“When I’m riding my motorcycle, I’m glad to be alive. When I stop riding my motorcycle, I’m glad to be alive.”
— Neil Peart
The wind in your face. A powerful machine between your legs. In front of you: nothing but the open road — and freedom. As almost any rider will tell you, a motorcycle is much more than just a means to get you from A to B. In fact, riders will hardly ever take the most direct route if it can be avoided. They’ll happily add hours to just about any trip by choosing scenic mountain roads, curvy streets, or even dirt tracks because when you’re on a motorcycle, the ride itself can bring you just as much pleasure — if not more — than reaching your destination.
Motorcycles are more than just vehicles, and for many, being a rider is more than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle that comes with its very own clothes, greetings, slang, and insider jokes. Buying a bike can feel a little like joining a club (even if you don’t literally join an actual motorcycle gang)—a club for people who prefer freedom over comfort, and excitement over safety.
Now, this doesn’t mean that all riders are reckless thrillseekers. Many invest heavily in protective gear and safety training, and for a good reason. Motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users, as they’re easily overlooked by cars and trucks and lack the protection other motorized vehicles offer.
There are pros and cons to everything, including motorcycles. So if you’re wondering whether you should buy a bike, this article is for you.
Pros of Buying a Motorcycle
With a motorcycle, every trip is an adventure.
Whether you’re going on a big tour or just visiting a friend on the other side of town, on the back of a motorcycle, every trip is a bit of an adventure. Motorcycle riders aren’t separated from the landscapes surrounding them the way car drivers are. There is no glass or metal to keep out the sun, the wind, and the different smells in the air. Everything is more immediate and real, including the road itself — riders feel the difference between smooth asphalt and cobble-stone streets with their whole body, making each ride a memorable experience for all of their senses.
The best part is, you don’t have to be a fearless daredevil to ride a motorcycle; being a responsible, careful rider who knows their limits won’t keep you from experiencing the joys of these amazing machines. With the right bike and some practice, you can even go off-road and explore secluded paths you would never have considered taking with a car.
You might be faster with a bike.
Traffic jams are a daily source of frustration for many car drivers, especially in densely populated urban areas. Motorcyclists, on the other hand, can often weave through traffic and reach their destination significantly faster by using techniques such as lane filtering and lane splitting. While not allowed everywhere, these are effective methods for dealing with traffic congestion. In many European and Asian cities, motorcyclists and scooters are therefore seen as vital elements of a balanced road transport system.
If your goal is to beat traffic on your way to work each day, having two wheels instead of four can be a great advantage.
It’s easy to find a parking spot with a motorcycle.
If you live or work in a city, one of the most annoying things about any trip can be the hassle of finding a parking spot for your car. In many metropolitan areas, parking spots are rare, and the available spots may be both expensive and limited in terms of how long you’re allowed to stay. In the US, median daily parking rates can go as high as $42.25, and it comes as no surprise that this rate is associated with New York, which tops the list of cities around the world with the most expensive parking. But among the list’s top 15 are plenty of non-US cities as well, such as Sydney, London, and Oslo.
While the rules and rates for motorcycle parking vary from city to city (or even street to street), finding a parking spot for a bike is generally much easier than for a four-wheeler, as you can squeeze into spaces that are far too small for other vehicles. Often, parking is also cheaper or even free for motorcycle riders. In Vienna, Austria, for example, parking your car on the street costs €2.20 per hour and is limited to a duration of two hours in many districts. With a bike, however, street parking is free, and in most cases, nobody will bat an eye if your bike remains in the same spot for a whole day or longer.
Bikes are cool and sexy — and so are their riders.
Adventurous. Daring. Fun. According to a recent study, these are the personality traits ascribed to motorcycle riders. The study also showed what many of us already knew: that bikers are inherently sexy. More than 1,000 adults were asked to rate images of the opposite sex in regular clothes versus riding gear, and in five out of six cases, the “riders” were rated as more desirable. According to Biker Digital, the term “motorcycle” is even among the most popular terms women type in search directories when browsing through online profiles. And let’s not forget how incredibly popular the MC Romance genre has become among female readers.
But it’s not just about perception. According to a study commissioned by Harley-Davidson, female riders actually feel sexier and more confident. The feeling of freedom and independence created by riding a motorcycle, paired with the bad-ass looking leather clothes riders get to wear, are clearly a powerful combination.
Motorcycle riding comes with surprising health benefits.
Yes, having an accident on a motorcycle can be incredibly dangerous, but as long as you don’t crash, riding a bike can actually be beneficial for your health in a number of ways. Riding is a full-body workout and, as such, burns a lot more calories than driving a car. It can also improve your core strength and, according to some orthopedic surgeons, lead to stronger, healthier knees and thighs.
Cons of Buying a Motorcycle
Motorcycles are dangerous.
It’s a cliché, but for a good reason. As a motorcycle rider, you are 28 times more likely to die in a car crash than occupants of a passenger vehicle. And even if your accident isn’t fatal, even a small collision can lead to severe injuries since you’re traveling at great speeds without the added protection of a metal cage and airbags a car usually offers.
The reasons for accidents are manyfold. New riders may purchase bikes that are too strong for them or otherwise overestimate their abilities. Poor road conditions affect motorcycles a lot more than cars: dry leaves, potholes, loose gravel, or spilled oil are easily overlooked, especially at night, and can cause motorcycles to lose traction and crash. Safe cornering and braking on a bike are skills that require a lot of practice, and many riders don’t invest as much time and energy in practicing these vital safety skills as they should.
But even if you’re doing everything right and the roads are perfect, you’re simply never safe from the mistakes other road users make. Motorcyclists are easily overlooked, and a significant number of accidents happen because other motorists fail to detect or recognize them.
