TANK range on bikes is one of those things that matters not a jot to many Sunday afternoon riders – but to many hard-core, long-distance users or day-to-day commuters it can make or break a bike’s appeal.
So it’s surprising that while manufacturers are always happy to go on about power, torque, luggage capacity and 101 other things, the subject of range barely gets a mention. Perhaps that’s because the delicacy of your right wrist or the terrain and speed you’re riding at will make a huge difference to your bike’s range. Perhaps it’s just not sexy enough to get talked about.
Simply finding information on a bike’s fuel consumption is hard enough; some firms make their own claims, others don’t, although independent surveys – like the Fuelly website – will at least let you see what MPG other owners are achieving in the real world.
Fuel consumption alone doesn’t make for a long ride between stops, though. For that, you’ll need a big tank. Once you’ve got a combination of the two then it will be your own endurance rather than the bike’s that forces stops.
Here’s our top 10 long-distance runners. Given the vagaries of fuel consumption we’re sure you’ll be able to supply other, equally worthy candidates, so let us know what we’ve missed out.
10. Honda CB500X
Honda's CB500X is powered by a 471cc parallel-twin and it's an economical little engine. We'll ignore Honda's quoted fuel consumption figures for this bike and instead go straight to the consumption figures it gave us when we tested it earlier this year. It returned 70.4mpg when being flogged and gave an even more frugal figure of 83.65mpg when being used with a little more sympathy. It's got a 17.5 litre tank and although that's unremarkable in this company, still means the CB500X can still return over 320 miles from one fill-up.
When it comes to range, KTM's versatile, quick and comfortable 1190 Adventure has a couple of things going for it. The first is a 23 litre tank and the second is a fuel consumption figure that can reach as high as 61mpg with the right roads and some frugal riding. That means there's potential for just over 300 miles. Achieving that might be unlikely in real world use, with fuel consumption of between 40 - 50mpg the 1190 Adventure should be capable of eeking out up to 250 miles from one tank of fuel.
8. BMW R1200RT
Now this is more the sort of thing we’d expect to see in this list – a big BMW tourer, complete with 25-litre tank and under-stressed engine. Perhaps surprisingly, then, the figures at Fuelly suggest that the average rider is only stretching his 25 litres across 280 miles. That’s 51mpg. Having said that, there are plenty of reports of these bikes going well past the 300-miles-on-a-tank mark, so much clearly depends on riding style and roads. At least you should still be comfortable when you need to fill up, too.
7. Kawasaki KLR650
Really? Well, yes. You might not want to go hundreds of miles non-stop on a KLR, but they’ll do it. It comes down to an economical single-cylinder engine and a surprisingly big, 23-litre tank. Even the KLR’s non-existent aerodynamics can’t stop it from achieving a long range. On average, you should be able to get around 285 miles on each tankful. A gentle throttle hand and some steady-speed cruising will easily see that storm well into the 300s.
Another of those bikes that you’d really expect to see on this list - the Pan European is designed for long distances so it’s no surprise that Honda considered tank size and fuel consumption when they built it. On average, you’ll get just over 300 miles per tank, thanks in part to a large, 29-litre capacity. Pan riders are often the type to get serious, even competitive over their fuel economy, though, so you won’t need to look far before finding claims of 350 miles or more on a tankful.
5. Suzuki DR750
This is one that might not seem so obvious, but since it was designed to go through deserts, it perhaps should be no surprise to see the original DR Big in here. It’s the big, 29-litre tank that does it, helping the DR750 ease past 300 miles on each fill-up while loping along at around 50mpg. The later DR800 had a smaller, 24-litre tank, dropping its range somewhat.
4. Honda CB125F
Big tank ranges aren't just the preserve of bikes with big, under-stressed engines and large tanks - as the economical Honda CB125F ably demonstrates. This little 125 only has a 13 litre fuel tank but with claimed consumption of 145mpg, that means it could be possible to get in incredible 413 miles from a tank. If you think 145mpg is a tad optimistic, a quick look on Fuelly many owners regularly report a fuel consumption of 112mpg, which means they're getting almost 320 miles from a tank.
3. KTM 640 Adventure
Once again it’s a big tank rather than anything remarkable, economy-wise, that puts the KTM so high on this list. There aren’t many other 625cc single-cylinder bikes out there that can lay claim to a 28-litre tank. Most riders will easily manage 50mpg with that engine, and that equates to a range of 307 miles. At 60mpg – which should be within easy reach – that goes up to nearly 370 miles between fill-ups.
One of the big differences between the normal and ‘Adventure’ versions of the R1200GS is the tank size. The now-replaced air-cooled GS Adventure sported a 33-litre tank, and that, allied to an easy 47mpg average, means you’ll get over 340 miles between the pumps. Push your economy up to 55mpg with some careful cruising and 400 miles is within reach. Even on a GS Adventure, you’ll probably be ready to stop by then anyway.
1. BMW R80 G/S Paris Dakar
The oldest bike on our list, but still the long-range king thanks to a tank with a whopping 38-litre capacity. In monetary terms, that’s a £50 fill-up at today’s prices. At an achievable 50mpg, it equates to 417 miles, and with care you might do better still. If you can beat that with another stock production bike, do let us know in the comments below.