The Story Of My Investment In A Motorcycle

by golbguru on February 17, 2007

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.

stolen bicycle - only the wheel is remainingThis 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 :

Kawasaki Ninja 500

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)

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Quastdog 02.17.07 at 4:22 pm

In 2001, I bought a motorcycle for the purpose of cutting down on my commute times to and from work, to take advantage of the HOV lanes on the freeway. I had never ridden a motorcycle before that year.

I lived in Seattle, where it is rainy and cold 6 months of the year. I bought proper rain gear, heated jacket liner, and rode through the winters, on all but the worse days where the water would freeze on my helmet visor. I loved it.

Today, I am in Colombia, 10 months into a 5 year round-the-world motorcycle journey. I can’t say the motorcycle is cheap transportation - but it sure is fun!

2 golbguru 02.17.07 at 5:14 pm

Quastdog: You have the real *motorcycle spirit*.

On a particularly cold day, I remember saying this to an avid motorcyclist at my workplace: “Dude, it’s a bad day for riding a motorcycle”, to which he replied “Dude, there are no bad days for riding a motorcycle, it’s just that some days are better than others”. That’s what I call *motorcycle spirit*. :) I think I seriously lacked that important bit when I was riding mine (or may be it’s because the motorcycle gave me trouble and lost interest in it). Whatever.

5 year around-the-world on a motorcycle sounds wicked cool. Good luck.

3 Yan 02.17.07 at 5:27 pm

Thanks for sharing your story. I still debate if I should get one or not. Do motorcycles really depreciate that slow?

4 mapgirl 02.17.07 at 10:44 pm

As a daily motorcycle commuter told me when I first thought of getting a bike, “Your jacket, pants, and helmet ARE YOUR BRAKES in a motorcycle accident.” Don’t skimp on proper safety gear. If you think it’s too hot to wear, then it’s too hot to ride. PERIOD.

Make sure you have proper fitting gear too. I learned this while borrowing a jacket from a guy friend. I was riding on the back of his bike got really nervous wearing it because I realized how poorly it fit and wouldn’t protect me if we went down. After that, I never went on someone’s bike without my own helmet and jacket. (Pants are on order and still have not arrived at the shop from which I bought them! ARGH.)

The rider I quoted at the beginning of this comment used to get ~50 mph on his Virago 750, and he didn’t have to pay the Bay Bridge toll in San Francisco, which is now something like $3.

Wish me luck. One of my 2007 goals is to get my riding license for the bike I bought last year!

ps - You can also get partial year insurance in some places if you agree not to ride during winter, which many people won’t do anyway.

5 golbguru 02.17.07 at 11:04 pm

Yan: They do depreciate…but not as rapidly as cars. May be, that’s just an apparent effect because the cost price is low. For example, You might lose $600 over a year on a $3000 motorcycle (used one). That’s 20% depreciation…but it’s just $600, so it doesn’t hurt too much. If you have a $30,000 car that depreciates by $6000 in a year, it appears more worrisome, although it’s the same percentage drop. :)
Roughly, a well maintained new motorcycle that was bought for $6000 would be sold for about $5000~$5400 after a year of use (just an observation)

Mapgirl: Yeah…thanks for pointing out the “fitting” factor. I can imagine what will happen if the rider’s helmet fell off before he/she hit the ground. Ouch.

Which motorcycle did you get? (or planning to get?)

Good luck on the license test. Let me know how it goes with you. Motorcycle license tests are funny (at least they are funny in this part of the country. You must be knowing this already)..you need a friend with a car for the test. The friend and the instructor will drive behind you and signal (with turn signals) about where you have to go. The funniest part is that if your friend, who is driving with the instructor, violates a traffic rule, then you fail the test. :) So you better take someone good with you. :)

6 Jenn @ Frugal Upstate 02.26.07 at 5:27 am

I live in Upstate NY (hence my blog name) and DH is an avid motorcyclist. I sort of figured when Princess (our 5 year old) is old enough to drive we would consider getting her a scooter or motorcycle. #1, it’s cheaper, #2 she can’t give any hooligan friends a ride on it and they can’t distract her, #3 it is self limiting for a teenager because she won’t want to ride it during bad weather or in the winter, so she’ll have to rely on us or the bus withouth being able to complain that she doesn’t have a ride of her own :) Am I sneaky or what?

