Could MPG Alone Get You On A 250 Cruiser?
At $4/Gallon It Might Be Time To Look Closely At These 250s
Did you ever wonder why there isn't a readily accessible source of motorcycle fuel economy figures? Although every four-wheeled vehicle on Earth is extensively probed by government and private agencies to determine their MPG to the inch-ounce, the best sources you can find of motorcycle fuel economy are anectodal. Most of the manufacturers don't even discuss MPG figures!
Why? Because motorcycle fuel economy is abysmal. Sure, you can get 80 MPG or so by easy cruising on a 125, but try to ride anything much larger than that (or weigh more than a scrawny student) and your fuel economy will plummet. You might even see 100 MPG on a 50cc scooter, but I'd likely break a scooter in half if I sat on one.
Many one litre sport bikes will only return about 25 MPG and that's if you don't crank them. And how many sport bikes are used for sober, laid-back cruising? 25 MPG for an engine that only has to propel two wheels and one person down a highway is inexcusable. My rusty old Bronco II SUV has a 2.9L V6 and I'm getting exactly 27.5 miles per US gallon of unleaded regular. There's enough metal in my Bronco to make at least a dozen motorcycles. So why are bikes such gas-hogs?
The onus on motorcycle marketing and development has always been on performance. Sport bikes are tuned within an inch of their lives to produce the best power-to-weight ratio this side of a missile silo. Cruiser bikes are set up to deliver ungodly gobs of torque so that the rider feels that trademarked "mighty heave" taking off from a stoplight. When was the last time you saw a motorcycle ad that stressed economical commuting? They're all about doing wheelburns and carving around corners so far leaned over that the handlebars are scraping the ground.
The manufacturers in the American markets have almost been embarrassed by their smaller offerings, touting them as “entry-level” so that you can learn to ride before buying one of their “real” bikes.
With gas prices heading north of $4 a gallon, that might just be a marketing strategy that requires urgent revision. There are a lot of people just like me that would be very happy to plunk down their hard earned cash for a motorcycle that:
1) Fit a real-sized American adult.
2) Had reasonable cruiser styling and ergonomics.
3) Didn't cost as much as a small car.
4) Returned 75 MPG+.
When these factors are keyed into the CosmicMotorcycleComputer, nothing really comes out as a perfect match. The closest are the current cruiser models in the 250 class but none of them really hits the mark. Almost every manufacturer offers their version of a quarter-litre cruiser but they're really nothing to get overly excited about. The Chinese-originated ones are largely cheesy and have the life expectancy of a gnat; the Korean ones feature bizarro styling and embarrassing names; and the Japanese ones are mostly rehashes of the exact same model they were selling in 1976. Of the Japanese, Kawasaki isn't even offering a 2007 250 Cruiser, which I think speaks volumes about how important this market segment isn't. At least not yet.
Most of these 250s will return about 65 MPG at a nice easy 60 mph on a level road and it would help if you had a tailwind. In general mixed city/highway use, you'll likely see around 40-45 MPG unless you have a very gentle throttle hand. If you place two sizeable American butts on the seat or try to wring these bikes out to 70+ mph you'll see your fuel consumption skyrocket. I'm not even sure the Chinese Virago-clones can hit 70 mph!
However, there is simply no way that I'm going to go drop five figures at my local motorcycle dealer for some behemoth bike that gets worse gas mileage than my SUV, so with the ever escalating gas prices, we may be forced to look at the 250cc class. I can't say I'm overly excited.
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