Monday, June 18th, is Ride To Work Day. For some of us, this is already the case, as you may have read here. As Los Angeles traffic grinds to a standstill, and the rate of car ownership increases, this old biker (moto-commuting since 1985!) is overjoyed to see an increasing number of Angelenos commuting on two wheels. The majority of new riders I see are on gas-powered scooters, but electric bicycles are also growing in popularity here. And LA is home to the largest (by sales volume) electric motorcycle dealership in the world — Hollywood Electrics. Not only does Hollywood Electrics sell more Zero motorcycles than any other dealership, but one of their salespeople spends her weekends teaching new riders at the Academy of Motorcycle Operation in Glendale.
You may have already heard the report detailed here — if just 10% of single-occupant cars were replaced with motorcycles, traffic congestion would drop about 40%. If 25% of LA rode to work, Elon wouldn’t need a tunnel to get to work at 150mph. He’d be able to reach that speed on the 405. At rush hour. Then he’d be focused on inventing more important things, like a Tesla that’s invisible to police. If those moto-commuters chose to ride electric, it’d put a real dent in our smog layer. I think electric motorcycles are also ideal for new riders because (most of them) are direct-drive. Learning how to shift gears with your foot while also learning how to stay alive in city traffic can be challenging.
Motorcycles (and scooters!) have been my primary form of transportation since the tender age of 15. Yes, I’ve crashed a few times. But I’ve analyzed these crashes, seen what I could’ve done differently, and learned from my mistakes. Yes, some riders give up after their first crash. That’s their choice. But in most parts of the world, cities would cease to function if everyone hid out in cars all day like they do in American cities. When I used to race motorcycles, I was appalled when men I raced against would tell me they never rode on the street. They claimed it was too dangerous. It’s only dangerous because American drivers aren’t accustomed to sharing the road with motorcycles. And that will never change if even racers insist on cowering in their cars all week. Even the San Francisco Bay Area has become overrun with cars. It’s sad, because when I was growing up and learned to ride there, motorcycling was far more prevalent than it seems to be now.
Curious about the freedom that motorcycling offers? Here’s what to do…
- Find a motorcycle safety school (MSS) near you. Summer is the most popular time, so you may have to sign up months in advance. They run about $200.
- In California, you can study for the written (permit) test online. Schedule an appointment at your local DMV and take the written test. It’s not required for attendance in most safety schools, but the California DMV will waive your driving test if you pass a certified MSS. Plus that certificate can save you 10% on insurance. Which is great, since motorcycle insurance for a new rider is quite high.
- Find your dream bike! This is the fun part, although it can be overwhelming. While some bikes may suit your tastes, others will better suit your lifestyle. This old biker always recommends starting on smaller bikes. Luckily, the OEM’s are starting to catch on to this and offering a slew of ~300cc ICE motorcycles that are perfect for entry level riders and accomplished racers alike. Don’t believe me? Watch some WSS300 racing and then tell me you really need a GSXR1000 for your commute.
4. Find some quiet roads on which to practice riding, and some patient riders to roll with you and show you the ropes. While every mountain roadhouse is packed with posers who aren’t interested in encouraging new riders, there are plenty of online forums. Once you’ve picked a bike, you can find owner’s groups, either forums or Facebook groups. There are also group rides that are beginner-friendly. The East Side Moto Babes hosts one of my favorites, and many of their rides are for women only. Hollywood Electrics’ monthly group rides are also beginner-friendly, and a great way to meet other electric motorcycle owners.