Thursday, May 22, 2014

So, Talk Me Out Of It...

With the recent excitement over the Harley, one thing because crystal clear. Commuting back and forth to work on a full-sized touring motorcycle is less-than-optimal. Big bikes are, as I found out, harder to maneuver, harder to back into parking spots, etc. Plus my current ride uses premium gas and only gets ~ 35 MPG in a mix of city and highway riding. Add into that the toll that the ethanol blend gas takes on the older engine, and I've been thinking about adding another bike.

Why not a small bike?


Kawasaki Ninja 300.

Yeah, I know. It'll be wound up on the highway, I understand that. But the interstate I take rarely hits full cruising speed during the week days, so it's really not that big of a concern that I can't cruise at 75 on a 300. The mileage is radically different, too - the Ninja 300 gets something like 68 MPG highway. And it weighs literally half what the Harley weighs. MSRP is $4,999; I suspect it's a bit less on the floor - plus you can find barely used specimens even cheaper...


Honda CBR250R.

Only slightly smaller is the CBR250R, which retails for $4,199 and gets 77 MPG. One of the advantages of getting a 250 or 300 vs a 600 or 750 is that I won't be tempted to really wind it up on the highway or get stupid on the twisties. It's a small, economical bike that happens to partially resemble a sportbike. But not really.

And yes, I understand. I will spend more by purchasing a second, newer bike than I'll save in gas. This is more to spare wear & tear on the Harley, which I would like to reserve for actual touring rather than the daily grind of commuting. Given the tantalizing HOV lane, I would much rather take the motorcycle than the truck when possible - and so far this year, I've ridden to work four times. I've had the Harley down here for a month. I rode to work maybe once or twice a year in MA....

Finding a used bike, especially something in the 500 - 650cc class, worries me. It's just big enough that someone might have really gotten it sideways before deciding to sell - or just have thrashed the living daylights out of it before going with a larger bike. The price on the new, small bikes are quite enticing, and getting something with fuel injection is very appealing (no more choke! YAY!).

It's just a thought; I may get through the season with the Harley and see what deals can be had in October...

That is all.

23 comments:

Robert the Biker said...

Well, ok, but first a couple of caveats:
I'm in the UK so it's Imperial gallons for me
I run a Lowrider which is a bit lighter and also has different primary gearing (bigger engine sprocket I believe)
Nevertheless, I get about 50 mpg on a run at a regular 70ish.
I also run one of the Mikuni carbs they made just for HDs, a VRM or such; makes a huge difference.
The problem with the small bike is they are revvy little bastards and wear out quick, also, performance and handling in traffic especially depends to an extent on *AHEM* rider weight! This is something the Harley tends to shrug off.
Have you thought of an 883 Sportster or perhaps a Buell? They are pretty fairly priced, nippier than a 'Glide and the spares come from the same place. Also, you will not have to wear a bag over your head to avoid people pointing at you for the rest of your life!

Laura said...

just go on CL and pick up a Ninja 500R. :P they're EVERYWHERE so they can be had for little money, they're capable at highway speeds, and they're able to get out of their own way if you find yourself in a sticky situation.

seriously. 500R. the newer ones are even fuel injected, i think (though you're used to carbs, so an older model won't have any tech with which you're unfamiliar). plus, due to their popularity, parts are everywhere for'em.

Laura said...

er, belay that. looks like they never did fuel injection and they killed the model. no brand support FTL. maybe a 650? both fuel injected and relatively commonplace.


or, you know, go big and get an entry-level Monster. :P

Jay G said...

Entry level Monster + Jay = lost license.

I've thought about a Buell Blast; those are fairly cheap on the used market.

And yes, Laura, I've also thought about the 650R, but that gets into two areas I'm trying to avoid - higher price tag, and MOAR POWER...

Robert the Biker said...

Buell Blast's are ok, but they are really low geared so run out of steam quick. Reason for that is that they are basically a full size 970 or 1200cc Buell with half the engine, weight is an issue so you'd probably find the full size one much more satisfying.

