Factors affecting fuel efficiency | A detailed analysis

With the recent prices that we see in the petrol, I am assuming all of us would be feeling the pinch. I thought we would use this thread as a sounding board on what we are doing wrong and what we could do better to get better fuel efficiency from our vehicles.

BHPian rohitoasis recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Allow me to start with a disclaimer. I do not claim to be an expert. What I have penned down below is a series of observations I have done over a period of last year or so. This might be true only to my bike, its current condition or my riding style. There are points where I do not have any logic or explanation to the behaviour. I thought I would minute these observations down.

With the recent prices that we see in the petrol, I am assuming all of us would be feeling the pinch. I thought we would use this thread as a sounding board on what we are doing wrong and what we could do better to get better fuel efficiency from our vehicles.

My bike is nearly 9 years old. But for the first 7 years, I had never bothered to check and document the costs associated with the ownership. I used to stay 2 km away from office and had to fill petrol once in a month. I used to service the bike once in 3 months irrespective of the mileage done. I covered around 21K km in this period of 7 years. With 6 day working, it was used basically for this 2+2 km commute.

In June 2019, I got transferred to Coimbatore which is around 50 Km away from my hometown Palakkad. I was amused at the thought of an extended commute. By a fortune or misfortune, the rubber switches in the instrument cluster gave way on the last week of my stay in Chennai. So I had a new speedometer console installed and with the odometer reset, I was able to document this second phase of motorcycling fairly decently. There was a steep learning curve on fuel management and service intervals from this day onward. I am now nearing 20K Km of this second phase of life. These observations are not done in the most scientific manner and I do not claim to have technical expertise to claim if they are actually valid observations or some kind of placebo effect. I could have used any of the readily available apps. But I started the job or recording my fuel consumption as a task to keep my nephew busy and have a routine to follow rather than spend time on mobile gaming and created and kept an excel sheet updated. At least sometime, learning to use excel and its formulae could be an essential life skill for the future.

Why I fancied this new phase of my motorcycle ride

This is the view from my house:

Few of you may recognise this bit of NH544.

We purchased this house almost 30 years back just because of the view of the highway and my attraction towards automobiles. Through the years, I would watch a lot of cars and in recent decades; tonnes of bikers in this piece of road and secretly wish on long rides. With a 6 day work week, it is not the most practical option to go on rides on the weekend and it excited me to have weekday commutes of decent length. (That and me being an introvert, I rarely enjoy large groups and group rides). When you combine these with the bike that I own. Duke 200 is one of those bikes with just enough power not to overpower its chassis. It has a super stiff chassis and amazing cycle parts for the money it charges. You think of executing a manoeuvre and the bike just responds the exact same way you wished it for. Makes it fun even at 3/10th or 4/10th of its massive capability. Yes, the rides give me sore bum, but the joy you get in riding this easily exceeds any inconvenience. With such roads and a mighty steed at my disposal, these commutes become the bright spot of my daily routine.

How I combatted boredom in these rides.

For the first few weeks of this commute, I would set up benchmarks for me. To reach a landmark within a set time or complete the journey in set time or have an average speed of XX. These rides were fun for some time.

From a time when I chased average speeds. (Notice the sticker of the new speedo unit):

Soon I realised the impracticality of having time or speed based targets. With 5 traffic signals in the 22 Km from Kerala Border to my house, multiple speed cameras and occasional random police checks, I understood it was not safe to target average speeds anymore. With this realization, I decided to maintain the rides to never exceed the speed limit. So I would do around 70 kmph (10 km/h lower than the speed limit to avoid any fines due to speedo error).

When you reduce speed there is a whole new world awaiting you:

  • You start noticing details that eluded your vision originally. You see the beautiful morning sunrise (My morning commute starts at 0645 Hrs) and evening sunset (Commute back is at 1740 Hrs). (Though this started to blind me and I had to get the dark visor for the helmet. Was not available in the Chennai showroom, so had it brought from Revzilla and brought to India by a colleague).
  • You are gifted with longer reaction times to any obstacles on the road.
  • You have time to review your braking distances and time required to accelerate to speed (Helps you target and hone into gaps in traffic).
  • You learn better throttle modulation.
  • Gifts you the Zen-like ability not to get coaxed into races with teenagers.
  • And finally grants you extra range on the limited fuel that can be filled in your bike.

This was probably the first time I realised I could achieve substantial range from the tiny tank of fuel:

After this, I tried to replicate similar mileage numbers at the next tankful. This photo is after an entire day’s commute. Still showing tankful after ride of 100km:

Before I start what I am planning to share, here are a few FAQs.


Q) Are you crazy? Why would you use a bike for a highway commute? It is not safe

A) To answer the first part. Yes, a little bit. Anybody who has an obsession to this musical bit for nearly 30 years can be classified slightly insane.

To answer logically, the commute on a car over this distance on a stretch with is littered with Traffic Signals, Tolls and highly policed Speed trap system is expected to be higher than a commute on a bike. If I am unwell to ride, I always had an option of buses (Pre-lockdown of course).

Q) Why use a Duke for commuting? There are always better options in biking sphere for commuting.

A) Several reasons. Over the years I have ridden very few bikes, but in the ones that I rode, only two have felt super engaging, The R-15 and the Duke. In fact ever since reading the reviews by Shumi in Overdrive, this was the only bike which actually got me to the dealership to do a test drive. I laid down the advance for the bike after a 2 Km test drive. Have been in love with that bike ever since. When I thought of possible upgrades, I did try out the R3 as well, but even that felt very calm compared to the Duke. This bike has spoiled me for anything above or below its price range.

Q) You ride a Duke. How are you bothered about Fuel Efficiency for Christ Sake?

A) This has been the only investment I have done of this magnitude in my life. I love it today as much as I loved it the first day I rode it. I have never mistreated the bike. Red lined very rarely. Hit the rev limiter only once in my life (and that was a shock for me). I like the bike for what It offers. It does everything with ease where the weaker bikes struggle. I am happy with the knowledge that when needed I have always something extra on tap. Never been bothered about fuel efficiency till I had to do these commutes. The need to worry about fuel efficiency came from the inconvenience of fueling up more than twice a week. Would I wish for a bigger tank on this bike at the cost of loss of dynamics. An emphatic no!

Continue reading more on the analysis and check out BHPian comments for more insights.

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