Your First Bike

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There is an exception to the rule about not spending money in order to save it. That exception is the two-wheeled alternative to four-wheeled transportation.

Motorcycles.

Buying one can cut your cost to get there and back in half or more, as many bikes use half as much gas as most cars do. Some only use a third as much. As an example, if you are driving a car that averages 30 MPG – which is pretty good for a car – and that car has a 15 gallon gas tank that you fill up once a week, it costs you about $60-$65 at current gas prices (about $4.20 per gallon, which the Biden Thing expect us to be grateful for) to drive your car each week.

A motorcycle that averages 60 MPG that has a 4.5 gallon tank costs about $19 to fill up. You’ll have to fill it up more often, but you’ll still be way ahead – especially over time, as those savings add up quickly. They add up even faster if you pick a bike that averages 80 MPG or more, which brings up the answer to the question posed by the headline to this article.

The dual sport motorcycle.

This is a type of bike that has a lot in common with a dirt bike, which is a type of motorcycle that’s very light and minimalist, designed that way to be almost as easy to manage off-road, on dirt trails and so on, as a bicycle. The typical dirt bike only weighs a couple hundred pounds, which matters a lot off-road because when you drop it – as you will, if you ride off-road – you will be able to pick it up. Many street bikes weigh more than 500 pounds; some close to 1,000. That is not easy to pick up and it also makes such bikes more susceptible to being dropped, because once they list beyond a certain angle, it is common for the weight to get away from the rider, as during a low-speed U-turn.

The dual sport looks like a dirt bike and is laid out similarly but is designed to be ridden – legally as well as functionally – on the street while still being capable of going off-road. It has more ground clearance and suspension travel. A high-mount front fender, to allow for the latter and to keep dirt from getting trapped between the fender and the tire. Those tires will be “knobbies” – though the tread is not usually as aggressive as a dirt bike tire, so the bike can be ridden on the street without rapidly wearing out a tire not meant for asphalt.

It will also have turn signal indicators, a brake light and a headlight – everything legally required to be DOT street legal, so you can get a license plate for it and so on.

This type of bike – examples include  Yamaha XT250, the Suzuki DR series and the Kawasaki KL/KLR/KLX series – has a number of advantages that go beyond cutting your gas bill by two-thirds or even more (some bikes in this class are capable of averaging close to 100 MPG).

One of the biggest is that they are perfect first bikes for the person who has never owned a motorcycle but wants to.

Because they are perfect bikes to learn on.

First, because they won’t get hurt if you drop them. Which you probably will, if you’re just learning. Like dirt bikes, they are designed to be dropped – and picked up. They are also designed to be ridden on dirt – and grass – where you can practice without worrying much about dropping it. And if you do – which you will – it will be on soft rather than hard ground. Mud or grass stains on your pants is better than road rash on your legs.

Being light, they are easy to handle. Literally. You can move them around much more easily than a bike that weighs two or three times as much. Once you gain confidence riding, you will come to appreciate how “flickable” a lightweight dual-sport is; how you can ride one almost anywhere a bicycle can be ridden.

Another plus is you won’t quickly outgrow the bike – though you may well decide to buy a bigger/second bike that’s better suited to long highway riding and passenger-carrying. But even a 250 cc dual sport has plenty of power for commuting and city-suburban riding, with enough power to be capable of short hops on the highway, if you need to be able to do that every now and then.

Storage bags can be easily added, to increase the bike’s capacity to carry cargo – such as groceries.

There is also an additional financial plus in that dual sports will usually save you money on insurance, which can be high on bikes – especially big heavy ones and “sport” bikes. It is quite possible your cost to insure a 250-650 cc dual sport will be half what you’re paying to “cover” your car. And it will cost you almost nothing to maintain the bike, which requires almost no maintenance except for oil changes and chain cleaning/adjustment. Tires wear out faster, but are much cheaper, too.

The best part of all may be that if you do decide to go up to a bigger bike – or decide that having a bike isn’t for you – it won’t have cost you much at all to dip your proverbial toe. Because bikes (especially these days) hold their value almost as if they were made of gold. Sometimes, they gain value. I stupidly sold my last dual sport – a Kawasaki KL250 – about a year before the “pandemic” began – for $1,500. This was what I’d paid for it about seven years prior. That same bike, today, sells for about twice that.

Probably because it cuts whoever owns it now’s gas bill by two-thirds and he’s having a ball riding it – and would never think of selling it.

. . .