Of course, there are a number of things you can do to increase your safety as a motorcycle rider. You can wear yellow, orange, or bright red jackets and helmets; you can always keep your headlamp on, and you can ride defensively or practice riding as if you’re invisible.
Still, the statistics don’t lie, so if safety is your primary concern, a motorcycle simply may not be the best vehicle for you.
Riding a motorcycle can damage your hearing.
It’s no secret that motorcycles are noisy. And while many riders are proud of their engine’s guttural growl, their hearing often suffers under the long and repeated exposure to such loud noises. Riding a motorcycle at highway speeds can expose you to sound levels beyond 100 dB, which is about the same as listening to a chainsaw.
And while it’s certainly possible to prevent or at least mitigate the damage by wearing proper earplugs, many riders simply don’t bother with this type of protective gear.
Motorcycle riders are exposed to the elements.
Bad visibility and icy roads make it dangerous to drive, no matter which vehicle you’re using. But things like rain, snow, or strong winds don’t generally scare car drivers off the road. Why would they? In a car, you’re protected from extreme temperatures and humidity to the point where you can wear a t-shirt and contentedly sip on an iced coffee while a rainstorm howls outside.
On the back of a motorcycle, however, you are completely exposed to the elements, and the only protection comes from your helmet and clothes. Even moderately cool temperatures can make for an extremely unpleasant ride due to the headwind, which increases the faster you go.
Is it possible to ride a motorcycle during winter? Of course it is. With the right tires and proper gear, such as heated handlebars and thick clothing, you can even tour through the Canadian winter, as Ed March from the popular YouTube channel C90 Adventures has proven.
But the fact is that many motorcyclists don’t ride in winter at all, preferring to store their bikes in a garage during the cold season. Many switch to public transport or Uber during this time or use their own car, if they own one. So before you go and buy a motorcycle, be sure to consider how you’ll manage to get around when the weather is too bad to ride.
Owning a motorcycle isn’t cheap.
If you’re considering buying a motorcycle, you may be concerned about the costs associated with your potential new hobby. Is owning a motorcycle expensive? In short, it depends. A new machine can set you back anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000, though there are certainly more expensive options available. Gas is a relatively low ongoing cost, as motorcycles use far less gas than cars. Thirty miles per gallon is on the low end, and smaller engines can get even better mileage. Insurance costs for motorcycles vary widely and can be either lower or higher than the costs for car insurance, depending on where you’re located and a number of other factors.
But aside from the machine itself, the insurance, and gas, there are quite a few other investments you’ll have to make as a motorcycle rider. Protective gear is an absolute must, and it isn’t cheap. You’ll need at least a helmet, gloves, armored pants, and an armored jacket. Add to that proper biker boots and a few additional protector pads, and you’ve easily spent more than $1,000. Keep in mind that there are different types of body armor and clothes available for winter and summer. If you want to ride during all seasons, you’ll likely need two of everything, unless you want to sweat like crazy during summer or freeze your hands off during winter.
Want to talk with another rider while you’re on a tour? A headset optimized for your particular helmet can easily cost a few hundred dollars. Want to make sure that your visor doesn’t fog up when it’s cold? You’ll probably need to buy an anti-fog visor insert for your helmet. Need GPS to find your way? A proper mount that will keep your smartphone safe during the ride can set you back another $50 to $100.
And at this point, we haven’t even talked about luggage racks and saddlebags, fitted crash pads, or the ongoing costs associated with maintenance and repairs.
All in all, owning a motorcycle is generally cheaper than owning a car, but even if you buy most of your gear (or even the bike itself) second-hand, riding is by no means a cheap hobby.
Motorcycles are easily damaged or stolen.
It really doesn’t take much to damage a motorcycle. Even a strong wind can knock a bike over, and when your bike crashes onto concrete, there are bound to be some ugly marks at the very least. Hail is another thing to worry about, particularly because this phenomenon is more common during summer — when your bike is likely not parked in a garage — and often comes out of nowhere, giving you no time to secure your motorcycle. And if the weather doesn’t damage your bike, there’s still a chance that a person might. The fact is that a lot of people hate the noise generated by motorcycles, and some of them take their frustration out on their neighbors’ bikes while nobody is looking. Plenty of riders have found their saddles slit open by a knife at some point, and frankly, that’s not the worst that can happen. The much more dangerous alternative is when something less obvious is damaged, such as your tires or brakes.
Stealing a bike is also not quite as difficult as stealing a car. They’re considerably smaller and lighter than cars, making it easier to lift them off and load them into a van.
You can’t transport as much on a motorcycle as you can in a car.
One of the biggest cons of motorcycles is that they’re not equipped to transport more than one or two people and a few personal items. Sure, you can install all sorts of racks, side cases, and saddlebags on your bike, and you can wear a backpack while riding, but the amount, size, and weight of luggage you can pack on a motorcycle are definitely smaller than what you can fit into a car. This can become a real problem when you’re going on an adventure, as you’ll have to think long and hard about every single item and whether or not you’ll be able to fit it on your bike. The added weight will also change the way your bike handles and can make it difficult or even impossible to take particularly steep roads.
Now, you might think that this issue doesn’t concern you as you don’t plan on going on any big road trips with your motorcycle. But even in everyday life, you might find that your bike isn’t very practical. Whether you’re going to the hardware store to pick up a few new shelves, to Ikea to buy some throw pillows, or to the post office to collect a large package you ordered — none of these things can easily be transported with a motorcycle.
Although, in some countries, neither safety laws nor the laws of physics seem to apply to motorcyclists.