My son wants a motorcycle (cue ominous music)

His argument: It will be cheaper on gas.
My rebuttal: Yeah, people lying in the ICU with multiple fractures rarely need to buy gas.

His argument: It will save me a lot of money.
My rebuttal: Yes. Death is very economical.

His argument: I’m a good driver.
My rebuttal: I know you are. I’m worried about all the other DWHUA* dipshits on the road who will try to kill you.

His argument: This motorcycle (a 2006 Honda something-or-other) is top-rated for safety!
My rebuttal: But what happens when your ass is no longer attached to the Honda, but is skidding across the blacktop at 60mph? What’s the safety rating on your ass?

His final plea: Will you at least think about it?
My concession: I will think about it.

So here I am thinking about it. I’ve ridden one or two motorcycles in my time, and hated it. There’s no buffer, no wall, between you and all the blunt instruments whizzing by. Everything he said makes perfect sense (I hate it when he does that); he works a full-time crap job and needs cheap transportation, but he’s only 17 and for some visceral reason the thought of him on a motorcycle horrifies me much more than the thought of him driving a car did (and that was horrifying enough).

And I’m perfectly aware that I have my own baggage about the subject I need to lay aside - my stepfather (who’s idea I’m sure this is :rolleyes: ) thinks he’s a biker and it has long been my instinct to automatically detest anything he likes (motorcycles, car races, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and blues music, to name a few) so I’m sitting here trying to figure out how much of this is genuine parental concern and how much is knee-jerk revulsion at my son acting like someone I loathe.

So…Teenagers on two wheels? Opinions?

[sub]* Driving With Head Up Ass[/sub]

There’s no way in hell I’d agree if it were my kid. And my kid is so responsible it’s - er - scary. He’s scary straight and responsible if that makes sense and chances of me getting him a motorcycle are somewhere between slim and HELL NO WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?

I didn’t start riging a motorcycle until I was 35, and I pretty much think that’s about the right age to start.

What kind of town do you live in? Major metropolis? Will his commute require him to go through a lot of streetlights, on the freeway, or just quiet country roads? Does it rain or snow a lot where you are? All these factors should be considered. You can’t ride in snow and you probably shouldn’t ride in rain.

Also, riding responsibly means wearing good quality armored riding gear, boots, helmet. These things can run pretty expensive. The motorcycle also needs regular maintenance that runs about $200 every 6 months. The tires need to be replaced more often than car tires, and they are a LOT more expensive than car tires. I was surprised that my motorcycle, in the end, didn’t really save me any money.

Of course, you can skimp on a lot of this stuff, but only an idiot does.

Personally, I’d like to have a lot more people riding motorcycles, because I want to reduce the oil intake in this country by any means necessary. But no one should start riding in ignorance of the risks, without training, or without the proper gear.

I am a former motorcyclist.I see too many adults who can’t ride in a safe manner. NO WAY would I let a teenage boy near a bike. Also, I don’t believe any motorcycle could be top rated for safety. :rolleyes: Fnd out what insurance would cost and let him know he will be paying the full amount.

That sounds like an emotional response, not a logical one. If Marlitharn’s kid (or yours, for that matter,) start ignoring any emotion-based responses, then they’re just going to get a bike the minute they turn 18. Better to hit them with the straight-up facts and leave the emotion out of it.

What about a moped?

I got one when I was 13. Glad Dad didn’t post on the 'Dope. :slight_smile:

Or possibly a scooter? Even more economical, but unable to reach high speeds, and therefore less likely to be involved in the really hideous accidents. It’s a compromise between his first three arguments and your concern over his safety.

Granted, scooters and mopeds are way less sexy than motorcycles - but he’s doing this for the economy and efficiency, right? Right?*

*Why, yes, I am an evil person, why do you ask?

I got my first motorcycle when I was a teen. Just recently purchased a new one. Unless you live someplace where the weather is clement all year round, it’s practical transportation only during the warm months. It’s possible to ride when the weather is cold or otherwise bad, but it’s a miserable way to travel.
Where does his route to work take him? Things get whole orders of magnitude worse, IMO, when you take your two-wheeler out on the freeway or interstate and commence to playing tag with the 18 wheelers and rush hour traffic.
OTOH, cruising down a scenic country road on a warm, sunny day is immensely pleasurable.
My point is that motorcycles are, for the most part, toys. For the daily grind, a car is the only way to go.
Just for laffs, I rode my bike to work last Friday. It was uncomfortably cold getting there in the morning, and I got caught in the rain on the way home. Everybody at work thought I wuz way kewl, though.

