Sunday, October 17, 2004

Motorcycle Hobo?

by Skald

Iíve lived in a 4 door Nissan Sentra... Iíve lived in a Toyota Van. Iím cooking up another Walden-On-Wheels experiment-- one I may try if I ever return to the US: Motorcycle living. The idea is to simplify the vehicle element of the car/van lifestyle even further... this seems especially prudent considering the rising cost of both gasoline and car repairs. Other than food, gas and repairs were my biggest expense during the year of van living.

For my part, I doubt that a motorcycle-hobo life would be sustainable (ie. enjoyable) longterm.... but it would be an excellent approach as a short term experiment-- perhaps six months. Oftentimes, the return to America is the hardest part for me. If I donít have a bunch of money saved, its a real struggle.... especially buying and repairing a vehicle. A motorcycle would be an ultra-cheap, ultra-simple, ultra light way to re-enter.

Imagined Drawbacks:
Lack of sleeping space is the number one problem with this idea. Motorcycle living would demand camping--- or couch surfing. Another limitation is storage. Even with generous saddle bags, Iíd have very little space for possessions. Of course, that could be viewed as a positive-- it would force me to simplify to the barest of essentials. Bad weather would be another huge challenge... in terms of keeping clothes & things dry... and in terms of keeping myself warm and dry.

Imagined Benefits:
Ultra-cheap: Purchasing the motorcycle, maintaining it, & gasoline- all much cheaper than the van. Forced simplicity-- no space for extravagence... a good exercise in self discipline. Fun: a motorcycle is more fun to ride..... no walls or windshields.... direct connection to the elements.

Possible Strategies:
First order of business- find a secluded camping space. Probably would require living near a national forest-- in Asheville, NC for example. Once that problem solved... the rest would be easy- just follow ultra-lite hiking principles:
Use a tarp... with mosquito net if necessary.
Choose all clothes for their utility & ability to pack tight, dry quickly, and providing maximum protection. Of course, motorcycle clothing for rain, cold, and heat would be a must.
Use a quilt or 3/4 sleeping bag instead of full sleeping bag.
Use a super-small backpacking stove and cooking gear.
Buy watertight saddle ìbagsî.... also use a waterproof bag as double protection for laptop, cell phone, or other electronics.

The Long-term Strategy
Another idea: take those gas and maintainence savings and use them to rent a small room somewhere. With patient shopping-- I could get more comfort (a room with electricity, a bathroom, and heat) and more space for the same price as van living. An investment in quality biker clothing (for all seasons) would be necessary, but a bike would still be the more economical choice.

Your Strategies
Anyone out there done a stint as a motorcycle hobo? Enter yr. experiences and advice in comments.... or email them and Iíll post the best ones.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I used a motorcycle for the 5 months I was homeless to get around and carry my things. It was during the cold of winter as well. They key to staying warm is getting windproof clothing. I would wear a baklava under my helmet that tucked down into my jacket and had an old expedition skierís jacket that had a double liner. Warm gloves are a must as well as your hands are the first thing to freeze on a cold winterís morning. These must be water proof and wind proof with a good warm liner. Good windproof leggings are a must as well.

I had a large Kelty Red Cloud backpack (6400 cubic inch) that I would carry all my belongings and clothes around in. It looked funny having that big pack on, on a motorcycle and garnered attention so keep that in mind when using a large hiking back pack like I did. I looked like I was traveling long and far when in reality I was camping in the woods nearby.

A problem you have to keep in mind with a motorcycle is that the battery needs a lot of attention in the cold months as it is very small. My battery on my bike was around the size of a box of pop tarts and the cold would sap its strength. Many very cold days I would have to wait until the day had warmed up some before I could successfully start my bike with out draining the battery. Oh, the joy of having four carburetors. Fuel injection may be the way to go to get around this problem but that adds to the costs and usually means a larger, more expensive bike.