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Motorcycle Mileage Question  
User currently offlineATA1011TriStar From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 92 posts, RR: 0
Posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 2190 times:

Good evening everyone!

I just recently started getting into motorcycles. I started to do some research on them because I had very little knowledge about them. I discovered that motorcycles get, in my opinion, relatively poor gas mileage. Here are some numbers I pulled together to help illustrate my findings.

2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Supersport = 107.7 HP - 43 MPG - 421 lbs. - 599 cc

Bajaj Pulsar 180 DTS-i = 17 HP - 115 MPG - 324 lbs. - 178.6 cc

2005 Toyota Echo/Platz = 108 HP - 36 Hwy. MPG - 2105 lbs. - 1500-1599 cc

I don't understand how the ZX-6R, despite weighing less than 1/4 the weight of the Echo, manages only seven more MPG than the Echo. I did notice that motorcycle engines are able to create the power they do via amazingly small displacements. However, it seems that a smaller displacement engine should be more fuel efficient than a larger displacement engine. Do motorcycles fair poorly because they do not have room for advanced engine technologies that boost fuel economy? I noticed that many motorcycles today have four stroke engines; sometimes even having overhead camshafts!

2010 Yamaha YZF-R1 = 146 HP - 33 MPG - 454 lbs. - 998 cc

2005 Acura RSX = 201 HP - 31 Hwy. MPG - 2,790 lbs. - 1998 cc

Again, despite producing 50+ less horsepower and weighing less than 1/5 the weight of the Acura, the YZF-R1 gets only two more MPG.

I understand that these motorcycles are very fast in comparison to the cars I have listed. It just seems to me that a small displacement engine in a lightweight package should be getting more than 43 or 33 MPG.

Any insight on the situation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks everybody!

23 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAndz From South Africa, joined Feb 2004, 8443 posts, RR: 10
Reply 1, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 2173 times:
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Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Thread starter):
I noticed that many motorcycles today have four stroke engines; sometimes even having overhead camshafts!

I assume that this is a tongue in cheek statement? Bikes have had overhead camshafts for more than 35 years. I think the original Honda CB750 was one of the first and that was in the mid 70s. Kawasaki's Z1 900cc ws the first production bike with twin overhead camshafts, also in the 70s.

Remember a bike engine revs much higher than a car. My Yamaha FZ6 redlines at 14,000rpm, peak power being produced at about 12,000. Higher revs = more fuel used.

If you want a bike for fuel economy then get a scooter. Sports bikes are for fun, not fuel economy.



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User currently offlineLowrider From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 3220 posts, RR: 10
Reply 2, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 2123 times:

Most motorcycles have relatively poor aerodynamics compared to cars. This means they may get great milage around town, but relatively poor on the highway. All the curvy plastic helps some, but your averge human just isnt all that sleek.

Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Thread starter):
Bajaj Pulsar 180 DTS-i = 17 HP - 115 MPG - 324 lbs. - 178.6 cc

115 mpg is pretty impressive in a production machine. I don't know of any car currently in production that can match that.

Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Thread starter):
Do motorcycles fair poorly because they do not have room for advanced engine technologies that boost fuel economy? I noticed that many motorcycles today have four stroke engines; sometimes even having overhead camshafts!

Many modern bikes use sophisticated fuel injection and engine management systems. The Honda VFR800 uses a VTEC engine, similar to what is found in Honda's cars. Motorcycle engines are certainly not the poor cousin to automotive engines when it comes to technology. Actually, most motorcycle manufactures do an excellent job of controlling the weight of the bike, despite added technology and features. This is a discipline automotive manufactures are only beginning to learn.



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User currently offlineFlybaurLAX From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 638 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 2104 times:

I have a '94 Honda CBR 900RR, and I can get anywhere between 37 and 52 MPG. It really depends how you ride. If I'm in the canyons like by Mt. Palomar, or on Mullholland Hwy, then I usually stay in the higher RPMs so I have more control, especially when I need to slow down right before a big turn. As Andz said, when you're in the higher revs, the fuel consumption is higher. I can get fairly decent mileage when I'm on the freeway, if I'm not speeding too fast. I typically cruise at 75 mph, but if I were to do the speed limit, my MPG would be a lot higher. You can certainly feel the difference in drag between 65 and 75mph, so that has a lot to do with it.

My old '83 Honda CM 450E was a classic! It was so wonderful...I got over 50 MPG wherever I rode, no matter how fast. Then again, I didn't really take it above 90.



