Eco motorcycle riding

With the pressure on everyone to reduce emissions, and the effect on ‘global warning’, reducing your fuel costs also helps the environment as well as saving money.

Bikes with fairings generally speaking use less fuel at speed. Fitting a fly screen to a naked bike probably helps.

Maintenance

Firstly you need to make sure your motorcycle is properly serviced and maintained. Motorcycle brakes often stick or seize as they have lightweight aluminium rather than steel calipers and pistons as on cars, and tend to corrode and jam, particularly if you ride through the winter.

Tyre pressures are also important, with many riders not checking them regularly enough. Motorcycle tyres have a smaller volume of air than car tyres, so usually need topping up more frequently. Low tyre pressures also significantly aversely affect the handling of the bike, which you may not notice until the first sharp corner.

Planning ahead

If you want to save fuel then you need to plan ahead, for example when approaching roundabouts. Braking wastes energy, converting momentum into heat, so you need to retain as much momentum as you can, avoid hard braking or stopping unless you have too, and minimise slowing down. However, avoid putting yourself at risk in the process – don’t take chances.

When approaching roundabouts, try and anticipate when any vehicle in front is likely to enter, or when you have a clear run onto a roundabout try and plan ahead and slot in, rather than coming to a stop. This also minimises the risk of being hit from behind which happens more to motorcycles than other vehicles as we are more difficult to see and are a comparatively rare sight on the UK roads.

You can straight line roundabouts when they are clear, which us also safer, but always be prepared to stop if a vehicle suddenly appears.

For safety`s sake, always assume you are invisible, even more so when stationary.

When a vehicle ahead is turning off again minimise your speed loss by hanging back a little, the aim being to retain as much momentum as you can safely. But avoid passing vehicles that are turning left at junctions on single carriageways, on the RHS, it’s too high risk.

Keep up your speed (if safe)

Generally try and avoid harsh late braking, try and maintain momentum by shutting off the throttle early, particularly if there are no vehicles behind you, but avoid annoying other road users by being seen to hold them up. Roll up to giveway junctions ready to proceed if safe, and stop safely in control if not. Slow riding is a problem for many older riders who were never taught how to do it properly.

Use the gear box

Accelerating briskly uses less fuel than gradually building up speed, within reason. (Wheelies just waste fuel). You need to keep the revs down as well, and avoid using the higher revs by changing up early – as long as the bike still pulls well. This varies alot by size, tune and type of bike. Many small capacity bikes need reving more to get reasonable acceleration, larger capacity bikes will pull hard from very low revs.

Cornering

Cornering correctly is vital in saving fuel. Again maintaining momentum is key. Advanced rider training often includes sessions on twisty roads trying not to use your brakes, which again is easier on some bikes than others. Big singles and twins have considerable engine braking anyway, fours less so, and two strokes even less.

It’s all about judging your entry speed and shutting off the throttle just in time to get to the corner at the optimum speed. You do need to be able to stop in the distance you can see, so use this as a guide along with`Limit’ or ‘Vanishing’ points.

Lack of confidence in cornering is a very common problem, and many riders could corner significantly faster than they do without appreciably increasing their level of risk. In fact panic probably through lack of confidence causes many crashes. Local accident investigators usually find that excessive speed was not the cause, but panic was, with riders trying to brake hard mid corner unnecessarily as they felt they’re going too fast, or standing the bike up to then try and brake before entering the scenery.

Pick your speed

Although within reason the slower the speed the lower the fuel consumption, it is important on a motorcycle not to hold up the traffic behind. Following vehicles usually follow riders far too closely as they can see the road ahead without any real obstruction, so tend to drive as if you`re not there. This means if you have to stop quickly, then you are very likely to be struck from behind which can literally be fatal.

You also don`t want to obstruct vehicles behind you, so if there is a vehicle behind either ride up to the speed limit if safe to do so, or wave them past when you can. If the road is empty then ride at the speed you prefer.

Smooth is key

It’s all about anticipation and riding smoothly – known as ‘acceleration sense’. No point in accelerating hard then braking for corners.

If you`ve had advanced training, then you know how good it feels cutting through the traffic exploiting your planning skills and the ability to  get through gaps cars can`t, making better smoother progress with far fewer stops and starts. Filtering is more efficient but needs great care to remain safe, uses  less fuel, and causes less wear on the bike, particularly the clutch.

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