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Tough Guy or Tightwad? Getting a Motorcycle to Save on Gas

Updated on August 3, 2009

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.

US Average Gas Prices   1990 - 2009  G. Maloney
US Average Gas Prices 1990 - 2009 G. Maloney
His 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 250
His 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 250

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 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 website is the difinitive resource for all things Ninja250. He credits this extremely valuable website for several reasons. 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 so please, refer to the bar graph where the self proclaimed "Tightwad" has made his point.

April-November 2008   Gas Mileage Kawasaki Ninja 250      G. Maloney
April-November 2008 Gas Mileage Kawasaki Ninja 250 G. Maloney

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!

Gas prices compared to Diesel (Cents per Gal.) Feb. 2000-Dec. 2008 G. Maloney
Gas prices compared to Diesel (Cents per Gal.) Feb. 2000-Dec. 2008 G. Maloney

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.


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    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      This hub is awesome. I recently visited a motorcycle museum, thought I wouldn't be interested (I was dragged there, haha), but it was so fun I'm thinking about getting a motorcycle. After reading this, you've really got me thinking. Thanks for sharing these stats and figures - I will link to this. :)

    • Kristi Maloney profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Maloney 

      9 years ago

      Hey Tahrey!

      The tight wad says his "Ninja" has no problem running at highway speeds(65-80+ mph)but the mpg does suffer. Yeah with double the displacement, and a 14k rpm red line you would be very happy with this bike he is sure. There is no doubt that is why they are so popular.

      Thanks for your comment and good luck with your choice!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Interesting ... I've been wondering about a slightly more powerful bike to upgrade from my trusty, beloved, but somewhat stretched Honda 125 (65mph is about flat out) without losing too much in the way of economy (I can manage the equivalent of 84mpg US)... this may be the answer :D

      Plus you get to say "I ride a Ninja"! :D

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hey since this article was written, I figured out the EX250's indicated speed is ~5% higher than actual. This error will give an error in calculated mpg.

      Compensating for this I'm averaging ~65mpg now.

    • frogyfish profile image


      10 years ago from Central United States of America

      Quite interesting and informative article, both about your engineer husband and his research, and all the info links regarding the cycle.

      I have ridden a motorcycle once - clutching and wobbling while grasping the person driving - scared out of my wits at my 'courage'. Ha. I'll just remain a 'dreamer', but I say best wishes to all the 'riders'.! Thanks for great hub!

    • mechchick69 profile image


      11 years ago

      Hey Kristi

      I would have to recommend the class/safety course as well. Even after riding bikes all my life growing up, when I lived in Phoenix and was building bikes I took the safety course which was payed by my employer for insurance benefits for their test riders. I learned a lot and there were also several women in my class that were taking the course to become better pasengers. They learned the aspects of riding and how to assist their husbands/partners while riding, learning how to lean into curves, etc.

      Hope you give it a try, it is a lot of fun!

    • Kristi Maloney profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Maloney 

      11 years ago

      Hey Mechchick- thanks for the comment. I ran into an old classmate on Facebook and her profile pic. is her on her Harley. She is urging me to take a class. I am thinking about it. Good luck and stay safe!

    • mechchick69 profile image


      11 years ago

      Great article Kristi... I have to say no matter if you are 20 or 60 your first ride is addictive and you are hoooked for life:) I have had the pleasure of riding since I was in diapers thanks to my Grandpa and his love of Harley's as well as being a motorcycle cop who later made Police Chief. My Father as well was a bike lover and I guess it's in my jeans/

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Way to go. I ride a motorcycle as well. Yes there is gas savings but there is a tremendous sense of freedom. I ride to work when I can and as often as possible on weekends. Motorcycles have opened up a whole new world of travel, fun and friendships as well. Let's say I could go on for ever but every biker who has been around for a couple of years will have many warm stories of friends met on the road

    • Kristi Maloney profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Maloney 

      11 years ago

      My husband now regrets he didn't get into the whole motorcycle thing sooner! He's hooked! I enjoyed poking a little fun at him in the article. Thank you for your comment.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      11 years ago from Laroque des Alberes, France

      I have never ridden a motorcycle as a driver and can't help feeling I have missed out on something. Must admit though at 51 it might just be mid-life crisis.

    • Kristi Maloney profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Maloney 

      11 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by Peggy. Yes, compared to the price of diesel, the gas savings are significant!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      11 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It sounds as though he did everything right. The safety issue would be my main concern. The gas savings are impressive!


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