Everyone has different reasons for riding. Some are superficial, some are out of necessity. I've talked to some people that choose to use their motorcycle as their only form of transportation. To me, it's not practical. When thunderstorms come in or freezing weather hits riding a motorcycle is nothing but misery. That "Joy of Riding" concept will fade really quickly when the hail balls start banging into your head, been there done that. Grocery shopping, equipment hauling, building materials, and stuff like this could get difficult if not impossible on a bike. But, if the bike is only used to get you from point A to point B then it could work out. It's not my thing though.
Freedom While Riding
I hear and see ads about the "Freedom" of riding and that's another reason people say they ride. Who came up with the idea that a person is freer if they are riding? Most likely advertising firms that understand how to publish lies and sell to the weak-minded. There is no declaration in our constitution that riding a motorcycle makes you free.
If I am driving a car am I less free than being on a motorcycle? Riding a street bike actually keeps me from being able to drive to some areas which make me less free. If I had a 4x4, say a Jeep, I would be freer since I could go off-road into areas my Harley could never take me. The idea of whatever definition of "Freedom" they (whoever these mysterious people are) are trying to push on our mentality really goes out the door when you get down to an analytic perspective of it. In many ways I am less free when riding, being subject to weather, terrain, comfort, storage capacity, and road system.
Ridings In The Blood
Some riders say, "Riding's in the blood". Huh. Well, ok. Possibly. Though I am not a biologist I have yet to hear of a blood cell or DNA strand linked to riding. And if there is, are there different DNA sequences that cause someone to prefer Harley's over Honda's? Is there a blood cell that causes someone to ride supercross vs. sportbike racing? I used to compete in motocross and then moved into cruisers and touring bikes so maybe my blood contains a mutated cell of riding types. Margaret had never ridden in her life until 2013, so I wonder if she developed or grew a new riding DNA strand. None of her family ever rode so this cryptic riding blood cell couldn't possibly have been passed on to her. I just don't know about this "Ridings in the blood" concept. It just doesn't seem to play out logically.
Another common explanation for riding is fuel savings. Wow! Really? Some of the Harley Sportsters get over 60 mpg. That's really good and if you're truly riding just to save money on fuel then yeah that works out. You can get new Harley Sportsters for around 8k so the price of the bike is even reasonable if you combine bike cost and fuel savings together. However, once you begin moving up the chain into larger engines that mileage and bike cost begin to change dramatically.
Let's take my Street Glide as an example. It's a 20k bike and gets about 43 mpg on the highway. I could buy a 2014 Ford focus as an example which is about 18k and gets 36 mpg highway. The car is less, mileage is a bit less so it would play out to about the same cost over a 5-year period of time. You would have the comfort of a car for those bad weather situations I talked about earlier.
You can get Harley's at all ranges of price but the engine size will be a huge determination of your fuel usage. Insurance is also a bit higher on bikes and maintenance and repairs are without a doubt higher. An oil change on my Harley costs $85 whereas my truck only costs $25. I use synthetic in both and do it myself. Sorry to say it, but in most cases your not going to save any money riding a motorcycle.
Midlife crisis is another reason people ride. These riders won't admit to their problem though. At some point, they made a knee-jerk reaction that they had to start riding a motorcycle. It's funny, you can spot them pretty easily. They walk into the dealership and buy the most expensive bike they can find even though they have no clue as to how the bike rides or what riding style they have. They pile a truckload of the seasonal line of gear on the apparel counter and become "Insta-Biker". Most of them don't even know why they are buying some of the gear they think they need.
Before the bike even leaves the dealership it resides in service with a few thousand dollars of upgrades the purchaser thinks they need even though they don't know why. Most of the added accessories and labor are rolled into the financing. Now they're paying interest on those parts. They could have ridden the bike for a while and added parts as they needed.
Depending on the depth of the "Crisis" the bike will be up for sale within a year or it will sit in the garage under a bike cover. Once a month they will push it into the driveway, wash it, start it, and gear up with all of that stuff they bought and never wear. They will drive to the neighborhood 7-eleven and back, roll it back into the garage, pull the cover over it, and gloat to all of their friends on Monday about their awesome weekend bike trip.
Some of the more adventurous ones will buy little decorative parts like bolt covers and play Barbie Bike Dressup during their monthly downtime. Then they will pound their chest about being motorcycle mechanics and bike customization professionals. I feel sorry for these bikes suffering in their depression of never knowing the open road. These bikes live a fortunate existence if they happen to see 1k miles over the course of a year. I hesitate to add these people to the reason people ride list. Since they did purchase the bike with the intention of riding and will ride around the block every couple of months it needs to be mentioned.
The weekend excursion is another reason people ride. My wife falls into this group. These people have taken to riding, love the feel of the bike and the road, and enjoy spending time outdoors. Most weekend riders will take every opportunity they can to enjoy riding on their time off. They won't go a week if possible without taking at least a short lunch or dinner ride even if the weather is not perfect. Most of them enjoy scouring maps and destination locations during the week for a new scenic route or place to visit.
Riding is their hobby. The smells, temperature, sights, food, and events, all become part of the reason they ride. They get a thrill of rolling on the throttle and feeling the bike roar. Enjoyment comes from slowly cruising down little farm and market roads, and finding twisty curves to lean into. The stories from their rides are ever-present and interesting providing hours of socialization topics for years to come. This is probably the largest group of why people ride.
The Serious Rider
Lastly, there are the people that ride almost all the time. They use their bikes for work and play. There are varying levels of this rider but all of them ride beyond just recreation. These riders love riding to the point that their bike takes them wherever they go. There is something different about this group. Almost a commitment that not riding is the last resort. Often they will feel guilty if they drive instead of riding on occasion. They ride when it's cold, hot, wet, and humid.
Some may or may not ride in snow and rain. Most of them will at least attempt the ride even in a thunderstorm. They ride on the open road and in the worst congested traffic conditions that can be dished out. These are the riders who show up somewhere and if they're not on a motorcycle people wonder what's wrong. Riding for this group is a lifestyle, an addiction they cannot and will not give up.
There are probably more categories that could be added to the post. We could even expound and break each topic into subtopics and try to fit every reason into a slot. These are reasons I have seen or heard people talk about and thought it would be fun to write about.
I guess I am in the same group as your wife. Being in construction means I have to drive a truck to work to haul the tools and equipment. I would love to be in that last group though.
Yea, hauling tools and equipment makes it difficult. I am in facilities maintenance so all of my tools are kept onsight thus allowing me to ride to work everyday. There are limitations though, I wont ride if its raining when I leave, thats just misery. In the end though we all ride when we can and enjoy the great experience that comes from it.