The Frugal Biker: A Realistic Perspective on “Economical” Transportation

The Frugal Biker: A Realistic Perspective on “Economical” Transportation

Many is the man who has rationalised the purchase of a motorbike to his wife (or himself) by proclaiming how economical it would be, but we all know that a rationalisation is all it is. The real reasons are more fundamental and deep-seated. But if you do choose to offer the rationalisation, you might do well to take a few matters into consideration in making your decision to purchase your motorbike. Here are a few of them:

Purchase price

If you’re really buying a bike for purely economic reasons, you can forget the machismo element, as the sexy bikes cost a lot nowadays, often upwards of £20,000! Even the diminutive Vespa, long considered the epitome of inexpensive transportation, can cost you over£2,500.  could offer you the finanial help you need to purchase the bike of your dreams! There are, however, many models of scooters and small to medium sized motorbikes that can be had for a reasonable price. Buying used is, of course, an option, but if you don’t know your dealer or the previous owner, you could end up buying a money pit, repairs and maintenance for which can quickly turn your “economical transportation” into little more than an expensive hobby. A safer bet is to look for unsold models from previous years, or models that aren’t in such high demand, but are still well-built and reliable. Dealers are typically willing to reduce the prices on these, just to get them out of their inventories and tax rolls.

Petrol mileage

At one time, motorbikes as a rule offered much better fuel economy than motorcars, and some still do. The aforementioned “sexy” bikes, unfortunately, are not among them, with some performance bikes barely getting 10 kilometers per litre of petrol – significantly worse than even some mid-sized motorcars. Some of the less ambitious motorbikes available will actually get upwards of 20 km/L, and the truly economical motorbikes and scooters can get over 30.


Motorbikes are inherently simpler machines than motorcars, if only for the fact that they typically have fewer moving parts and far fewer accessories and features. For this reason, it is not as intimidating for even a novice mechanic to take on the chore of maintaining them. But unlike modern motorcars, most bikes do require fairly frequent maintenance. Tyre condition and pressures are much more critical when you’ve only got two wheels between you and the pavement. For this reason, you’ll need to keep a closer eye on the pressure than you might with a car. Secondly, motorcycle tyres tend to wear much more rapidly than motorcar tyres, and will need to be replaced more frequently. And while you can certainly do this task yourself, it is much more easily performed with a proper tyre mounting machine than with a set of tyre irons. Whether that increased ease is worth the cost of having your mechanic do it for you is a decision you’ll have to make. Balancing the tyres is another matter; it is a simple enough affair, using a relatively inexpensive gravity balancing tool.

When considering whether you’re up to the task of doing the maintenance on a given bike or scooter, give the specs a close look. If the fuel is fed by means of a simple carburetor and the spark is delivered via a magneto or a simple capacitive discharge ignition system, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty keeping things sorted out. If the bike is fuel injected and the ignition is managed by computer, it’s unlikely that the average biker will have either the equipment or the expertise to perform the required maintenance on those systems. Fortunately, such modern systems rarely require attention, and when they do, the cost to have your qualified mechanic perform the tasks is likely to be reasonably low, especially as compared to the cost for tuning a more exotic multi-cylinder sportbike or cruiser.

But no matter what bike you decide to purchase, if you decide to maintain it yourself, you’ll want to get a manual for the specific model, even if that means purchasing a relatively expensive shop manual from the manufacturer. This is because no matter how “simple” the design appears, there will be some little tricks of the trade – not to mention special tools – that will make your efforts infinitely easier. Without the manuals, you won’t know about those tricks and tools.

One thing to keep in mind: your mechanic makes his or her living fixing and maintaining bikes and selling the parts that wear out. While most mechanics don’t mind offering the odd piece of technical advice, you don’t want to make a pest of yourself by expecting the wrench to talk you through everything you do. And if you genuinely want to make an enemy of your friendly mechanic, by all means, purchase your parts and tyres from a mail-order discount supplier or on the Internet, then take them into the shop to be installed.

Show your motorbike some love

Take the time, especially on those weekend afternoons when the weather is too foul for an enjoyable ride, and clean your motorbike, paying special attention to the odd bits that aren’t quite as visible. By doing so, you’ll acquire a better familiarity with your machine, and might even spot something before it becomes a problem. If nothing else, your familiarity with and appreciation for your motorbike will increase, adding to your overall satisfaction, whilst at the same time helping to keep the cost of ownership and operation down. And that was the reason you bought your bike, right?

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