Feb 26, 2011

We're Back?

In 2008, fuel prices bumped against $4/gallon and suddenly motorcycles took on a practical value to a fair number of US citizens. As a motorcycle safety trainer, we were almost overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to take the course and earn their motorcycle license and by the sudden change in student demographics. For the first 6 years of my MSF trainer career, the overwhelming majority of "students" had been old farts working on their late term bucket list. Most of these characters were Hardly stereotypes of either sex and I put the word "student" in parenthesis because many of those people demonstrated none of the characteristics of real students; mainly a willingness to work hard at learning something new.

Suddenly, in 2008, our student population turned young. I don't know if the state's data would support my observation, but I do know that the energy in the classes I taught that year was a lot higher than in the previous six. After the economy tanked, fuel prices collapsed and so did a lot of motorcycle safety training programs. The following year our class load was at least 10% down and the program I teach with started canceling classes as early as June, a full two months before previous years. Last year was a repeat of the previous with $2 gas convincing the marching SUV morons that "peak oil" was a liberal tree-hugging delusion.

The fact is, we past peak oil almost a half-decade ago (or you could argue that the little 2008 blip was the peak, but that doesn't explain the previous 3 years of flat production) and we're going to be teetering at the peak for a few years before the down side of that curve forces real changes in human behavior. Every time the world's economy shows signs of recovery, energy consumption will go up and prices will follow, high energy prices will force consumption down, the economy will collapse, and the cycle starts over.

If we're on the downside, that means that motorcycles, even in the US, are part of the alternative transportation solution. At $4-10/gallon, getting 70-150mpg becomes a lot more enticing. Folks like the shade-tree engineers at EcoModder.com are talking about modifying to a variety of motorcycles in the interest of squeezing more mileage out of production motorcycles. Scooter owners are already used to getting 100-or-more miles per gallon from their vehicle of choice. Motorcycles are more about performance than efficiency, but that could/should/will change. It has to, or we're going obsolete like the SUV, 3,000 square foot yuppie Texas Whorehouses, and the buggy whip. [Actually, the buggy whip could make a comeback.]

I, believe it or not, have my new (to me) WR250X in the kitchen this weekend (since it is 6F in the garage) sorting out the suspension, fixing the silly things the previous owner did to the bike (chopping off the back end of the stock exhaust), and getting the bike ready for a season of commuting, exploring dirt roads, and a tour or two. I'm also hoping to have a stuffed motorcycle safety class schedule to pay for it all.


Oz said...

I suspect you will have full classes. I think it is about to be the time to sell any used bikes we might have laying around. I have changed my savings budget for my summer trip. Going to need more for fuel.

T.W. Day said...

I hope so. Teaching kids to ride is a lot more fun than listening to geezers complain about how hard it all is.

Chris said...

fingers crossed for the stuffed classes, so they add a couple! I'm taking the ridercoach class in may. :)

by hypermiling, I've been able to get my WR250R up to 80-90mpg. Keeping the RPMS down and shifting up quick. Not going over 55mpg in 6th. not fun, but good mpg. having fun in the forest, down to 40mpg >:)

T.W. Day said...

I'm hoping for at least 4 more this season. Usually, the schools add classes pretty quickly when they start to get overbooked. They cut them just as fast. Almost half of my 2010 schedule was cut for lack of participation.

I'm really looking forward to getting my bike on the road. Winter has worn out its welcome.

Chris said...

yes, winter wore out it's welcome the 20th time I took out the snow blower about a month ago.