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17 COMMENTS

  1. I get paid more than $85 every hour for working on the web. I found out about this activity 3 months prior and subsequent to joining this I have earned effectively $15k from this without having internet working abilities.
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  2. Eric, i love your motorcycle articles. They make me happy. My buds and I have a favorite saying “the man who dies with the most motorcycles, wins….” Get the KLR now. 🙂
    I’ve owned one for a short bit, it wasn’t for me, but it and it’s like are considered the swiss army knives of bikes, do all (but none of them well). Had a XR650L for a bit too.
    One of my best buds swears by them and I’ve wrenched many of them for him. Even engine swaps. fun.
    Personally, I need a little more focused bikes and own them. My preference at the moment.
    How about some ‘adventure’ bike articles? Currently they are the rage, started basically by the BMW GS and now all make them (1000cc+). Middleweight adventure bikes (700cc +/-) are coming on strong and smaller units (300-500) are growing in popularity fast with many new models on the works.
    An example of how silly we can be on these things: Was adventure riding with a bud on 2-cylinder 790’s, all dirt fire roads to destination, it snow and all too (last week!) and all road back with nice 2-lane twisties in the mountains, and a Harley Pan-American was going the opposite direction. Never in a million years would I ever have desired one, until I saw it, and how freaking cool it was. I want one! doubt I’ll get one though, but I ‘want’ it. 🙂

  3. Thanks Eric!

    Good article. Being older things have to get a little bit worse before the better half would agree. It was maybe 30+ years ago the last time I owned a bike. I think the economy is enough dead to give it serious thought though.

  4. A dual sport for $1500!!!! Dayuuummmm!!! I would’ve bought that in an instant! My first bike was a Suzuki 250 dirtbike- loved it- rode it on the street for short jaunts a few times…but was always wanting a dual sport…never seen one go that cheap though- muc less in pristine condition, which I’m sure yours was, Eric.

  5. Dual sports are great bikes. I started out on sport bikes but switched to DS because of all the awesome roads and trails that were just no go zones for a road bike.
    New Hampshire is filled with pocked marked and heaved back roads that instantly opened up once I got my DRZ400. When riding these roads I could ride as fast as I dared as all the swine patrol the commuter routes for their prey. I’d find winding crazy backwoods ways to get where I was going and avoid main roads as a game. As a bonus I got MPG’s in the 60’s and I didn’t feel like I was folded up like a piece of origami while riding. No more sore wrists and aching back. On top of all that all maintenance and repairs are easy with basic tools. Even mounting tires with nothing more than a socket set, tire spoons and an air pump is within reach of a DS owner. There are downsides though. The seat height can be rather intimidating at first, especially if you have a bag strapped to the rack. This can be further complicated by uneven ground as I’ve been caught off gaurd several times trying to put my foot down and a dip had me stepping on air. Another less than pleasant aspect of the dual sport is highway comfort-there isn’t any. Taking on a passenger also has me humping the handlebars and feeling awfully sad for the bike.
    All in all I’d like a second larger ADV bike like a Tenere 700 for long trips but I’m so glad I gave up sport bikes for dirt bikes.

    • Hi Spokes,

      I’ll be happy again when I can get another dual sport; ideally, a Kaw KLR650 – me being a Kaw guy. As you say, go anywhere, anytime – and easily escape the AGWs, too as a Ford Explorer isn’t going to be able o follow you when you just dive off the side of the road and into the woods!

      • Eric!
        Another thing I loved to do on the DRZ was guerilla (stealth) camping. I’d load ‘er up and scout around for any good wooded area, especially gated “green” zones. The bike was easy to camo in a thicket and there was no sign that anybody was parked there. No jackass fish and game or park ranger woodspig encounters for years. These bikes are also great for sneaky fishing trips at the lake as fish and game are always looking for anglers parked vehicles. It’s great fun dodging their ridiculous fishing license when all you want is some harmless recreation. People just don’t realize how much the swine has taken advantage of that massive 4 wheeled target on your back.

      • I wonder what your guy’s thoughts are about the digital speedometers/tachs on the newer bikes. The, “digital dash”.

        That’s one of the real turn-offs with me & the newer bikes. Do they last as long and are as durable as a dial speedometer/tach?

        Every time I see a digital speedometer I have visions of blinking on the fritz early 1990’s digital dash failures in automobile dashboards, I just don’t know if this aversion to digital on a bike is well founded or not.

