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Searching for the perfect motorcycle
I have wanted a motorcycle since I was a kid. They just looked so cool to drive. And I get especially jazzed when I'd see women riding them. I still do. Over time, I came to define what the word “cool” meant. With ever increasing gas prices and traffic, riding a motorcycle is cool because, generally speaking, they use far less gas than an automobile nor do contribute to congestion. Little did I know the full extent of what lay ahead on me in terms of actually fulfilling my quest. In my early 20s, I set a goal for purchasing my first bike by the time I was 40. While I'm not there quite yet, I enrolled myself in the motorcycle safety course taught at Cabrillo College in March and passed the rider exam required by the DMV in May. By completing the rider course, I only had to take the written exam, which consisted of both automobile and rider questions. I was exempted from the DMV's riding exam. Now, I all need is a bike. And that has been the most challenging of this whole process. While I followed car models all my life, I hadn't really paid too much attention to the bike market. I knew only of the Harley Davidson and the Kawasaki Ninja crotch rocket type bikes. I quickly learned there are gazillions of bikes out there -- from custom to sport to touring and beyond-- that span the decades. In advance of starting the rider course at Cabrillo, I read riding-related books that explained the biking world, including how to pick out a bike that's best for my needs. With that knowledge, I ventured online to search for my “perfect” bike – one that is comfortable, great on gas (if it uses gas at all) and is cute, of course. But finding that bike proved to be a daunting task. Through my research and the rider course, I learned that buying a used bike is probably best because, like cars, its value drops significantly the second it's driven off the sales lot. I was advised that, in general, but especially during the summer and in times of high gas prices, you can sell a bike for the same amount you bought it. Also, as a new rider, if I crash, I won't be out too much money. However, as with any used vehicle purchase, taking along a mechanic to inspect the bike for disrepair is a good idea. When I think of that disclaimer, I envision being stuck on the side of the road, as my cousin had been after buying his first beater bike off Craigslist. It seemed he was standing on the side of a freeway with is bike just about as much as he drove it. He was always tinkering with it as it was always in need of something. Eventually, the camel's back broke. The last time the bike died on him, he got fed up and left it on the side of the road. Being that I'm not mechanically inclined, have no intentions of becoming a grease monkey any time soon and have an aversion to standing on the side on the road waiting possibly hours for an expensive tow ride to a bike repair shop, I'm shying way from the used motorcycle market. Making that decision helps define my search. But there are other factors my first perfect bike must have. In rider class, I discovered that an old injury to my left ankle may make up-shifting difficult on bikes with a manual transmission. Sure, the bikes used in class are old and highly cannibalized, meaning my ankle may be able to handle a new bike and all it's new technology and well-oiled gears. However, I know that after a long day of standing or during certain types of weather, my ankle isn't that flexible. So, now my focus is on finding a bike with an automatic transmission. While searching the web, I determined that these kinds of bikes are more rare, higher priced, larger than what I need and get about the same gas mileage as my “fuel efficient” car. Sure, I still may save a couple bucks, but if I'm going to get a bike, I want to get the most out of my dollar. In step a few friends who ride to offer their suggestions: why not get a Zero electric motorcycle or a scooter? The Zero S, a commuter bike made by a Scotts Valley firm, would be the perfect bike if its speedometer and mileage count were higher. While sporting a great price, the bike tops out at about 70 mph. I've learned that I need a bike that can go slightly faster than freeway speed in order to get the burst of energy I may need to avoid a collision. Meanwhile, each battery gets about 58 miles before it needs to be charged again. In order to get the federal rebate for buying a green vehicle, I'd have to buy two batteries. That's cool but having this bike would mean no long distance rides unless I bought more batteries. And more batteries would mean I'd have to charge them all before making my return trip home. So, it would take a lot of planning to have this bike, unless I bought it to commute on and purcahsed a gas bike for road trips. But this, plus the speed limit issue, means this bike is not the perfect bike for me – yet. Perhaps in a few years, the bike will be able to offer more. That leaves the scooter option. A quick search revealed Piaggio, the maker of Vespa scooters, makes a freeway-safe vehicle line under the MP3 title for a decent price. I zeroed in on the MP3 400, which maxes out at about 90 mph and gets about 60 mpg. While I haven't test driven a single bike to date because of the aforementioned limitations, I have a hankering to try this baby out. Stay tuned.