WRR74: Motorcycle Fuel Injection vs Carburetors

20140917_114934Whether you are shopping for a new or a used motorcycle these days, you will more than likely be faced with models that are either fuel injected or carbureted.  So what’s the big deal?  Motorcycles (and cars, for that matter) ran just fine with carburetors for decades – what makes fuel injection worth the premium price? Continue reading WRR74: Motorcycle Fuel Injection vs Carburetors

WRR71: Avoiding (or hitting) obstacles on a motorcycle

road-debrisSo there you are, riding along minding your own business – perhaps following the car in front of you a little too closely – when all of a sudden a 2×4, pothole, or rodent of unusual size appears out from under the car you are following.  What do you do?!  Well, since you were following too closely you really only have two options: hit it or swerve around it (very quickly). Continue reading WRR71: Avoiding (or hitting) obstacles on a motorcycle

WRR70: Motorcycle Riding and Hiking

As motorcyclists we often ride right by some beautiful areas for hiking and exploring, but many of us just ride right on by. “What would I do with all my gear?” “I don’t have hiking boots with me…” etc, etc. There are several solutions, from luggage to locks that will keep your gear safe as well as allow you to bring along an extra pair of boots and socks. Some of the prettiest areas or most interesting sights aren’t always right on the side of the road, and making the extra effort to stop and take it in can be very rewarding.

For years my friends and I went and road the curves just for the curves, zooming by just about everything – complete tunnel vision and focus on riding the perfect line with great body position. Now don’t get me wrong, we still really enjoy that, but lately we have really started appreciating what we have been riding by for years. Slowing down, stopping more often, and even taking on the occasional hike in the middle of a full day’s ride. Sure we might only do 200 miles that day instead of 3 or 400, but the experiences and the sights have all been worth it.

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Continue reading WRR70: Motorcycle Riding and Hiking

WRR69: Ethanol Fuel in Motorcycles

If you’ve been around bikes for any length of time, you’ve probably heard (or experienced) the horrors of ethanol blended fuel.  Several years ago now the government decided that it made sense to blend ethanol, an alcohol derived from corn, into our gasoline.  Nowadays just about any gas station you visit in the US has ethanol blended fuel, usually denoted by a sticker that lets you know it may contain up to 10% ethanol.

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So what’s the point?  Well, ethanol is a renewable energy source, since we can always grow more corn.  For most people though, the downsides really outweigh the good.  For one, ethanol in our fuel drives corn prices way up, which makes things like feed for cattle (and humans) more expensive.  Even worse, ethanol is bad for motorcycles – really bad.

As a form of alcohol, ethanol has the ability to absorb water from the atmosphere.  This means that as your bike sits your gasoline is getting more and more water in it – this is especially true in humid or wet weather climates.  Water in gas is bad for obvious reasons, causing terrible running – and even worse, rust.  Have a plastic gas tank?  Well you aren’t spared, either.  Ethanol has the charming quality of expanding plastic tanks and degrading rubber components – so all those little o-rings and seals in your fuel system, including your fuel lines, are going to break down much faster thanks to ethanol.  In fact some manufacturers, like Ducati, will even void your warranty if you run ethanol fuel in their bikes.  Many Ducati owners have experienced tank swell that is so bad the tank won’t even properly fit on the bike anymore.

 

Then there’s the gum factor.  Most gasoline breaks down over time and has a certain shelf life.  Ethanol shortens the shelf life of gasoline, and even worse, as it evaporates it gums up something terrible.  This is really, really, really bad if you  have a carbureted bike.  The gunk builds up pretty quick in the float bowls, causing floats to stick, jets to clog, and all sorts of other fun that you can’t get to without a full tear down.

Lastly, pound for pound ethanol has about 30% less energy than pure gasoline.  That means fuel containing 10% ethanol is down on power about 3% vs pure gas, meaning less fuel efficiency.  It can also cause a lean running condition, especially in carbureted bikes, which can cause engine damage or premature wear.

So what can you do?  Well – first things first – ride more!  The less time your bike has to sit, the less likely it is you’ll have problems.  Second, fill up with ethanol free fuel if it’s available in your area – especially if you plan on storing the bike for more than a week or so.  It’s a little more expensive, sure, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than having to fix your bike because it won’t run right.  Lastly, use a fuel treatment designed to combat the effects of ethanol.  One of my favorites is Ethanol Equalizer, which has a lot of great properties and seems to keep my bike running healthy.

Do you have direct experience with fuel related problems due to ethanol?  Let us know in the comments below, and as always, be sure to subsribe – Weekly Rides with Reuben are uploaded every Wednesday.