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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

MD Opinion: (Can’t Get) Home on the Range?

Isn’t it time that someone in the motorcycle business, anyone, tried to reverse a trend in motorcycle fuel-tank size and carrying capacity that seriously affects motorcycling?

A basic criterion for a sportbike ride, given an ergonomics package acceptable for physical endurance, is range. Next to that need is the ability to carry a modest amount of gear—say, a change of clothes—leathers, jeans, underwear, sneakers, cell phone and bottle of water. Considered here, primarily, are the 600-1000cc bikes that are among the most popular sold. Though a tiny proportion end up on the track, most are bought by riders who seek utility as well as sport pleasure. They want to go places, not just beat up the nearest twisty. Secondarily, we should include ‘cruisers’ that are notoriously short legged.

For sportbikes, lack of range is a serious problem. One hundred miles is much too short a range (straight out or 50 miles out and back to a gas station), 125 miles is marginal and 150 miles the minimal acceptable distance a rider should be able to go, riding at his or her safety level on roads sufficiently remote that conflicts with civilian traffic are minimal while using the motorcycle to its design specifications: fast, with a lot of pinned throttle.

Most of today’s sportbikes, ridden aggressively to limits acceptable on remote public highways, deliver, at most, 100-125 miles of range to reserve. They are designed and built in Japan or Europe, where longer range doesn’t matter much. In the U.S, particularly in the West, it does matter. A lot.

All the latest middleweight and open-class sportbikes are great motorcycles that can be ridden fast for 6-8 hours, as they are designed to be ridden. At fuel-consumption levels these bikes deliver on wide throttle openings—roughly 25 mpg for the open-classers, 30 mpg for the middleweights, at best, on four-gallon tanks—a rider can go about 85 to 110 miles before risking running out of gas. If you’re more than 10-15 miles from a gas station (25 if you baby it—.ed), after riding those distances, prepare to walk.

Back off the throttle, negating the bikes’ purpose, and you get 110-135 mile ranges. Drone for maximum economy (why buy such a bike?) and you might get 135-150 miles at best. Most sportbikes are miserable to ride slowly.

Consider, in evaluating the above range, a typical popular motorcycle road for California sportbike riders, ridden by thousands annually: Highway 58. Check the map. It comes in from the Arizona state line, passes through Buttonwillow on I-5 (gas stations), becomes ‘interesting’ at McKittrick (no gas station) and ends at Santa Margarita (no gas station), where it meets Highway 101. You must ride 12 miles further, to Atascadero, for gas. Los Angeles-area riders typically take 33 through Taft to McKittrick. Buttonwillow and Taft are each 90-plus miles from Atascadero.

A sport-bike rider using the full performance of a sport bike cannot get from Buttonwillow or Taft to Atascadero reliably. Starting from Atascadero and riding east, a rider must turn round long before the ‘interesting’ road goes straight, or run out of gas. A favorite turnaround spot is the so-called ‘Dinosaur Ranch,’ 70 miles from Atascadero. An enthusiastic rider cannot turn ’round there but must continue into Taft for fuel (if he or she can get there), unacceptably lengthening the day’s ‘interesting’ ride. This is only one of many roads that cannot be ridden comfortably in the American West on typical modern, range-limited sport bikes.

Reverting to the popular Ducati 1198 and 848, among the most desirable bikes sold, with four-gallon tanks, it should not take engineering genius to add two gallons of fuel (the 851 and 888 of blessed memory had 5.2-gallon tanks). Two gallons would add 16 pounds to the wet weight but would extend their range to the minimum acceptable length, ridden to design capability.

The Ducatis are only examples: most of today’s high-performance sportbikes have identical range problems. Honda’s and Suzuki’s big V-Twins of the 1990s were similarly afflicted and did not become market leaders. The ‘new, improved’ Honda VFR1200 has a range, including reserve, of about 160 miles and its tank is less than five gallons.

Turning to the cruisers, this test rider had to ferry an H-D Street Rod from San Francisco to the H-D Press shop in Los Angeles and bring back an 883. Going down on I-5 (no back roads were feasible—no gas), with gas stations often 35-40 miles apart, one had to stop frequently—about every 60-65 miles—or risk running dry. On the 883, with its tiny peanut tank, some of the ‘Next gas 30 miles’ warnings meant stopping even more often. These were difficult trips, yet not at all atypical of the kinds of riding many owners would want to undertake.

When will manufacturers step up and give us range? Is it too much to ask?

Carrying a small amount of gear is yet another issue most manufacturers give little or no thought to addressing. On most sport bikes, there isn’t even storage space for a credit card. Yet even vestigial thought would provide space. If, as we observe, bikes will start to use under-engine mufflers (as Buell did), providing a small storage space in the tail should be well within the capabilities of engineers who can coax  more than 120 hp from 600cc engines.

