Motorcycle Gas Mileage: buy right and double your savings!
The motorcycle market is a MESS in terms of common sense.
Nearly all models have great performance as far as any normal person could tell.
Yet nearly all models only have slightly better fuel economy than cars.
From my survey it looks like 90% of motos get 40mpg, no matter their size.
Thankfully, there are 3-6 fairly available, long-produced, thrifty, sporty models in a variety of engine sizes, all highway-safe, that get DOUBLE that mileage. (70-90mpg.)
But a normal bike shopper would NEVER KNOW. The moto media NEVER mentions it. Except in novelty articles.
What's more, there is even a class of super everyday motos that DOUBLE those savings yet again! (120mpg.) ...But such bikes aren't available in the USA, that I can tell. Our loss.
Well, let's get to the scoop...
In my previous posts here and elsewhere I note that highway-safe motorcycle fuel economy hovers around 35-50mpg no matter what the bike is. Yeah, it's crazy, but true. It's a situation that has always seemed lame to me. 250cc to 1200cc --- all tend to get the same fuel economy---hardly any better than a car---with basically none of the utility! Even the scooter versions of these bikes get that same kind of mileage!
On a per person basis this makes a solo moto half as thrifty as a minivan with 4 people in it. And if you want to haul anything, well, today's motos don't apply, not for the modest ones anyway. Trailers are only available for the big "retired people" cruisers, oddly.
I've also long noted that in moto media there is basically ZERO MENTION of fuel economy. Or that it's given short shrift---"Dude, it gets good mileage, too!" with few or low numbers mentioned. The moto world is all about "performance." What baloney. That is, if a new moto is now more "efficient" or "aero" the media will report that the bike will "now top out at 220mph rather than last year's 200mph" and won't even mention its fuel economy. Meaningful? NO! Hardly any rider uses even half the performance of most modern motos. Same goes for cars. All that power is wasted. Yep! Sure, one can goose it a little here and there to feel a little pep but normal users don't use hardly any performance potential in modern motos and cars, at least not very often. They could all use MUCH SMALLER engines and not notice a difference in any meaningful way. A basic car or moto package can easily deliver all the performance any user could want. But, whatever, small doesn't seem to equal much better fuel economy in my review of the scene...so people perhaps think why not go big?
But, thankfully, there are a few stand-outs.
And, anyway, all this will change soon, eh?
So I just looked again into moto fuel economy. And there are a few 250's-650's that get 75mpg and better...now, that's worth noting.
There are a couple websites that give fuel ratings:
This is just a self-reported site, I think, and is incomplete, but it's pretty big. I see that there are several long-time stand-out models that get what I would call very good gas mileage, all 250cc. This winning mpg range looks to be 70-90. Cool! So here they are: Honda Nighthawk and Rebel. Yamaha Virago. (Kawasaki only has the Ninja with 70mpg at best. BMW gets 70mpg reports on its F650. Suzuki has NUTTIN that I see listed in the Economy Guide.)
I note that the Harley Sportsters go 45-60mpg. Not so bad!
Here's another list I found on a moto forum of bikes that average above 60mpg:
1996 Yamaha Virago 250, 66.9
2006 Kawasaki Ninja 650R, 65.3
2004 Kawasaki Ninja 500, 64.0
1996 Honda Rebel 250, 62.6
...So a bigger engine can wedge its way up there.
As for small bikes...well, the word "small" is the kiss of death in the moto market at this point. 250's are "beginner" bikes and "ladies" bikes. Ugh!
Now, many small bikes are also small in size, making them best suited for smaller folk---which I presume about half the population is. So no real problem there. As I've posted before, I do wish that moto makers sized their frames at least a bit like bicycle makers do, so that long folks can get a good fit, as they're often left out.
As for power and "small people"---Americans aren't NATURALLY so big, they just supersize themselves that way all too often. Perhaps fewer OYBers, DIYers and active fresh-air folk would find themselves hampering the ability of a 250 to get up to normal speeds. The bicycling sector probably is far more likely to find such bikes totally sufficient for everyday use, if not for constant freeway jamming. Then, too, who wants to be on a freeway? Avoid if possible. A moto makes a surface street, side road, back road, country road into twice as good of a thing as a car does. And a "little" moto is always fine there.
