Riding Your Bike For Maximum MPG

Save $ & Save The Planet By Riding For Fuel Economy!

We motorcyclists like to believe that we are already ahead of the environmental and gasoline price curve since we are riding fuel-efficient vehicles every day. However, modern motorcycles are nowhere near as fuel efficient as they should be. Many sportbikes can't deliver more than about 25 MPG, which is about as much as a mid-sized SUV. Even the Big Twins struggle to reach 40 MPG between city and highway riding. That might be great fuel mileage if you're driving a full size dually pick-em-up truck, but for a two wheeled vehicle, that's really embarrassing. It is almost impossible to see 60 MPG unless you downsize to small and underpowered bikes in the quarter-litre territory or less, and it's highly unlikely that your average Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 rider is going to trade in their scoot for a 250 any time soon.

There are some things you can do to squeeze the most out of each gallon of pricy and environmentally-damaging gasoline. Follow these tips and watch your MPG soar! Oh, and most of them apply when you're driving your car too!

You're not impressing anyone by streetlight burnouts... except your tire salesman!
You're not impressing anyone by streetlight burnouts... except your tire salesman!

Keep the RPM in the powerband.

In a manual-transmission motorcycle, the most important thing is not necessarily the speed you are travelling but what the tach reads. There is not a huge difference in load on a motorcycle at say, 4,000 RPM in second gear or in third, therefore fuel economy will be similar in both gears, even though you are going significantly faster in third. Experiment to find out where the powerband is on your bike. Under the powerband and it feels sluggish and over the powerband the engine is screaming and reaching the redline. Different bikes have different powerbands. Huge V-twin cruisers get into the powerband at about 1,800 RPM and out at around 3,000. Some sportbikes don't even get close to the powerband until 7,000 RPM and keep it up until 10,000 or more! Don't lug or overrev it. Your MPG figures will thank you.

Don't dragrace-start.

You're not hunkered over a dual-engined fuel dragster at the quarter-mile, you're commuting through traffic. Nobody is impressed and thinks you're hot if you do burnouts at every stoplight. Try to imagine a half-empty glass of water on your gas tank. Try to take off from a stop without spilling it.

Don't blip the throttle.

When you're idling at a stoplight in your car, you don't push up and down on your accelerator pedal, so why can't you let 3 seconds go by in neutral without twisting your bike's throttle VROOM, VROOM, VROOM? Again, you're not impressing anyone with the fact you have an engine.

Keep your air filter clean.

Motorcycle air filters are readily accessible, easy to replace and very economical. Many can even be cleaned either with a solvent or just an air hose to blow out the gunk and reinstalled. There is no reason to ride around with a clogged air filter as that will choke your incoming airflow to your engine and dump your MPG into the gutter.

Keep your tire pressure up.

You should check your tire manufacturer's recommended pressure and keep your tires inflated to that exact amount. If they specify a range, such as 33 to 36 psi, always go for the 36, or higher figure and only measure when the tire is cold first thing in the morning. This will minimize rolling resistance and provide the best handling as a bonus. Invest a few dollars in an accurate tire gauge and use it religiously. The air pressure gauges at service stations can be off by as much as 30%!

Combine your trips.

Is it really necessary to drop by the office, come home, go out to buy new boots, come home, go out for a burger, come home, go out for... Why not just plan out your day and combine your trips? You'll get even more done and you'll be racking up far less mileage. Furthermore, your engine will be warm throughout the longer trip and will be far more efficient (and fun to ride) than when it's always cold and trying to warm up to operating temperature.

Ride what fits.

I'm a big fat Hawg rider. I'd love the 100+ MPG of a 50cc moped, but I have to realize that's unlikely. Not only would I likely squish a moped just by sitting on it, but the little 50cc engine is not going to have the grunt to get away from a stoplight with my tonnage astride it. However, we could all analyze our requirements and look at the possibility of trading in for a "relatively" smaller displacement bike. Big twin riders would find that there are a significant number of truly righteous rides in the 800-900cc category that provide very similar around-town and legal highway speed performance while delivering about 50% better MPG.

Take some weight off.

Almost everyone has a bunch of useless junk in the saddlebags. Clean them out and leave the junk in the garage. Every extra pound your bike has to lug around minimizes MPG. That might apply to your expanding gut too. Your bike, your cardiologist and your ol' lady will be much happier!

Avoid too much idling.

Yes, it's lovely to sit back and listen to your Big Twin CHUG-CHUG CHUG-CHUG CHUG-CHUG, but unless you intend to go anywhere real soon, why use up the fuel? If you're idling for an extended period of time, just shut the bike down.

Tune 'er up.

A tune-up is one of the best ways to maximize your MPG. You'd be surprised how a motorcycle can go completely out of tune in just a few thousand miles. Have your bike professionally tuned and the fuel savings will pay for the tune-up!

Use the best oil.

Why spend $20,000 on your pride and joy cruiser just to dump 89 cent a litre WalMart 10W30 into it? Never use recycled oils as they will shear inside your engine to a much greater degree than quality oils and increase the internal friction which will rob you of MPG. Whether you go with synthetic or natural, make sure you're getting the best.

Don't ever fill up in the heat.

It's not an urban myth. It has been proven that if you buy gasoline when it's cold you'll get more gas for your money. Yes, a significant amount. Try to fill your tank first thing in the morning when the fuel is densest.

Keep these tips in mind whenever you're riding. It's not just good for the planet, it's good for your wallet.

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Comments 8 comments

vulcanSteve 9 years ago

I agree with everything except the "Don't ever fill up in the heat". It IS an urban myth. It's good science plus bad logic. Unless you frequent gas stations that have tanks up in the air in the sun, there is NO significant amount of difference. Most gas stations have storage tanks underground. The temperture below ground, below the frost line is virtually constant 24 hours a day, year round.

That said, I will conceed that I don't know how much gas is above ground in the hose and pump. So if you are putting in less than 2 gallons in August at 3 pm from a deserted gas station that no one else has used all day, the difference could be "significant".


TripOnThis 8 years ago

Love the "Don't Blip the Throttle" comment! I've never understood that. You've got a big bad v twin between your legs, It seems to me like it would be more impressive if the bike could actually idle! It sounds like you're tuning the carb and the bike won't stay running. Let it idle!


russell ray 8 years ago

You don't have to down size I owned an 883 sportster, plenty of power

with a modified carb and exhaust, two up got 66 mpg, don't fill up

in hot weather, the fuel coming out of the ground is probably + or - 5 degrees

between summer and winter, if there was a large you would see dealers heating it

before they sold it to you, another thing if you put FUEL saving oil in a wet clutch

motorcycle you'll screw it up.


Bike Web Guy profile image

Bike Web Guy 8 years ago

Point you did not mention. Synthetic oils have been proven to get better fuel mileage. Also longer engine life.

Rick


johnr54 profile image

johnr54 8 years ago from Texas

You should also lose 20 lbs to increase your gas mileage as well ;-) But seriously, watching your total weight works on your car as well. Take that extra junk out of the trunk or the bed of your truck.


1david1 8 years ago

say what? just kidding, good stuff


CBR600er 6 years ago

"Don't ever fill up in the heat."

So, I can only fill up the two times a year it gets under 70 degrees in south florida? Haha just kidding, its not that bad. Thanks for writing that. I never thought about filling up in the morning when the gase is cooler and more dense.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

I dunno dude, I still have the photo of the snow on my windshield in Fort Lauderdale! :)

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