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MORE Reasons Why Riding Small Motorcycles is Smart!

Updated: May 25

Why riding small motorcycles is the BEST CHOICE for commuting, fun AND touring.


Have you noticed: Motorcycles have gotten bigger, more complex, and MUCH more expensive? Very few motorcycle riders in North America don’t also own a car or truck. With the current inflated prices, the majority of these motorcycle owners are typically financing BOTH their vehicle and bike!


In the previous article, we discussed the most common reasons that riders list for choosing to ride smaller motorcycles. In this article, we will cover MORE reasons why a growing number of motorcycle owners choose smaller motorcycle models for all-around riding.

1. Small motorcycles are CHEAP to buy, maintain, and operate!

 

The first and most obvious reason to “Go Small” is the lower purchase cost of smaller motorcycles. There are MANY small motorcycle options that cost less than $5,000 - and some that cost LESS than $3,000!


Don't get me wrong. $3,000 to $5,000 is still REAL money. On the other hand, my "adventure" mountain bike, designed for extended bikepacking trips, cost $3,5000 - BEFORE another $500 in required accessories! Many modern ebikes cost more than the smaller motorcycles we are discussing here. For $3,000 to $5,000 you can buy a NEW motorcycle (or scooter) with modern fuel-injection, LED lights, room for groceries or overnight gear, charging outlets for your phone, etc. - and a multi-year warranty.


Modern small motorcycles provide comfortable riding WITH economy! Most of these motorcycles will deliver years of trouble-free riding, at 75 to over 100 MILES PER GALLON! An annual oil change should cost less than $25.00!


For the same money, you can only buy a "junker" auto that will "nickle and dime" you with repairs. For the same cost of basic liability insurance on an old auto I have FULL collision and replacement insurance coverage on my 200cc "mini-moto"!

2. Small motorcycles and scooters match "real world" riding.

 

Ever since you put a card in the spokes of your bicycle as a kid, you wanted a motorcycle. You wanted the freedom that only a motorcycle can provide – that is, the ability to go almost anywhere. There might have been a time when your priorities were horsepower, speed, and noise. But - with maturity - we no longer need to feed the wasteful impulses to do burn outs, ride wheelies, or make long jumps.


Squealing tires, drag racing from stoplights, and other aggressive antics are not only obnoxious - but they cost MONEY in gas, tires, and speeding tickets!


Mature riders aren’t focused on the maximum mileage per day, but on sights and experiences. Riding really is the destination!

 

Likewise, we've come to realize that 1200cc's aren't required to enjoy an afternoon crusie on the 55 mph backroads. Commuting on a 50cc to 125cc scooter is actually fun - and we often enjoy preferential parking spaces! For dual-sport and scrambler riders, riding at 20 to 40 miles per hour on forest roads and trails is both easy and relaxing on small 125cc to 250cc motorcycles.


3. Small motorcycles are practical for touring adventures!


Even if you have the cash to spend on a more expensive motorcycle, you know that your memories are not determined by the cost of your ride. Your memories include the sights, sounds, and smells of new and interesting destinations. Can you travel five times farther or faster on an expensive motorcycle? Do you see five times the scenery, sunsets, or wildlife?

What is an "adventure"? I would argue that it is visiting someplace new. An adventure doens't need to be thousands of miles away or require thousands of miles of riding. "Adventures" can be enjoyed day by day! For example, I and two other riders completed the challenging White Rim Trail outside of Maob, Utah several years ago on 250cc dual-sports. We were the first to ride this route on these "under-powered" cycles. and it was the definition of "adventure"!

3. With smaller motorcycles, you CAN take it with you!


A big advantage of riding smaller motorcycles is the portability when NOT riding. Not only are lighter motorcyles easy to move around the garage or in and out of parking spaces, but you can more efficiently transport them. Many cars and trucks have receiver hitches that are capable of carrying the weight of a small motorcycle. (Check the "tongue weight" limits for your vehicle. Do not exceed this limit with the combined weight of the hitch rack and your motorcycle or scooter.)


Being able to transport your motorcycle means that you can take it on vacation to another state. You can haul it behind an RV if you are a "snowbird" that flies South each winter. Or you can transport it to the start of a group ride or rally. If you've always wanted to complete a tour of a distant area, now you have the ability to haul your motorcycle there rather than riding the distance between home and the start of the "adventure" - Backcountry Discovery Routes, for example.


riding small motorcycles

4. Maintaining small motorcycles can be an enjoyable ADDITION to the riding!

 

Expensive motorcycles are as complex as modern automobiles. Electronic EVERYTHING including traction modes, computerized suspension, TFT dash with Bluetooth, etc. exceed the diagnostic and repair skills of most owners. With motorcycle shop rates pushing $150 per hour, owners are SHOCKED by bills for $1,000 or more for annual inspection and routine service. 


In addition, most high-priced cycles require proprietary parts, circuits, emission sensors, and even specialized tools to perform routine repairs. Don't expect to save money on generic parts. Expensive motorcycles typically demand premium gas, where less expensive cycles will run on the stale gas from a one-pump station in the boonies.

