by Victor Wanchena
I was absolutely amazed. $3.59 a gallon for premium gasoline. I was in the middle of nowhere at a small gas station with the need for a tank full of their finest petroleum. The final damage was over $20 for a little less than 6 gallons, a personal record for money doled out on a fill up. Granted, this was the high prairie and I suppose a 20-mule team carts their petrol in once a fortnight whether they need it or not. But they had it and it was a much better deal than walking, or worse yet, pushing.
At the risk of sounding like an old man on a rant about how much gas cost “back in my day”, I do remember being able to pay for a tank of gas with a five and get change back. Things change and gas costs more. What are you going to do? I am ever the optimist. So, despite the recent spike in fuel prices hitting us in the pocketbook, I see an interesting silver lining for motorcyclists. We are all discovering what wonderfully efficient machines we own. From lightweight scooters to big bore cruisers, they all deliver good mileage to one degree or another.
Motorcycles are inherently superior machines at the gas pump. Two wheels and a few hundred pounds will always trump four wheels and a couple of tons. Talk among the tire kickers at the gas pumps seems to be drifting away from top speed or quarter mile times to gas mileage. I see a small kid tugging at my sleeve asking, “Hey mister. Cool bike! What kind of mileage do ya get with it?” I reply, “Uh, 50 miles per gallon.” “Wow, 50 miles per gallon! Dad, can we get one? Can we?” comes the plaintive cry of a young man seduced by the lure of mechanical efficiency. It might be a bit of a stretch, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel vindicated against the general attitude by non-riders which is that all motorcycles are just a capricious whim, not a serious and economical form of transportation.
We get lucky on two counts, since most motorcycles have fuel economy to rival an economy car or hybrid, but the performance of an exotic sports car. And you get all of that at a fraction of the cost of any of the aforementioned cars. What a deal. Unless you opted for the 500 horsepower Boss Hoss or a bike with six thirsty carbs, you enjoy the benefits of a gas-sipping machine that measures 0-60 times in seconds, not hours. I guess we get our gas and get to burn it, too.
Occasional riders are discovering that commuting by motorcycle isn’t just economical; it’s fun as well. Instead of saving all their riding for the weekend, many riders are using their machines for all those daily errands and commuting. The cost benefit of riding is rather obvious when you fill up. But as important as the money is, the greater benefit is that the more you ride, the more experience you gain. Keeping your skills sharp all week means you’re a safer rider come the weekend.
The days of really cheap gas may be gone. They will be missed. There will be many solutions to this problem. In the end, motorcycles are not the perfect solution to rising fuel costs, but they’re as close to perfect as I need.