What would you say when someone asks you for your experience on a motorcycle? Would you say I have been riding for X number of years or would you instead say I have ridden for X number of miles?
Most of us that have been in the motorcycle life usually use on or the other. I admit I am guilty as well. I usually use the years or I say that I have been riding since I was around 8. This does not give a representation of my skill or true experience with motorcycles though. If I count the actual time spent on the motorcycle it would probably add up to maybe a year. by this I mean that if you ride all day, say 8 hours of total time riding not from the time you left to the time you return. Stopping at gas stations to fill up or grabbing a bite at a restaurant is not riding time. There are 8,760 hours in a year, so if you rode 1 thousand days for eight hours a day you still would not have one years worth of experience. That would be 1,095 days at 8 hours total riding time to reach that milestone.
Miles are somewhat even harder to gauge for experience. I can not tell you how many miles I have logged in my Seasons (haha see what I did there) of riding. I can guess by my typical milage on road per year active. Sadly I have had some years that I did not have a bike because of cost or time available, or even because I did not have a place to keep one. To even more complicate things I spent a lot of my youth on off road bikes that did not have the ability to count milage and complete honesty I really didn’t care. I just got on and rode, that was the only thing that mattered.
Looking at milage as an experience factor If I counted my road miles I would think I was in the 50k range but that again does not include off road riding. Does that milage make me an expert, novice or something in-between? You ride slower off road so the miles count up slower, does that mean my off road skill is less than my on road skill?
I think the debate is of one over the other is useless because when you make those statements you are leaving a lot of information out of the equation that would determine experience. Does someone that rides only on the interstate 30k miles a year back and forth to work have more experience than a professional motocross racer because he put on more miles? The same could be said for a rider that has 50 years of experience but only does 1.5k miles per year. In 3 years the Interstate rider will eclipse the 50 year rider in milage, but what experience does each rider really have?
Riding on the interstate does not give you experience on tight mountain roads with sweeping turns and quick left to right turns that we like to call twistys. The same can be said of the dirt guys, ripping through the woods will not give you any experience with the same type of roads. Someone who rides primarily on the mountain roads or twistys will not have any experience dealing with the dangers of highway riding like our 30k rider from before. Road riders will have a hard time dealing with off road riding if they have never been on dirt bike as the rules are totally different on cornering and there is much more importance on shifting weight forward and backwards.
I think it is time to stop the argument of Years vs Milage. Neither one tells the whole story, and everyone will state the one that gives them the bigger advantage anyway.