Pedal Assist VS Motorcycle for commuting Pros/Cons


Local time
3:52 PM
Jul 19, 2020
I really like the discussion in the Sea Otter thread but I wanted to focus solely on the commuting aspect and specifically eBike vs Moto.

I do not want to discuss lazy people in cars vs bikes, or weather vs bikes, this is just for eBike vs Moto.

If you do or were to commute via "bike" to and from work, would you use a Pedal Assist (or even a throttle controlled ) eBike or would you use a Motorcycle and why?

I will start.

I happen to commute to work everyday that it is not raining on a 2003 Yamaha FZ1. I have been doing this since 2011. I live in San Diego and the weather is generally good enough to ride all year. This year was unusually wet and I drove my car a number of days this winter, but that is over for the most part and I am on the bike 5 days a week again.

My commute is about 35 miles each way and I travel on 3 different freeways to get to work. Because I have a Moto I can park very close to my office in a little nook near the loading dock. When I drive a car I have to park in the parking structure and walk a bit of distance. The time it takes me to get my riding gear on and off each day makes up for the time I would of spent walking to and from the structure.

I have thought a lot about going to and from work via a bicycle, but pedaling would just take way to long. I could pedal to the train station and take a commuter train most of the way, but the nearest train stop is still a few miles from the office. Also going to and from the train station to my home would require riding up and down a few steep hills and I would have one steep hill to climb from the train station to the office.

I think for my situation the Motorcycle is the best answer at the moment. It takes me about 33 min to get from door to door when the traffic is light and 45 min when the traffic is heavy and I have to spend more time lane splitting.
I get about 43-44mpg on the FZ1.
I get good close parking just about anywhere I need to go. I have a small bungee net on the back and strap my backpack on it and can pickup a few small items at the grocery store if needed.
On occasion I need to visit other sites my team manages, I work at a Hospital. Some sites are just 5-10 miles away, some are as far as 60 miles away. I can do this on a whim if needed.
Also I paid $3000 for the bike and average about $30 in gas each week (gas is about $3.00 per gallon here right now)
I spend about $250 in tires each year, and maybe the same in oil changes.

2003 Yamaha FZ1.jpg

Why a eBike would not work for my situation:
I fear the time would exceed 1 hour for the commute, probably closer to 2 hours if I rode the entire way. Even the train schedule shows 45 min from where I would get on to where I would get off.
I would need to shower and change clothes when I get there - adding more time to my commute so to speak.
I could not just park the eBike anywhere and have it be secure, I would need a good lock or the ability to bring it into my office (which I might be able to do)
If I needed to visit another site, I would have to plan for it and bring my car.
And while the operational cost of an eBike is certainly lower than that of a motorcycle, the up front cost would be higher.

I am not sure what the distance to work threshold would be to make getting there via pedal or eBike would have to be. What do you guys think? 20 miles, 15 miles, 10 or less?

Where you live and with your work situations, which would be better for your circumstances, eBike or Motorcycle?

Do any of you commute via eBike or Motorcycle now?

Please keep this conversation civil, we are not discussing riding the eBike or motocycle on dirt trails where they are illegal or in a legal gray zone. This is strictly about street use.
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The versatility of the moto wins out in my narrow view. The high cost of most emotorbikes gives the moto another win. On short commutes (15 miles or less) I just pedal my bicycle. I do see how an emotorbike could be a viable option for some people though although a emotor scooter would probably serve most of those better imho.
Stick with the FZ1 for a complicated route commute. Easier to deal with re-routing due to accidents etc.
Not a motorcycle guy, at all. Have considered an e bike from time to time. 17 miles one way for my commute, usually an hour to 1.5 hours. Weather is a factor sometimes, headwind too. I could still use the bike paths as well. MA rider here, cars are way crazy for the cycles in general, but have seen some bad motorcycle crashes in my time. I only do 2-4 trips per week, work gets in the way sometimes of my bike commute. OP, do you usually carry some much kickin' scotch for lunch? Seems like a lot to be productive ;)
I think that unless you're in the sort of sweet spot where the bike commute is just 10-30% too long/hard, the moto is going to win over the e-bike. The e-bike (for people posting here who are already cyclists) isn't really a game changer - it is just going to slightly extend your reasonable range/load carrying capability.

