The Things We Get Used To

I am a lurker with a bunch of local motorcycle guys who pass on rumors and facts about motorcycles and motorcycling. The latest batch of bqack-and-forth was about Hardly’s LiveWire sales; or lack of sales (569 motorcycles last year). Yesterday’s conversation was punctuated with a quote, At highway speeds, no real motorcycle gets more than 100 miles of range.”

I figured that the scribbler must have been talking about EV “real motorcycles?” Motorcycle repeaters just seem to become dumber and less literate every decade. I know at least one Zero owner who would disagree with that claim. He commutes 140 miles from the mountain desert to San Clemency several times a week on a 2020 Zero somethingorother. (Don’t know the model.) That rider was pretty jazzed about fuel savings, and bragged about it often, until his electric bills went through the ceiling in the last year. You’d think everyone in southern California would be powering their homes/vehicles with solar, but I guess not.

At least from my fixed-income and old fart vantage point, the price of EV vehicles is still an overwhelming obstacle for most everyone but the idle rich. But that is kind of true for motorcycles over 650cc in general. For example, the 80hp LiveWire S2 at $15k is their “cheap” EV bike, while $30k for the LiveWire One was priced for Jay Leno and his buddies.

As a reference bike that I might consider (if I were a decade younger), at about $12k Suzuki’s 2023 V-Strom 800DE is packed with features, 85hp, a 280 mile range, a Quickshifter, ABS (switchable), three riding performance modes, four traction-control settings, and low RPM assist. Comparing that to the LiveWire S2 still seems like a no-brainer. In every important category, except carbon emissions, the ICE bike wins.

But that is not the point of this rant. To me, $12,000 seems like a LOT of money for a motorcycle. $30,000 is an insane amount of money to spend on a freakin’ toy. And, for 99.99…% of motorcyclists, a motorcycle it’s used so rarely it barely qualifies as a toy.

I’m still stuck where any motorcycle costing more than $3k is “too expensive.” Since 1982, all 10 of my street bikes have cost less than $3,000 (most were under $2k) and, while they were all “used,” most of the were barely broken in after 2-10 years with their original owners. Granted, my current motorcycle is a 2012 250cc “beginner’s bike” that had 700 of climate-controlled-garage-stored miles on the odometer after 10 years with the original owner and the TU250X wasn’t expensive new ($4,100). Before my street bike period, all of my dirt bikes cost less than $1100, with a brand new Suzuki RL250 being the most expensive of the bunch (at $1100 in 1974) and the rest costing less than $500, including a new 1974 Rickman ISDT125 and my wife’s new 1975 Yamaha MX100. Those were my first and only new motorcycles and I’d been riding for a decade before that.

My most expensive car, so far, as been $9000 (a used 1988 Nissan Pathfinder in 1994 and our current 2012 Honda CRV). Most of my cars have been under-$2500 beaters and lots of them were under-$500 60’s and 70’s VW Beatles. The most I’ve ever paid for a freakin’ house was $104k in 1997 and our current home cost $88k in 2015 (a repo bank sale by the dumbest bank in recent US history, Wells Fargo). Any vehicle that costs a significant percentage of a house is nuts. But a motorcycle? Not even if I had Keanu Reeve’s money or Leno’s.

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7 Responses to The Things We Get Used To

  1. PFJohns says:

    Hi Mr. Day, I LOVE reading your RoadRants, having followed your writing since our shared V-Strom listserv days. However, I do need to point out a minor mistake in your latest column. Disclosure: I’m a WebBikeWorld reviewer, so I noticed your criticism of a “WBW scribbler.” I followed your link, which led to an Amanda Quick article, which in turn linked to a article in which a chap named Seth Weintraub, “the publisher at the EV news site Electrek” made that remark. ‘Nuf said on that topic.

    I’d be interested in your insights on the bike rental company Riders-Share crowdfunding enterprise, as detailed on the link below. I and friends have used RS several times all over the country with great results. In the past, I invested in Ducati and H-D with negative results.

    Best wishes,

    Paul F. Johnston 10951 Whiterim Drive  Potomac, MD 20854 USA


    • Thanks for the comments and for reading my blog, Paul.

      I get the connections that produced the silly statement I quoted, which is part of why I’ve stopped calling rag-writers reporters and renamed them (for myself) “repeaters.” Quoting something silly doesn’t remove the guilt of saying it,. Fox proves that every freakin’ day.

