A Two-Wheeled Hedge Against Inflation

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Ho ho ho. Your Christmas present from Ben Bernanke – $3 per gallon gas – is coming a couple of weeks early. “Qualitative Easing” – printing money, lots and lots of it – is beginning to show itself in the form of less buying power for the money you’ve got right now. Gas hasn’t really gotten more expensive; your dollahs have simply been discounted.

But there’s something you can do, for once. And it’s something good, too.

If you’ve ever wanted to get a motorcycle, here’s your excuse.

Motorcycles – even the big/fast ones – get as good or even better mileage than a hybrid car. Some of the smaller ones can deliver 60-70 MPGs. They also cost much less to buy (and maintain)  than a hybrid – or can, at any rate.

I’ve got several bikes and been a rider for years, almost entirely for pleasure. But now it’s becoming a great way to hedge against inflation. The recent upsurge in the cost of fuel gave me just the push I needed to make what I think is a savvy investment – a new (to me) motorcycle.

Here’s the math:

My everyday driver is a Nissan compact pick-up. Even though it has a four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission, it averages high teens/low twenties. If gas goes up to $4 per gallon again, it will cost me appx. $60 to fill the truck’s 15 gallon tank -which will take me maybe 250-300 miles, assuming an average 20 MPGs.

If gas goes up to $5 or $6 per gallon – and with the printing presses running 24 hour shifts, that is not an unlikely scenario – filling up Buttercup (my wife’s name for our truck) will be our new Mini-Me Mortgage payment.

I had this prospect rattling around in my head when, while surfing the classifieds online, I came across a very nice, low mileage used touring/cruising bike. I have always wanted one of these, not just because I own or have owned every other type of bike – but because all my other bikes (sport bikes, antique bikes, dirt bikes) are not the hot ticket for long-haul trips. The other bikes I have are either not comfortable for long-haul rides (sport bike) too nice to risk being rained on (restored antique bike) or just too small for the highway (dirt/dual-sport bike). Also none of them can carry more than me and my wallet. But I had restrained myself before – because adding another bike to my growing ensemble seemed like a sure-fire way to annoy my wife. Which anyone who is married knows is not sound policy.

But now I had an excuse. A legitimate, responsible reason for buying this bike.

The ’80s-era Honda Silverwing (a slightly smaller version of the better-known and still-being-made Goldwing) only cost me $2,000  - which is not unusual for an older Japanese-brand bike, even if it’s in excellent condition. Nice used bikes – ready to ride, with no Big Ticket problems – are readily available in the $2,000-$5,000 price range. By car standards, that is chump change. But even better than the affordable cost of entry, the ‘Wing gets 45 MPGs. Its 4.5 something-gallon tank costs about $12 to fill up at current prices.

If the price of gas doubles, riding this bike rather than driving my truck will keep my effective gas costs about the same as they are at current prices. That will amortize the $2,000 cost of  the bike in a matter of months – and after that, it’s gravy.

This bike is a fully-faired road trip bike, with a windscreen to protect the rider and multiple storage cases that can carry enough stuff to comfortably take you 1,000 miles down the road – or take home groceries from the store.  It even has a stereo, if you’re into such things. The point being, it is a bike that could sub in for a car (or truck) as an almost everyday vehicle. So long as it’s not snowing, you can ride. If it does snow – or you need to cart home some 2x4s – you can fall back on your four-wheeled conveyance. But if you can ride the bike even 50 percent of the time, your gas savings will be Not Small. Even at the current $3 per gallon. If it goes to $4 or more, and you have a bike, you have an investment in your financial security and a hedge against the ravages of the Fed. In a worst-case scenario – hyperinflation, with the cost of fuel soaring to $10 or more – having a bike could be the only financially viable means of powered transportation left to us.    

That’s what I told my wife. And this time, she agreed with me!

Throw it in the Woods?

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  4 comments for “A Two-Wheeled Hedge Against Inflation

  1. dom
    December 10, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Nice bike!

    My old hog gets about 37 to the gallon if I baby it, hopefully my new six speed tranny takes up to the low 40s.

    Even so though, it’s winter tyme broham and we ain’t riding nowheres.

    • December 10, 2010 at 1:31 pm

      37 MPG isn’t half-bad for a big bruiser like that! The six-speed should get you to 40; maybe even higher than 40. Either way, that’s still better than almost any car.

      And which is more fun to be out on the road with?

  2. erle
    December 11, 2010 at 6:19 am

    I have many motorcycles, from the collector (’59 AJS, ’59 BSA A-10, Triumphs, Guzzis, etc.) One odd one is a 900 cc Benelli Sei (6 cyl transverse) that gets an honest 52-56 mpg on state highway riding in the boonies.)
    I do not use much fuel as I drive less than 3000 miles per year. I bought a 2008 Saturn Astra at under USD12,000 cash during the panic. It is a pretty good car among the small, as you generically mention in your small car piece. It does half of the mileage of my 1982 Benelli Sei.
    My choice out of my bikes for pleasure riding is a box stock 1967 Triumph TR-6 650 cc single carb, and a 1982 Guzzi V-50, half liter. I like light bikes and light cars. The car which is really an Opel was an economy deal to use while I built a Cobra Coupe replica. I never did get around to that.
    I can see why you would get an amazingly ugly Honda v twin shaft drive if you wanted basic transport. It will do that well if you maintain it scrupulously. If you need shop work it is a pig.
    Good luck, and ride defensively.

  3. December 11, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Nice bikes!

    The CX500/GL500/650 series twins are known to be among the most bulletproof and reliable bikes ever made. The 650 has some advantages, too, over the 500 – including easier maintenance (water pump is external) as well as more power.

    As far as ugly – well, that’s in the eye of the beholder! I like the looks of the bike – but chiefly, I bought it because it’s inexpensive, fun and fills a need (cruiser) that I’ve got.

    My other bikes at the moment are: ’76 Kz900 (restored; it’s pretty!), ’03 ZRX1200R (lightly modded), ’00 KL250 and circa ’90s-era XR200R.

    Welcome to the site, by the way!

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