Commuting can be fun

Words: Stefan vd Riet, René

Pics: Black Rock C_S

For all those that have been pondering on whether or not to get a little bike just to beat the traffic…. Just do it! You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of rands for a ginormous 4-cylinder speed machine to save on time, often a small single-cylinder is more than enough.

Imagine you are sitting on the N1 Circulating around JoBurgs northern suburbs, 2 kays before William Nicol and the cars are packed like the cue at a Guns and Roses concert. Now imagine you get out of your car, hop on a bicycle and zip through the still-standing traffic at 80 kays an hour. 

That’s what it’s like to ride one of these. Just get on and go. We took to the bustling streets of Randburg to see what it’s like tackling the town on two lightweight motorcycles. To help us with this venture, BMW West Rand kindly provided us with a brand new (as in 3km on the ODO) jaw-droppingly beautiful G310R clad in a Triple Black paint job. We took this beauty along with Renés daily runner, a KTM 390 Duke, to see how quickly and efficiently we could get to work.

BMW G310r cruising the city streets
KTM 390 Duke tearing up the tarmac

The advantages of getting a small-capacity bike is that it is easy to manoeuvre, saves on fuel and can fit almost anywhere. Low seat heights make it even easier and very beginner friendly. So whether you have been riding for a while, or have never swung a leg over any two-wheeled machine but desperately want to save yourself from the nightmare that is standing still on the highway for an hour just to get to an office desk to sit at all day, here’s a look at two bikes that can turn your commute into possibly the best time of your day.

With one of these bikes, your average fuel consumption drops to around 3.3L per 100 KM, which translates to a whopping 30 km per litre! This means the cost of commuting 30 km to work is only 1 litre, at the current fuel price of around R22.4 per litre it’d be under 50 bucks for the day. 

Now in our relatively fuel-efficient sedan, the same commute would not only take twice as long but also use around 15 km per litre, costing roughly twice as much in fuel.

Now that the fuel cost has been put into perspective, and you still need some more convincing, let us delve into the experience that is the motorcycle commute. 

Hopping onto your bike, you’ll be greeted with a simple dash that shows you your relevant info, trips, consumption and speed. That’s all you need to know. There’s no radio to distract you, which means no searching for different stations when the song or host that you hate comes up. 

There’s no drinking coffee or eating muffins, no sneaking a peak at the WhatsApp you just got, and no browsing while stuck in traffic. On a motorcycle there are no distractions, it’s you and the bike and you are focused on where you’re going. Not only is this safer, but it’s also better for you, as riding can become a form of meditation or therapy once you get your flow.

Let’s say you are in the market for a BMW motorcycle, you want something stylish and sporty, but comfortable and easy. That’s where the BMW G310R comes in. It is a stunning-looking bike, a real head-turner. Everywhere we stopped for pics we had people coming up to tell us how much they like our bikes, “They look so cool!”. The specific G310R that BMW West Rand provided us with for the day, is the Triple Black Model, which will cost you around R85 000. You get a lovely soft seat and a very neutral riding position, with a very manoeuvrable chassis, ready for the road.

If you are new to riding, you might be thinking “This bike looks too fast for me, I can’t learn on this”. Not to worry, whilst lightweights can reach speeds of up to 150 km/h, you most certainly will not light your hair on fire  while getting there. Opening the throttle, the bike simply whisks you away smoothly. The throttle response is soft and smooth, just like the clutch, so even shifting quickly becomes an afterthought. It also has enough power to comfortably keep up with highway traffic.

The latest 2023 model now comes with adjustable levers, so you can quickly dial them into where they work best for you. You also get a beautiful and bright LED headlight with the latest model so you can even commute to a night shift. A basic LCD dash shows you all the aforementioned info at a glance. You also get some handy grab rails on the back seat for the pillion to hold on to or to strap some luggage down.

Now with a commuter bike, the idea is to be able to cut through the traffic, and that is where this BMW shines. It does feel slightly top heavy, but weighs in at only 165 kg is more of an advantage than a drawback when it comes to swinging between the cars, as it makes the bike love to flip from left to right. 

