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In the Quest for Sustainable Transportation, Should We All Be Riding Motorcycles?


As electric and hybrid vehicles replace combustion engines for a cleaner transportation industry, where does that leave motorcycles? Are they a sustainable way to travel?

First, it has to be said that the most environmentally friendly way to travel or explore the world is with your own two feet, whether that’s walking, biking, skateboarding, or in a wheelchair.

However, this isn’t always practical. 

Walking, or even running, is slow, and even cycling can’t get you as far as powered transportation systems. Public transportation is the best bet, as buses and trains are considerably more efficient and produce fewer emissions than cars or planes per passenger. Some buses and trains are even electric, although those still have teething issues.

But there are downsides to buses and trains as well. Simply put, you’re tied to the route. From there, you may need to hop into a vehicle to get where you want to go. So, what vehicle do you choose?

Motorcycles: a surprising contender

Motorcycles don’t inspire images of sustainability. However, they do have all of the benefits and freedoms of driving a car, but with lower environmental costs. If you’re traveling on your own or with only one passenger, a motorcycle is by far the better choice. Most cars only carry one or two people, which makes the switch a sustainable move.

Image courtesy BlackTea

It doesn’t take a sharp eye to notice that motorcycles are much smaller than cars. This has several effects that further tip the environmental scales in their favor. The smaller size means that motorcycles don’t have the same impact on traffic infrastructure and congestion, as they take up less space and can be easily moved. They’re also more efficient in towns and cities as they aren’t slowed down and blocked by congestion.

The smaller size also means that motorcycles take fewer materials to build. A low-capacity motorcycle only requires a seventh of the resources needed to build a car, for example. The lack of bodywork also means that motorcycles can last longer, so they don’t need to be replaced.

In general, motorcycles produce lower emissions than cars and may use just over half the fuel needed to power cars. Fuel consumption does depend on the specific type of engine and how you ride it, but even so, the numbers are in the average motorcycle’s favor.

Electric motorcycles

Just like cars are going electric, so too are motorcycles. Harley-Davidson LiveWire, Zero SR/F, Arc Vector, are all making electric motorcycles. Not only do they work like other EVs—gas-free—but they may perform better, too. Unlike gas-powered engines that take longer to reach peak power and torque as the engine needs to warm up, electric motors reach peak power and torque instantly. And they can maintain more consistent power and torque throughout the entire RPM range.

Image courtesy Harley-Davidson

Electric motorcycles can also save money. While they’re more expensive up front, the cost to power them is less than the cost of filling up a gas tank. And because there’s less maintenance, that will save you money over time, too.

People who ride electric bikes say they’re more comfortable, too. There’s no vibration when stopped, and there’s less noise with the e-cycles, making it healthier for your ears and your neighbors, too.

Other Benefits to Motorcycles

The environmental benefits of picking motorcycles over cars are certainly enough to convince plenty of people to make the switch, but that’s not all. As mentioned above, walking and cycling are very good ways to travel, even if they’re slower than driving. Not only are they very environmentally friendly, but you can also get to places on your feet that a car can’t take you.

Image courtesy Tarform

Motorcycles don’t offer the same amount of freedom off the beaten path as walking, but they do offer more than driving a car. You can take your motorcycle along roads and paths that a car would struggle with. 

Another good reason to consider a motorcycle is that they’re simply fun. There’s nothing quite like riding a motorcycle along a long, stunning road and enjoying the journey.

Looking to purchase a motorcycle? Your nearest Yamaha motorcycle dealer can hook you up with a ride that will suit your needs.


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