Motorcycle Questions


#1

Gas has gotten pretty high so I am thinking seriously about getting a used motorcycle and using that on my 130 mile daily commute when weather permits. I hear motorcycles get better gas mileage than cars. I also would be able to use the carpool lanes anytime, enabling me to avoid sitting in several hours worth of gridlocked traffic each week.



My problem is I know next to nothing about motorcycles.



What kind of gas mileage would, say, a 750cc bike get?



I do a lot of my own car repairs, but how about a motorcycle? Are there a lot of specialized tools required? Do they have Haynes Guide type resources for motorcycles?



What are some good bikes to look at for a guy who is 6’ 4" tall?



Any suggestions/insights would be most appreciated.


#2

Actually, bikes don’t get the mileage you might assume. Full size bikes (suitable for highway use) tend to get mileage in the 40 - 50 mpg range. Some small bikes do better, but you definitely need to take a test drive and determine if they at suitable for your needs. Bikes do tend to require more maintenance than cars if you ride them a lot.

It sounds like you do not have any experience riding. I really enjoy it, but it’s not for everyone. I would suggest taking a motorcycle course (probably required to get a license anyway) and deciding if you are really serious before going shopping.


#3

In addition to what Craig58 said, I would add that you should do some math on it. Once you’re done getting a bike, the gear you’ll need to ride it safely, the course, license, etc. etc. you might make back the time and money spent by the time you retire.

Now, if you wanted a motorcycle b/c you want one and love to ride, that’s a different story. But if your only motivation is economic, I seriously doubt that you’ll come out ahead.


#4

Don’t tell my wife that.

Seriously, bikes are about 75% toys and 25% transportation. You really will not be able to justify the cost based on fuel savings once you consider all the expenses. It’s not unlike buying a small sports car to save money.


#5

If you “know next to nothing about motorcycles.”, then I wouldn’t start learning on a 130 mile commute. I’ve ridden dirt and trail bike for the last 30+ years and I still refuse to drive on the street. You could be a great driver but that gives you no protection in an accident. To date, I’ve had 3 friends killed and one disfigured in street bike accidents. It’s one thing if you LOVE riding. It’s not worth it just to save a couple of bucks.
My two cents,
Bill


#6

I have to agree with admitted amateur, the payback on a 750 or bigger bike may be non-existent when you figure in tires and other maintenance. I say this as a biker of 30+ years. I ride my motorcycle (750cc) to work every day there isn’t some form of water on the road, and a few days even when there is. Hot, cold, doesn’t matter as long as there is no ice or snow or heavy rain.

The real gas savers are the 250CC and below city bikes. Those can get in the 60 to 90 MPG range, but for better or worse there are darn few of those available in the USA and they are almost certainly too small for a 6’4" person to ride 65 miles each way on.

Yes, I get 35MPG on my bike around town doing about 4 miles each way. It goes up around 45 or 50 on a longer trip depending on speed and some other factors. For the length of commute you mention you would probably beat a small car for fuel economy but not comfort and motorcycles need tires more frequently and they tend to be expensive, though the HOV lane usage is a big plus. Take an MSF course http://www.msf-usa.org/ The basic rider course provides small 250CC bikes and teaches the basic skills and riding strategies. This will at least give you a feel for the small size bikes without having to buy one.

I ride a motorcycle because I enjoy it. My car is not as economical as it could be because I use the motorcycle and figure that makes up for it. If I had your commute I’d probably still use the motorcycle, but that’s because I already have one and always will.


#7

Agreed that the gas mileage on a larger displacement bike is not as high as you might think. Figure on 40-50 at best. A smaller bike may get better mileage but you will sacrifice some power; especially since it sounds like you’re a pretty big guy at 6’4".

Some of the newer bikes, and many of the older ones, do require some specialized tools and procedures and this can be expensive to keep up if you have to pay a cycle shop to do it. This is very true of multi-cylinder Asian bikes (valve adjustments, etc.).

I used to commute a long distance to work (170 miles a day) and rode my 70s era Harley a lot. Of course that bike was easy to service also.
JMHO, but if I were going to do this the bike I would really consider would be an older BMW Boxer twin (750/900/1000 or even possibly a 600. Every one of those bikes will sustain a good highway cruise, are reliable, very easy to service, etc.
Fuel mileage is usually around 45-50 with the 600 doing the best. Serviceability is as easy as it gets and a driveshaft eliminates the constant dinking around with chains.

