Spring, Summer and Fall I ride to work nearly everyday. Often I will ride in the Winter when there is no snow or ice on the roads regardless of the temperature. This is why my fellow riders started calling me Twisted Tom.
I searched Google for tips on motorcycle commuting. As I read the varied results, I realized that I should just write about what works for me.
From an early age I decided that I would rather travel to where ever I had to go on a motorcycle. Early memories include riding my 175 Kawasaki to Junior High at 14 years old. Parked the bike at my Aunts house two blocks away from the school so as not to get caught. Beat riding the bus hands down.
The following summer at 15 years old with my first brand new street bike, a Kawasaki KZ 400. I rode to work everyday. I was working for Salem City at that time and the city cop was there a lot. I think he thought I was old enough as I was a tall kid and rode with the attitude that I knew what I was doing and I did.
Today I commute on a Royal Star 1300 V4. Plenty of power and comfort. With the right bags I can manage not only to haul what I need for work, but still leave room if I need to pick up a few things on the way home.
One thing you have to address when you are a motorcycle commuter versus just riding the weekend for fun is weather. On weekend rides, which I also do plenty, you can pick which weather to ride in. Commuting you travel at certain times each day. One of the first things I do each morning is to check the weather forecast for the day. Is it going to be good, rain or snow and if it is going to rain or snow about what time? Many times I have been caught in the rain. If rain is in the forecast, I pack rain gear in a saddle bag. When riding in the rain, my riding style changes dramatically. I ride slower, don't lean so much into curves because traction is reduced on wet roads. I also go very easy over road paint as it is very slippery when wet. Snow and ice are another matter. I try my hardest not to ride in these conditions however, I have been caught with snow starting to stick to the roads. If this happens do not panic! When this has happened to me I have slowed WAY down, held my clutch lever about halfway in second gear and just rode it out. My advise is that if snow is on the way, leave the bike home.
Another thing to deal with is traffic. People in cars on the way to work are sometimes not fully awake like us. They might be trying to merge onto the freeway, eating their breakfast, drinking coffee or soda and checking messages on their phone at the same time. Leave yourself room to stay away from traffic as much as you can. I prefer the second lane in when approach on ramps. Sometimes this is not enough so you need to be aware of what is behind you so you can change lanes quickly if needed.
Increased motorcycle maintenance is another factor when it comes to the die hard commuter. We put on a lot more miles than the weekend enthusiasts. It also makes us better riders, but that comes with a price. With more miles, tires and other critical parts wear out faster. Oil changes are more frequent and I check tire pressures once a week. I keep a close eye on tire wear. When in doubt if the tire is still good, change it.
At my job, I have uniforms that get back from the cleaners each Monday. I plan for this by attaching a tour pack to my bike that day. I have found that I can fit 5 days of cloths in it to bring home. One set taken back each day in a saddle bags for cleaning with my lunch in the other.
There are pros and cons to being a dedicated motorcycle commuter. Weather can be frustrating and times, but I look at it this way. I get to have a motorcycle ride before work, and no matter how tough the day is, I get to ride my bike as soon as it ends. As always, let safety be your guide as to whether to ride or take the cage.
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