Two words for motorcycle manufacturers – fuel economy

While riding my bicycle through the hills today I started thinking about the poor fuel economy achieved by most motorcycles and what attributes would make up my ideal motorcycle. I think well when I’m turning the pedals so after a bit more thought I came up with the following list for what I think is the ideal motorcycle for daily commuting, a bit of weekend riding and the occasional tour.

Fuel economy: Real fuel economy not just “good for a motorcycle”. If a VW Polo diesel can do 5L/100km I want a bike that does better than 4L/100km. Use the latest direct injection technology if you have to. I’m happy to pay for it, particularly if the resulting emissions meet or exceed Euro V standards.

Range: >400km  Australia is a big country and sometimes there is a loooong way between petrol stations.

Power: Enough. Nobody needs 165hp in a motorbike. They might want it but they don’t need it. Few can use that much power and they shouldn’t be using it on public roads anyway. Somewhere in the order of 60 to 80hp would be fine as long as good power and torque are available throughout the rev range. It has to easily accelerate away from cars at traffic lights. Ideally the power of this imaginary machine would be able to be electronically limited to make it accessible to learner riders. Just re-map the engine control unit when the owner has a full license.

Top speed: Enough. 140 – 150kph is enough in Australia where the maximum speed limit is 110kph in most States. The one stipulation is that the bike needs to be able to cruise comfortably at 120kph with two people and luggage. Overtaking road trains in a safe time frame requires good acceleration and a decent speed advantage.

Engine capacity: Under 600cc to reduce registration costs.

Size: I’m 190cm tall. I just don’t fit on small bikes. So, a medium tall bike that is not bulky is ideal. Something that is comfortable for long legs and gets you head up above the traffic.

Comfort: Good seating position and reach to the handlebars for commuting . A comfortable seat. It doesn’t have to be plush but it does have to be comfortable over touring distances. An effective fairing and screen to minimise fatigue and keep the weather at bay. This is a bike that will be ridden in all weather over a variety of distances. To the corner shop or to the other side of the country.

Handling: On the relaxed side of sporty. Good low speed manners but capable of satisfying on a weekend ride through the hills.

Suspension: Good but it doesn’t have to be fantastic. It does however, need to last more than 30,000km (unlike most motorcycle suspension built to a price) and smooth out Australia’s average roads.

Styling: Classic, rounded and aerodynamic. If someone can prove to me that today’s modern styles are more aerodynamic then I’ll accept modern styling.

Practicality: Belt drive because it is quiet and very low maintenance. A centre stand to facilitate easy home maintenance. Factory fitted panniers and top box.

Quality: Made to last 200,000km when maintained correctly and looked after. A dry clutch and separate gearbox oil are a must. It makes no sense to have the clutch in the engine oil and who wants engine oil in the gearbox, particularly when the clutch is in it as well.

Is that too much to ask?

If anyone already makes a bike that matches these criteria I’d be really happy to hear about it. Off the top of my head I can think of two manufactures that could build a bike like this. BMW and Aprilia. Both have suitable engine configurations and both have extensive experience in motorcycle fuel injection systems. Aprilia have an excellent engine and gearbox in their SXV 550 and BMW are using belt drive on their F800 series road bikes.

Car manufacturers are starting to reduce engine power to increase fuel economy. Audi have done it in their S4 and Holden have done it in their V6 and V8 Commodores. Many more will follow and motorcylce manufacturers will need to do the same if they want people to continue buying mid-sized and large bikes for commuting and general transport purposes. If they don’t they may find their market contracts considerably when oil prices go up again.

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3 Responses

  1. Kawasaki ER6F/Ninja 650R comes pretty close to satisfying your requirements. 72hp, 0-60 mph < 3.5 seconds and i’ve seen up to 74mpg (imperial) when cruising at a comfortable 65mph. This economy gives a tank range of up to 250miles when ridden carefully which is pretty much spot on 400km. I agree with you when you say 60 – 80hp is enough for a bike, but i’m pleased these 180hp race replicas exist and, if i had lots of disposable income, i would probably get one myself. I am 189cm tall and the ER6F is a bit smaller than i would like but it’s still comfortable over long distances and it handles pretty well too. It pretty much ticks all the boxes but why do you want a dry clutch? I love the fact that motorbikes have wet clutches. Imagine what it would be like crawling along at walking pace with a dry clutch, you would have to be so careful not to build too many revs, and it would smell awful after a short while.

  2. Dr Borque- US or UK gallon? that is a very impressive result if you are talking about those crazy american gallons (i.e. 3.2L/100km).

    I would love to see a lightweight, fuel efficient 350-500cc bike- the few bikes in this group on the market are dull, heavy and not that good on fuel.

    In Australia I rode an 04′ Kwaka 636 with primitive EFI, and got 7L/100 km out of it (irrespective of riding style). For the last 7 months I have been working in Asia, riding a honda 125 XRM (modernised version of a postie bike) which gets 2.5-3L/100 km and meets euro 3 emissions. The XRM will only just do 100km/h, so it’s not really an effective all round commuter for AU, but would be fine for commuting in 60km/h traffic with short sections at up to 80……. But they don’t exist in AU and would be ridiculously difficult to import.

    When I rode the Kwaka on a trackday it opened my eyes to just how much performance modern sportsbikes have, and how little of it you can use on a public road. Having ridden the XRM for a while I have discovered the joys of riding a sensible motorcycle and have decided that the only real answer is to have 2 bikes- ride the sensible one on the road and leave the silly one for the track where it belongs.

  3. I get 82-87mpg from my er6n cruise at uk legal limit 60mph, which is well over 200m to a tankful. More than quick enough, and out accelerates most cars.

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