To give you an example of these bikes’ durability (I used to own an R100/7 also) a gentleman who used to live right down the street from me was our town mayor. This guy owned a BMW shop and was the epitome of a dyed in the wood motorcyclist. He never even owed a car at all and at one point about 15 years ago (before he moved) he had over a million legitimate miles on that one BMW 750. Jumping on it on a Fri. and putting a few thousand miles on it on the weekend for no particular reason was not out of the ordinary.
To me, the BMW Boxer would the unquestioned first choice. This one for example. Very nice.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Motorcycles___1974-BMW-R75-6-w-Krauser-Bags_W0QQitemZ200226451103QQddnZMotorcyclesQQddiZ2283QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item200226451103&

And of course, one thing you must do is always assume for every single minute that every car on the road is going to:
Turn in front of you
Change lane on top of you
Pull out from a stop sign in front of you
Even when using extreme care there are going to be some close calls though.
Hope some of that helps.


#8

I’ve been riding on the street for about 35 years (started before was even old enough to get a license) and have bent up a couple of bikes. You do want to be careful, cars are much bigger than you and drives tend not to see bikes. New riders tend to be caught off guard when something unexpected happens. Take the class, you will either love it or you will decide it’s not for you. Life’s too short not to find out, but you probably will actually end up spending more money. Be careful.


#9

I also like old BMWs (I ride a '83 R80/ST), but you do have to be a little careful about parts availability if you are going to use it as transportation. I sometimes have trouble with parts that are unique to my bike (only about 1000 were sold in the U.S.). Also, a new rider might be better off with ABS (which I hate) on their bike, especially if they may need to ride 50 highway miles home in the rain (I can’t count the number of times I’ve locked up the rear brake on my R80 in the wet). The new BMWs have their own advantages, but they are a little pricey (about the same price as an economy car).

I might be tempted by that '74, but I’m not sure I would recommend it to a new rider.


#10

You need to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course. You should do this before you buy a motorcycle so that you will know for sure if riding a motorcycle is for you.

I ride a 750 cc bike and I get between 45 and 50 MPG. 750 cc isn’t enough for a guy your size. I am 6’2" and I sometimes find myself riding full throttle at highway speeds. Besides, if motorcycling is for you, you will probably outgrow a 750 cc bike in a week.

If you want to save fuel, you should look at a moped. Even with 50 MPG, riding a motorcycle costs more per mile than driving an economy car. Everything with a motorcycle is more expensive than a car, from the tires to changing the oil. Typical motorcycle tires last about 10,000 miles and each one costs at least twice as much as a car tire, and that doesn’t include the labor to mount and balance them. A moped will have cheaper tires and will use less fuel than a motorcycle, and some of the nicer ones can travel at highway speeds. Motorcycles hold less oil than a car, but motorcycle oil costs more. It is worth the additional price since the same oil is usually used for the engine and the wet clutch.

You can do some things on your own. For example, I do my own oil changes since they cost more than $60 at the dealership. I change my own air filters. I adjust the idle, the clutch, and the rear brake. I don’t do things like adjust the valves since adjusting the valves requires removal of the fuel tank. If you get a motorcycle, look for one with hydraulic valve lifters so that they don’t need adjusted as often. Some things are different on a motorcycle. Torque specifications are important. For example, I tighten the oil filter on my car by hand. On the motorcycle, the oil filter must be torqued with a wrench.

If you have your heart set on a motorcycle, look at a Honda Shadow Sabre (pictured below). It is a liquid cooled 1,100 cc cruiser with hydraulic lifters. You should also look at a BMW F800ST (also pictured below). It is a $10,000 800 cc sport touring motorcycle that has a six speed transmission, electronic fuel injection, and gets 50 MPG. Its only drawback is that it requires premium fuel.

If you are willing to look at a moped, the Honda Silver Wing has a 582 cc engine, so it is made to travel at highway speeds. You will probably get better fuel economy with a 250 cc moped, but that won’t be enough power for a bug guy like you.

The reason motorcycle fuel economy isn’t as good as you might think is that only the nicer biks have electronic fuel injection. Anything less than $10,000 probably has an old fashioned carb, which does a poor job of conserving fuel at highway speeds. This should change soon. Honda, for example, had pledged to integrate EFI into its motorcycles in the coming years.


#11

I would think even a small displacement BMW would motor a big guy right on down the road. A car dealer I used to do work for obtained a non-running BMW (600 CC) out of a barn. This bike was low miles and had been sitting for many years. After several weeks of spare timing it I had it up and running and the dealer allowed me to keep it around for several weeks to iron out any bugs. There were none and this bike would cruise right along at 70 MPH all day long (50 mile commute every day) and I weigh about 210 lbs.

You should have seen the 750 BMW belonging to our ex-mayor as previously mentioned. He would travel all over the country pulling a 12 foot trailer loaded to the gills, including and not limited to, a ton of rough lumber, 40 cases of beer/liquor, etc. Tools right along at highway speeds even with all of that weight although a little sluggish on the upgrades.
(If memory serves me correct, he brought that load of rough lumber all the way from Arkansas and the entire gross weight (bike, rider, trailer, lumber) was a shade over 3500 pounds.)