Anonymous said...

I sold my Roadstar last year because I was done riding. Now I'm realizing that I was just done with an 800lb bike in the city. I now have my eye on a used FZR6 or Kawasaki Versys. I commuter bike has my vote.

LCB said...

You could always wait and get one of these next year! :-)

http://www.eliomotors.com/

I'm seriously thinking of getting one for the MPG! I get 50 with my Honda Shadow, but I only get about 5 months of good riding weather.

Jay G said...

LCB, I fully plan on getting an Elio once they're out. This would be an interim step...

Geodkyt said...

Get the bike NOW. You'll likely end up riding it two or more days a week between mid June and October.

You'd probably save as much in gas as you might save in purchase price. At the very least, you'll have the intangible value of enjoying your machine instead of getting it during hurricane season, realizing you'll be garaging it in a few weeks. . .

[Austrian accent]
DO IT! DO IT NOW!

Cargosquid said...

"Yeah, I know. It'll be wound up on the highway, I understand that. But the interstate I take rarely hits full cruising speed during the week days,"

My first thought on that first sentence was, "Really? In Northern Va, on the Beltway? Where GOOD traffic days equals.....30mph on the highway..."
Then I saw the second sentence.

IF we could ease the traffic, Virginia would be paradise.

The Neon Madman said...

My kid just bought a Ninja 300 as his first bike. Brand new - he worked for and saved the money himself. I was impressed. Has a few hundred miles on it and loves it.

Nice bike, if not my style - I drive a Vulcan 800 Classic . Old school. I got the Vulcan by trading in my 1982 750 LTD. The Ninja has an antilock brake option (he got it).

My only real concern would be size - the 300 Ninja is going to be a bit small for a full size (or possibly a bit larger) man.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Never buy a Bike you wouldn't put your Children on. Just because you took the Bike to Work, doesn't mean you might not have to pick up the Kid, Dad.

So some sort of Street Cruiser would be more appropriate, don't you think?

Montierh said...

I'd recommend something in a middle weight 750cc size for a commuter.

A PC 800 would be the ideal commuter bike. But they're hard to find. The storage allows safe carry of weather gear and a laptop and other stuff and provides a nice place to stow a helmet when you park. Torquey and even powered to cruise nicely and not arrive feeling like you've run a jackhammer for an hour.

A naked standard with hard bags works but a wind screen is nice, especially if you get some weather.

Anonymous said...

I have no trouble reaching and maintaining highway speeds with a passenger on my 1.5 year-old 2013 Ninja 300 (EX300, no ABS), no trouble commuting in JayG's old stomping grounds year-round, and no trouble taking 2+ hour trips. No trouble at all passing on secondary roads either. That being said, this is my first and only motorcycle and I only put 10K miles on it so far, so I have nothing to compare it to.

I did sit on the CBR250R, but found the Ninja to be more comfortable - slightly less cramped and a more neutral position. *Nice* clutch. Very maneuverable.

Real gas mileage is about 60-64mpg of 87 octane, averaged year round, rain, shine, or snow. Original tires lasted 7K miles. original battery lasted 10 months. No other problems. The bike never failed to start, never failed to stop and always got me where I was going Cheshire cat-style, with a grin (or at least a rictus) on my face.

Was I supposed to talk you out of it? Right. The passenger continually moans about the seat comfort. The back seat is barely large enough to bungee a helmet to, so anything I carry goes in the backpack. The vibrations between 4500 and 5500 RPM are unpleasant. Ill fitting plastics. Really crap headlights. Crap tires. Crap battery. Weak (but functional) brakes. The stainless steel parts aren't. neither are the regular metal parts. No grease on any of the linkages. Crap steering head bearings. Not impressed with the chain. Quite low gearing, but since I usually have a passenger, I don't care). Tank too small. Crap paint. Crap decals. The "trunk" is too small to fit a plastic bag with my registration and inspection card (Really. Although I do have a disk lock in there as well).

