Working to Ride? Ride to Work

Get more saddle time and take your two wheels to work. No excuses!

Ride your motorcycle to work
Saddlebags solve the problem of carrying necessities to and from your job, but even if you don’t have them, you can use a backpack or a seat bag. Try using a briefcase from Wolfman or Chase Harper, both come with bungee cords.Cruiser

“I don’t get to ride as much as I used to,” my friend Scott lamented recently. “There are so many demands on my time these days. Weekends aren’t my own anymore.” He’s clearly not alone. When the weather is inclement, I sometimes wonder if motorcycling has been outlawed and nobody told me.

Scott wasn’t prepared for my reply. “Why not ride your bike to work?” I asked.

“Well, uh…” he began. Then he offered a litany of what sounded to my motorcycling mind-set like excuses: “Got to haul work.” “I’d need to wear a suit.” “What if it rains?” “I think I’d get there faster in the car.” “Might be dangerous.”

He missed one of the standard lines: "What'll the boss think?" But none of his reasons held much water with me. I commute every day, and believe me, I have to haul plenty of work, and sometimes a laptop computer, a camera, and other items as well. And I don't even have the luxury of riding my own bike every day, so I can't equip myself with saddlebags or a luggage rack on a regular basis. I have to tote everything I need with a backpack and bungee cords. Unless you're an anvil salesman, which Scott isn't, toting your work probably isn't an issue.

Those wearing a suit are easily accommodated by an Aerostich or other oversuit, or by other means (leave the business clothes in the office and change there, for example). Rainsuits (which include booties) are compact and effective.

Scott has the speed issue backward. A few years ago, we compared motorcycles to cars in a commuting situation. We had several pairs of people commute on the same route, leaving at the same time from the same place. One person in each pair drove, and the other rode. To make it completely fair, the motorcyclist had to put on a helmet and jacket and strap on any gear he was taking, while the driver walked to the car, tossed his stuff in, and drove away. The rules prohibited lane-splitting, but even so, the motorcyclists got to work, on average, 20 percent faster. A superior view of the traffic ahead, quicker acceleration, and the ability to squirm through narrow spots made the difference.

Danger? Sure, riding a motorcycle is dangerous, and traffic certainly adds to the challenge. But not riding regularly is also dangerous. Your skills deteriorate if you only ride on weekends, more so if, like this guy, you only ride every other week. I have ridden to work in L.A.’s brutal traffic virtually every day for more than 25 years (except for a month off with a broken foot and maybe another 100 days or so when I had to take one of those annoying four-wheelers). I haven’t driven to the office in a car more than twice a year for the past five years. I have had three accidents and no serious injuries while commuting in the past quarter-century. One of the accidents almost certainly would have been much worse in a car. There were also many occasions when being on a motorcycle permitted me to avoid an accident because I could slip between lanes to avoid being rear-ended or accelerate away from danger.

The image problem may be more imagined than real. Motorcycles, especially cruisers, have long since shed the stigmas of the ’50s. Nowadays, riding a motorcycle may even enrich your image at the office. One reader even saw a direct link to a promotion.

Riding to work has clear benefits besides improving your skills. It’s good for motorcycling because it reminds everyone, regulators included, that motorcycles serve a utilitarian function. It demonstrates the benefits motorcycles offer society such as reducing congestion, lessening impact on roads, reducing parking requirements, etc.

But the personal benefit is even more important. When getting to and from the office changes from drudgery to recreation, you arrive with a brighter attitude. In an age when baby boomers are realizing that they aren’t kids anymore, no matter how hard they work out or diet, and when finding time for the things you enjoy is tougher than ever, riding to work is a terrific way to add a regular dose of fun and pleasure to your life.

A few years ago, there was a movement supported by firms such as Dunlop and Aerostich, to establish an annual Ride-to-Work Day every summer. The idea was to show everyone—riders and others—the fun and utility of getting to work on a motorcycle. It seems like something we should revive with a few changes. Ride-to-Work Day should be any odd-numbered date when the temperature is above 40 degrees and it’s not hailing.

Or, at the least, every Friday.