[EMAILS JUST IN: "My 650cc Suzuki Savage gets 64mpg average. Some of the BMW adventure bikes get 75mpg. Hyosung claims unrealistic numbers much higher than that, but nobody gets close to that in the real world. The diesel/JP-8 version of the KLR-650, avail only to the military, gets 96mpg at 55mph in real usage." and "Take a look at Royal Enfield. They're (relatively) affordable as far as motorcycles go, can achieve top speeds of about 75mph (though they are a bit whiny at that speed), and have a published fuel economy of 70mpg. I rode one about 8 years ago and found it to be a bit clunky compared to modern bikes, but it certainly had a little charm the modern bikes lack. Enfield offers sidecars to match their bikes. And the military model comes with hard panniers. http://www.enfieldmotorcycles.com]
Here's another site that gives mileage:
http://www.sportrider.com/tech/146_weights_measurements/index.html. But I'd say its only merit is that it shows how BAD most motos are. They've never tested a bike that gets above 50mpg! Note the "sport" in the URL...
I'd say that any moto needs a set of aero hardshell panniers. The problem is that they don't exist. There are only lumpy, boxy pans that hamper your economy or soft ones that don't help it. Aero pans should boost mileage. There should even be lowrider front pans for motos. (There is a nice aftermarket pan for at least one BMW model.)
One needs a moto mostly to get to the grocery, after all, or go to work or on little trips---where one often needs to take a few things along. It's not like anyone very often uses motos to just go out and go "wheee." I mean, "wheee" gets old for anyone. Sure, small doses now and then...or as part of the everyday riding. But aero pans don't hurt the "wheee" factor, of course. What we want to do is *integrate* a thrifty, enjoyable ride in with our daily lives. Right?
A front fairing and rear fairing that really boost MPG should also be available as options, too. But they're NOT. AT ALL. Sadly. Oddly. YET! If gas prices stay high this summer, I daresay you'll see some out there. Maybe? Could common sense ever influence the American motorist? Why aren't they here already? Why aren't there websites discussing this stuff?
And trailers need to be more common, too. C'mon!
Going Small: the Step-Thru's and the mighty Honda Cub
I find that the mileage reported for most Scooters is still darn low. You have to drop down to the moped range to get great mileage again. Still, there's a class of moto that's just above the moto that's a kind of step-thru that does great. The most famous model is the Honda Cub. It's 50-100cc and gets 100mpg. It's been made since 1958. It's considered very reliable. Old models get 130mpg but have more emissions. More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Super_Cub
Hmmm, I see that the Wiki listing says this model gets 300mpg! What? Hmm, maybe my email reporter is off...?
Actually, the Discovery Channel did a show on the all-time best motos and the Cub was called the GREATEST EVER MOTO! Cool! So some folks do get the idea that small can be good!
LOOK TO INDIA?
Have you checked out the bikes from India? India has long specialized in small, fuel-efficient yet stylish motos. The main models seem to be the Hero Honda, the Bajaj Pulsar and the "Karizma." They also make the Royal Enfield! --I bet that's the grand-daddy of their style of bike. At 500cc, it's bigger than the modern bikes they're more famous for at this point, but it may be a model better suited to US freeways.
There's the Honda Unicorn 150cc on the scene, getting 120mpg in a sporty package that'll go about 70mph tops. India has long worked with small bikes and fuel economy. Ironically, they're now jumping on the power bandwagon and rolling up to 225cc even. Well, hopefully they can someday share their smaller action with us. I note that the Unicorn's Wiki page doesn't mention gas mileage! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Unicorn. The main kicker is that I'm not sure you can buy this thrifty bike in the USA. Doh!
Here's a blog about the moto scene in India---it looks like many of these hot bikes get 100+mpg: http://bikezgallery.blogspot.com. 50 klicks per liter seems to be the benchmark. These motos don't seem quite up to highway speeds, though---with 120kmh winding them out. Their standard seems to be 180cc, 100mpg and 70mph. Anyone know if you can get these bikes in the USA?
As regards highway speeds: lots of people have around-town, country road needs that a modest moto would satisfy perfectly. Get a cheap small moto for around town, why not.
Here's an article on India bike economy. The upshot is that in the 100cc cateogry, the Bajaj Boxer and Hero Honda bikes go 60mph and get 150mpg! http://www.indiabike.com/roadtest/fiero_pulsar_cbz/techspecs.htm
(Of course, master your skilz first! The open-air, thrifty DIY lifestyle is for folks who can use their bods and who train with the stuff they use. Riding both pedal-bikes and motos in everyday traffic takes SAVVY. Most people can achieve it, but it's a value that is often short-changed in the USA. If a lot of regular folk switch to bikes or motos to "save on gas" we'll see lots of injuries UNLESS they take classes or get mentored first!)