Gas prices, fuel prices, petrol prices. Call it what you want. If there are two things we can agree on it’s that the prices keep on going up, and paying more to ride really sucks. Sure, some motorcycles can get 158 miles per gallon, but odds are, yours isn’t one of them, so make sure to consider these money saving tips. Most of the tips are based around maintenance of your motorcycle. Here is a short list of tips and tricks on how to increase motorcycle fuel economy.
Use a quality fuel additive
Did you know that even fuel injected motorcycles can become inefficient with time? Fuel injectors with excessive deposits can cost you money because the deposits create poor spray patterns. Those costs can add up to anywhere from 2% to 15% in fuel economy.
The solution is running a good fuel additive to clean your injectors, but reader beware! There are a lot of lousy fuel additive products in ads and on store shelves that generate ridiculous sales profits but don’t do much for your motorcycle. Find a good one that will clean your injectors, keep them clean. I talked to mechanics from a couple of different shops and dealerships and they recommended these three:
- Red Line 60102 Fuel System Cleaner for Motorcycles
- Royal Purple Max-Clean Fuel System Cleaner and Stabilizer
- STP Fuel Injector and Carburettor Cleaner
If your motorcycle has a carburetor, check out that last one, and run some through your tank. Otherwise, you can remove your carburetor, clean all the components, or have a dealership or shop do this for you.
Keep a log of your mileage and fuel
What was your mileage originally like, anyway? If it’s not what it used to be, having a look at your logs can tell you if the drop off is a one-off, or part of a trend. Monitor your fuel economy and driving habits to not only learn the cost benefits of changing your riding style, but you can spot a drop in fuel economy that might be attributable to a maintenance issue. In addition, as you make changes to improve fuel economy, you can measure the exact results (averaged over a few fill-ups for better accuracy).
For years I’ve been using Fuelly. The site is great not only for keeping track of your own vehicles, but also for seeing what kind of mileage other people with the same year/make/model motorcycle or car are getting.
Switch to synthetic oils
Have you considered the return on investment of purchasing a better quality oil for your motorcycle? When doing an oil change, many motorcyclists will use a semi-synthetic. Many only consider the performance benefits of a full-synthetic oil, but there are fuel-efficiency benefits as well. High-performance synthetic oils create less resistance in the motor and transmission.
During normal operation a motorcycle using full-synthetic oil doesn’t have to work as hard. The result is that you get better performance out of your vehicle, and as an added bonus, you might save a few miles per gallon too! My mechanic buddies recommend checking out these three full-synthetic oils:
Note: That last one is great for a lot of Harley-Davidson motors, but you might want to check that the filter is compatible with your particular bike.
Clean and/or replace your air filter
You’ll replace your furnace’s air filter every 4-6 months, but when’s the last time you replaced your motorcycle’s air filter? As a guy who buys, fixes up, and sells, a couple motorcycles a year, from what I’m seeing, people aren’t replacing their air filters anywhere near often enough.
The problem is that when your motorcycle is starving for air due to a dirty air filter, your engine will have to work harder than normal. The extra strain on your engine causes poor motorcycle fuel economy. Be sure to check the air filter often, and consider upgrading the reusable performance air filters like the ones made by K&N.
Keep your engine tuned up
You’re already doing this, right? It should go without saying that a poorly running engine, especially a poorly tuned motorcycle, could mean that your bike is running rich. Running rich means there is too much fuel in the air-to-fuel ratio, which could cause the engine to not perform properly and burn too much gas. Keeping the engine tuned and checked during servicing will prevent this.
If you’ve installed an aftermarket air filter or aftermarket exhaust pipes, this can definitely the reason why your bike is running too rich or too lean. You can actually often solve this yourself with a fuel programmer like the Dynojet Power Commander 5 with Auto Tune. See, back in my day, we used to have to turn these little dials to manually adjust the A:F mixture at Low, Medium, and High RPM settings. Now, Dynojet has a plug and play kit that does all the tuning for you. No more pre-made maps, no more needing to take the bike to the shop, no more paying for multiple runs in a dyno room.
For riders with older bikes, Dynojet also has jet kits for carburetors. That’s actually what they were originally known for and they’re really good and well worth it! Even if they don’t make your bike run smoother, the right jets will help smooth your old bike right out just like a new machine.
Check tire pressure frequently
Would you believe me if I told you that your tire pressure goes up and down throughout the day? It’s true. They change with the temperature. What’s most important to know is that tires that are under inflated will decrease fuel economy. When the tire is less full, it gets flatter. A flatter tire means more contact area with the surface. More contact with the surface means more resistance to rolling. More resistance means your motorcycle has to work harder to achieve the same result. The end result of all of this is more gas being wasted.
The solution is to check your tire pressure frequently. I recommend carrying a small tire gauge on your motorcycle and checking pressure once a week. Often, gas stations air hoses provide incorrect tire pressures when filling, so count on your own equipment. Lastly, you can get a little 12V air compressor that you can run off of your car, to fill up both your motorcycle and your car tires. I keep one of these in my trunk in case of emergency all the time, but mostly it’s only ever used to keep my car and motorcycle tires topped up.
- 12 V D/C Portable Digital Tire Inflator (for keeping in your car)
- Tire pressure gauge (for keeping on your motorcycle)
I’ve been using a previous generation version of that digital tire inflator since 2008. Almost ten years, with use at least once a month, and the thing still runs great! I spent about $30 on it on sale ten years ago and it’s not only paid for itself, but helped me get myself back on the road from the side of the highway on Christmas morning a couple years ago. Definitely worth having one for the family or just yourself.
Put your motorcycle on a diet
‘Cause it’s easier for a motorcycle to lose weight than it is for a human sometimes, right? Get rid of the excess on your motorcycle. If you are not touring remove your saddle bags or hard bags and any quick-detach wind screens. They create more wind resistance and more weight for the bike to carry forward, all of which means more fuel consumption.
And then once the bags are off, go for a ride to your favorite park and go for a nice jog for half an hour. Do that a few times a week for a few months and your motorcycle might lose a few more pounds and a couple inches of wind resistance ;)
Getting crazy with it
Have you heard of Allert Jacobs? He’s a motorcyclist who had a Honda Innova motorcycle that weighed 231 pounds and got a sweet 114 mpg… much better fuel economy than any motorcycle I’ve ever owned. If you ask me, Allert took the question of how to increase motorcycle fuel economy a little too far: He created a one-off, custom-made, aerodynamic shell.
The pod splits into two parts for ease of entrance/exit, and he’s now reaching 214 mpg at a steady 55 mph. I don’t recommend this modification to any men who aren’t in the “Dad-years” of their lives and have outright abandoned any chance of ever getting lucky with a new lady ever again. But hey, to each their own, and good on ya, Allert!
What do you think?
Is Allert’s pod thing the future, or just nuts? Do you have any other tips on how to increase motorcycle fuel economy? Will removing bags and other bulk really translate into saving some fuel, or was that a bit of a stretch? What have you done to your bike that’s either definitely helped or hurt your fuel economy? Let me know in the comments section below!