Designers, start your brains.


  1. Zuki says:

    2012 Moto Guzzi Stelvio – 8.5 gallon tank.

  2. Luther says:

    I rode my 06 speed triple from Indy to Laguna, and had 2 gas station worries. At absolute max highway travel, the 4.6 gal tank will travel 180 miles. On mixed city or carving country rds, 140 is it. Another 1/2 gallon would be nice. As car mileage has increased, bike mileage has not (due to horsepower upgrades. About 15% of gas stations have closed as a result of larger car tanks and better mileage. That puts non full whale touring bike riders at a real disadvantage.

    I took a flexible 2 gallon fuel bladder with me, and used it once just to empty it since it was shifting all over my luggage.

  3. Ryan says:

    Here’s what I want: a comfortable sportbike that weighs less than 400 pounds and is capable of going close to 200 mph. It should handle like it’s on rails, be easy on tires, and have a belt or shaft drive so it never needs maintenence (but a center stand in case it does.) It should get at least 50 mpg and have a range of 250 miles per tank. I also want it to be able to hold a passenger and enough luggage for a week long trip, but cost less than $10k. Dream on kids.

  4. BusaOne says:

    Suzuki Hayabusa, 200-230 mile safe range (5.8 gal tank), fuel gauge & oh sh*t I’m almost out of fuel light. More power than most people know how to use. After an 8000 mile, 10 day trip never needed chain adjustment. Only chain lube every 700-800 miles. With soft bags (tank, tail, saddle) can travel anywhere with all needed gear. Optional center stand make chain lubing and adjustment if or when needed a snap.

  5. George says:

    Actually I’ve always wondered why the bike I had, which held 19L of gas had a nice locking flush intergrated cap, yet my pick-up truck, which holds 98L of fuel has a simple non-locking twist off plastic cap.

  6. Bill Neander says:

    My last four bikes have all had 6 or more gallon gas tanks. Vote with your checkbook.

    • Bob says:

      Oops. I reported you by accident. I meant to reply. Here was my reply:

      Why add weight with more fuel capacity? Just give us better efficiency.

      • Dave says:

        Efficiency=lower horsepower. Accept that and mileage comes easy. Since we’re talking about sport bikes with longer range, the bike with the lower horsepower number usually loses on the sales floor.

  7. Steve P says:

    I sure would like to see more street worthy ( VS track ready) bikes in the 750-1000 displacement with comfortable, adjustable ergonomics, optional hard luggage, decent fairing protection, 200-50 fuel range, that are reasonably lightweight that handle well but able to be ridden all day without feeling physically exhausted at the end of the day

    • Dave says:

      Kawasaki Ninja 1000 is almost exactly what you’re describing.

      • Philip says:

        What is the fuel range on the Ninja 1000 anyway? I mean the ENTIRE tank not when does the fuel light come on? I think MD said 160 miles when the light comes on, and is there a gauge or just a light. I have to admit I was excited about the bike when it first came out but know from experience that I should wait for the whole new model euphoria to wear off before rushing out and buying one. Little things like the classic Kawabuzzy bars and pegs are things that seem to get washed over at first but later become issues that have to be dealt with.

      • Bob says:

        Yep. I just bought one a couple weeks ago. Comfortable, pretty light, good power.

        Only have a couple problems with it. Gas mileage isn’t very good so far. The gear ratioos are too close together…better suited to the race reps. The brackets for the cases are on back order (for 6 months!) and the service manual isn’t available to anyone (service techs at dealers included) until December.

        That aside. A thoroughly enjoyable bike.

        • Mickey says:

          Also no centerstand and if I’m not mistaken, any provisions for mounting one. Unforgivable on a chain dive bike…well, any bike for that matter, but especially on a chain drive model.

          if you ride long enough and far enough, eventually you will have to fix a rear flat or at least adjust the chain or lube it.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          What kind of gas mileage (and range) are you getting, Bob? I didn’t really want my next bike to be fully clothed, but looks like something in the sport touring arena will be my best bet. The Ninja 1000 seems like a great value. Does it have any “buzziness” at highway speeds (70 – 85 mph zone).

        • Bob says:

          Yeah, I miss the centerstand already. I’ve become quite comfortable with belts and shafts the past 2 decades. There isn’t one being offered and there likely isn’t provisions for one. MAssive oversight by Kawi.

          Buzziness. Yes. Around 8k there’s some electric toothbrush range buzzing that tickles my arse quite intensely and a little reaches the grips and pegs. I added gel tennis racquet grip tap to the grips.

