Friday, October 16, 2020

Ways to remember when to fill up your Royal Enfield

Five-digit counter with knurled wheels to set mileage.
If you owned an old Volkswagen, then you may know what this is.
Most people won't recall, but there was a time when automobiles came without gas gauges.

You could put a stick down the filler opening to see if it came out wet. Ford dealers offered purpose-made measuring sticks for their customers, with the dealership's name on them.

Or, if the car had a "Reserve" setting, you just waited until the engine coughed and switched the lever to access just a bit more gas.

This is still the way my 1999 Royal Enfield motorcycle operates. There's no gas gauge and no trip odometer to tell how far you've gone since your last fill-up.

If you wait until the motor coughs you might find yourself groping blindly under the seat for the Reserve lever while in the middle of a busy intersection.

My blog item on an easy way to remember when gas is needed brought plenty of response. Some who wrote thought I ought to hang up my helmet if I couldn't remember when gas is needed. Ouch.

Others seemed to think I'm a lout because I don't always check the gas level before riding.

"If you don't check your fuel level then don't ride any farther than you intend on pushing it," Oldjohn1951 wrote.

Or I am a careless lout because I don't automatically fill up after every ride (prevents getting stranded and corrosion in the tank as well).

Just buy a grease pencil and write the desired mileage on the face of the speedometer, ran another suggestion.

More sympathetic was the friend who suggested I use a stitch-counter from a knitting needle to remember at what mileage to get gas. I'm a lout to think that this seems a bit — well — feminine for my masculine motorcycle.

"I used suitcase combination locks to keep track of my next fill-up mileage," wrote Darrel Bedwell.

That I liked. Maybe the lock would be made of metal, in keeping with the rest of my motorcycle.

Then, to my surprise, there came a comment that really made sense.

Remember that cars used to come without gas gauges, or trip odometers, even if they had odometers?

So the problem of keeping track of when to buy gas was, at one point in history, a very common problem? What solution did those drivers of old find?

Well, they had one. "Bilgemaster" pointed to an accessory odometer counter still made in Germany.

One reviewer wrote of it:

"Years ago, some Volkswagens and other small cars had no fuel gauge. These counters were popular to remind the driver when to buy fuel. Now, they are almost impossible to find. I am using the two I bought in cars that have fuel gauges, but do not have trip odometers to remind me of when to change the oil. You could just use a sticky note, but this thing is more fun."

Another wrote:

"Just what I was looking for. Put it on my scooter. I use it as a trip odometer on the right three digits and as a gas minder on the left two digits. In the '70s I had this in my VW Beetle. Great product."

And another:

"Excellent product, good quality. My gas gauge in my '73 Thing is not working at this time. I had one of these in all my old VWs before they came with a gas gauge. Easy fix for now. Authentic, made in Germany."

So there you have it. A certified piece of vintage kit, still made the old way.

Now, I realize that there are much higher tech ways to accomplish this. Just set a reminder on your Apple Watch, for instance.

But I maintain that, if you ride an old Royal Enfield, "higher tech" is not the goal.


  1. I use the Fuelly app ( to record every fill-up, which both helps me remember when I last filled up (both when, and at what mileage) and also gives me an estimated "miles per tank." Those two pieces of information taken together make it pretty easy to figure out if I need gas or not.

  2. I use a small rare earth magnet on the bezel around the speedometer.Just line it up with the number on speedometer to correspond with the last two numbers on the odometer when you fill up.The speedometer reads 0 to 100.

    1. Say, that's really using your noggin meat! Great tip!

  3. Just as an update, I purchased an accessory odometer counter, it worked great for a month or so. However, since it is made of plastic, the bullet vibration caused the number stop to break off on at least two of the digits, the numbers would then roll over depending upon the revs of the engine. If one of these were available in metal components, it would work well on a vibrating bullet.

  4. I purchased one of these accessory odometer counters and it worked well for about a month, the bullet vibration was too much for the plastic number wheels and two broke. They then rotated to the RPMs of the engine. These would be great if available in metal construction. Perhaps I can go to a junk yard, scavenge an old odometer reel and make something work. I will let you know if I am successful


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