I live in Los Angeles, which means that for most of my flights out of town, I’m stuck using the dreaded LAX. While the experience inside the airport isn’t all that bad, the act of getting there and parking is a nightmare. That’s why I decided that there had to be a better way.
As is typical for me, my “better way” involved a motorcycle. Friends, let me say that with a few smart life hacks, it’s completely changed my LAX experience. And, even better, these tricks apply to many other airports in the US as well.
I needed to get from downtown Los Angeles to LAX for a 7 a.m. flight. I was lucky because this was just a single-day trip, no overnight stay, which meant I could pack light. I woke up at 5:15, made a cup of coffee and got ready for the day. At 5:45, I put on my Aerostich Roadcrafter with regular nonmotorcycle clothes underneath, hopped on the Ducati Multistrada 950 S that I had for testing, and hit the road.
Usually, in a car with no traffic, I’d budget at least an hour and a half to get across town, find a parking space and then take a shuttle to the terminal. Not this time, though. I made sure to use freeways with carpool lanes to help reduce the chance of getting caught in traffic. Once I hit some congestion, I practiced that most sacred of California riding traditions — lane splitting — and reached the airport at 6:30 a.m., proceeding directly to the short-term parking lot inside the ring of terminals closest to my departure.
Here’s the beautiful thing: Not only does LAX offer up to a month of free parking for motorcycles, but it also has signs at the parking gates that state explicitly where motorcycles should park and how they should just ride around the gate arm. For four-wheeled friends, parking in one of these short-term structures costs up to $40 per day.
I found a spot with a number of other bikes, parked and sprung into action. I whipped off my Roadcrafter (this takes about 20 seconds) and folded it up as best as I could (it’s bulky) and strapped it to the bike’s saddle. My gloves went into my helmet, and my helmet went into one of the Ducati’s side cases. It was a snug fit, but my helmet is huge. And that’s it. I strolled casually through security, arriving at my gate with 10 minutes to spare. It was easily the least stressful trip to the airport that I’ve ever taken.
Now, there are undoubtedly those among you who would pale at the idea of leaving a costly riding suit (and a reasonably expensive motorcycle, for that matter) just out in the open in a parking structure. Usually, I’d be with you, but the fact is that LAX is a major airport. This means it’s well-patrolled, highly monitored — generally very secure. If someone wanted to steal a motorcycle or some used gear (gross), there are way easier and less risky places to do it. That said, I wouldn’t leave my helmet out, but that’s not because I’m worried about it getting stolen. Instead, I’m afraid someone would bump into it by accident and knock it off. I don’t take chances with helmets, and frankly, neither should you.
Up until now, this story has involved one specific use-case for one specific airport, but the good news is that there are plenty of other major airports that offer free parking for motorcycles, and if you’re creative, you can absolutely do this even if you’ve got a bit more baggage than just a backpack.
In addition to LAX, Orange County’s John Wayne Airport lets bikes park free. Ditto for all three major New York airports — LaGuardia, JFK and Newark. So do Detroit’s DTW and Portland, Oregon’s PDX, as well as both Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin’s airports. There are likely many more, so don’t be afraid to Google your airport and “motorcycle parking” or hit up your area’s local riding group on Reddit (there probably is one) and ask.
Finding out about things like this is one of the best parts of riding a motorcycle. It makes your bike feel like a video game cheat code for beating traffic and avoiding inconvenience, especially in California, where the riding season is year-long and we can legally lane-split.
It’s also a large part of why I’m an advocate for treating motorcycles not just as toys or leisure items, but as real, practical transportation. By riding a motorcycle, you’re helping reduce traffic by taking up less space on the road and likely using less fuel than you would in a car. The next time you’ve got an errand to run, maybe take the bike.