          MPG – I got 32 my first tank and 36 my second. I sure hope it gets better as it breaks in. Having to use the expensive fuel and that MPG is a double whammy.

          • Mickey says:

            In S/W Ohio we are running into more and more gas stations that are carrying regular only. Had to pull out of one the other day on my ST 1300 which requires premium and go find another station. I wasn’t aware that the Ninja required high test. Too bad. I won’t buy another bike that requires premium.

      • Steve P says:

        I really like the Ninja 1000. It’s a great package.
        I do wish it had better passenger friendly seat that I could keep my wife happy
        for 2 up riding.

  8. Frank says:

    My 95′ CB1000 has a 5.8 gallon tank. They don’t call it the “Big One” for nothin’

  9. Rob Blais says:

    I have a ’95 ST1100 and have had several V-Stroms. The ability to go over 200 miles is exceptionally nice when trying to cover long distances, or just traveling where there aren’t many fuel stops available. With about 7.5 gallons of fuel, the ST can actually do 300 miles. The Suzukis carry 5.8 gallons, and can go 200, even when pushed. I’m ready for a stretch by then anyway. 150 miles should be the bare minimum.

  10. Tim Eide says:

    Motorcycle sales have taken a nose dive in the last few years because the product planners telling the manufacturers what to design and build do not live in reality, or perhaps they are being paid under the table by their competitors to design the most useless ugly motorcycles imaginable to ensure poor sales, or they work for your mother-in-law and want to ensure that you do not buy another motorcycle.
    In the ’80 big sportbikes had adequate gas tank capacity and weighed 550 to 600 lb. Over the years, as sportbikes dropped down to 450 lb they lost their ability to be useful for sport touring or commuting because of their low handlebars and small gas tanks.
    Couldn’t they have low bars and a small tank as options for racetrack use and let the rest of us have a rational riding position with enough fuel capacity to make them good for fun rides and commuting to work? If they did, sales would not drop so drastically during bad economic times.
    Very few used sportbikes end up with high mileage since they are so uncomfortable and have such small gas tanks.
    I do not want the extra 50+ lb of weight and lower performance of the “comfortable and rational” sportbikes such as the new Kawasaki Z1000 and Ninja 1000, I want the full performance capability of a 1000 cc engine with a useful capacity gas tank and a comfortable handlebar position. Those requirements should not increase the weight of the bike by 50+ lb compared to the racetrack oriented 1000 cc bikes.
    Considering the big jump in price, why did the new V-Max weigh 80 lb more than the original, for that price, it should have been 80+ lb less.
    That funny hump on the new red Honda VF1200 gas tank is not a good place for a tank bag, and why is the tank capacity less than 5 gallons!
    What is all that useless plastic on the Suzuki B-King and Kawasaki Z1000? Get rid of if and have a less expensive and lighter weight motorcycle.
    Get rid of the product planners, they work for your mother-in-law!

    • Dannytheman says:

      I think it might have more to do with the economy and the fact that 20% of the country is out of work.
      But go ahead and blame a couple of designers.

    • Phil K says:

      Your’re right Time, some of the designs these days are just plain stupid. I have yet to see a B-King or the new VFR1200 on the street. I think nearly all riders have rejected these designs because the manufacturer’s are not in touch with the consumers desires. HONDA is especially bad in this regard with the most flops in the last 5 years. The B-King and Gladius are another 2 examples of orphans in the motorcycle world. I was all set to buy the “new” VFR1200 but decided to spend my money somewhere else when I read some of the reviews on it. It’s a crazy thing, but I would rather have and old gear-driven VFR from the 1990’s than HONDA’s latest $15,000 monstrosity that the VFR has become.

  11. E-Ticket says:

    I currently ride a ’99 Honda VFR 800 and *love* haul buns in the back county. We routinely see legs of + 180 miles between gas stations out near BFE.

    I was totally stoked about the new VFR 1200 coming out and practically had my checkbook at the ready. That was … until I found it had a range of 160 miles or less. :^0

    Needless to say, I am still riding my VFR 800 with it’s 5.5 gallon gas tank.
    Which I still love. :^)

    Yah, buy a clue manufacturers! – ET

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I was totally stoked about the new VFR 1200 coming out and practically had my checkbook at the ready. That was … until I found it had a range of 160 miles or less.”

