The old saying that you’ve got to spend money to make money is a highly unfortunate truth. Ask most people about their daily commute and you’ll get a look that says something between, “I don’t want to talk about it” and “I once nearly killed a man on the side of the road.” Bottom line, no one wants to commute, and an expensive commute as a result of high gas prices and parking expense is just that much more of a slap in the face.
If you’re dealing with a fairly long drive each morning, a few more miles per gallon can go a long way to a smaller total cost come week’s end. And while we’ve got plenty of hybrids running around and are starting to see some high-mpg diesels as well, the undisputed king of the frugal commute remains the motorcycle. So, for the sake of science, I decided to trade in my driving shoes for a helmet and take on my daily slog – 22 miles each way including crossing over the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Bridge – for an entire week atop a Ducati Hypermotard.
The Hypermotard is hardly your average motorcycle. Picture a dirtbike with an air-cooled 1100cc engine crammed inside the frame and you’re halfway there, making it somewhat like the Porsche Cayenne of the motorcycle world. If you're intersted in Ducatis, make sure to check out our recent factory tour
. Aboard the Hypermotard, rampant acceleration and full-on wheelies are no farther than an eager twist of the right hand away. With such muscular athleticism, it’s nowhere close to being the most fuel-efficient bike out there, but nevertheless remains a good representation of how economical and convenient a motorcycle can be.
First and foremost, the savings began at the pump. The 3.3 gallon fuel tank creates somewhat of a psychological barrier because you’ll be fueling up frequently, though only for a few dollars each time. Over the course of the week I was able to achieve an astonishing average fuel economy of 47.9 mpg, completely annihilating my expectations of the bike’s mileage potential. Total gasoline expenditure for the week came out to be $22.87 (average gas prices at the time were around $4.25) – less than half of what a car would have cost. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Here in California, the typically devoid carpool lane is open to motorcyclists. That deal gets a whole lot sweeter when crossing the Bay Bridge, as the carpool lane bypasses the tollbooths, saving you an agonizing wait at the metering lights, not to mention the $4.00 toll itself. And the traffic lining up to exit the freeway on the other side of the bridge? It’s not nearly as bad when you can split lanes on a motorcycle – at low speeds of 10-15 mph, it’s a relatively safe way to make progress, and here in the Golden State, it’s perfectly legal.
Of course, there’s the not-so-small issue of parking, and San Francisco is infamous for its distinct lack of spaces and vindictive meter maids. Even with the mildly forgiving “Early Bird” rate, it would cost $14.00 to park a car in a local garage for the day. Or, if you’re particularly masochistic and prefer the meters, $1.00 every 24 minutes. Luckily, that doesn’t apply to motorcycle spots – for $1.50 you can park all day, and you don’t have to move the bike every hour to avoid getting a ticket.
Put it all together, and after five days of commuting the savings over a car are pretty substantial. Gasoline savings alone are impressive, thanks in part to a 44-mile roundtrip commute racked with traffic that can see even city cars dropping below 20 mpg. Assuming 15 mpg (a figure regularly seen in press cars), you’d go through 14.67 gallons of gasoline by week’s end. Even with an optimistic assumption of 20 mpg, you’d burn through 11 gallons of gas. That said, the Ducati’s results almost make you laugh out loud – it chewed through less than five gallons of gas over the course of the week. Even if gas prices were at $3.00 per gallon, that still saves you between $18.00 and $30.00 per week.
Not paying bridge tolls does its share too, netting an additional $20.00 per week, though we’re happy to acknowledge that a hybrid or NGV car with HOV carpool lane passes would also benefit from this. As would, you know, people who actually carpool. Novel idea.
But fuel savings and evaded tolls pale in comparison to the low-rent parking spaces afforded to motorcycles, which saves $62.50 over the course of the week. And what of public transit? My commute is just under an hour door to door if I take the train, at a cost of $9.00 per day. On the Ducati, it was roughly $5.25 in fuel and parking each day, and only took about 40 minutes each way.
So, at the end of one fantastic week atop the Hypermotard, I managed to save roughly $15-20 over public transit and a massive $100-115 over driving. Given the faster commute, I also saved about 2.5 hours over the course of the week that would have been otherwise spent stuck in traffic, fruitlessly searching for tolerable radio programming.
While it might be somewhat uncomfortable on colder days – not to mention downright unlivable in the rain – riding a motorcycle is the ultimate money saver for most commuters. While it might not seem as tempting in a time of declining gas prices, in the end, it’s an incredibly engaging and fun way to get around.
Strangely enough, it even saved me money on groceries. After all, you can only carry about $25 worth of food at a time when you’ve got a backpack for a trunk.