Bicycle vs Motorbike – Commuting reliability

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  • Bicycle vs Motorbike – Commuting reliability
  • Maintenance?

    Motorbike chains and sprockets have comparable lifespans to pushbike equivelents, well a push bike would skip horribly after 5000-10000miles or so, I’d not risk a motorbike past the recomended wear as the consequences a re abit mroe fatal than bashing nuts into the stem.

    Maintained properly both would go on forever, plenty of motorbikes with 250,000 on the clocks, a handfull of people have toured that far on push bikes.

    Premier Icon tomhoward

    Total catastrophic failure with no prior warning?

    Chances are almost nil for both, I wouldnt factor it in as a decision point.


    With no maintenance or oiling etc.

    Just get on and ride.

    My thought was chain snapping first. Pedals snapping and bearings breaking down don’t necessarily stop you.

    Though I did have an interesting BB bearing explosion/fall over in front of a bus when the bearings came loose and jammed the cranks!

    Actualy, I’m going to the push bike failing far sooner, a winter on the roads would kill the brake pads, but as I said erlier, I’d not ried an unmaintained motorbike as the risk of something killing me if it goes wrong is high!

    Premier Icon IainAhh

    I used a mtb setup as single speed for 1.5 years over two winters as a commuter traveling 6 miles each way to train station, some off road, every day in all weathers plus other non work journeys up to 100 miles a week. (I guess I did spend some cash on decent waterproof clothing etc but that is still useable now so don’t really count that.)

    Once the bike was set up the maintenance over that time was a new chain and a new roller wheel for the chain tensioner.
    By far the cheepest travel I have ever done .. even if you include the £400 odd cost of the bike made up of an existing frame I had and some recycled parts, second hand wheels and new drive chain.

    I stripped down the drive chain, wheels and pedals recently and the bike still runs great.

    I had used another bike previously for a similar journey with gears but found they didn’t last so well in constant wet grimy conditions over the winter. Single speed = less to go wrong & wear out.


    a push bike would skip horribly after 5000-10000 miles

    I don’t get anywhere near that. but then I don’t really take good care of chains.

    Premier Icon IainAhh

    With regards to your original post .. the above mtb commuter use did include an occasional clean, regular lubing and some greasing.
    Pedals and wheels stripped down a couple of times. Nothing failed but fixed if needed attention.


    I rode about 5,000 miles commuting last year on a bike that I’d put a new 10spd Campag groupset on during 2006. It’s probably done well over 15,000 miles with the occasional clean and lube on the original chain rings, cassette and chain. It’s still absolutely fine.


    I ride a Rohloff and other than an annual oil change haven’t done anything to it in two years. 10km each way 4 days a week on average plus loads of weekend tours and a big one in South America.

    Steel singlespeed chainsets go a long way!

    As thisisnotaspoon days, I doubt we’ll find anyone who rides a motorbike as poorly maintained as some of our cycle commuters. Still interested to understand the maintenance required for the distance delivered.

    Premier Icon imnotverygood

    Get a shaft drive motorbike & it will go on for ever. I rode a Kawasaki GT550 for 120k & the only thing that broke was a small spring in the gearbox.


    Perhaps what you’re really asking is how much of a faff maintenance would be in both cases?

    I’ve got and use both (on different days 🙂 ) for a 10 mile commute.

    Bike: check the tyres once a week, adjust the brakes and or gears every now and then, once in a blue moon change the chain. Effort: maybe 10 min weekly?

    Motorbike: check the tyres once a week, adjust the chain every 1000km or so (usually check a bit more often, but it’s probably about that – 30min job), every 10,000km off to the garage for a service.

    Neither are a major pain, and I wouldn’t use maintenance as a reason to go for one or the other.

    Premier Icon crazy-legs

    I recently passed the 100,000 km mark on my SS road bike. It’s still on it’s original chainring although most of the rest of it has been replaced/upgraded over the years,. it’s been through about 4 freewheels (2 Shimano total failures, 2 WI but only the outer teeth on that needed replacing so it’s still the same freewheel body).

    It’s on it’s 3rd set of rims, 2nd set of hubs, 3rd BB.
    Original bars, stem, seatpost, saddle, brake levers.

    It’d be interesting to buy a cheap-ish bike and just ride it til it was absolutely totally unrideable. Maybe a magazine feature in it…

    i bet the motorbike would last longer but probably severely injure you when inevitably failed!

    Though it really is a very silly question as it depends on which consumable wears out first – probably the brake pads.

    If the bike were a fixie however..

    Premier Icon imnotverygood

    …it would be the knees which wore out first 😉


    Hypothetically (no treadmills in sight)

    Bicycle: Well built 26 inch commuter bike with tough tyres and simple 8 or 9 speed drivetrain. No suspension or fancy stuff.


    Motorbike: I’m no expert – good quality mid range bike you’d use for everyday riding.