      geez, if i had a nickel…!? not saying this applies to you, but truth is most of those folks were just “talking sh!#t”. they went in to it LOOKING for a “dealbreaker”. and if you look hard enough, human nature is such that it will always find one. if it weren’t tank capacity…? it would be something else. truth is most are simply in love with the “idea” of buying, not the actual act of taking delivery. ran into a gent commuting on one the other day. wasn’t put off in the least by the tank capacity…? as a longtime honda-phile he simply wanted THAT bike… so he bought it…!? why that’s plum crazy innit…? he wasn’t “kvetching” over tank capacity…? he wasn’t looking for the “bigger and better deal”…? he wasn’t trying to avoid “paying alot for this muffler”…? he saw it at the bike show and KNEW he had to have it.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I like the idea of taking delivery very much, and I have chosen not to buy bikes I really wanted on an emotional level because of fuel capacity. I like riding them, not filling them up with gas; and I knew I just wouldn’t get to “enjoy the zone” I get in while riding if I was constantly scanning for gas stations or even worse having to plan my rides around gas stations. If I kept multiple bikes in the garage, I would overlook the range of certain bikes and just get them anyway. But the wife, not yet at the same stage of enlightenment as myself (or perhaps she is just smarter), doesn’t see the logic in having more than one at a time, so how far a bike can go between fillups can be a deal-breaking issue for me.

        I get your point, and it is certainly valid. Lots of people ask for these features or “have their checkbooks ready” waiting for this bike or that to hit the dealerships and then… do nothing.

  12. Steve says:

    Just buy a new Multistrada, I did! Highway I can get 300 (not two but THREE hundred) miles out of a tank, and in the twisties it’s as fast as any sane person wants to be. Cheap? No way. Worth it? It is for me!

    BTW previous bike was the new CBR1000RR, the Multistrada feels like a couch and I haven’t lost so much performance as to make me miss the CBR.

  13. Donnie says:

    Step 1: Buy ZRX1100
    Step 2: Enjoy 200 miles on a tank when ridden reasonably. Or, conversely, enjoy 160-ish miles when ridden like a scalded baboon.
    Step 3: ????
    Step 4: Profit! Or, better yet, enjoy the ride.

  14. ChrisRR says:

    I have 22,000 miles on my ’06 CBR1000RR and have traveled r/t from NY to the Indy MotoGP 3 times. I can assure you, 125 miles between stops is plenty. Anyone who says otherwise is either full of it or is made of rubber

    • Dannytheman says:

      East coast is a little tighter, my friend. There are places out west that need 280 to 290 miles between gas stops! I have 43,000 miles on my 05 Harley and have had to carry a spare 3 gallon plastic tank on occasion.
      Go west and get some miles in!!

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Like Danny said, it depends where you ride. In many places I’ve ridden, 125 miles between fillups means you’ll be filling up every 40 or 50 miles or so because you can’t be sure if you’ll see another gas station before you run out. Or there are some places you jusst won’t be going without a truck and trailer or some spare gas cans. Even if fuel availability wasn’t an issue, I still don’t like to have to ruin my vibe by stopping for gas so often. Just a personal thing.

    • ChrisRR says:

      @Danny, we’re talking sportbikes not Harleys. One mile on a sportbike is like 10 on a hog

  15. Spoxxter says:

    Why is everyone so surprised about modern sportbikes not being very fuel efficient and having small gas tanks? IMO, no one buys sportbikes based on their fuel economy and range specs, what draws them in is the performance potential [I know the majority of the population can’t ride them to even their stock limits, including myself]. Yes, in the realm of all motorcycles 25-30mpg might seem unacceptable, but it’s an apples to oranges comparison with anything other than another sportbike. Many new sportbikes have 2 sets of fuel injectors, so if you have an inline-4cyl then you have 8 fuel injectors. Then consider how much fuel you are using @ 12,000+ rpm and at least 12:1 compression ratios, although fun, not very fuel efficient. Manufacturers use the second set of injectors at high rpm to make sure your engine doesn’t grenade by adding more fuel, keeps the engine from running lean, lowers exhaust gas temps, and useful for tuning the max amount of power out those tiny engines.

    Long story short, if you want better fuel economy from a sportbike, then start dieting, always stay tucked, never accelerate fast, never go above 8k rpm, buy hard, slim touring tires for less road losses compared to soft and sticky tires, then lower your bike as low as it can go to decrease your aero profile, finally, add the smallest rear sprocket that you can find to make the gearing super tall and a #520 chain. That should get you to at least 45mpg. :o)

    All major engineering companies that have a fairly large sales volume try to balance: Reliability, Performance, Low Cost – choose two. You can’t have all three unless you are NASA, Formula 1, MotoGP, or the goverment. :o)

    There is no one motorcycle that can do all the extremes, so buy what suits you, but keep your expectations realistic. I have a 2006 Ducati Monster S2R 1000 that suits me well, an easy 150mi range on the highway, fairly comfortable seating position, more than enough power, interesting to look at, and an exhaust sound that makes me smile every time I am on the throttle. I love all motorcycles, riding is riding no matter what you’re on [only exception would be scooters :o) ]. They all have their place. I never judge people on what they wanna spend their hard earned money on – motorcycles, cars, computers, audio equipment, house, wife, haha, you get the point. I digress.