If you are going a long distance and have to deal with a lot of highways/high speed roads, I'd go moto all the way. Motos are really, really cheap, and they are really, really reliable and easy to work on. Pretty hard to beat, really, if you don't want to drive a car.

I have a stupidly short commute now, @ 3 miles each way. I ride a bike most days unless I have I have a lot of other running around to do. No need for an ebike.

On my old commute, which was 15 miles roundtrip which I did on my mtb, it was far enough that I could feel it every day and by the end of the week. It was also far enough, that tacking on more milage to go do an errand wasn't likely and if I was going to go for a big ride on say Saturday, I'd take a day off to recover before hand. An ebike would have enabled more riding in this scenario, either use it every day, or just some. If I had up to a 25 mile commute, an ebike for sure. With an ebike, I could be carless on more days and out riding.

Once you get over @ 45 minutes in the saddle each way, I'd likely go for a car, I'd probably kill myself on a moto. ;)

Background, I live in Colorado, the weather is ridable almost every day, a tank of gas usually lasts me a month if I don't drive on any long trips.

If my circumstances were different, I could see filling all my transportation needs with a camper van, an eCargo bike and other bikes.
Interesting thread, and I agree with KJ on his selection. My commute (need to get to work at 6:00 AM of 22 miles takes about 25 minutes by car, but who knows how long by bike (90 minutes + with all the lights) and too dangerous in the dark (FOR ME).However, I do as many errands as possible on my eMTB or MTB (all 8 miles or less round trip) and it'snot much slower than by car since there's a few shortcuts by bike. Some individuals that really save money IMO ride their bike to the train, and from the depot to work. If they're going to LA, they save a ton on parking, plus don't have the hassle of the commute on the freeways.
Ebike pros-

Light, looks like a bike
(potential) access to both bike lanes and roads
No license/insurance/registration required
Rider gets exercise

Moto pros-

Heavy duty frame, suspension and brakes
Able to maintain legal speed limits and therefore safer in traffic.
Can leave for work a little bit later
The reason I bike to work is because it affords me the opportunity to save time by combining my commute with a workout. A straight shot is just 3 miles, but in the interest of getting my blood flowing early in the day (and avoiding nutjob drivers), I run a 30 minute route to work. Just enough of a ride to get me pumped without needing a full blown shower upon arrival.

For the ride home, I do 1-2 hours on workout days, 20 minutes on the off days.

35 miles might consume too much of your time, but for it to work, I'd think you would want a bike that has variable pedal assist, and enough power to let you pedal lightly in to work so you don't need a shower.
That was a gift for my wife I picked up on the ride home after going to the Doctor.

That is another thing I forgot about, with my health problems I see my doctor as much as once per month depending on what is going on, so on those days I would have to take a vehicle, the bike would never work due to her location.

Super nice for many of you to have such short commutes... The last job I had with such a short commute was my first job, I lived just about a mile from work and I would walk home for lunch many times when the weather was nice.... That was 20 years ago.
I have to agree that 40+ minutes pedaling/electric is not the most wise solution.

