Why ride a bike?

Published: 01 April 2009

Why you should ride a motorcycle?! I used to live in Central London. Approximately 15 years ago I moved to Kent (about 25 miles away) and my commuting fares would have cost me more than £2500 per year. I had always liked motorcycles but had never ridden one on the road. When I broke down the above cost on a monthly basis I thought I could probably get a decent bike for the same money.

I paid £700 for my first bike, a Honda CG125. A terrific, bullet-proof little thing that I rode for 2 years with Learner plates. After that time I passed my full test and haven't looked back since. Getting a bike has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am still totally and unremittingly enamoured with motorcycles and look forward to riding my bike whenever possible, every day, whatever the weather. Life is truly better when seen from a motorcycle's saddle.

My decision for beginning to ride was initially purely based upon what I conceived to be a sound financial choice. That soon changed to an almost spiritual one as I was actually arriving at work with a smile on my face, more so on the homeward journey. It completely began to change my attitude to life. I stopped drinking after work because I preferred to be riding my bike instead. This was a good thing as, speaking frankly, my prior fondness for drink was becoming an issue.

I'm sure everyone has different reasons for taking up motorcycling but nowadays, with higher fuel prices, congested roads, public transport systems that aren't as reliable as you expect them to be etc etc, taking to two wheels is a better option than ever before. Even for those that are concerned with ecological issues.

Apart from the obvious issue of burning less fuel and therefore producing less emissions, motorcycles require less raw materials spent on them to produce them. They need less rubber than your smallest car. This may seem obvious but spent tyres is becoming a problem worldwide.

They are more easily recycled. Motorcycles do not cause congestion. If the average motorcycle is one third the size of the average car the next time you are in a traffic jam imagine what that road would be like if you could remove two out of every three cars from it, then look at buses, coaches, lorries, vans etc. My point is not about ridding the world of other forms of transport but just to highlight the fact that there are viable and effective options for a variety of different reasons.

What is intensely irritating however is that the motorcycle is not even close to being considered as being one of the available alternatives. Whenever a televisual and/or political debate ensues on the subject of congestion and it's now inseparable companion of ecology the only solutions that seem to be discussed are those of taxing vehicles more, road pricing, mass transportation systems, bicycles, electric cars the current apparent darlings of this political charade, but never motorcycles which are seen more as a "leisure" accessory.

I use the term "mass transportation systems" as opposed to "public transport" because in the UK the latter doesn't exist. Politicians are all very keen to make it an electoral priority but the fact is that in the UK "public transport" is a myth. We used to have it.

Our rail, underground, and buses used to be public services funded by the government. They were sold off piecemeal in the 80s and are now made up of a large number of private companies who have each purchased their own routes. In the case of rail and underground systems, the legacy of this is that there are firms that own the infrastructure, and others that own the routes and rolling stock. None of these firms have a common purpose but each has its own set of shareholders that it must satisfy. And everyone knows that their needs must be sated first right? Traffic jam This not an idle political soapbox rant. The distinct fact is that each of the companies concerned with providing transport "services" has its own business plan and as a result, its own agenda.

The needs of the passenger come second, but that doesn't matter because there are millions upon millions of us who have to get to work, school, etc on a daily basis...somehow. So, in the UK at least every January fares go up. Usually by about 10%...how many of the poor souls using "public transport" have seen their own salaries go up by the same exponential rate? It is a complete shambles and is no better than the service provided by the nationalised institutions that they replaced. It is not possible to rely on them here in the UK.

As an example, I live in Rochester, 10 miles from work at Maidstone. I can make the journey on my motorcycle in 15 minutes. The same journey by bus took me one and a half hours, no that isn't a typo. By train it was not far off that. I had a 15 minute walk to the station, a 5 minute journey out to Strood, then a 25 minute journey to Maidstone, from where I had to take a bus to convey me the final three miles to the other side of town, which adds another 30 minutes. None of this accounts for any waiting times. Is it reasonable to expect people to rely on that?

What about groceries? With the death of the local High Street in favour of out of town centre hypermarkets it is impossible to meet the basic elements of daily life. Two miles from our door we have a large supermarket. We have to go there as our High Street, so adored by tourists who love its Dickensian heritage and picturesque though it is, in the true sense of a High Street it is absolutely useless. There is a butcher, a couple of bakeries, a post office and a newsagent.

The rest is a profusion of estate agents, hair dressers, "antique" shops "craft" shops which are actually just full of overpriced tat, and charity shops who enjoy a 25% tax advantage over regular traders. So, to get to the aforementioned supermarket, a journey that may be driven in five or six minutes, would be impossible to make by bus as there isn't one nearby. It would as a result be even harder to make it back home with your shopping even if you did manage to get there.

So what about electric cars? They are generally small aren't they? So they must alleviate congestion...and because they are electric and don't burn those nasty carbon based fuels they don't produce emissions do they? The government would agree apparently as the taxes levied on vehicles such as the "G-Wiz" are minimal. In London they are even exempt from the congestion charge. Seems like a good deal then. Everyone should get a G-Wiz and that would be that. Not quite.

Electric cars such as this have a major flaw that government officials and publicity seeking celebs wishing to raise their green credits haven't considered or have overlooked and that is the fact that to make them go you have to plug them in, to the mains. In Britain, the National Grid faces a major challenge sometimes referred to as the "half-time kettle" syndrome. This is when millions of people pop off at the half time interval during a televised sport or popular programme to switch the kettle on for a cup of tea. When this happens the surge of demand to the National Grid is so great that electricity has to be obtained from neighbouring countries such as France and Holland! I do wonder what would happen to our electricity infrastructure if at the end of each day millions of commuters all plugged tier electric cars into the mains at the same time.

The other downer on electric cars as a viable mass alternative is that we would need many more power stations to meet the demand, all of which would increase the CO2 emissions index rather than reduce it. I guess the issue is that there isn't one solution that will meet all the needs but my point is that there are already viable facilities out there and the motorcycle is one of them.

Officials need to stop viewing two wheelers as a leisure pursuit or as a nuisance and really begin to see them for what they truly are. An extremely effective, efficient, economic form of transport which is completely suited to modern day living and for future living...it's just that they are also terrific fun!

Motorcycles got the world moving again after cataclismic events such as the second world war. The third world has embraced them. It is time we in the developed world started seeing them in a new light and for what they really are. The world needs motorbikes. Moto Guzzi has the almose perfect offering to meet the needs of someone looking to get on two wheels.

The V7 Classic, (see the image at the top of the page) is a beautifullly stylish, gentle, nimble, inexpensive and reliable machine. Offering a shaft driven softly tuned 750cc engine and popping out 50bhp it is the perfect vehicle for getting around town or even for the longer trip. I write for Squadra Guzzista, the online community of Guzzi enthusiasts but this is definitely something that affects us all. What do you think?