Boilerup! Go Purdue!
User currently offlineDXing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 2103 times:



Quoting Andz (Reply 1):
If you want a bike for fuel economy then get a scooter. Sports bikes are for fun, not fuel economy.

 checkmark 

Anytime you get a motorcycle above 500cc the milage will fall into the 30-50 mpg range, but not so with a motor scooter. My 2005 Hyabusa was a 1300cc machine and got 40-43 mpg. My 2003 Volusia has an 800cc engine and gets 43-46 mpg. A friend has 1800cc machine with shaft drive and he gets 46-50 mpg. A co-worker has a 650cc Bergman and he gets somewhere on the order of 80mpg. A lot has to do with aerodynamics as discussed. Some of the other things have to do with transmission, most bikes are geared completely different than cars. Also, any bike that uses a chain loses power and torque=more gas over a drive shaft or a scooter with an automatic transmission.


User currently offlineMham001 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 3575 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 2095 times:

If you're looking for economy, forget any sportbike like you have listed. Even if you were to look at something like a Kawasaki 250 Ninja, overall operating expenses probably wouldn't match an econo car. Tires at $100+ each every 10,000 miles negate any percieved savings in fuel. Then figure in carrying groceries, passengers, etc...no comparison.

User currently offline2H4 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 8955 posts, RR: 60
Reply 6, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 2078 times:
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Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Thread starter):
I don't understand how the ZX-6R, despite weighing less than 1/4 the weight of the Echo, manages only seven more MPG than the Echo.

Something else to keep in mind is the torque of those small, high-revving, inline engines.....or rather, the lack thereof. At highway speeds, the wind resistance becomes quite a factor, and machines with lower torque will suffer accordingly.

I noticed the same thing on my former car. It was a woefully underpowered Honda Civic with bad compression and very little torque. It got outstanding highway mileage when the roof rack was removed, but as soon as I carried the bikes up there, I saw a tremendous drop in mileage. Much more of a drop than my friends saw when they carried bikes on the roof of their cars with similar horsepower but more torque.

I once tested the mileage of my Ducati Monster 900 in northern Michigan, on a stretch of straight highway. Riding a constant 75mph in a noticeable headwind, I think I got between 45 and 50mpg. I suspect the healthy mid-range torque helped a bit.

Quoting DXing (Reply 4):
any bike that uses a chain loses power and torque=more gas over a drive shaft or a scooter with an automatic transmission.

Are you sure? I'm fairly certain that a chain has been proven to be more efficient than a shaft drive.

2H4



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User currently offlineATA1011TriStar From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 92 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 2063 times:



Quoting Andz (Reply 1):
I assume that this is a tongue in cheek statement? Bikes have had overhead camshafts for more than 35 years.

No, no. I just assumed motorcycles used pushrods for their simplicity and to save space.

Quoting Andz (Reply 1):
My Yamaha FZ6 redlines at 14,000rpm, peak power being produced at about 12,000. Higher revs = more fuel used.

Wow, those RPM levels are astronomical! What you said makes a lot of sense to me.

Quoting Lowrider (Reply 2):
Most motorcycles have relatively poor aerodynamics compared to cars.

I was wondering about that. I assumed that motorcycles would be more aerodynamic since they have a smaller frontal cross section.

Quoting Lowrider (Reply 2):
115 mpg is pretty impressive in a production machine.

I agree, 115 MPG by itself is amazing! But is it amazing when compared to the fact that the Toyota iQ gets roughly half the gas mileage?

Quoting FlybaurLAX (Reply 3):
You can certainly feel the difference in drag between 65 and 75mph, so that has a lot to do with it.

That is very interesting. I have experienced that same concept riding my bicycle. 15 MPH is a lot harder than 12 MPH.  Smile

Quoting DXing (Reply 4):
Anytime you get a motorcycle above 500cc the milage will fall into the 30-50 mpg range, but not so with a motor scooter. My 2005 Hyabusa was a 1300cc machine and got 40-43 mpg. My 2003 Volusia has an 800cc engine and gets 43-46 mpg. A friend has 1800cc machine with shaft drive and he gets 46-50 mpg. A co-worker has a 650cc Bergman and he gets somewhere on the order of 80mpg. A lot has to do with aerodynamics as discussed.

