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There are nearly nine million registered motorcycles in the United States. However, most of those motorcycles are fair-weather toys or cathartic road trip companions. Still, some riders look at their motorcycles and ponder the practicality of two-wheeled commuting on a motorcycle like a Harley-Davidson or BMW. Well, I did it for years, and depending on several factors, you can do it too.

Being a motorcycle commuter injects an element of fun into an otherwise mundane daily grind

A rider takes to the highway on an adventure motorcycle as a commuter.
An adventure bike | Kesu01 via iStock Photos

Riding a motorcycle to and from work, school, or the shops is a tempting prospect for fans whose hearts beat to the sound of a V-twin. However, the practicality of ditching four doors, a trunk, climate control, and airbags for the exposure of motorcycling prompts many riders to stick to their cars. That doesn’t have to be the case, though.

I was a motorcycle commuter on and off for years. After a long day of work, few things felt better than riding an engaging, eager motorcycle instead of settling into a lackluster sedan or SUV. When asked, I would tell people that my time off began at the bike, not after walking through my front door. What’s more, with seasonally appropriate gear, riding a motorcycle every day is more reasonable than you might think.  

How do you commute on a motorbike?

Being a motorcycle commuter isn’t rocket science; it’s about proper planning. Wear safety gear like a full-face DOT helmet, gloves, and a high-visibility jacket. What’s more, saddlebags can take weight off your back for commutes. A weatherproof set or insert will keep your work equipment dry. 

Knowing about weather conditions, keeping your bike up to date on maintenance, and riding within your limits will also increase your odds of successful two-wheeled commutes. Of course, some work situations don’t lend themselves to motorcycle commuting. For instance, when I had to transport my gear from firehouse to firehouse every shift, a motorcycle wasn’t conducive to large quantities of heavy kit.

Still, if you have a reasonable amount of gear to move every day and live in a motorcycle-friendly part of the country, commuting on two wheels can be rewarding. Moreover, bikes tend to be fuel-efficient compared to ICE cars, so savings at the pump are part of the equation.

While riding every day has its obvious benefits, it also has its shortcomings

Riding a motorcycle every day is a compromise. While modern motorcycles offer rider aids and modes with safety and traction in mind, they don’t offer the impact mitigation and safety features of unibody cars. What’s more, without seasonally appropriate gear or a change of clothes, riders can arrive shivering or sweating, depending on the weather.

Admittedly, I was lucky. My duty station was Marine Corps Base (MCB) Pendleton in Southern California. While the winters had the potential to get cold in the early mornings, I didn’t have to contend with snow or excessive icing. Being a motorcycle commuter in Southern California affords riders unique benefits. Beyond the motorcycle-friendly climate, riders can lane split and filter. Both practices allow riders to commute faster and protect bikes against overheating, a serious concern for air-cooled motorcycles. 

Still, if you live in an environment with a compliant climate, grabbing the keys to a motorcycle instead of a car could add spice to your daily drives.


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