Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why Motorcycles Suck

Less than three miles from my house, there is a large trade school where men and women go to become certified motorcycle mechanics. It is such a well-known school that students move here from all over the country just to go to this particular campus.

As you might have guessed, many of the students and staff at this school own motorcycles. Many of the apartments and homes near the school are rented by students who commute to class. This results in a very high percentage of motorcycle riders in my part of town.

Because the school is so close to my house, I see people riding motorcycles all the time. They're on the surface streets, on the freeways, at gas stations and stoplights and parking lots. They are everywhere!

To tell you the truth, I think motorcycles are a real nuisance. I just don't get why anybody would ever own a motorcycle; to me they don't make sense. Motorcycles are inferior to cars in almost every way I can imagine. For example:
  • Cars have larger and more powerful engines
  • Cars provide better grip and handling
  • Cars offer better safety and occupant protection
  • Cars can carry more than one passenger
  • Cars have space for cargo
  • Cars (and trucks) can tow trailers / other vehicles
  • Cars are quieter and smoother
  • Cars can be safely driven in bad weather
  • Cars are easier to see at night
  • Cars offer more amenities like air conditioning, heat, and a radio
From a practical standpoint, a motorcycle is not a very useful thing to have. It may get slightly better mileage and cost less than a car, but the benefits of owning one do not come close to offsetting the costs.

The other thing that bothers me about motorcycles is the lifestyle and culture of riders. I'm sure there are plenty of safe and responsible riders out there, but there are also negative stereotypes associated with motorcyclists including: the "badass" rebel rider, the violent gang member, the mid-life crisis weekend rider, and the young punk on a street bike who does wheelies without a helmet and weaves in and out of freeway traffic at 100mph. If you ride a motorcycle, you will never be fairly judged by co-workers, police, juries, or insurance companies.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the explosive popularity of "custom choppers" such as those featured on American Chopper and Biker Build-Off. These TV shows feature custom-built bikes with even less practicality than regular motorcycles. Common modifications include fat rear tires, low ground clearance, stretched forks and handlebars, skulls, iron crosses, and way too much chrome.

The cost of these custom-built bikes can easily surpass that of a luxury passenger car. How can anyone think it's cool to own or ride one of these monstrosities? Especially one covered in skulls, flames, and other tacky motifs? Call it cheesy, cliche, or just plain silly.

And yet in spite of all this, motorcycle registrations in Arizona have jumped 51% from 2002 to 2009. There are now over 200,000 motorcycles registered in the state of Arizona.

I wouldn't have a problem with that if they didn't roar down my alley with no mufflers, weasel by in the shoulder lane during traffic jams, and if they could actually be seen at night.

Motorcycles: who needs them? Definitely not me.