    Ride Often! Ride Safe!

    • bikerrandy says:

      Please, don’t bother some here with practicality. Some want the bike to be relatively cheap, damn fast, poseur looks, and comfortable, all while getting at least 50 mpg.

      My bikes are from 250cc, 660cc, 750cc, 800cc. The 800 will do 125 mph if needed. They are all worthy of long distance rides. Some faster than others. They are shaft, belt, or chain drive. None of them are crotch rockets or cruisers. When I bought them they all had to meet certain distance/mpg preferences and comfort. I usually ride 400-500 miles a day on a touring trip. Sometimes have put in 800 miles days.

  16. John Stokes says:

    So you’re telling us you want a Motus, right?

    As for Harley, they’re all about style, and not the “toaster tank” style, peanut tank and tiny headlight make the Harley fashion statement. If you want a practical Harley, get a bagger.

    I put Ortleib Dry Bags on my Speed Triple when I wanted to go for the day; while underway, I couldn’t tell they were there, but they carried everything I needed, with room to spare.

    I realize, when you’re picking up a free – sorry, test – bike, it won’t necessarily have saddlebags, to carry everything a journalist needs, but that’s life.

  17. Bonus says:

    I agree a big tank is a Bonus/Must out West! No way am I ditching my old 5th gen VFR for a 4 gallon tank bike.

  18. Mickey says:

    When I was a kid in the late 50’s/early 60’s I remember BMW had an option 10 gallon gas tank for some of their street bikes. They were pretty bizarre looking, but they would hold nearly $3 worth of gas

  19. Rusty says:

    That’s twhy God invented sport-tourers. Great comfort, good cargo capacity, good fuel range and still fun on the interesting roads.

  20. Dave says:

    I went from a 5.8 gal tank on my CBR1000 to a 4 gallon tank on my F800ST. I ride 200 miles before I need/want gas in my BMW. I would love to have 1 more gallon on board. That would give me a 250 mile range with a small amount left over.

  21. vwone says:

    I agree with what someone else said here, this is where sport touring bikes come into the game.
    I started on the F800st and I always was around 200 miles to a tank. My 1975 R90 gets ~ 180 miles to a tank and my R1100rt gets ~250 miles to a tank. My most recent purchase is a Buell XB12XT and it gets ~160 mile to a tank. All of these bikes can be ridden in a sporty manner and can carry everything including the kitchen sink.

    I also had a 08 CBR600RR and it is a great bike but, I would never try going very far on it just for the reasons stated in the article.

  22. Youth says:

    Have you guys noticed how sportbike when from “racer replica” from 80’s to supersport in late ’90s? For example, original GSX-R had 5 gallon tanks because they were based on endurance racers competing in 24 hours or 8 hours of Suzuka. Other companies followed suit. Then when R1 came out in ’98, they became more of a MotoGP style bikes thus tanks got smaller.

  23. xootrx says:

    Tourtanks makes auxilliary tanks for all manner of motorcycles, in different sizes. You can mount them, plumb them into your fuel system, or you can just carry them and use them to refill your tank. They’re crash tested, and pretty reasonable, considering the build quality.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “They’re crash tested, and pretty reasonable, considering the build quality.”

      and fab’d right here in the good ole USA…! awesome. by the powers vested in me, i officially proclaim the problem of modern motorcycles and small gas tanks a “non-issue”. as you were.

    • bikerrandy says:

      You’re talking $200 for an aluminum gas tank with no lock security. I know a biker who was @ a motel in Alaska w/an auxiliary gas tank when in the AM he found someone had siphoned his aux. tank ’cause it didn’t have a lock on the cap !

      You can get a plastic gas tank, keep it out of the sun, and it’s safe to ride with. I’ve done it for many years. Even if the plastic tank is exposed to the sun/heat, release built up pressure with it’s vent when you stop and you’re safe.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “I know a biker who was @ a motel in Alaska w/an auxiliary gas tank when in the AM he found someone had siphoned his aux.”

        we can use the “ez button” on this one. the answer is B.) minimize your exposure to riding in alaska…! LOL seriously, nobody ever said motorcycling wasn’t a gamble…? i know hundreds of guys who’ve changed out their OEM, key operated gas caps for those anodized, 1/4 turn, spin off jobbies that a 2 year old could remove, and nobody’s ever lost a drop…? we’re not in “madmax world” (not yet anyway). so what’s the greater threat in the year 2011…? post-apocalyptic gas theft…? or rolling up to a favorite gas stop in BFE only to find it’s been shut down…? ponder…

      • xootrx says:

        Not all of their products are immobile, or immovable. They also make units that pack away, out of site. They’re considerably less than $200, and they also sell locking gas caps. And I don’t consider the prices unreasonable, when you see the cost of accesories in general, especially for something made so well. And no, I don’t work for them.

