Just like with smoking and drag racing, your life expectancy decreases when you mount a motorcycle. Yet people continue to mount their crotch rockets, their choppers, their iron sleds despite the danger.
For Michael Gougis, journalism instructor, just a glimpse of one as a kid was enough to get him hooked for life.
“I saw some pictures of the Daytona 200 in Sports Illustrated when I was very young and I was in love,” Gougis said. “It was like a formula racecar I could ride on the streets, on the way here I did about 132 mph on the freeway.”
Others like Jessica Valentine, math instructor, were raised around them and have been infatuated with them since childhood. She first began riding at the age 9.
“I rode for a couple of years when I was young,” Valentine said. “It was my dad’s babysitter, we’d go out to the middle of nowhere and I’d ride.”
And for some like Camilo Rocha, psychology, it was an unexplainable desire inside him. Even though he knew people who rode, he was never really interested until one day the desire to ride overtook him.
“Honestly I just woke up one day and decided I wanted a motorcycle,” Rocha said. The bug bit me while I was sleeping.”
Though there are economical, communal, and environmental reasons for getting a motorcycle, a vast majority of riders do it for reasons beyond that. For most, things like good gas mileage are just an added bonus.
“It can be economical,” Gougis said. “My motorcycle can accelerate faster than any Ferrari. It gets 45 MPG, I can lane split, and parking is often a lot easier. But the biggest benefit is that every day I get to ride a motorcycle and it brings me a great deal of joy.”
Student Nahun Ochoa, business, rides a sport bike to campus. For Ochoa, the biggest benefit to riding is the feeling of freedom that you can’t get with a car.
“There’s no better feeling than riding a motorcycle, there’s nothing like feeling that wind. It’s such a liberating feeling and not everybody gets to experience that feeling,” Ochoa said.
Choosing which type of motorcycle to get is also a major part of it. Just like people, no two motorcycles are the same. Some are built for speed—like sport bikes—while others are built for comfort—like cruisers. For many riders, their choice of motorcycle is often a reflection or extension of their personality.
“My choice reflects my personality: rationally extreme,” said Gougis, who rides a sport bike.
Ochoa described just some of the different styles of motorcycles and what the riders who choose them want out of their bikes.
“It all depends on the spirit of the person,” he said. “You got the Harley guys who like to cruise and the crotch rocket guys who like to go fast.”
While all this may seem like a series of testimonials from a motorcycle company to gain new riders, the reality is just like anything else in life, motorcycles also have their drawbacks. While purchasing one may be inexpensive, a lot of money goes into it after buying the bike.
“Everyone thinks you’re going to save so much money by riding a bike but you spend money on maintenance,” Valentine said.
Sometimes it is not the bike itself that the rider is spending money on but rather the safety gear they wear. Gougis, who spent over $900 alone on just safety gloves and a helmet, feels gear is essential. “I wear the best safety gear money can buy, my helmet was $700 and my gloves were $200.”
While there are other minor drawbacks, like not being able to carry too many things on a motorcycle and exposure to inclement weather, the number one drawback is the risk factor involved. Unlike a car, you do not have four walls protecting you, which is why safety gear is a must when riding. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association there were 318 motorcycle deaths in California, in 2012.
“I’m real carful on the freeway because it’s a real good way to get killed. It can be frightening and it’s more dangerous than driving,” Gougis said.
Despite riding as a kid, Valentine waited to ride again after her kids turned 18 because of the risk involved. But despite that, she feels riders must decide for themselves if the benefits outweigh the risk.
“There is a risk factor in everything you do,” Valentine said. “Even getting in a car, there’s just a balance of the benefits outweighing the risk.”
As for the “outlaw” stigma attached to people who ride motorcycles, Gougis feels that riding can negatively influence personal relationships because of the risk involved.
“The real stigma nowadays is that people are afraid to get close to you because of the danger factor [involved with riding],” Gougis said.
For those thinking about getting a motorcycle, Rocha highly recommends that they take a motorcycle safety course.
“It’s a great thing for people who want to ride, even guys who had been riding for a long time realized they had been doing certain things wrong,” he said.