Very interesting! I will check out some motor scooters later. I never would have thought that aerodynamics play such a huge role in motorcycle dynamics.

Quoting Mham001 (Reply 5):
If you're looking for economy, forget any sportbike like you have listed. Even if you were to look at something like a Kawasaki 250 Ninja, overall operating expenses probably wouldn't match an econo car. Tires at $100+ each every 10,000 miles negate any percieved savings in fuel. Then figure in carrying groceries, passengers, etc...no comparison.

Why do the tires go so fast? You made a good point about little or no storage space on the bikes I have listed. I saw some company's sport tourers, which would seem to have more space, but they already had bigger engines and the associated reduced fuel economy.

What exactly is the point of the Ninja 250? They're expensive, as you pointed out, and can't carry anything. Are they popular because they are fast and "cool"?


User currently offline2H4 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 8955 posts, RR: 60
Reply 8, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 2057 times:
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Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Reply 7):
Why do the tires go so fast?

Motorcycle tires are generally manufactured with a rubber compound that is softer than that of car tires. Motorcycle tires, therefore, wear out more quickly.

In addition, many/most motorcycle riders, in the interest of self-preservation, are less likely than car drivers to continue using worn tires for a long period of time.

Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Reply 7):
What exactly is the point of the Ninja 250? They're expensive, as you pointed out, and can't carry anything. Are they popular because they are fast and "cool"?

People who ride Ninja 250s like the bike for its small size, light weight, and less-powerful/more forgiving engine. These riders are generally new to riding or small in size, both of which are characteristics to which this particular machine caters.

2H4



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User currently offlineFlybaurLAX From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 638 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 2053 times:



Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Reply 7):
I have experienced that same concept riding my bicycle. 15 MPH is a lot harder than 12 MPH.

It's because D = 1/2 Cd ρ V^2, so as your velocity increases, your drag increases. The change in drag will be higher for higher ranges of velocity. For instance, the drag difference between 15 mph and 12 mph is not as much as the difference between 75 mph and 65. It's much more dramatic at that range. Although yes, I too can feel a difference when I'm riding my bicycle.



Boilerup! Go Purdue!
User currently offlineDXing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 2033 times:



Quoting 2H4 (Reply 6):
Are you sure? I'm fairly certain that a chain has been proven to be more efficient than a shaft drive.

Yep. A chain takes more energy to turn than a shaft hence the loss of power. Especially true if the chain is not taken care of and has slack in it, is not greased, or is worn. I'll never have another chain driven bike if I can help it.


User currently offline2H4 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 8955 posts, RR: 60
Reply 11, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 2020 times:
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Quoting DXing (Reply 10):

I definitely agree that a shaft drive offers more mechanical efficiency when the chain system is worn and/or dirty, but can you post any sources with evidence that the same is true when compared with a clean, well-adjusted chain system?

Everything I've ever seen and heard (including first-hand testimony from professional bicycle engineers) indicates that, barring dirty or poorly-adjusted systems, a chain is more efficient. Evidence to the contrary would be very interesting, indeed!

2H4



Intentionally Left Blank
User currently offlineFlybaurLAX From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 638 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 2014 times:



Quoting 2H4 (Reply 11):
Evidence to the contrary would be very interesting, indeed!

I'd like to hear this, too! I always maintain my chain, so hopefully it'll come out around even with a drive shaft. I do wish to eventually buy a BMW sport touring (when I start making money).  Big grin



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User currently offline2H4 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 8955 posts, RR: 60
Reply 13, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 2011 times:
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Quoting FlybaurLAX (Reply 12):
I do wish to eventually buy a BMW sport touring (when I start making money).

I've got BMW fever, too. I've got my heart set on an R1150GS, like this one:



I'll probably have to sell the Ducati to make it happen, but I'd really like to have the ability to ride all day long in bad weather with camping gear, and then be able to tackle a dirt lane to get to the campsite.

2H4



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User currently offlineMham001 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 3575 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 1988 times:



Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Reply 7):
What exactly is the point of the Ninja 250? They're expensive, as you pointed out, and can't carry anything. Are they popular because they are fast and "cool"?

I mentioned it because it is a popular small bike that can get 70 mpg. It is not fast, nor particularly cool and can be had for $3k new. The perfect starter bike and economical, you should look into them more.

Quoting 2H4 (Reply 13):
I'll probably have to sell the Ducati to make it happen, but I'd really like to have the ability to ride all day long in bad weather with camping gear, and then be able to tackle a dirt lane to get to the campsite.