    • Bigshankhank says:

      Ah yes, I had a 3 gallon TourTank mounted on the back of my old 883 Harley, and I loved it. It actualy carried more fuel than the stock peanut tank, and as much as I hate to admit it, I had the opportunity to crash test personally. I can vouch that while just about everything else on the bike was crushed, the TourTank was still intact and holding gas. Very good product, and $200 is a steal when you see how well made they are. No I have no other affiliation with them, just a very satisfied customer.
      I currently ride a Duc ST3 a nd with a 220+ mile range I don’t need another TourTank, but it’d be nice to reach 300 miles between fillups sometimes.

  24. KUBA says:

    I love my BMW r1200s,sporty in the canyons and comfortable to do extended weekends. Tankbag, tailpack and saddlebags, can carry enough for these rides and 45-50mpg.

  25. Phil K says:

    At least they put this storage system on the ugliest bike (Victory) available. No one is going to notice anything out of the ordinary.

  26. Vrooom says:

    While I generally agree with the articles tone, I have to say I’ve never ever seen a comment on MD when a new bike is tested that the tank is too small, or that being heavier but having a bigger tank would be an improvement. Instead 3 lbs. differences in wet weight are accentuated, and sport-touring duty is rarely emphasized on sport bikes. I will say my Ducati ST4s gets a routine 200 miles per tank (despite the fuel warning light coming on with nearly 2 gallons left), and my V-strom 1000 is good for 230. For me a bike is useless without 180 miles of range minimum.

  27. Foogunheimer says:

    Hmmm…..reminds me of the FORD Pinto, don’t know why.

  28. Norm G. says:

    re: “My mower holds that much and I only ride it around the yard.”

    but would have ZERO poser cred if ever ridden to your local starbucks. heck, you might even get arrested…? so amazingly it all balances out. 🙂

  29. kent says:

    30mpg for a motorcycle? That’s simply unacceptable.

    My 650 V-Strom gets 50. I realize that it isn’t a high performance bike, yet I can still ride it *way* faster than the rules allow. I get more than 200 miles before the fuel starts to get anywhere near low, and 250 wouldn’t worry me.

    If I did an entire tank in the twisties, ignoring all common sense and speed laws, I might only get 200 miles.

    Sounds to me like you’re all riding the wrong bike at the wrong speed in the wrong place.

  30. 40oz_Warrior says:

    Love the look of that tail bag on the Victory. It’s Da Bomb ! Literally.

  31. takehikes says:

    I think most tanks are too big! First they hold what they hold typically because they are hiding stuff up under the tank. I have a Road Star and the tank was 5 gallons but there is probably 1/2 to a full gallon of space up under it that isn’t used. I put on a 2.9 gallon Sporty tank and have no problem, then again it may be because I have a 100 mile ass!

  32. Steve says:

    The range on a motorcycle should come from fuel efficiency. When we have motorcycles getting 35 mpg something is clearly wrong. Bigger, faster and louder is all the industry has been able to come up with for decades. We need innovation and fuel efficiency today. Motorcycles have been big enough and fast enough and loud enough for decades.

  33. DingerJunkie says:

    “Sporty” bikes need more range. Current sport bikes, if intentionally ridden to exploit their performance potential, are pretty much illegal on most US roads.

    I could take highway cloverleafs on an ’05 SV650S at 75mph with no issues or surprises. If current 600 and open-class SuperSport bikes are ridden with “enthusiasm,” the rider is almost definitely speeding or holding paces that are both reckless on public roads and likely beyond the response time of the average SuperSport owner.

    “Most sport bikes are miserable to ride slowly” should be translated to “most sport bikes are miserable to ride at paces safe for public roads.” In my mind, the solution to this is to follow the maxim that it is more fun to ride a slow bike quickly than a fast bike slowly…give me more 500CC-and-under sportbikes, please…with real-world range, since they won’t be track bikes.

    However…I’ll give you the point on cruisers/Sportsters…pure-street bikes need more range. I agree with similar comments related to the V-Strom and such.

  34. craigj says:

    Of course if you are fortunate enough to ride a Ducati Hypermotard and have an extra $800 sitting around, you can put in a California Cycleworks 6.4 gallon tank. Same look, just expands the tank under the seat.