Soon you’ll be dancing between all the grumpy motorists idling away in the 2 km-long queues at your offramp. And with the soft throttle response, it is very easy to maintain control while accelerating through traffic. Plus the flickability and ample stopping power coupled with ABS that comes standard, makes for quick, easy and safe reactions no matter the traffic situation. 

It isn’t that expensive for all the features that you get, and there are certainly cheaper bikes that match cheaper prices. With the purchase of a G310R you buy into the BMW brand with BMW service at any dealership so that you can focus on making life a ride

The LCD display is really clear in all light conditions
The new LED headlight looks great and is supper bright
The seat is soft and comfortable

At the other end, if you are looking for something small, lightweight, and very fuel efficient but feels like a race machine then you can look at something like the KTM Duke 390. Maybe you used to ride big road bikes and want to get back into it, or maybe you grew up riding dirt bikes and are looking for a cheeky commuter. The Duke 390 will tick all of your boxes, at a relatively cheap price. I say relatively because, even though it’s quite dear for an entry-level road bike at R 98 000, you get what you pay for and it is far less than a brand-new superbike. 

The stylish KTM 390 Duke

With the premium price tag comes premium features. With the purchase of a 390 hooligan machine, you get a big beautiful full-colour TFT display which you can customise to show all the info that’s relevant to you. You get simple and easy-to-use handlebar controls to explore all the KTM’s menus. You also get the option of turning off your rear ABS with the “supermoto mode” so that you can be naughty if you’ve got the ammo for a new rear tyre on the regular. 

All these features come as standard on the Duke 390, with some more optional extras like KTM’s Quickshifter+. A quick shifter, on a sub 400cc bike!? That’s right, KTM is ready to race and their tech packs help you shave off the seconds, so you could even use the 390 Duke as a track toy on the weekends. 

There are no grab rails on the Duke though, so hauling luggage might be a struggle, and pillions will be forced to snuggle up to avoid falling off. Because they will be falling off when they are surprised by all the power this little bike churns out. It’s more than enough to keep anyone entertained for the whole day, and you’ll even surprise some people if you decide to drag race the sportscars from the red light. It is a quick two-wheeled machine and it’s designed to be ridden fast. Slow-speed throttle response can be a little jerky if you don’t feather the clutch because it comes on hard and revs up pretty quickly. Perfect for jumping out in front of traffic quickly, but might scare a beginner and impact their riding confidence. 

The super legible and informative TFT screen
A great sporty seat atop the tubular trellis frame
The same family resemblance throughout the KTM range

If you are really late for work and are willing to battle the full 150km/h force of the wind with no wind protection on the highway, then you can easily do so with revs to spare. Being light and nimble with all the power you need, and then some, it’s perfect for cutting through long stretches of highway traffic and shaving whole minutes off of Waze’s ETA. The same can’t really be done with the BMW, however, it is a more comfortable ride on the highway thanks to the little fly screen on the headlight chucking the slightest bit of wind up and over your head.

Cornering and flicking between cars in city traffic you are a bit more stable on the Duke, it doesn’t tip over as effortlessly as the BMW, but it’s still as nimble as a bicycle. These bikes are also so small that you can squeeze through the most ridiculous spaces and park anywhere you like. You could probably even fit them into a elevator and park them right in your office if you’d like. 

With all the money you’ll save on fuel by joining the bike life, you can buy all the nice gear you’ll want to make the ride even better. If you travel to work for 30km one way, each workday for 50 weeks a year, with a sedan consumption of around 15km per litre, with fuel at R22,40 per litre, your annual cost just for commuting would be about R 22,400.00. The same commute all year, with the bikes’ 30km per litre consumption, your fuel cost would be only around R 11,200.00 annually.

Just some very rough maths to explain why a bike just makes sense.

Plus you can’t replace the joy and experience of owning and riding a motorcycle, you need a bike in your life.

Gorgeous from every angle

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