Oh-oh another one falls to the hype. You don't need a $17,000 GS to ride a dirt road. I rode dirt roads for years on heavy BMW sport tourers. Still do on a K1200RS, just wish it didnt have quite so much expensive plastic..


User currently offlineDXing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 1980 times:



Quoting 2H4 (Reply 11):
Everything I've ever seen and heard (including first-hand testimony from professional bicycle engineers) indicates that, barring dirty or poorly-adjusted systems, a chain is more efficient. Evidence to the contrary would be very interesting, indeed!

I guess it could go either way and it depends on the individual. After having both, I wouldn't go back to a chain if you paid me.


http://www.answers.com/topic/chain-drive

Drive shafts are another common method used to move mechanical power around that is sometimes evaluated in comparison to chain drive; in particular shaft drive versus chain drive is a key design decision for most motorcycles. Drive shafts tend to be even tougher and more reliable than chain drive, but weigh even more (robbing more power), and impart rotational torque.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_shaft_drive_or_chain_drive_better

Quoting 2H4 (Reply 11):
Everything I've ever seen and heard (including first-hand testimony from professional bicycle engineers)

Bicycle engineer? Most motorcycle mechanics I have talked to, and this is just a personal obseravation nothing to back it up, seem to think a shaft is preferable to a chain. I guess the one link that says they weigh more and thus are less effecient makes sense up to a point. But with a 1900cc engine is the weight going to be that noticable to the power output? Obviously on a smaller bike it would but then look at the motorscooters, they have automatic transmissions and almost always get better gas milage than a similar bikes and it uses a belt, so there is something to be said for belt drive as well.

It's been my experience though that I get a much more smooth transfer of power when I'm on a shaft drive bike. As I said in my first post, engine size more than drive train is what really matters in gas mileage.


User currently offline2H4 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 8955 posts, RR: 60
Reply 16, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 1932 times:
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Quoting DXing (Reply 15):
I guess it could go either way and it depends on the individual. After having both, I wouldn't go back to a chain if you paid me

Yeah, I know what you mean. And for what it's worth, my goal hasn't been to prove you wrong, but rather to find some actual data comparing the efficiency of the two systems. Such evidence has been surprisingly difficult to find.

Quoting DXing (Reply 15):
so there is something to be said for belt drive as well.

Yes indeed. And not just in motorcycle applications, but in bicycles, as well. Here is an interesting article about it. The photo in that link (which happens to be my photo  Smile ) shows how that particular design uses open-tooth sprockets to allow dirt and mud to fall through.

I'm with you, though...for most motorcycle applications, I really like shaft drives.

Quoting Mham001 (Reply 14):
Oh-oh another one falls to the hype.

What exactly is that supposed to mean? I think you're implying that I am somehow misguided, and am basing my decision on benefits that are superficial and not legitimate.

If this is the case, you're way, way off.

I want a machine that I can load up with camping and photography gear. And I want one with long-travel suspension...for bad paved roads, as well as the occasional dirt two-track or singletrack trail. I happen to love how the GS looks, I like the opposed engine, and I also find the riding position and ergonomics to be extremely comfortable.

Hype, indeed...

Quoting Mham001 (Reply 14):
You don't need a $17,000 GS to ride a dirt road.

I never said I need a $17,000 GS. I said I want an 1150GS...are you familiar with that model? It was produced between 1999 and 2005. They average about $7800 on the used market. The 1150GS Adventure models average about $9300. That's a far cry from your figure.

Quoting Mham001 (Reply 14):
I rode dirt roads for years on heavy BMW sport tourers. Still do on a K1200RS, just wish it didnt have quite so much expensive plastic..

If you're concerned about your expensive plastic, perhaps you should consider a GS!

2H4



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User currently offlineDXing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 1925 times:



Quoting Mham001 (Reply 14):
You don't need a $17,000 GS to ride a dirt road. I rode dirt roads for years on heavy BMW sport tourers. Still do on a K1200RS, just wish it didnt have quite so much expensive plastic..

 rotfl   rotfl   rotfl 

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f294/DrHansZarkov/adventure.jpg


User currently offlineLowrider From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 3220 posts, RR: 10
Reply 18, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 1882 times:



Quoting ATA1011TriStar (Reply 7):
I assumed that motorcycles would be more aerodynamic since they have a smaller frontal cross section.