    I do miss the extended range of my old Kawi ZR-7S. The most I ever got out of it was about 280 miles, but even then I never found the bottom or the tank. With the V-Strom 1000 I ride currently, 220 miles is about as far as she goes.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “you can put in a California Cycleworks 6.4 gallon tank. Same look, just expands the tank under the seat.”

      see, craigj get’s it…

      re: “and have an extra $800 sitting around”

      which of course you WOULD if you had the wherewithal to pony up for something as “sinfully delicious” as a hyper in the first place.

  35. Jim says:

    Isn’t the kind or ride described in the post part of the reason sport tourers exist?

    It is really not the size of the gas tank, but the crappy mileage that sport bikes get. Even if you have a five gallon tank, if you only are getting 25-30 mpg you will still be limited to 125-150 mile range.

  36. Robert Day says:

    I so agree with everything in the article! I have been riding for 40 years and have seen tanks get smaller and smaller. I have a 2010 Kawi Z1000 that I cannot take on some of my riding loops in Southern Nevdada because of the range. I also have a 2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure and the main reason I got the GSA instead of the GS was because of the big tank!
    While we are on the subject, there is not one street legal, scooter, cruiser, sportbike or dual sport that should leave any factory without at least one functional helmet lock!!!! One that will lock the helmet to the bike and not scratch up the helmet or the bike! I’ve seen them go away over the years too. That has always bugged me!

  37. Tai says:

    Riding at a cruising pace, my H-D XR1200x reserve light comes on @ 100 miles. Better look around soon or it’s a push to the next gas station. If it’s ridden at a decent pace, then it’s down to 85-90 miles before the reserve light activates. Otherwise, 1/2 gallon left then you’re in trouble. I guess the small tank was design in the name of styling. I wish the gas tank had another gallon.

    • MikeD says:

      Thanks for the info, i have had my eyes on that pretty thing for a while and always wondered how much of a range(practicality) it had. Pretty much a city bike, would u say ?

  38. motowarrior says:

    Just a quick word in praise of the BMW F650GS (800cc twin). On a recent trip from Florida to near the Canadian border my wife’s bike got 60-71 mpg in all types of riding. The high range was on the Blue Ridge parkway where we went just a bit over the speed limit in deference to local police. This could be the bike you want to roam America. Even with only 4.2 gallons of gas, she always hit reserve after the other BMWs in our group, with 230 – 260 miles being typical. Fun to ride too, and it will work with any fuel short of diesel!

  39. phil says:

    VTR1000 must be the worst offender. Great engine, great bike, but especially the first version had a criminally small fuel tank.

    • MikeD says:

      I heard a lot of the blame for poor MPG went to the TOILET SIZED 48mm CV Carbs(claimed the biggest ones Honda has ever used).
      The tank is slightly smaller on the Honda 4.2gl vs 4.5gl on the SV1000N and yet i make 130-135 miles to the tank.

  40. Norm G. says:

    i only need enough gas to take me 28 laps at WTFO. should my pump begin to suck air after i take the checkers…? then so be it…! 🙂 seriously, manufacturers should just continue making bikes the way they are. as fuel injection evolved and took over OF COURSE they were going going to lose tank capacity. you don’t need extra if you don’t waste it in the first place (carbs). in the arms race of the past 2 decades the “extra” has been (per customer demand mind) put towards creating ever more power. however, in those instances that they deliberately want to address fuel mileage (think GS adventure) fine. if not…? also fine. in NOT doing so, they throw a bone to the aftermarket who then get to step in and create products that support said vehicle (ref. ca cycleworks whopping 6.4 gallon tanks for the hypermotard). supported vehicles then enjoy a “knock-on” effect of increased sales which once again beget sales of the aftermarket items which of course have to be installed. wealth get’s spread around, cash get’s infused into the economy, we motorcyclists get to play with farkles and doo-dads that we have EVERY intention of buying any damn way…?!?! and with that economic loop closes engaging auto-pilot (destination, growth and sustainability). this is the niche industry, this is how it works, this is what’s known as win/win/win.

  41. Just Tom says:

    Bigger gas tanks are great, but what about better gas mileage? I can’t believe manufacturers are unable to get more miles per gallon. Perhaps an “economy mode” when droning on the highway?

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Perhaps an “economy mode” when droning on the highway?”

      they already have that actually and happens automatically. it’s called closed loop operation via an 02 sensor.

      • MikeD says:

        Nah nah, thats just EFI doing whats suposed to do…what i would like to see is a stand alone “ECONOMY TO THE MAX Lean Map” for when ur not feeling freesky and hot blooded that can be turned On on the fly by ME, not the ECM.
        Not a RAIN mode or City mode…a lean economy mode.

