100CCC Insanity Road Forks NM

Three Rules for Fuel

August 2005

This is the fifth installment in a series about the combination of rider, ride, route and resources required to endure and enjoy long-distance riding (LDR). Our focus this month is the all-important resource gasoline.

If the first commandment of LDR is DON’T GO DOWN, and the second is DON’T BREAK DOWN, the third must surely be DON’T RUN OUT OF GAS! Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? Well, once you get into LDR, you’ll be amazed at how much time and effort can go into planning fuel stops … and how unnerving it can be to find yourself a thousand miles from anything familiar … running on reserve through a dark and rainy night … praying that the next station is not too far, not closed down, and has no plastic bags over the fueling nozzles like the one you just pulled out of did. The longer your runs are, and the more often you make them, the more likely it is that something like this will happen to you. Here are three rules to help you minimize the odds, and lessen the impact.

RULE #1: KNOW YOUR SAFE CRUISING RANGE. Plan your routes and stops to stay within it. Note that I’m referring to your safe cruising range, which is not necessarily what your bike’s brochure or some online reviewer claims it is. I recommend something a bit more conservative than that. Your actual experience, riding your specific motorcycle, is the best basis for determining your safe cruising range. And until you have that experience to draw on, here is a rule of thumb you can use: Start with your bike’s fuel tank capacity (including any reserve) in gallons. Multiply that by the lowest reliable mileage estimate in miles per gallon (MPG). Then, multiply that result by 80% (or 0.8) to get what I consider to be your safe cruising range. Here is a table of safe cruising range calculations for five popular touring bikes:

Estimated Safe Cruising Ranges

On most U.S. highways, the distance between gas stations is rarely more than 25 miles and almost never more than 50. What makes these range calculations safe is that they should leave you with a better than average chance of making it to the next fuel stop whenever one you were counting on is closed or can’t deliver.

RULE #2: ALWAYS HAVE MORE THAN ONE WAY TO PAY. “Pay-At-The-Pump” is a convenient technology, but it’s a long way from being reliable. If the card reader’s clogged, the keypad’s kaput, or the computer can’t connect, so much for using your credit card. And even if you can use your card, every time you swipe it decreases your available credit and increases the likelihood that some fraud protection software program will decide you are making too many charges, in too many places, and decline further purchases.

If you are making a long run, try to take at least two different kinds of plastic with you, and always keep enough cash on you to cover one day’s gas. Pay with cash, and I can pretty well guarantee your fuel purchases will never be declined.

RULE #3: NEVER PASS UP A CHANCE TO PUMP (OR PISS). In LDR, my friends, size does matter. The size of your tank (and bladder), that is. If you want to maximize the distance you can cover in a day, while minimizing your chances of having to stop (or wishing you did), then never pass up a chance to pump (or piss). If you stop to eat, sleep, accommodate another rider or for any other reason, top off your tank (and drain your bladder). Make this a habit, and I can pretty well guarantee that one day you’ll be thankful you did.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!