(A guest post by Paul Vitrano)
It all started in July 2011 when my daughter got her driver’s license. I knew she would be driving to school in September and we would need to buy another car. That is, unless I started commuting by motorcycle. I had several bikes, worked for the industry and lived in Southern California, so it seemed foolish not to give it a try. Twenty months into it, I ride to work virtually every day, and I love it.
When I started, I was riding a 2009 Suzuki Gladius. The Gladius is not the ideal commuting bike in stock form, but with a tail bag, a backpack or courier bag, and some planning, it does the job.
The first benefit I noticed was that I was saving a lot of time on my commute. By car, the round-trip took about 100 minutes. On the bike, commutes were cut to around 25 minutes each way. This was due in large part to the ability to ride in the car pool lanes on the freeways.
In addition, the nimble Gladius made it easy to split lanes, which is legal in California. Splitting lanes is a great time-saver and can be done safely. If you are thinking about trying it, I recommend that you take a look at the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Position on Lane Splitting and the California Highway Patrol’s recently issued guidance document. I also was able to take advantage of prime motorcycle-only parking in most lots.
At the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, we like to say that one of our goals is to create riders of good riding character. My experience as a motorcycle commuter definitely has improved my riding character. Riding every day and depending on your motorcycle as your primary mode of transportation requires a focus and discipline that I simply did not have when I rode only recreationally.
Most importantly, commuting has made me a better rider. When you are on the road every day, especially on Southern California freeways, you need to keep all of your senses on high alert to stay safe. Maintaining safety margins, constantly using MSF’s SEE (Search-Evaluate-Execute) strategy, and carefully navigating traffic have become second nature. I am not the most skilled rider, but commuting definitely has made me a safer one.
Commuting is fun and makes me feel good. True, riding on freeways is not inspiring. But how many people get to ride almost every day? There is nothing better than cranking up the music and riding off into the sunset at the end of a long day.
Have you tried commuting on a motorcycle? Share your thoughts and experiences. Ride well.
(Look for Paul Vitrano’s next post on commuting later this week.)