I’ve always felt a bit guilty about commuting to work by car.
It’s just me, my backpack and maybe some shopping on the way home in this five-seater hatchback. I always feel as though I’m wasting something, an environmental vandal.
Sadly, in Cairns I don’t have much of an option.
There’s a bus that stops across the road from us every morning, but it only has two times: 6:45AM, which gets me to work at 7:20AM, or 7:45, which gets me to work at 8:40AM – so I’m either really early or late. The bus home also leaves at either 5:02PM – so even if I sprint out of work I’m lucky to catch it – or 5:30PM, and that gets me home at around 6:30. The car gets me home three quarters of an hour earlier.
Not only that, bus fare is about ten dollars more expensive per week than petrol.
I’ve tried car-pooling, but both times my passenger has changed jobs or moved – and there’s always that problem of not knowing if you or your passenger is going to need to work back. So it seemed as though I’d be stuck with driving a whole car to and from work every week day on my own.
But about a month ago, I get a phone call from my Dad:
How would I fancy a motor scooter?
How can a motor scooter help?
Dad has been a motorcycle man for at least as long as I’ve been around. He used to commute from Watford to London on a 250cc Honda before we moved out to Australia, and afterward commuted on one (I can’t remember if it was the same bike) for a while when he worked at the Nurses Association.
He’s always been quick to recommend a motorcycle for my commute. A few colleagues of mine have espoused the benefits of motorcycles, too: How cheap they are to run, how little petrol they guzzle. It’s been a tempting thought, but one out of our price range, short of refinancing (again). Plus, there’s always the worry of dodgy weather.
Still, when Dad called, I didn’t say “no” right off. I mean, the guy is offering to pay for a whole scooter – a few grand, at least – as a present! Not thinking about it at least would be rude.
The surprising thing was when I told Vickie about Dad’s offer. See, she’s never been too fond of the idea of me on two wheels - motorised ones, anyway.
Yet when I mentioned Dad’s call, she said, “You know, I’ve been coming around to the idea of you having a scooter.”
Vickie seems to pick up on vibes before they happen, you see.
Fast forward to today. Dad flew back down to Sydney on Thursday after riding the scooter all the way to Cairns between Saturday and Tuesday. Shipping it north would have cost around $900, you see, so he figured he’d save money and give the scooter a good running in at the same time (bloody loony – though he did prove that it’d do the 100Km/h stretches comfortably). The scooter – which we’ve christened the Foxy Lady, given her red colouring and the “VXR5″ decals on the rear fairing made me think “Vixen” – is sitting in our car-port right now.
(She’s actually a Geely JL150T-3A, so where the VXR5 bit comes from, I have no idea.)
And I’m working out what I need to do in order to get to the point where I’m commuting on her every day.
It looks like I have four projects to complete:
#1: I have to get the Foxy Lady registered in Queensland.
The Foxy Lady is already registered up to June 2013 in New South Wales, but if I want to ride her here, then I need to transfer the rego over. Which is going to cost some, although I’m not sure how much. So the first step is to get the Department of Transport and Main Roads’ number and find out how much transferring the rego over and anything else I might need to do, like get her inspected for roadworthiness, is going to cost.
I’m pretty sure Dad is going to help out with that, thankfully, so that won’t be too much of a slug.
#2: I have to get myself licensed to ride.
This is the more tricky (and possibly more costly) project. As the Foxy Lady’s engine is over 50cc (150cc, to be precise), I need to have a motorcycle license to ride her legally. (In Queensland, you can ride a scooter whose engine is 50cc or less on a motorcar licence, but not on any roads with a speed limit of more than 60Km/h.)
The first part isn’t too bad. As I understand it, I need to sit a written test at the nearest Dept. of Transport and Main Roads office and pay a fee. The test is fairly simple road rules knowledge with some bike-specific stuff thrown in.
After that, I have two options:
- Wait six months, then sit another test for my motorcycle licence, or
- Do a Q-Ride course and sit the licence test as soon as the Q-Ride provider declares me competent.
This one might well depend on cost. I’d love to get on the road with the Foxy Lady ASAP, but we have some other expenses coming up (like Sookie’s neutering) that we need to sort first. So once agian, the next step is to call my nearest Q-Ride trainer and discuss it with them.
In the meantime I still need to get some practice in with a buddy rider (much like learner drivers, learner riders can’t ride unaccompanied in Queensland). Thankfully, my stepson Karl is happy to help me there.
#3: I need to sort insurance out.
One part of this gets taken care of at registration – part of my fee includes Compulsory Third Party insurance for the duration of the registration. That way, if I’m at fault in an accident, the victim isn’t stuffed because I don’t have any cover.
Next, there’s insuring the Foxy Lady herself. That’ll involve some shopping around, but I imagine Vero, who insure my car, might be able to do me a deal.
Then there’s my life insurance. I don’t doubt that commuting to work by motorcycle instead of car will affect my premium somehow. That’ll be another phone call to my insurance provider.
#4: I need some protective gear.
This one is probably the easiest of the bunch, again thanks to Dad. When he got to Cairns, he took the Foxy Lady to the Scooter Shed for a post-trip service. While he was there, he paid for a helmet and gloves, for which the Scooter Shed guys will fit me when I can make it in there (they’re only open eight thirty to five on weekdays).
I’ve got a leather jacket which will help keep the road rash off – my stepson is espousing the benefits of a full kevlar riding jacket, but again that’ll depend on what we can wring out of the budget.
Born to be Mild
So while I’m pretty much over the biggest hurdle – actually being in possession of a two-wheeled motor vehicle – I still have some work to do and money to spend.
One off-set to the the money I’ll be laying out to get on the road is the amount I’m going to be saving by commuting on scooter. At the moment a full tank of petrol costs around $65-70, sometimes less if I have Coles vouchers, sometimes more if I splurge on Premium Unleaded. But from what Dad tells me, the Foxy Lady only needs $8 per week to run.
Not only that, we can save the car for shopping and weekend trips, cutting down on maintenance costs – and Vickie gets some mobility back while I’m at work!
I’ll keep you posted on my progress – hopefully, it shouldn’t take too long.
But none of this would have been possible…
… without Dad.
There’ve been plenty of times Dad and I haven’t not seen eye to eye. I’ve acted like a right spoiled brat around him; he’s made his opinion on Vickie and I clear. Frankly, the guy could have decided I’d made my bed when we left Sydney and moved up here, so Vickie and I could work my way out of any problems we faced on our own. I’ve never asked for anything more than that.
But my Dad has always been pretty awesomely generous. Say what you will about him living well on his superannuation and investments, the cost of buying and fixing the Foxy Lady (the first / last owner managed to lay her down) then riding her all the way up from Sydney to Cairns isn’t an insignificant chunk of change out of anyone’s pocket.
And that’s on top of the car he bought me back in 2004.
So thank you very much for the Foxy Lady, Dad. Vickie and I really appreciate you both.
Are you curious?
What are the helpful / appreciated gifts that people have given you?
What’s your bike / scooter riding experience been like?