        • Helot,

          My ’12 DRZ has a digital dash and it’s never given me any problems. I’ve ridden it through downpours and parked it outside on extended camping trips and it’s never fogged or glitched on me. I’ve been in Florida a while now with it tarped or parked under a pole barn depending on location and the 100% humidity hasn’t got it yet. I’d bet Suzuki used conformal coating or potting on the circuit boards knowing these bikes would live a hard life. The good news is the Suzuki dual sports are still carbed analog machines to this day so even with dash failure the bike will still get you there. Analog gauges are likely digital inside now anyway so just buy what you like.

      • The Mule has a great following and a great number of aftermarket options, but the dual-sport cognoscenti seem to think that the DR 650 is the better machine.

  6. A bike would be a great alternative when it costs too much to charge your EV…lol

    They are jamming EV’s down your throat but the grid doesn’t have the capacity to charge them, so it can just sit in your garage with a dead battery.
    When demand goes way up and overloads the system, the price goes way up.

    With a 90 kwh battery it would cost $1051.65 to recharge your EV…lol

    Here is an example:

    London Power Prices Spike 5,000%, Relies On Belgium To Thwart Rolling Blackout

    London’s power grid was pushed to the brink of failure following last week’s record-breaking heatwave.
    boosting power prices to a record high of £9,724.54 (about $11,685) per megawatt hour. This is more than 5,000% versus average power prices of £178 (about $215) per megawatt hour.

    Recharging your EV
    What test drivers are actually getting driving in the real world driving EV’s is they are getting 2.4 miles of range for every kwh
    They are using 41.66 kwh to go 100 miles. (.4166 kwh per mile)

    $11,685.00 per megawatt hour = $11.68 pet kwh

    With a 90 kwh battery it would cost $1051.65 to recharge your EV…lol

    These EV’s are using 41.66 kwh to go 100 miles. (.4166 kwh per mile)

    To go 100 miles it would cost 41.66 kwh x $11.68 = $486.58
    Only gates or musk will be driving….lol

    Buy a clean burning ice diesel instead:

    The 2014 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion diesel
    The 2014 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion diesel, capable of a claimed 88.3 mpg imperial, or 73.5 mpg U.S.

    To go 100 miles the ice diesel burns 1.36 gallons of diesel in it’s super clean .000001% emission engine.

    To go 100 miles it would cost 1.36 gallons x $5.00 = $6.80

    They don’t want you driving at all, this is one way….

    https://www.zerohedge.com/commodities/london-power-prices-spike-5000-thwart-rolling-blackout

    • Anon,
      Live free or die New Hampshire residents will be faced with a DOUBLING of their electric rates next month!

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NC9GdZ5NiLk

      This is slapped on top of some of the highest electric utility rates in the country. How affordable is that EV looking now? Well, at least the Masshole influx can afford the extra expense, this place is done and unliveable for native New Hampshire folk.

  7. This is not a bad option for a very cheap dual sport:

    https://www.superiorpowersports.com/250_Gas_Motorcycle_p/tt250mc-tbr7.htm?keyword=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxfGYk8WW-QIVg-DICh17-grPEAQYAyABEgKRKvD_BwE

    You’ll need to be handy with a wrench or two and will likely have to know (or learn) how to re-jet the carb. There’s also a fuel injected version called the Hawk DLX which is about $2,000. No re-jetting would be necessary:

    https://q9powersportsusa.com/products/#forward

    • Mister,
      I don’t know about the dirt bikes but I’ve heard the tao tao scooters fall apart if you look at them. I have heard good things about Lifan bikes though. You’re sure to get a solid bike if you go Japanese though. I got my DRZ new in 2012 and have just shy of 26k miles on ‘er. The only thing it’s needed are fluid changes, tires, chain+sprocket set and a battery. Thats it! No repairs in 10 years even after countless rocky rooted trails and buzzy highway trips from SWNH to the white mountains. She doesn’t even consume any oil in between changes! A fantastic basic bike to do just about anything.

  8. I wonder if the same thing is/has happened with motorcycles as is/has happened with cars & trucks? And, RV’s. I imagine so:

    “Now is one of the worst times ever to buy a car. Wait six months or a year and things will be different.” […]
    “There has never been a worst time in the last 30 years to buy a vehicle.”…

    https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/flood-repossessed-vehicles-poised-hit-used-car-market

    I saw a really cool looking KLR 650 on Craigslist,

    “2022 Kawasaki KLR650 with factory trunk, Just in on trade, 101 miles, Factory warranty runs until 11/24/2022, one small scratch on the trunk, as close to new as you will find, financing available,”

    Who knows what things will be like in six months to a year from now, though. It’s a gamble, everywhere, in every sector, it seems.

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