They do, but that is where the advantage ends. If you examine your exemplar Toyota and motorcycle side by side, you will see that the motorcycle is less "clean" from an aerodynamic standpoint. All that wind through your hair (or your helmet) is drag producing.

Quoting Mham001 (Reply 14):
You don't need a $17,000 GS to ride a dirt road.

No, but is sure is fun. You don't need an expensive K1200RS to tour on either. The R12GS (or the 1150) is a nice, all around traveling bike. It would be on my short list if I was looking at a high end bike.



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User currently offlineThebatman From United States of America, joined Aug 2007, 845 posts, RR: 8
Reply 19, posted (4 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 1828 times:
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Quoting DXing (Reply 4):
A co-worker has a 650cc Bergman and he gets somewhere on the order of 80mpg

Your co-worker is stretching the truth just a little bit...I've got a 500cc Yamaha TMAX (scooter/motorcycle "blend") and I get about 47 mpg. According to Suzuki's website, the Burgman 650 gets 38 mpg...



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User currently offlineKingairta From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 458 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (4 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 1812 times:

As for chain vs shaft. The downfall with shaft drives depends on the engine placement. Most Vtwins that use a shaft drive have horrible parasitic loss of power. When a Vtwin is mounted so the crankshaft spins perpendicualr to the tires you need to use one 90* gear box to spin the shaft then another 90* gear box for the shaft to spin the tire. Very very inneficient. Now take the same bike you put a gear on the drive shaft a gear on the tire and tie the two together. Much more efficient.

Only time a shaft can be some what comparable is when the engine's driveshaft rotates in parallel with the bike frame. Like the BMWs, Goldwings etc.


User currently offlineMham001 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 3575 posts, RR: 3
Reply 21, posted (4 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 1786 times:



Quoting 2H4 (Reply 16):


Hype, indeed...

I've been hanging with the BMW crowd for nearly 2 decades. I see who buys $17,000 GS's, posers who firmly believe they need this bike to ride a simple dirt road. Any good experienced rider will tell you most any bike will go anyplace a GS in the hands of your average rider will go. Give it some advantage in wet dirt because of better tire options. I always stuck with my street bikes because I enjoyed the power and speed they provided that the GS doesn't and know that I will still get to the same places the other guys in my club go.

BTW, if you think you're going to take that 600 lb pig, loaded up with gear down much single-track, you've been severely misled (unless you are Jimmy Lewis).


User currently offline2H4 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 8955 posts, RR: 60
Reply 22, posted (4 years 10 months 1 week 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 1755 times:
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Quoting Mham001 (Reply 21):
I always stuck with my street bikes because I enjoyed the power and speed they provided that the GS doesn't and know that I will still get to the same places the other guys in my club go.

Well, good for you. It doesn't change the fact that, given the priorities and preferences I've listed above, the GS is a better option for me than a K12.

You know, so long as a given motorcycle enhances a given rider's enjoyment, it really doesn't matter how well-matched the machine is to the task at hand.

So who are you to suggest that he’s a "poser", or is riding the wrong motorcycle?

The K12 is faster, to be sure. But having ridden one, I can honestly say it was one of the most bland, boring riding experiences I've ever had. The engine was very smooth and quiet. To many people, that’s a great thing. But to me, that detracted from the overall experience. To me, it made the machine feel extraordinarily numb and uninteresting. Appliance-like. I occasionally looked down to see if an Amana or Whirlpool badge was mounted on the side. It got me to where I wanted to go with speed and efficiency, but I happen to value qualities above and beyond those factors.

Quoting Mham001 (Reply 21):
BTW, if you think you're going to take that 600 lb pig, loaded up with gear down much single-track, you've been severely misled

I already have ridden one on a bit of singletrack, and it went just fine. Granted, it was very mild singletrack with some elbow room and mild terrain, but I never said I wanted to tackle aggressive trails that would be difficult to walk on.

2H4



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User currently offlineDXing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (4 years 10 months 1 week 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 1739 times:



Quoting Thebatman (Reply 19):
Your co-worker is stretching the truth just a little bit...I've got a 500cc Yamaha TMAX (scooter/motorcycle "blend") and I get about 47 mpg. According to Suzuki's website, the Burgman 650 gets 38 mpg...

Yep, you're right I misheard him. I asked him again last night and he said the best he had gotten so far was 52mpg. Coulda sworn I heard him say 80 once. Oh well.


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