      Likewise, the article you linked starts with “Demand for motorcycles has never been higher.” That just seems dumb as hell with all of the dealer closures we’ve witnessed in the past 5-10 years. After exposing the financial games HD played in the Great Recession lead-up, I don’t think I’d put any more weight on their financial statement than I would a Trump “business.” Polaris seems to be making most of their money on ATVs and farm toys. In Minnesota, motorcycle safety class student counts have consistently dropped for the last decade and I think that is true elsewhere. There is no shortage of cheap used cruisers in Craig’s List anywhere and, during the warm months the Mississippi River is practically lined with driveways full of Hardlys and other cruiser crap with big “For Sale” signs. Bike rentals are expensive because of the insane liability problems and the fact that the few people who want to rent a bike are often also rich tourists. Around here, that crowd usually speaks German, Swedish, or Chinese.

      I would keep my money in a CD rather than bet on that market. In fact, I will keep my money in CDs and indexed money markets.


      • PFJohns says:

        Thanks for the prompt response!

        My most recent experience with Riders Share actually was cheap: I rented a V-Strom 650 in the Longmont, CO area for ten days at $39/day. Smooth, easy process picking up and dropping off. It was the perfect bike; we strafed six CO mountain passes (all on weekdays) and visited five ghost miner towns in the Rockies (attached).

        I’ll be in the Astoria, OR area in late April and hope to Riders Share again. I’m bummed out that you’re not riding these days; I make no concessions to age yet…


        Paul F. Johnston 10951 Whiterim Drive  Potomac, MD 20854-1777 USA


      • We’ll see if I’m done with motorcycles. The eyes tell all. 😉 I lost most of last summer due to MG ocular problems for the first half and recovery from eye surgery for the 2nd. I still have a perfectly good TU250X waiting in the garage for a rider. Hopefully, it could be me. I think my big mile days are gone forever, though. I start having double-vision problems, usually, after about 3-4 hours on the road and I won’t recover until I’ve rested for an evening. No more 1,000 mile days for me, I guess. I started making concessions to age when I was 30-something and started breaking bones on and off the motocross track after 15 years of being made of “rubber and magic.” At 75, I suspect I might be made of cheap glass and dried toothpicks.

        Your Riders Share experiences sound excellent. Similar to a friend who did something similar with an unaffordable sports car on a car-sharing site in New Mexico. The idea is probably good, but my faith in Austin kiddies and their dotcom ventures is at an all-time low and it was never very high. I’d have to see what the CEO and CTO are paying themselves before I’d even think about it as an investment.


  2. Tim Long says:

    Some really smart people (as in engineers at MIT and some other noteworthy engineering school) did some pretty valid-sounding analysis of the carbon “footprint” differential between an average EV sedan and an average gasoline-only sedan, with findings that for the average American driver, the EV had a 25 to 33% lesser carbon footprint than that same gasoline sedan. The winner? Probably a second-hand Prius. But $15k+ for an electric motorcycle? Seems that some of us have a lot of available cash. My solution: reduce my energy consumption by a third, keep my fifty-year-old Volvo longroof and the Bonneville 650 of the same era in good running order, and use the old Raleigh Three-speed for 75% of my around-town trips. And just take it easy and slow the heck down.


    • With HD only selling 500-some LiveWire bikes in a year, it looks to me like the number of potential customers willing to puke out $15k for a motorcycle is pretty small. A niche, in fact. I think your solution is totally valid. I can’t do the old vehicle thing because I will never go back to carburetors, but otherwise I’m with you. I love the hell out of my eBike all through the warm months. None of my ICE vehicles get much use during bicycling season these days. I gave my 40 year old mountain bike to my daughter, but I still pull out the recumbent a few times each summer.


  3. Tim Long says:

    Thanks for the note back. I really appreciate your observations and stories. I’m not surprised that HD’s not selling much in the way of the LiveWire bikes – it seems oxymoronic for the firm that sells more via the HD “Lifestyle” of big rumblers than it does selling basic machines, as undesirable as I happen to find them. But then I’ve moved on to a fifty-year-old Triumph….
    PS: I get the carburetor thing – I moved proudly up to fuel injected engines after the vexations with early ’70’s carburetors’ attempts to meet air quality standards. My present acceptance of carbureted engines is in part a rejection of modernity and its sales pitches, and in part that I can trouble-shoot, figure out and tune SU and Amal carbs. By the side of the road if I had to 🙂


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