I'm glad I bought mine (at the then current MSRP, no destination or dealer prep, just tax-title-registration) and it has garnered more attention (all positive) than any vehicle I have owned or driven.

dustydog said...

I don't know where you live now, but if you are in the DC metro area east of Manassass and north of Fredericksbug, motorcycles are not practical. They are a boutique toy, to cautiously take out of town a few times a year for fun.

Look at your commute: how many times a week is there a fatal accident backing up traffic? How many hours has it been since somebody cut you off, since you had to brake hard to avoid a collision? You can't afford to give up the visibility, roll cage, airbags, extra traction, and mass that a real vehicle provides. Too little money spent on the roads around here.

You can look at the state data and say, only a hand full of cyclists die in my county per year and they are probably kids (https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/safety/crash_data/motorcycle/pdf/fatality_juris.pdf ), but look at the data for crashes reported: https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/safety/crash_data/motorcycle/pdf/crash_juris.pdf

RollsCanardly said...

Here's a different idea: look at a dual-sport. My Suzuki DRZ-400SM gets about 70mpg, weighs about 300 lbs, is tall enough to see over most cars, has great brakes, and out-performs 90% of the other traffic. If you're going to be on the hiway often, I'd suggest looking at something like a DR-650.

Mopar said...

I'm gonna lean toward what my cousin Les says. Something closer to a cruiser style. The ninja isn't all that comfortable for an older person or a taller person. Not to mention the style and handling tends to encourage faster riding, even if the horsepower doesnt. :P
I'd say look for a 2013 leftover 650 V-Star classic. 60mpg, and just big enough you won't go into a white-knuckled panic every time you see a tractor trailer on a highway. (those 300lb bikes tend to get blown all over the highway every time you even THINK of a truck!) Should be close to your price range if you can find one (I think they dropped the 650 classic for 2014), or you can certainly find a lightly used one at a reputable dealer.

Dan in IL said...

Your 11/27/13 post on the CBR250 grew in my mind like an infection. I bought my first motorcycle in March this year, a used 2012 CBR250. I've commuted to work nearly every day this spring and my face hurts from smiling. You owe it to your readers, I mean yourself, to buy something soon.

Cargosquid said...

Found your bike.

http://cf.cnn.com/2014/04/28/us/stealth-military-motorcycle/?obWgt=articlefooter&iref=obnetwork

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey;

I have a Suzuki Burgman 650 scooter...Yeah I hear all the jokes, but the gas mileage is good and I run 80+ on the interstate all the time, and they are very docile machines. The 650 is BIG...And it keeps up with the bigger bikes all the time. Also it has storage space out the wazoo and you can add optional saddlebags. Just check them out and the prices are pretty good especially for used ones.
http://carsnewsblog.com/gallery/2635554-suzuki-burgman-650.html

Jim said...

Pacific Coast for sale.

Fly in to get it. I'll pick you up at Hobby Airport, put you up for the nite, buy steaks for dinner.

http://houston.craigslist.org/mcy/4476116389.html

These are highway worthy, and it's only a 2 day ride home for you. Or, ship it.

Could be the best all 'round commuter bike, ever. Room in the back for rain-gear, laptop bag, etc.

Can't hurt to check into it.



Jim
Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

NotClauswitz said...

I really liked my XR650L while commuting because it was so damn tall I could see over everything, it was narrow so I could fit between anything, and with the long-travel suspension I could cut across any curb or lawn if I felt like it. Upright seating was relaxing and super controllable. Way better than a KLR in the dirt, and way less porky. Gas mileage was extended with a Clark tank, and some Renthal CR-High bend bars were required since the stockers were mild-steel crap.
One Man, One Cylinder...

NotClauswitz said...

Oh yeh, plus on the XR650L is nearly indestructible WITH electric start, throw it down the road and plastic is flexible and cheap - not so for KLR. Also dirtbike gear is just kewl, the boots are in all the movies.