Born and raised in New Jersey, within earshot of New York, I’ve crossed bridges and traversed tunnels more times than I care to count. Those journeys, made by train, car or motorcycle, until the past year or so, have never actually been commutes, though. It was always a casual train ride into the city for the day, cutting across Manhattan by car or bike to visit family in Astoria or Long Island. But since starting work in the city and living just across the Hudson River, for $2.75 and a 30 to 40-minute door-to-door commute, the PATH train is a no-brainer. Yet in the past week, I had the opportunity to compare the train against the only other sane choice of getting into the city for work: a motorcycle. The bike at my disposal, a 2015 Honda CB300F ($3,999).
The CB300F is part of a new motorcycle movement in the US. To be taken seriously on a motorcycle, you no longer need to straddle a 1,000cc track rocket or a 1,200cc V-twin cruiser. Around the world, smaller-displacement motorcycles are seen as a utility tool rather than a weekend hobby — a trend that’s starting to take hold, here in the States. But some have held out, waiting for the right bike to show the proper way. The CB300F is that bike — though not unconditionally.
Honda’s new naked bike has the speed and gusto to ride circles around everything the city can throw at it.
Small bikes used to be a death wish riding in the city; their relatively microscopic silhouette and might-as-well-be-pedaling power would leave any rider swallowed up in traffic. But Honda’s new naked bike has the speed and gusto to ride circles around everything the city can throw at it. Not only does it look like a scaled-up Grom, but the CB300F rides like one too. And because it’s so light, easy to manage and inciting, the Grom’s signature fun-as-all-hell factor is just as proportionate. Coming out of the Holland Tunnel, looping onto Hudson St, weaving up 8th Ave, then across to Gear Patrol HQ, I dodged cabbies, potholes and slalomed fixies the whole way. And dammit, it was fun. It was the first time I thought a commute was too short. The brakes are flawless and communicative. The suspension is firm yet supple. I turned a 40-minute walk-train-walk commute from Jersey City into a 20-minute endorphin binge. But then there’s the caveat: the only way commuting on a motorcycle makes any sense at all is if you lane split.
Despite it being standard practice around the world, and its recent legalization in California, cutting between cars on a motorcycle is still looked down upon in the rest of the US. Commuting with the CB300F, or any bike for that matter, if you don’t lane split, you’re clipping the bike’s wings. You might as well just drive a car into the city (definitely the most asinine and masochistic two-and-a-half-hour commute one can endure). For the same reasons it can dance around cabbies, dodge cyclists and beat anything with four wheels to the next light, the CB300F’s dimensions and handling make it ideal for cutting up the middle.
For the money, and convenience, it’s hard to beat the train. The PATH isn’t exactly the Tokyo Metro when it comes to timeliness, but it still beats the toll and a morning marinating in fumes in the Holland Tunnel. But with the CB300F it’s fun, exhilarating, and the double shot of adrenaline at daybreak is well worth the $10.75 to get into NYC.