The thing about those BMWs is that a small tote tray of basic tools will take care of just about any repair ever needed.


#12

What kind of gas mileage would, say, a 750cc bike get?

It could almost anything. They are not all the same. I have a 200cc and I get mid thirties in the city, which is less than I get in my car.

Are there a lot of specialized tools required?

Depends on what you want to do. For most things, I have not needed any special tools.

[b] Do they have Haynes Guide type resources for motorcycles? [/b] 

Again it depends, but in general yes. I have one for min, it is a Haynes.

 [b] What are some good bikes to look at for a guy who is 6' 4" tall? [/b]  

Don’t worry, they all have great headroom.


#13

I agree, if you need to use full throttle on any 750cc bike under normal conditions the bike has problems. My old (duel carb) 800cc bike has more than enough power for highway use.


#14

if you need to use full throttle on any 750cc bike under normal conditions the bike has problems.

It really depends on the motorcycle. If you have a light six speed motorcycle with dual carbs and a chain or belt drive, that may be the case. With my 500 pound five speed shaft-driven single CV carb 750, full throttle could mean 95 MPH or 85 MPH, depending on whether I am riding with a windshield and other gear. I often find myself hitting full throttle to accelerate from 70 to 80 MPH while passing. In those conditions, I sometimes wish my motorcycle had more displacement. Nothing is wrong with the motorcycle. At highway speeds, a single CV carb on a 750 is dumping a lot of fuel into the cylinders. If I held the throttle open, the speed would max out at more than 90 MPH. It is adequate, but when I pass at highway speeds, I don’t like hitting full throttle on a regular basis. If I was going to ride 130 miles a day at highway speeds, I would want an 1,100 cc motorcycle or a touring motorcycle. Most five speed 750s are built for cruising shorter distances. They work at a high RPM range at highway speeds, which is out of its optimal range and is not very fuel efficient. Using a 750 for a 130 mile commute would probably mean stopping for gas every day, sometimes twice. Most 750s have small fuel tanks.

The biggest problem with a single CV carb is that fuel economy drops at highway speeds. Around town I get 50 MPG with no accessories mounted on the bike. If I go on a long high speed trip with the windshield, lower air deflectors, and loaded saddle bags, fuel economy drops as low as 40 MPG.

Today’s 750 cc bikes are considered entry level motorcycles. It used to be that 750 cc was a large bike until the displacement wars began between the manufacturers.


#15

True, I can use full throttle on my 800 cc bike to pass, but it doesn’t really get me much extra. The top speed really depends on the gearing, mine is probably not to much above 100-110 mph, but I rarely need to exceed 80-90. In practice, I have plenty of power to cruise at 70-80 mph with the traffic. My bike only weighs about 400 pounds, with no plastic touring crap installed. If I needed to go much faster, I would just buy a ducati. I might buy myself a “touring motorcycle” for my 80th birthday.


#16

The lowly BMW 750 has more than enough ooomph to cruise the highways at high speed all day long. A friend of mine bought a 750 right before I bought my 1000 (just had to one up him) and during a rare weekend off work he wanted to see how fast he could make it from Oklahoma City to Corpus Christi, TX and back.
Roughly about 650 miles one way and total time was less than 20 hours. Not too shabby.
He told me he held the throttle to about 95-100 the entire way. If his 750 will do that then they will certainly cruise at 70 all day long. (And no, the guy is no BS artist. He rides and rides hard.)

I do not remember the fuel tank capacity on those bikes but it was around 4.5 gallons I think. That translates to near 200 miles before hitting reserve. The tank on my 1000 was about 6 gallons and there is even an aftermarket tank made for Beemers that holds 8 gallons. Our mayor had another BMW with one of those tanks and while it would definitely hold plenty of gas it was about as ugly as anything to be found on a bike.

Still don’t think one can find a simpler bike to ride and maintain than the Boxer twin.


#17

Still don’t think one can find a simpler bike to ride and maintain than the Boxer twin.

I do have to agree with that.


#18

OMG! ARE YOU ALIVE, been out at all!


#19

Thanks everyone for the input. It has been an education :slight_smile:


#20

if you need to use full throttle on any 750cc bike under normal conditions the bike has problems

Or, the operator has problems. All too often bikes are ridden by psychopaths redlining it in low gears (with straight pipes) just for the purpose of making noise and inflicting themselves on everyone else. Fortunately, they have a high death rate (but not high enough). Please don’t be like that – have some consideration for the people around you.

As for general safety, it’s true that car and truck drivers simply are looking for objects the same size as their vehicles. Smaller vehicles (motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians) just don’t “register” and are easily overlooked. The burden is thus on the cyclist to watch out for others.