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Earth Sense: Two wheels are more economical than four

POSTED: June 21, 2014 9:50 p.m.

You’ve just spent $60 on a tankful of gas. The woman at the pump next to you filled up her scooter for $8.

Wouldn’t it be more economical to be on two wheels some of the time? It sure would.

Scooters and motorcycles get great gas mileage, ranging from 35 mpg on the “big rigs” to 75 mpg on the small ones.

Here are some basic facts: 

After getting the extra driver’s license endorsement (www.dds.ga.gov), your next step should be to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course (www.msf-usa.org), available in this area.

There are several levels to choose from, starting with the most basic for people who have zero experience on two wheels. Don’t worry, they’re not going to start you out on an 800-pound, $25,000 touring rig.

After taking the course, which is fun and very safe, decide if you want a scooter or a motorcycle. Starting small is good, because the vehicle is easy to handle, and if it falls over, you won’t need help picking it up.

It should be powerful enough to keep up with car traffic to avoid getting tailgated, so 125cc is the minimum engine size. 250 to 400cc lets you get around city highways very nicely, and the fuel mileage will be marvelous. 

Scooters give better rain protection than motorcycles, especially in the leg area, and are quick to get around corners. Motorcycles tend to be more stable at highway speed due to their different seating position, although there are crossovers, and it’s a matter of personal preference.

You don’t need leather gear, tattoos, chains or the like, because motorcyclists aren’t “bikers.” Many prefer the stylish cordura clothing, often with waterproof features. But in any case, protective clothing is a must, and the safest helmet to choose is the full-face type. On the other hand, alcohol, even within legal limits, is an absolute, positive no-no. You’ll also learn great savings in fuel and maintenance cost come with the requirement to be alert 100 percent of the time, so there’s no smartphone use during riding. In the U.S., car drivers are less familiar with two-wheelers than in Europe or Asia, and you need to anticipate the mistakes of others. With proper training and the willingness to be a fully alert rider, you can get around while producing very low emissions, and enjoy great savings at the fuel pump.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.


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