Friday, August 21, 2020

200-odd miles means it's time to fuel my Royal Enfield

Close-up of Royal Enfield odometer showing 506 miles.
All I have to remember to do is tank up at the 700-mile reading.
Remember when I almost lost control of my Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle when it ran out of gas? It's a 1999, well before Royal Enfields got gas gauges, so this could happen again.

The fault was mine, as I had deliberately decided to run out of gas to practice switching the fuel tap to "Reserve." When the moment came I wasn't ready and didn't handle it well.

I resolved not to run out again, using a technique I found recommended on an Internet forum.

Namely, gas up every time the odometer turns over 100 miles.  Easy!

Noticing recently that the odometer was only 22 miles from turning over the 100s tumbler, I plotted a short ride that would end at a gas station. Let's get started!

First though, I removed the cap to make sure I did have some gas. Yes, indeed, I could see the liquid in the tank. Good to go!

Suffice it to say that the motorcycle ran out of gas four miles short of the station. Luckily this didn't happen at an intersection and I coasted to stop where I could switch to Reserve and restart the motorcycle safely.

At the station I filled the tank, noting that the receipt credited me with the purchase of 3.178 gallons. Since my Bullet gets about 72 miles per gallon in the city, it's probable that I can safely cruise more than 200 miles on a full tank without needing Reserve.

Hmmm. Two hundred miles. That means that tanking up every 100 miles, as I had pledged, would have me pumping gas twice as often as really necessary, a nuisance.

So here is my plan: I will fill the tank every time the 100s tumbler turns over another 200 miles.

But wait, you say: I'll naturally forget what 100 I am at and end up trying to reach 300 miles between fill-ups. That means I will find myself walking rather than riding.

No, I don't think so and here's why: I plan to fill up every time the tumbler hits an ODD number. This time at 500, next time at 700, then 900, 100 again, 300 and so forth.

Let's see if I can do it.


  1. Ah! You don't have an odometer you can reset! I'm sure I had bikes with odometers like yours, but that was SO long ago... How much could a new complete speedometer cost with a second, resettable odometer? They're so convenient!

  2. If you don't check your fuel level then don't ride it any farther than you intend on pushing it.

  3. I had a similar problem with an old Moto Guzzi lately, so carried a small pad with me while riding, noting down the mileage every time I tanked up. I'd forget otherwise, I'm afraid!

  4. I had a similar problem with an old Moto Guzzi lately, so carried a small pad with me while riding, noting down the mileage every time I tanked up. I'd forget otherwise, I'm afraid!

  5. I remember doing the 100 mile fill up on my old Sportster CH. It was a religious thing. lol

  6. In my old Bullet, when it's going to go on reserve, it will start jerking/misfiring then I just switch the tap to reserve. No need to stop the bike. My long time project is to add a fuel meter.

  7. I used suitcase combination lock to keep track of my next fill up mileage.

  8. Darrel's got the right idea, or you could just slap one of these attractive little lo-tech counter doodads somewhere handy:

    If even that lo-tech's too fancy, then just beg an old grease pencil nub from your grocer or a friendly stock clerk, tuck it into your riding jacket, and write the last three digits right onto the speedo glass whenever you fill up as a reminder. It's reasonably waterproof and just wipes off.

    Of course, none of this is a problem for me, since I tank up at home after every ride with some lovely ethanol-free 89 octane that I keep on hand for the Bullet. You see, a full tank is a happy tank. Less air in the tank means less water condensation, which inevitably means less rust in the tank. And on longer tours I just tank up every hundred miles or so. I'm not yet so elder-struck I cannot remember "tank up at about 70-something". In fact, it reminds me of that old joke, "My grandpa's really getting on, but still walks 5 miles a day. We have no damned idea where he is now." When I can no longer remember the last two digits, or at least the decade that was on the odo when I filled up for maybe a couple of hours, then maybe that'll be time to hang up my interstate touring spurs, tie an onion on my belt (which was the style in my day), and spend more quality time yelling at kids to get off my lawn.


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