I said a while ago that I couldn’t wait to ditch public transport in favour of two wheels. I estimated that it would take 30 minutes to ride 12 miles from Ealing to Farringdon, which would mean that I’d more than halve wasted time on my usual three trains and fifteen minute walk.
Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve very nearly achieved my estimated travel time, managing to get to and back from the office in around 35 minutes each way. For context, the time saved equates to 11 full days every year!
Ever since I started commuting on a 125cc motorbike, I’ve noticed something: the vast majority of full-sized motorbike riders respect traffic and err on the side of caution. The same can be said about most 125cc motorbike riders, but it’s the moped riders who worry me most.
Perhaps it’s the easy twist-and-go nature of mopeds - or the fact that many are time-starved couriers - that makes riders feel invincible, but there have been many occasions where they’ve ridden past at almost double my speed without knowing what was coming. If a car, bus or truck were to change lane, these moped riders wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s because of this that I’ve been told “everybody hates the moped riders.”
Another benefit of life on two wheels that I’ve enjoyed taking advantage of is being able to park the bike wherever and whenever I like, free of charge.
In London this means I park in a motorbike-only bay 30 seconds from the office, while at home, I can head into town and pull up between rows of cars that all have paid parking tickets on the dashboard. As for me, I just jump off and get on with my day.
On top of the free parking, I also save time and money thanks to unlimited Bus Lane access, while the London Congestion Charge is also free for bikes. Bonus.
My worry is holding up other bikers while filtering through traffic, so when there is another bike behind me, I tend to pull to one side to let him or her through. Inevitably, I catch right back up, but I’m currently fine taking their lead on pace.
The other bike etiquette part I’m struggling with is knowing if and when I should say hello to other riders. As someone who rides with L-plates (I’ll get my full bike licence in the next couple of months), I’ve no idea if it’s the done thing to tip my head to say hello to every biker I encounter or if that’s only reserved for proper bikers.
So far, I’ve only seen full licence holders greet each other, so I’d be keen to know what the unwritten rule is from anyone more experienced than me.
The MSX - or Grom as it’s also known - is doing me proud. I’ve got it for a couple more weeks, and since it got dropped off with 12 miles on the odometer, I’ve racked up over 200 miles. I’ve found it to be less comfortable than the squidgy Monkey we did a video on, but the trade off is that the narrower seat allows me to put both feet flat on the ground at traffic lights, which is more comfortable than having to lean to one side. That said, the seat gets uncomfortably hot (right over the battery) after around two minutes at 40mph, so I find myself having to stand up every now and then to cool it back down…
The lightness of the Grom - around 100kg - also means it gets to 30mph quickly, and because it’s super agile, it’s easy to duck through traffic.
I’m at a point now where I feel I’m ready to get on a bigger bike, and the thing I’m looking forward to most about it is being heard by other road users because the 125cc Grom is really quiet. A bit more power would be nice, too, but I’m happy stepping up to bigger bikes gradually.
Safety is key when riding, so it’s vital you have the right protection. In my motorbike closet, I have a bunch of cool Knox clothing, including Urbane Pro armoured jacket, leather jacket, carbon kevlar-lined jeans with knee protection, as well as their Handroid gloves. For my feet, I bought some protective boots, while my head’s taken care of with a very distinctive Shoei NXR ‘Stimuli’ helmet.
All of this takes way more time to put on and take off versus jumping in a car and making progress immediately, and this is not helped by the fact that I’ve often put my gloves on before putting my helmet on, which makes it impossible to fix the helmet strap on.
The most annoying thing though - and I’ve done this a lot - is closing my front door, putting my keys in my pocket or bag, then going through the ordeal of putting my gloves and helmet on only to realise that the Honda key has been safely stored away in my bag or pocket three minutes earlier. FML.
As a diehard petrolhead and lover of all things with four wheels (except for the Nissan Figaro, I hate that thing), it’s taken me 34 years to get into bikes. They’ve never really appealed, but because I had an opportunity with Honda that I couldn’t refuse, I’ve become pretty motorbike obsessed because the benefits, the fun and the cost savings cannot be ignored.
I know many of you will be thinking ‘meh, I’m a car guy’, so to you I say ‘just give a bike a quick go’ because I think you might be surprised by how much you like them and the fun you’ll have. As for me, I’ll be doing my ‘big bike’ theory test soon en route to a full license which will allow me to ride any bike and take a passenger.
So now that I’ve said my piece, have I convinced any one of you guys to take the plunge into life on two wheels?