Friday, June 19, 2020

Motorcycle 'Reserve' tap is a trap for the unwary

Photo of fuel tap under motorcycle gasoline tank.
You'll know when you need "Reserve" when you suddenly can't reach it.
I don't own a classic Royal Enfield Interceptor, but a recent conversation on the Interceptor forum caught my eye. Members were discussing tachometer/speedometer problems.

There was one tale of woe after another, to the point that one member saw a cynical advantage in one thing old Royal Enfields don't have.

"RE did us a favor by not having a trip odometer — less junk to run amok," he wrote.

"Tim" in New Zealand, saw things a bit differently.

"After having run out of petrol once too often, my 'fuel gauge' is to refuel whenever the odometer turns over at 100 mile intervals," he commented.

Of course I'd always used my odometer to determine fuel stops, too, but I had never thought to make them at any particular point — I just tried to remember at what mileage I had gassed up last time. Of course, I could never remember accurately.

What a clever idea, thought I, to do it when it rolls over 100. But, then, another comment came along:

"Somehow the Reserve tap on your tank increases the capacity?"

Yeah, sure, but I couldn't let that pass. I'd just had a very memorable experience with Reserve!

Here's how I responded on the forum:

"Reserve is a fine thing, but hitting the point when you need it always comes at the wrong instant.

"Recently I decided to let things go until I needed Reserve, so I could 'practice' putting it on. Of course I wasn't expecting it when it did finally happen.

"The bike (my Bullet) chose to stall-cough just as I tried to accelerate away from a stop light at a very big, very busy intersection.

"I desperately tried to gain speed to get out of the way of traffic as the little remaining fuel in the tank sloshed back and forth with each violent sputter, alternately blasting me forward and threatening to let the motor die.

"I needed my hands on the clutch and the throttle (alternately) just to keep going — there was NO time to reach down to select the Reserve setting on the tap.

"No, I like Tim's suggestion of tanking up every time the odo turns over 100!"

Reserve is a trap for the unwary. Don't bet on it.


  1. The 100 mile mark is certainly a reasonable way to go. As I age, remembering "last fill up @ 7250" or some such gets to be a dicey! Reserve is a good idea, but you need a lot of stuff to go right, i.e.- the standpipe for "ON" has to leave 3"-4" of fuel in the tank, the Reserve port can't be clogged with fine rust or crud powder, the lever indication has to actually correlate to the valve position, etc. A dry run in the garage is a good idea.
    Start with an empty tank drained down on "RES" thru a hose onto a gas can. My tap is quite slow - it might take an hour. Then see how much fuel you need to add before the "ON' tap position actually flows fuel.

    Maybe recording fill-ups a notepad in your riding jacket might work as well, the old "paper brain" gambit? I'm usually ready to stop & stretch out anyway well before 100 miles have passed. Can't hurt to have a look into the tank as well then, eh? If you can see fuel, you won't be walking!

  2. Or when you are in the middle of nowhere, reach down to flip onto reserve and find it already IS on reserve.
    A meteor Minor is quite heavy to push up even a slight hill!


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