Five tips for saving fuel

For end-of-the-month budget-stretching riding

Five tips for saving fuel

By Alan Dowds

OKAY, none of us got into bikes to save cash. But sometimes you want to cut costs a bit, and just get to the next payday without splashing another £20 on a tank of gas. Saving petrol sounds dull as hell, but sometimes it makes a load of sense. On a daily commute, you just want to get to work, and a few tweaks to your riding style can add up to a big saving. Here's how to get to the end of the month for less.

1. Set a lower max speed

On motorways and the like, most of us have a 'natural' speed we sit at. Maybe an indicated77mph (probably safe against speed cameras). Maybe faster. But bikes quickly get rubbish on fuel at speeds much over about 60mph. That's where aerodynamic forces become the dominant factor, and bikes are aerodynamically dreadful. Every mph you can sit closer to 60 will give a decent increase in MPG, and the difference in short-to-medium journey times is often negligible.

Bike engines rev to huge numbers relative to most other vehicles, and it's tempting to use all those revs. But revs mean internal friction is increased massively with engine speed, so you end up using a lot of petrol just to move the pistons up and down the cylinders, and turn the camshafts against the valve springs.

Don't go too low though - super-low revs are inefficient, because the engine is drawing its air through a nearly-closed throttle valve, so has to work hard to breathe. Hang about the lower mid-range and you'll be laughing.

Acceleration uses lots of fuel – this isn't brain science, but bears repeating. Hard throttle use sprays loads of petrol into the intake tracts, and isn't an efficient use of the energy therein. Smoother, gentler acceleration will keep you ahead of traffic while using a fraction of the gas – your bike is light, so you can still have amazing oomph without dumping lots of excess gas in there.

Okay – that's unrealistic. But if you've ever done one of those 'gravity races' where you race mates down a big hill on bikes with engines off, you'll get the idea. Keeping up speed and momentum through corners is a double-win: you get there sooner, and don’t have to use fuel to get back up to speed out of the bend again. Try not to crash though, there's a good chap.

We're jesting a tad here – but it's fair to say that in the past few years, bikes have got amazingly more efficient. Our long-term Ducati Monster 1200S is jaw-droppingly good on fuel, and on a steady motorway run, will sit at 55mpg. If you have to eke out half a tank for 75 miles or so, it's easily done, helped by the range meter and instant MPG readout. Then, once you fill up, you can go properly bonkers again, woo!

If you're stuck with an older bike, and have a Power Commander fitted, you can sometimes have an additional 'economy' map installed, with a switch to change from performance to mpg. Check the Dynojet website to see if your setup can do this.