I have a friend who used to be a trauma surgeon. Two things she forbids (to the best of her ability) her family to have are 1) convertible or other soft top cars and 2) motorcycles.

“Buy your son a motorcycle for his last birthday” - the ER doc quip.
“Donorcycles” - what another physician calls them. He loves donorcycles - they provide top quality organs from young healthy men to transplant.

Both of the above quoted docs had bikes in medical school for the ease of parking, cheap gas, etc.

We rode bikes in my family. Brother and I both have gimped joints (bro goes in for knee surgery every 5 years or so to try to tighten it up, I have a bum ankle and arthritis.) I won’t put my son down that path, especially where I live - too much traffic to enjoy the ride.

I went down the path of ragtops, and adding roll bars (race set certified) for protection. I get the wind in my face without the risk factor.

Look - bikes are FUN. My now wife loved it when I picked her up on the bike, she would be riding side-saddle with her late 80s tight skirt on. Many a fond moment.

But the other drivers are idiots. The bikes are NOT stable in too many conditions. Kids like speed and more speed, and bikes deliver both.

Um. No, no, and HELL no. Motor vehicle collisions are the primary cause of death for adults (and children) age ~16 to ~age 40 (I’d have to look up the actual numbers). That’s fact one. After that age we get into heart disease, and never leave it.

Fact two is that if you plot the death rate against age, you would see that it is highest at the younger ages, and falls off with increasing age.

Fact three. Separate the age curve into 2 curves: males and females. Wow - males die of motor vehicle collisions at a much higher rate than females. So, now you can see a curve with young men dying due to motor vehicle collisions at the highest rate in the entire US population.

Fact four. Motorcycles are associated with a higher death rate than automobiles.

Doesn’t mean that your kid would die if he got a motorcycle. But no kid of mine would ever get one.

I don’t date men who ride them. Only boyfriend I had who ever tried got a spiral fracture (foot facing wrong way, one and a half times around) on the first day of motorcycle safety training class). Had my sympathy, buy I was so glad he never got back on that bike!

[as for the facts, I could find citations, but in injury epidemiology they are so well known as to not need citations when mentioned in an article. the first one is web-searchable, try CDC Wonder]

Pretty sure your numbers aren’t totally correct. The determining factor in motorcyle fatalities is rarely age, rather it is ignorance. The typical motorcycle fatality is drunk, has no motorcycle license, and isn’t wearing a helmet. More than 50% of motorcycle fatalities involve alcohol, and more than 50% aren’t wearing their helmets. Cite. Any motorcycle rider can dramatically decrease their likelihood of being in an accident just by not being ignorant.

That said, riding a motorcycle is never as safe as being in a car. It is always a dangerous activity.

Marli, I totally agree: Motorcycles are too dangerous for any seventeen-year-old boy (especially ones you love), I also loathe my stepdad, and car races and Lynyrd Skynyrd do actually suck. Blues music…meh. Excellent rebuttals!

I had a friend in high school who rode a bike to school every day. He never had an accident but then he had been riding dirt bikes since he could walk. I got my motorcycle a little over a year ago and crashed it almost immediately but haven’t had any problems since. Just for the record I had no injuries from my crash although I was wearing my helmet, and probably would have died if I hadn’t worn it.

I think getting a motorcycle is a good idea in these times. One of the reasons I bought mine was gas mileage. But riding to work when its freezing out is not fun and after doing it once my bike doesn’t come out of the garage unless its over 40. Riding in traffic is not fun and I will drive miles out of my way to avoid it. These statements might make more since to a 17 yo then the injuries. My mom gave me the same speech when I bought my bike and I figured I wouldn’t get hurt, yes I am 25 why do you ask?

Okay, have a seat. Mopeds and scooters are not as safe as motorcycles, because you can’t accelerate out of trouble when it happens. My opinion only.

No one rides a motorcycle because of safety. You are not safe, you are actually quite vulnerable. To everything. To the extent that it may help, you should take your son to a place where he can meet some experienced motorcyclists, and you should gently turn the conversation to personal near misses and lost friends. I’ll start.