Secondly, security wise you would have to take the battery pack with you! As well as lock the front&rear wheels. I recommend a two mini u locks with extenders. These were tested to be amongst the best deterrents. I use two for any time I leave my bikes: $400+ & up.
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What I want to suggest, are the electric mopeds. I saw a few in Switzerland. For your journey it can be perfect.
I'm struggling with this as well. This is what I'm thinking for the pros of an ebike over a motorcycles:

- no gas, oil, and coolant
- less and cheaper maintenance
- roadside repair is doable by yourself (flats)
- no insurance or registration
- can get away with going where bicycles can go
- can take it with you inside of a building

That being said, as somebody who has put many miles on many motorcycles, I'm thinking an ebike can be more dangerous than both bicycles and motorcycles. The power of a [small] motorcycle with the [lack of] visibility of a bicycle, and no leathers. No real headlight, tail/brake light, and turn signals either.
I think there might be a sweet spot for e-bike commuting maybe 10~20 miles. But nothing from the Big Name bike manufacturers; something DIY from Luna or the like. You'll have twice the bike for half the money.

And yes an e-moped might be better than an e-bike unless bike path restrictions come in to play.

As far as provenance for my opinions, I'm now retired, but commuted by moto for much of my working life. The main hiatus came when after several hundred thou' miles I hit a deer on my way home one evening. Although insurance covered my medical bills every hypothetical penny I had saved in gas etc. by commuting by moto (vs car) was wiped out by that one accident. With young kids in the house I decided not commute via moto again until they able "to fend for themselves" (meaning off to college)

No getting around it, motos are almost as dangerous as bicycles.
I don't own a car and have commuted on motorcycles and motorscooters since 2005. Three years ago, I commuted on a bicycle then an ebike (12 miles one way). I now commute 6 miles one way. 35 Mile commute is better on a motorcycle. I would limit my commute on an ebike to under 15 Miles on a Class 1 ebike. Not sure commuting distance on a Class 3. The reason being is ebikes components aren't as robust as motorcycles. Maintenance is easier on a ebike, but bike shops aren't as reliable as with cars. Motorcycle maintenance is poor not like a car. I use a mobile bicycle service company to build and service my bike. Good luck. Yes, I have commuted in Denver and ABQ on ebikes. If I were to get an ebike for commuting it would be a belt drive and internal gear hub bike. Less maintenance. Your gear (clothing is the key). In San Diego, I would just get a merino wool base layer and wind breaker, wear regular shorts or long pants. Carry snacks, beverages, inner tubes, and tools.
I have been commuting on motorcycles since 1999,
I do most of the motorcycle maintenance myself,
I buy & sell used motorcycles to rotate my garage occupants.

I've been cycling (on & off competitively) since 1989.
I worked as bicycle messenger in NYC, SF & Seattle in my 20's.
I've worked in the bicycle industry since 1994, both retail & manufacturers.

My residence is 3/4 mi. from a multiuse trail system that lead to protected open space in National Park that's 10 miles away, also connects to paved "rail-to-trail" system that lead to century rides without the need of meeting cars.

Since 2013, I've been commuting in NYC metro with motorcycles, regular bicycles & more recently ebikes.
IME, if you're commuting with motorcycle, you should try a maxi-scooter,
I've been riding a 2007 Suzuki Burgman since 2013:
triple digit speed capable, twist-n-go, no clutch button shifting (avoid hand fatigue when you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic),
large underseat storage volume (no need for side luggage to reduce your ability to lane split between car mirrors) and excellent wind protection.
Here it is among my many other motorcycles:

It's sad that our culture (in the USA) have infrastructures are built surrounding cars & trucks.
Most drivers (in the US) have the mentality that bicycles & motorcycles are toy, they don't belong on the roads with cars, therefore ignore traffic laws to yield or even pay attention to 2-wheel vehicles on the roads.
After working as a bicycle messenger in my early 20's, riding motorcycles for over two decades, commuting on bicycles in NYC metro since 2013; I've survived too many close calls to remember.
IME, speed is what kills; you're much more likely to be injured or suffer more severe injuries when you or the vehicle you encounter is traveling at higher rate of speed.
That's part of the reason I mostly ride at speeds below 20 mph during my commute now, old age & mature mindset keeps me well away from accidents.
I've ridden motorcycles in five different continents around the world, even in warzones during active combat, still felt safer than some places in US. I still enjoy riding my motorcycles, not taking as much risks as I used to in my youth.