LIFE ON TWO WHEELS
The good, the bad and the ugly of motor biking.
Warm weather and $4 gas. It's a recipe for two-wheeled travel. Bicycles are cool, but some of us need to get somewhere fast. Or far away. Or just have fun. You see them come of the woodwork at around this time: biker dudes, racer boys, BMW business commuters, stunt riders, rat-bike rocker guys, off-road rashers, scooteristas, and hard-core overland travelers. But what's it like to be one
The Good: Riding a motorcycle is not even remotely like driving a car. Being out in the elements, one can see, feel, smell and experience everything in a state of hyper-real bliss. Riding a scooter is like a mini-version of the same thing. We call cars "cages."
The Bad: People are trying to kill you. In some cities and states, drivers have a good awareness of things on the road that are not cars or trucks (like pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, medians and baby strollers). New Mexico is not one of these places. Riding here is like a fast-paced video game with no cheat code for invulnerability or extra lives.
The Ugly: Mother Nature can be ferocious. Winds are sometimes strong enough to blow a motorcycle into oncoming traffic. Cold weather can be difficult. Flooded roads and driving rain are treacherous, as are ice, pot holes and "tar snake" road patches.
The Good: You can do it anywhere. Between parked cars at meters, on the sidewalk-there is always a niche to be found.
The Bad: It's usually illegal. Good cops let it (and you) ride. Bad cops ruin your day.
The Ugly: You don't have to be actually riding in order to be invisible to cars. Cars back into parked motorcycles all the time. Even when a business (like Whole Foods) is cool enough to have motorcycle-specific parking, it's often around back and on asphalt. Small, fuel efficient vehicles that can be easily vandalized or pushed away should get to park up front. When asphalt is hot, kickstands can sink and cause bikes to tip over, so motorcycle parking should be on cement or gravel.
The Good: Motorcycles range from around 35 to 65 mpg. Some smaller machines and scooters easily get 75 to 100 mpg. Fewer materials are used to manufacture them and smaller vehicles require less energy to import and export.
The Bad: Mileage isn't as good as it should be for the relatively small number of people who may be legally transported by a single two-wheeled conveyance. Motorcycle diesel, hybrid and electric technologies are less advanced and less widespread than are those for passenger vehicles.
The Ugly: Many motorcycles consume quantities of engine oil similar to cars and demand more frequent oil changes. Tires wear significantly faster, can be expensive to replace, and face the same disposal issues as car tires. And additional toxic products, like chain lubricant, are sometimes required.
The Good: People are a little unnerved by motorcycles. This can mean they leave you, your bike and your stuff alone, which is especially nice when parking at trailheads and other out-of-sight spots.
The Bad: People are a little unnerved by motorcycles. Some believe you are a filthy marauder bent on killing or stealing everything in sight before your irresponsible vehicle causes you to die a premature and gruesome death on the side of the road. (Think Tex Cobb as Leonard Smalls in Raising Arizona.)
The Ugly: There is genuine discrimination against riders. I've been refused motel rooms, hassled by police and chased by hicks in trucks. Biker gangs don't help. Neither do foolish people riding without proper gear, training or respect for laws, traffic, and the significant power and speed of a motorcycle (we call them "squids," because of gelatinous blob formed inside their clothes when they hit the pavement). But those extremes are a very small part of a large, responsible motorcycling community.
Motorcycles are great, but they do have limits. For one thing, they're not so good for picking up your mother-in-law at the airport. And cargo capacity is limited, although I've carried four 10-foot lengths of copper pipe and an 80-pound bag of cement, for example. Plus, the larger transportation infrastructure is built for cars and trucks, not bikes. That means I have to either detour or wait for a car at major intersection because my bike can't trigger metallic sensors at traffic signals. But carving around a corner while leaning deep into it and powering out the other side is a genuinely transcendental experience. If you tried to force me to drive a car for the rest of my life, a bunch of my biker friends and I would come around and beat you up. Or something.