My brother was killed at the age of 26. A driver had pulled into the intersection, realized he was lost, and had stopped mid intersection. By the time my brother figured out that the car was stationary, he was maybe 100 yards away and going 50 kmh. He braked hard, tried to turn right, dropped it onto its right side, skidded and was killed instantly when his wheels came in contact with the wheels of the car, flipping him and the bike up into the strut between the front and rear seats on the passenger side. I really miss him. That was his last of at least 3 accidents that we knew of.

My friend’s brother G. was killed when he crested the top of a hill on a back road doing 80 kmh. On the far side of the crest of the hill was a cow that had gotten through the fence and was wandering on the highway. No sign that he even had time to hit the brakes.

A friend, J., was stopped behind a van that was turning left into my driveway. This was about 100 yards past a major intersection with a stop light. A car gunned it to make it through the yellow light in time, and rear-ended the van with J. sandwiched in between. Again, I doubt he ever knew what hit him. Driver got off with a fine for manslaughter. My roommate at the time was totally freaked out - we had left an acting class at about the same time, him on his bicycle, me on my motorbike. When he came home to see the cops all over the place, the road shut down and an unidentifiable twisted motorbike lying in the street in front of our house, he reached the logical conclusion and came running up the stairs in a total panic.

An unidentified kid in Saskatoon. I was out for a run on a Sunday morning along Spadina Cres., and I heard some guys ripping along on their bikes. Just past the Bessborough Hotel, I heard a loud ‘Smack’, followed by a skid, followed by silence. I ran back toward the Broadway Bridge, just as the cops and the ambulance were getting there. One of the bikers had cut the corner too fine, leaned a little too hard and had hit his head on the bridge support. Took his head and his left shoulder off. His buddy was there, talking to the cops. I ran for a bit more, and came back that way, just in time to see his buddy finishing up with the cops. The look on that kid’s face as he straddled his bike and started it up was unforgettable. Half an hour ago, death was an abstract notion. Now, he knew who his constant passenger was.

My friend N., who teaches motorcycle safety in Winnipeg, was on the Perimiter Highway when his chain broke and wrapped itself around his leg. He lived because of his leathers - the leg was broken, and he’s got this awesome scar with the pattern of the chain around his right thigh, but he was picked up within 15 minutes and taken care of. If he’d been wearing shorts, it probably would’ve taken the leg clean off and he’d have bled to death.

I’m not out of them yet.

Any biker bunch will be able to add to the list. The point is, you are only in control of your own vehicle. There are two kinds of biker - those who have gone down hard, and those who haven’t yet. I love motorcycles dearly, and I miss those days when I used to ride ('93 - '96), but I got tired of the vandalism and the constant vigilance on the road. I learned to ride 13 years after my brother died - yes, it was how he was killed, but it was also how he had lived, and I had to make contact with it. That first summer, I also learned how incredibly easy it was to find yourself doing insanely dangerous things without having intended to. ('How fast does 6th gear go, anyway? Oh, I’m doing about 180 kmh; guess I’d better slow down.)

As long as you and your son know what you’re getting into, it’s a great way to get around. Just don’t pretend that it’s safe.

Le Ministre

17? No way.
I got my first bike at age 28 and even then my testosterone got the best of me too many times. You need to have an extremely cool head to ride safely and defensively. I don’t think I would have trusted MYSELF at age 17 to own a motorcycle. Way too tempting to be stupid.
And let’s face it. Being 17 and riding a motorcycle the speed limit along with the other cars on the road is really not that fun. You make it fun by accelerating fast, passing other drivers, leaning into tight corners, riding with your friends. All of it pretty dangerous and distracting.

What a bunch of namby pambies. I’d like to remind you all of one thing: the plural of anecdote is not data. For every gruesome motorcycle crash you can come up with, I can regale you with a dozen tales of fatal car accidents: because face it, people are killed in car accidents every frigging day.

If you are climbing behind the wheel of your car thinking “Oh I’m safer than if I was in a motorcycle,” well, most of you aren’t. You’re yakking on your cell phone, putting on lipstick, adjusting the satellite radio, eating a burrito… Generally doing everything BUT paying attention to the road.

