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 only 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 large 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!

December
21, 2010

Eric Peters
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and
Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
website
.

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