of diesel reached nearly $5.00 per gallon and the price of gas was just over $4.00 per gallon. According to his results, if he had used his truck to commute during that period of time, he would have paid $1,251 in diesel. In other words, he saved $1,251 in 220 days by riding his motorcycle, which at this point is a few hundred dollars shy of paying for itself in saved gas money!
Also worth mentioning, the insurance premium on his 2005 Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle is less than $100 per year, which is nearly one third the price of His GMC Diesel truck insurance premium which is nearly $300 per year! The excise tax on his motorcycle is a mere $5 per year! During these economically challenging times, these savings are all significant. And while life is filled with many uncertainties, I am certain the price of gas and diesel will go up again!
So, for anyone who wants to follow their dream and become a motorcyclist, whether you be "Tough Guy", "Tough Girl" "Tightwad", or something in between, be safe, be practical and enjoy the gas savings as a fill-it-up-and-forget-it commuter.