I say this as someone who has been hit by an 18-wheeler.
So let’s drop the emotion for a moment and take a logical look at this.
Gas: no question, motorbikes are cheap. My 650cc, 4 cylinder bike gets about 5L/100 km. That’s 47 mpg. And it’s got enough torque on tap to haul my ass beyond the speed limit in a few seconds. I rarely use that ability, but it’s there when I need.
Good used motorbikes only cost a few grand, and they don’t cost much to maintain. $200 of maintenance every few months? Only if you’ve got something finicky that needs constant inspection of the valves – in which case it’s best to learn how to do it yourself. For many motorcyles, all you need is an oil change twice a year and you’re good to go.

But you do need to check air, oil level, and other stuff regularly.

Death: How much safety gear is in your car and how does it affect how you drive? You know, are you the person who has ABS, so you tailgate like crazy mistakenly thinking you’ll stop in time? And if you can’t well the airbage is a nice soft cushion for your face.

A motorcycle is the embodiment of the 12" spike coming out of the steering wheel. You screw up, you’re going to get hurt. Yup, I wear my full-face helmet and all the rest of my gear all the time, but I know that in an accident that will reduce, not eliminate, the time I spend recovering from injury.
So I ride as if my life depended on it. I’m a paranoid coward who is exquisitely aware that the blue-haired ladies ARE out to kill me. I am constantly adjusting my lane position to make sure I’ve got room to maneuver, room to get out of the way. It’s something I just don’t do when in a car, but on two wheels, I am focused on riding safely.

Safety: I don’t know where Marlitharn’s kid came up with a ‘top-rated for safety’ line, but as far as I’m concerned there is one, and only one, essential gadget for motorcycling safety: anti-lock brakes. The only reason motorcyclists ever ‘lay one down’ is because they locked their wheels into a skid and fell over. With ABS brakes, this can’t happen. You grab your brakes as hard as you can… and you stop. You stay upright, and you don’t go sliding headfirst into traffic.

I have more to say, but I gotta make dinner.

Yeah, I have to agree with this (minus the derision.) Telling horror stories about motorcycles only contributes to the fear, not the education. I heartily disapprove of motivation through fear.

Riding a motorcycle can be extremely dangerous and it isn’t for everybody. If it is for you or your family member, get educated, get good gear, get smart about the risks.

I am going to disagree witht the “scare the pants off you” bunch.

I have ridden a motorcycle since I was 16. I’m now 42.

I have only had TWO times when I felt that I was in danger. I was going too fast on a curve and anticipated that the car in front was going to turn left quicker than she did. Instead of braking, I went around and hit gravel. The bike slipped out from me but all was ok.

The second was when an old guy pulled out, saw me coming and panicked. He finally decided to stop in the middle of the road. Fortunatley I was able to go around him.

Now want to hear about all the stupid shit I did in a car? Much more so than my bike.

If you impress upon your son how dangerous it could be, that you would hate to lose him, AND get him to an ABATE class, then I see no problem with a cycle.

I would even encourage my son to get one. I have asked to him take the class but he does not seem interested in cycles.

I come from a family with many riders on both sides of the family. Father, Mother, uncles, cousins, step brothers, in-laws, many friends, etc.

I do not personally know anyone who has been killed on a bike. I do know people that have had “accidents” but mostly it was their (including my own two times) fault. Usually speed too fast for conditions, showing off, etc.
In fact, three weeks ago I rode from Indiana to Colorado to bring my bike out here. A 1400-mile trip. Not once did I feel like I was in a situation out of control.

Those stupid little sayings about donor cycle, and buy one for your last birthday are just bullshit, trite little sayings.

I think if you tell him no, it will be even more appealing. But if you educate him and watch him, in my not so humble opinion, he can do no worse than a car.
Also, I forgot to add, my first bike was a '76 Honda 360, my second bike was a '72 Honda 750. My current bike is a Honda Goldwing. Over the years bike handling and braking have GREATLY improved.

My bike has a dual braking system that when I apply the rear brake, the front is also applied at a fraction of the rear making it a much improved braking distance.

The handling and center of gravity have been improved from the previous years too. So newer bikes have much better safety features.

Again, I would INSIST upon an ABATE or similar class. I’m going to go ride my cycle now. I will let you know if I don’t come back.