    If you had a 10 mile commute to and from work each day – which would totally fail first. By fail I mean, to the point you could no longer ride it normally and would need to push it or get it on a lorry.

    Neglect punctures and fuel.

    Premier Icon Northwind

    Too many variables tbh. My commuter is pretty damn reliable, it’s made of old, cheap, enormously heavy components which last forever but even then it needs more tinkering than the motorbike ever did. If I don’t stay on top of it with little interventions, sooner or later something will go properly wrong. Then again it never needs filled up with fuel. If I had some italian racehorse of a road bike I’d expect more hassle.

    The motorbike on the other hand was pretty much hands-off between servicing, except for outright unpredictable mechanical failures- fuel pump popped at 50000 miles frinstance, which stranded me. But the occasional services were more involved than those for the pushbike.


    my good quality 1/2″ chain lasted about 6 months (c. 2,500-3,000 miles) on a fixed wheel. maintenance involved adding lube to the gunk on it.
    it stretched so much that it was skipping on the chainring which wasn’t very pleasant.
    chain wouldn’t last as long on fixed as it’s constantly moving, has to take the strain of back-pedalling and the force of 30rpm when going up hills.


    What a strange yet interesting question.

    I ride 10 miles e/w every day, on a range of bikes. Can only think of a handful of total failures (walk, train or taxi to complete journey) in the last 5 years:

    – road bar snapped in two close to the stem while hopping up a kerb. So that’s what the weird noise has been for the past couple of days!

    – wrecked front wheel (road) in a rain-filled square pothole (cracked, pringled rim)

    – SS freewheel (cheap Shimano one) gave up the ghost in the snow

    – snapped SS chain, no spare bits

    Most other incidents I’ve had something to hand to fix or bodge it with.

    I don’t know anything about motorbikes, but I’d guess there’s more potential for an unfixable failure with something that’s got an engine.

    On a vaguely related note, a guy on an electric moped passed me yesterday on the way home. Made a cool, quiet noise. Looked like something off Tomorrow’s World circa 1986, like it’d weigh roughly the same as a single decker bus.

    Premier Icon dknwhy

    I used a motorbike around London for a few years and only ever had a problem where some muppet had knocked it over. Came back to the bike bay to find the bars snapped on the clutch side. Made for an interesting ride home…..

    I had a Suzuki GS500 complete with top box, engine bars, muffs (in winter) and a Scottoiler. Apart from petrol, it was just the regular service intervals (approx £500 a year if I remember correctly) and tyres.

    Regret selling that bike really as it was really dependable and just enough for blatting around town on…

    A scooter would be even cheaper to run and maintain but you’d get less respect from couriers and probably less nods than roadies give mtb riders.

    In terms of cost, a bicycle would be cheaper to buy and run. Reliability depends how well you treat it.

    The thing with the Motorbike is the extra in Tax/Mot/insurance every year inless its new.Cycle will be alot less hassle and i own both.

    Premier Icon tomaso

    Not sure what vehicle doesn’t cost money or cause you hassle at some point. Everything dies eventually, no matter how much care you take. Admittedly you will always find some bloke with a beard that got eleventy-zillion miles out of his Biopace Muddy Fox…especially on the internets.

    If you buy a cheap motorcycle like a CG125 or Innova 110 a chain and sprocket kit is cheaper than any bicycle at about £20. Small Hondas like these with some slight tlc will go on forever.

    But you don’t have the same ongoing costs of tax insurance fuel mots on a push bike.

    My ~35 mile round trip commute alternates between a resurrected 25yr old 531c road bike and a 2005 Yamaha R1.

    My R1 has 23,000 miles on it and is on original chain, sprockets and brake pads 😯 , it has road/touring tyres on which have done >7000 miles with plenty of life left (but still gripped fine on the few trackdays Ive done).

    To answer the OP, starting to ride 2 similarly well maintained/prepped bikes, and not using silly supersticky race tyres (which last less than 3000 miles), the bicycle would fail first due to chain wear, aP’s granite Campag drivetrain notwithstanding.


    I used to commute on either my CCM RC30 or MTB, only 2 miles each way throgh Bristol and bizarilly it was always faster on the bike (and obviously cheaper)……….


    Motorbike chains and sprockets have comparable lifespans to pushbike equivelents, well a push bike would skip horribly after 5000-10000miles or so, I’d not risk a motorbike past the recomended wear as the consequences a re abit mroe fatal than bashing nuts into the stem.

    I sold my Speed Triple still on the OE chain and sprockets at 34,000 miles.

    As for the original question, neglecting punctures and fuel only a push bike would fail waaaaay before an average motorbike. You’d wear the tyres out first, then the drivetrain. 6-7000 miles is easily possible out of motorbike tyres. I reckon you’d struggle to do half that on a cycle tyre.

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