Wednesday, February 09, 2011

You can have your RV, I’m taking the bike

I’ve always thought of a motorhome with towed car as kind of the opposite end of the spectrum from motorcycle touring.

I’ve passed thousands of them and always wondered who owns those things and why.

I recently discovered an old friend is into RVing with a 36-foot, diesel powered Monarch Cheetah coach, towing a VW beetle.

That piqued my curiosity about the economics of that kind of travel versus what I do.

Based on cursory Internet research, I see that the Monarch has an 88.5-gallon fuel tank and reported mileage figures range from 6.5 mpg to 11 mpg. According to, diesel fuel is running around $3.40 a gallon, which means it costs about $300 to fill the tank and drive 885 miles.

My bike averaged 41.1 mpg of 92 octane gasoline on my 17-day trip last summer. I can fill the tank for less than $15 and ride about 200 miles. To compare apples with apples, with mid-grade gas going for about $3.10/gallon here, I can ride the same 885 miles on 21.53 gallons of gas for a cost of $66.75. That’s only 22.2 percent the cost of the Monarch.

Since one of the big selling points of RVing is not having to pay for motels and having more of your stuff with you, plus having heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer and being enclosed in the rain, I concede the Monarch is a more comfortable way to travel.

There have been several times when I’ve ridden past RV drivers and envied their cushy air conditioned comfort while I’m sweltering in 100-degree heat.

RVers make much of the friendships and cameraderie they find whenever they set up in a campground. I’ve found the same thing with touring riders.

I covered 5,414 miles on my summer ride. I stayed with family and friends four nights, spent seven nights in motels and camped for four nights at a BMW rally, so my lodging expense amounted to $353. The KOA up the road from here charges $34 a night for a 36-foot motor home. Using that as an average, we’re talking about 16 nights on the road for a total of $544.

But I guess the main reason why I prefer motorcycle touring is that I think it keeps me young. I’m not ready to give up the wind in my face for an RV captain’s chair. To my way of thinking, there’s a lot more adventure in motorcycle touring than there is in riding around in an old person’s box on wheels.

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