This is from the time when I had just joined grad school, was not yet married, didn’t have a car, and lived about 25 minutes (walking distance) from my school. Unfortunately, the university transport buses did not service our area of the town. So, my only option was to walk up to school everyday. It was not a very good setting for various reasons. With 25 minutes of walking each way, it was not possible to walk back to my apartment for lunch during the break. Also, I was neither smart enough to carry my own lunches nor brave enough to ask for a refrigerator and a microwave in my laboratory…that meant lot of Subway lunches.
This was all going OK till about summer, when the sun really started smarting my eyes out and it grew really sweaty and tiresome to walk. Then, I bought a bicycle (bike) and rode it for about a week, after which someone stole it. Then, I bought another bicycle and someone stole the damn thing again! I don’t know what’s with bicycles and the thieves in this town; if you locked the front wheel, the rest of the bicycle used to go away, and if you locked the frame, the front wheel used to vanish. In my case, both the times, the bicycle and the lock…all went away. I was done with bicycles after that.
Next, I started looking for other feasible alternatives. I didn’t have enough money to afford a car, but had just enough to buy a used motorcycle. I convinced myself that it would be a good investment because I would save a lot of transit time and save some money by coming back home for lunch everyday. So I went ahead and bought a used Kawasaki Ninja (like the one shown in the image below, with a different color) in the middle of summer :
Life was really good after that. Here are some reasons that made the investment worth it’s value:
- Transit time was cut down from 25 minutes each way to 5 minutes.
- I stopped eating outside and came home for lunch everyday.
- I had a lot of energy left to pursue other sporting activities at the end of the day.
- Motorcycle parking was right outside my laboratory, and was very cheap ($50 per year compared to $300+ for a car). Btw, if you have a parking violation for a motorcycle, the fines are usually much less when compared to fines on car violations.
- Motorcycle insurance is dirt cheap as compared to car insurance.
- It gave me a mileage in the range of 40~50 MPG.
- I could show off.
- Riding the motorcycle gave me an incredible feeling and sort of put me on a high all day long.
This happy story went on till late fall and then, suddenly, things turned from bullish to bearish. Here are the reasons that started diminishing the value of my investment:
- It’s not very enjoyable to ride a motorcycle when it’s very cold; it’s worse when it’s raining and worst when it’s raining and cold at the same time.
- Motorcycles that run fine in summer suddenly start giving problems during the cold season. Most of the time, my motorcycle just wouldn’t start up. On very cold days, it made some loud and strange noises while starting up and earned me some choicest cursing from my neighbors.
- At times, I had to leave it at school because it just wouldn’t start. It sort of started disturbing my time-table.
- Wet roads (or bad roads) and motorcycles are not a good combination. There were problems with braking and traction.
- I dropped it once on a wet road. Fixing it after the accident cost me about $700. Those shining plastic bodies on motorcycles are horribly expensive. Also, injuries from the accident hurt like hell…especially those to the elbows and knees.
- I got married sometime during this period and *had* to get a car. This sort of further devalued the motorcycle.
- I started worrying more about safety and the “joy” aspect of the ride started diminishing rapidly.
At times, I just wanted to get rid of it. However, I was not able to sell it because it was still cold and the damn thing was not reliable in cold weather (there was a good chance that it wouldn’t have started if a potential buyer came for a test ride). I waited till about summer (there is a lot of demand for buying motorcycles in summer) and was happy to see the back of it then. Even after truthfully declaring all the problems with the motorcycle, I still got a good price for it. In all, the Ninja cost me about $1300 including the $700 for post accident repairs and another $200 of general repairs. That’s not bad considering that I did enjoy it a lot (except when it was cold) and used it for about an year. Btw, if I had not dropped it, my cost would have been just $600 for a year and that would have been an awesome *return on investment* for the amount of fun I had.
I don’t know whether this encourages or discourages your plans of ever getting a motorcycle; however, if you do plan to get one, here are some helpful tips:
- In terms of value for money, motorcycles are incredible.
- Always buy them with cash (or check for the full amount). They are not very expensive (well the reasonable ones are not expensive) and it’s not worth it to get a loan for these things.
- If possible, get a brand new one. Motorcycles have very low depreciation, so they don’t really lose a lot of value fast. You will get most of your money back when you sell it.
- If you *must* get a used motorcycle, look for one in late fall. Lot of people start hating their motorcycles during this time and many will ready to accept surprisingly low prices. Also, it’s good to test drive a motorcycle when it’s cold…if it works in the cold season, it will work all year round.
- When riding a motorcycle, your helmet is the only thing between you and death. Spend some money and buy a good quality helmet and always wear it. No amount of goodwill and/or prayers can save you if you fall from a motorcycle at 60 ~ 70 mph without a helmet.
- They don’t sell Kevlar reinforced jackets and trousers for motorcyclists without any reason. When people fall from a motorcycle, instinctively they put their hands and knees in front of them to break their fall…and those are the parts that get hurt the most. Most minor motorcycle injuries will involve scratching of the palms, elbows, and knees. Get yourself a Kevlar reinforced jacket, trousers, and a good pair of gloves before you start showing off.
- If you have any problems/questions with your motorcycle, ask other motorcyclists about it before going to the repair shop.
- If you start having increasing safety concerns, you are probably nearing the end of your joy ride and it may be time for you to move on to four wheelers.
Stolen bicycle image source: A photograph by Kristian Ovaska (via Wiki Commons)