Although 2 of our 3 bikes are the expensive sort (read Harley’s) mine is a cheapo Honda rebel. They do get great gas mileage and are very inexpensive to run. I would think that if you live somewhere that has much more summer/spring and fall than winter they would be an excellent alternative transportation. However in the Northeast and Northwest-the riding season is pretty short and they wind up being more recreational vehicles rather than valid forms of transport. Which is fine-that’s what we use them for.

7 golbguru 02.26.07 at 12:45 pm

Jenn @ Frugal Upstate: Wow…you guys have a lot of designs for your kid. She isn’t going to be pleased if, in future, she stumbles on your explanation on why you gave her the bike. :)

3 bikes !..You guys are cool. Btw, Honda Rebel is not cheapo…it’s not a Harley either..but it’s a pretty good motorcycle (interestingly a lot of my motorcylist friends think Harleys are overpriced for no reason)

After my stint with the bike..I am more inclined to think of it, along your lines, as a recreational vehicle.

8 Jenn @ Frugal Upstate 02.27.07 at 5:27 am

Oh, as a clarification on the Rebel, it was a USED rebel-and compared to the Harley (at $17,000) it was a cheapo :) And if you really want to be impressed we have 2 antique cars that we inherited from his dad-we had 3 but sold the 1938 buick (it totally looked like something from a gangster movie!)

Yes, you can get a bike just as nice as the Harley made by someone else for way less, but you are buying the name and the “mystique”. The whole “lifestyle” thing. Let’s face it-sometimes it is just a society sanctioned way for guys to play dress up and be the rebel inside for a while. The bikes mean a lot to DH, and it is one of those things that we save money in other places so we can spend on because they are important to him.

And of course as you mentioned, they do keep value pretty darn well compared to other types of vehicles. A Harley kept in good condition can actually appreciate in value when/if it becomes a “classic”. Not that I advise it as an investment strategy or anything. But we have been advised to have them insured and appraised as collectible auto/vehicles rather than just regular transportation vehicles. No-one says that about my little yellow rebel :)

9 Elaine 06.19.07 at 11:01 am

hmm, so this is an old post and who knows if you’ll see it, but holy crap, learn to lock a bike properly! Is that your wheel in the picture? I’m surprised it was still there, all that’s needed is a wire cutter to clip a few spokes.

Get rid of your quick releases for one, which is why your wheel and your frame can be so quickly separated. It takes 5-10 seconds. Get a good U-lock. Don’t lock to signposts that can be unbolted from the ground. And finally Sheldon Brown knows all: http://sheldonbrown.com/lock-strategy.html

10 golbguru 06.19.07 at 11:20 am

Elaine: No, it’s not my wheel in the photograph. :) Read this at the bottom of the post: “Stolen bicycle image source: A photograph by Kristian Ovaska (via Wiki Commons)”

Btw, I used a chain and a lock combination - not a quick release one and used to hook it up to really firm fixtures. Doesn’t work in this part of the town. :)

11 Collectibles 10.24.07 at 8:08 pm

I am always on the lookout for antiques for my house. Garage sales seem to be the best place to find them at a reasonable price.

12 Nicole S 05.11.10 at 3:29 am

Good article. I have recently brought a motorbike and it’s really awesome to ride a bike. The insurance for motorcycle can be insured for single day or for 28 days. The insurance company also offers schemes/policies which really help to reduce the cost of bike insurance. It also provides information about the benefits offered by the insurance company.

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