 

Thankfully, smaller motorcycles are not only easier to ride but easy to maintain. It doesn't take a lot to keep a basic engine running. Change the oil once a year - that's about as complicated as it gets. The engines and drive trains of smaller motorcycles have often been designed for "world markets". These inexpensive motorcycles are not luxury and status symbols in the U.S. but are designed as daily drivers in many other countries.


Small cycles have engines that are largely exposed, meaning that you don't need to spend an hour just removing trim pieces to even do basic functions like cleaning the air filter or changing a spark plug. The required maintenance is minimal - and intentionally simple.

If you are not "mechanically inclined", don't worry. Most motorcycles have a basic owner's manual. Beyond that, you can Google any task and receive input from owner's forums and YouTube videos. Instead of relying on a high-riced motorcycle shop (that makes its money catering to the owners of the $25,000 and up models), you may have several "small engine repair" or owner-operator independent cycle shops in your area. Many areas also have mobile small engine repair techs who will come to you and can assist you with more complicated tasks like adjusting a clutch or checking the engine valves.


But I highly suggest making the effort to learn how to preform the simple maintenance and repair jobs. Every motorcycle owner needs to know how to remove wheels and fix flats. You might buy motorcycle or membership that offers roadside assistance. But you will travel farther and more often - with more confidence - if you can tackle minor tasks like splicing a broken wire or adjusting chain tension.


5. Entry-level motorycles for beginning riders. Minimalist motorcycles for older, smaller, and solo riders.

 

The sales of big, heavy, and expensive motorcyles have flat-lined and are declining. While the motorcycle manufacturers concentrated on marketing speed and technology, motorcycle buyers have increasingly purchased simpler, "retro" models. Selling price isn't the only issue. In every other area of modern life we are surrounded by (and dependent on) technologies that we can neither diagnose or repair. We live in fear of breakdowns of our microchipped cars, computers, smart phones, appliances, HVAC systems, etc. Why subject ourselves to more technological dependency in our recreation?


Technology has become excessive in most modern motorcycles. Instead, there is a reassuring and nostalgic appeal of simpler, basic cycles. Riding small motorcycles is an escape from digiatl overload in other areas of life.

If you have experience riding a bigger motorcycle, the smaller cycles will feel nimble and “flickable” in comparison. If you are a new rider, or a smaller person, piloting a smaller motorcycle is not intimidating. You can reach the ground and enjoy perfect stability. With less mass you will have better control in corners, when braking, and in rough conditions. In contrast, simply parking on an uneven surface is impossible with huge motorcycles.


If your planned riding includes unpaved roads and trails, lighter motorcycles offer distinct advantages. I’ve been stuck in mud with a big bike when my riding partners (on smaller cycles) rode circles around me. Don’t forget that all touring motorcycles are ONE-wheel drive.


Riding a smaller motorcycle is a choice reflected in your riding style. You ride less aggressively, allow more room for passing other vehicles, and simply enjoy a slightly slower pace. You tend to plan your routes to avoid the aggressive, hurried drivers on the freeways, thus drastically reducing the volume of traffic you encounter. Of course, this casual pace pays off in much improved fuel mileage.


6. Embrace the simplicity and minimalism of riding smaller motorcycles.

 

What is required for traveling by motorcycle? Far less than we picture in our minds when thinking of a touring motorcycle.  Bigger is NOT always Better! Many riders now agree that Less is More.

 

Barry Dwernychuk in his book, Easy Motorcycle Touring, states, "Now riding is my yoga, my moto-meditation." Riding should be FUN and RELAXING. Riding an over-priced, over-powered Hog is no longer the fun it used to be. He continues, "A good touring bike is simply one that will safely, comfortably and reliably carry you and the gear you need, across the distances and terrain you want to explore, at the speed you want to ride." No where does he specifiy a necessary motorcycle price, size, or design.

riding small motorcycles

Let your personal riding style - not a marketing image or even the pressures of another rider - influence your speed, distance, and schedule.


Riding smaller motorcycles is not only less expensive but also less intrusive and allows us to be connected closer to the sections we are traversing. Prioritize the experience, not the miles. After all, isn’t that why we are travelling by motorcycle in the first place?

riding small motorcycles

Andrew Pain, the author of Going Small (described as “The Argument for Small Roads, Small Budget, Small Motorcycle”), advocates for getting off the freeway, setting a slower pace, and enjoying the journey. He encourages riders to choose the smallest motorcycle to cover the miles, and then pack as light as possible. Every gas stop and local meal will provide the opportunity for interactions with local residents. Smaller motorcycles are non-threatening (and typically much quieter!)

 

If you need more data to convince you that riding and touring on smaller motorcycles is possible, just do a Google search for bicycle touring to learn how these adventurers pack for extended trips. Then add a few motorcycle tools and your riding safety gear and you have a packing list for a minimalist motorcycle trip that can span weeks or months. Use your smaller motorcycle as the incentive to minimize your list of “necessities”.

Riding small motorcycles requires the opposite mentality and motivations of the buyers of big and expensive modern cruisers, elaborate ADV bikes, and high-powered sport bikes. Never before have motorcycle owners spent more money to drive MORE miles and tally FEWER experiences. But you now know that a relaxed and economical alternative exists!


small touring motorcycle

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