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August 23, 2008

Driving Greener on Two Wheels Instead of Four

Loririding For the most part you could call me a "fair weather" ride. If you ride a motorcycle you may understand this to be someone who won't ride in the rain, in really hot temperatures, or below 65 degrees (okay, so the 65 degrees is my limit). However, lately, I find myself riding everywhere.

My riding restrictions all changed when the price of gas hit $4 and kept climbing. Now, I've been a motorcycle rider all my life, but only have taken it onto the highway since 1993. I enjoy a nice ride in the country cruising along at 45 miles an hour and enjoying the scenery. Here in Philadelphia, there isn't too much "enjoying the scenery" happening; I'm mostly just trying to get somewhere.

For me, the choice to ride my bike more was not only an economical one, but an opportunity to put my words into action when it came to preserving the environment. I've always been a big recycler and my friends are never really sure where to put something once they're done with it because I have so many containers, but driving was not really something that I paid too much attention to.

Woman_on_2005_harleydavidson_sports I drive a truck that is 20 years old and I keep it well maintained. I can proudly say that it still gets 21 miles to the gallon. Once gas prices started going up, I realized just how much I was spending on gas. My motorcycle is a Harley Davidson Heritage Softail, It's a pretty big bike and weighs almost six times more than I do, so it was not really practical to drive around the city.

A good friend of mine had a little Honda Rebel 250 sitting in her garage  --  she was riding a 650-- and I asked to borrow it for the summer. I love this bike. It's easy to ride, easy to park, and if it tips over I don't need a small village of people to help pick it up. At the last fillup I was getting 81 miles to the gallon. How can you beat that?

Almost everywhere I go people ask what kind of gas mileage I get. You can sure tell that times have changed: Before, no one really paid attention to a person on a motorcycle, now I think they're a little jealous. (Okay, maybe not when it's raining out!) The best part is that riding the motorcycle more has reminded me how much I love to ride. Sure you have to be more careful in the city, but I think with all the motorcycles and bicycles on the road now people are paying more attention.

I also love to watch people's reactions when they see it's a woman riding. I especially love it when the little girls wave at me. My favorite experience was in the spring when I would ride home from class. There was a little market on the corner of one street and a bunch of older men sat outside everyday. Everyday they would call out to me as I rode by, "You go biker girl." It always made me smile. When you're riding in a car it's much harder to communicate in this way. It feels much more communal in some ways.

I feel good in knowing that I'm doing my part to be more environmentally friendly. I rarely ride anywhere where someone doesn't ask me about the bike or compliment me for being environmentally conscious. In all my years of riding this has never happened before.

Could it be that motorcyclists are finally becoming acceptable road companions? (Okay, maybe that's pushing it too far, especially since I have people pass me on the right all the time.)  I understand that not everyone has the luxury of being able to ride a motorcycle everywhere they go, and I still choose to drive when it's raining, but keeping your vehicle properly maintained can save you money at the pump as well.

So next time you're driving down the road keep your eyes peeled; there's a lot more of us riding every day just trying to do our part for the economy and the environment.

Happy riding to all of you bikers out there and thanks for doing your part.

Lori_teaching_small By Lori Johnson

Lori Johnson is an AskPatty Automotive Expert Advisor, and is the owner and instructor at Ladies Start Your Engines. She is a qualified Motorcycle Safety Instructor and is a Pennsylvania State Inspection instructor. Ms. Johnson earned a certification in Automotive Technology from Pennco Tech and in Client Server Technology from Penn State University. She has an A.A.S. degree in Automotive Technology and is currently pursuing a B.A. in Women's Studies at Temple University.

Lori's business, Ladies, Start Your Engines! is a light-maintenance class for women. Lori teaches her class using venues such as automotive dealerships, colleges, local adult education centers, and women's organizations. She enjoys empowering women with automotive knowledge so that they can feel confident when servicing or purchasing parts for their vehicles and she helps them become a more informed consumer. When she's not teaching you can find her riding her Harley Davidson Heritage Softail or Honda Rebel 250.


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