        Vmax 1700 Riders come to mind fast…the thing’s got an incredible apetite(27mpg estimaed, real world most probably 20), 4gal tank and only 5 gears…owners at times voice how they would like an xtra gear and a lean map for those super slab times. These things have fancy(modern,powerful,eficient) ECMs now a days, so they can support the xtra tech and software needed.

  42. bikerrandy says:

    I travel on bikes a lot long distances. If I can’t go at least 200 miles between fill-ups I carry an extra 1 gal. gas can which doesn’t take much room on my bike of choice. I ride w/saddlebags and a trunk, tankbag. All my bikes(4) get 40-65 mpg cruising @ 65 mph.

    • Stinky says:

      That’s the problem. I too WANT to carry a gallon but would rather not risk getting gas over all my gear or stopping to put it in. I’ve passed on quite a few bikes account of small tanks. Riding with these bikes is like traveling with a small bladdered companion, always gotta stop, just when things are getting fun.

  43. Mickey says:

    My ST 1300 will go a bit over 300 miles on a tank, my FZ-1 will go a bit over 220, My Nighthawk 750 will go 200 and my Majesty 400 will go a bit over 200, yet even though I am always filling them up (at nearly $20 a crack) it seems whenever I get one out for a ride, it’s nearly empty. Can’t figure out how that happens.

    Seriously why would they put a tank on a motorcycle that hold less than 5 gallons of gas? My mower holds that much and I only ride it around the yard.

  44. johnny ro says:

    Agree with range being a basic design parameter and I also want more. I am not in range constricted space- NH and western maine.

    My old EX250 was no tourer (people do tour on them and ride also WOF in the twisties), but I could ride for a weekend in the mountains and then gas it up next weekend. 5 gallons and 70 mpg.

    My SV’s and Vstrom seem to be under 200 miles range. The SVs are kind of unconfortable so 1.5 hours is plenty. One part solution is keep a fewalons in garage, so I dont have to shuttle back adn forth to gas station to keep it full.

    I was prepared for aftermarket tank for my TW200 but it was too small to really enjoy. It would have been about 4 gallons x 70 mph. Thats a lot of miles on a TW.

  45. Ben says:

    02′ Interceptor, 5.5-ish gallon tank, nearly 50mpg if you ride it sanely.

  46. DCE says:

    “All the latest middleweight and open-class sportbikes are great motorcycles that can be ridden fast for 6-8 hours, as they are designed to be ridden. At fuel-consumption levels these bikes deliver on wide throttle openings—roughly 25 mpg for the open-classers, 30 mpg for the middleweights, at best, on four-gallon tanks—a rider can go about 85 to 110 miles before risking running out of gas. If you’re more than 10-15 miles from a gas station (25 if you baby it—.ed), after riding those distances, prepare to walk.

    Back off the throttle, negating the bikes’ purpose, and you get 110-135 mile ranges. Drone for maximum economy (why buy such a bike?) and you might get 135-150 miles at best. Most sportbikes are miserable to ride slowly.”

    How about designing/building bikes that are fun to ride at posted speed limits, provide great, adjustable ergonomics for a wide range of riders AND provide fuel economy that gives a 250-mile tank? Seems kind of stupid to me to build a bike with capability that no one can legally use on public highways, with ergonomics that only a portion of the rider public find acceptable, and fuel economy that is worse than any subcompact (some compacts too) automobile.

  47. fast2win says:


    • MikeD says:

      WOW…that RT sure sounds like a Super Tanker…(O_O )’

      (…and stop writing with Caps Lock On) it is considered screaming. No need for it (^_^ )

  48. Teng says:

    Back in 1997, I had a 1995 ZX6r. I rode from Sacramento, California to St.Paul MN and stopped only 8 times for gas. Thats 1962 miles. I averaged about 245 miles before stopping for gas. Reason why I remember this was because I was a poor college student and gas was averaging 1.09 per gallon, and at 4.8 gallons with 1 gallon on reserve, I had to watch my spending being poor.. haha. Those were the times and for some reason, my ZX6r always got me to where I wanted to go for cheap.

  49. MikeD says:

    Yeah, is a shame…i usually hit reserve on my SV1000N(4.5Gal)at around 130-135(with a bikini fairing? is that what u call a small aftermarket windshield?) when fueled to the top (almost no air space for gas expansion) and riding like a normal person would (less than 80mph highway cruising)…yes, it is a bother to be stopping for gas that often…i guess i see an ST Machine on my future “eventually”=(for sure)…i have been watching those C14, FJR1300, ST1300 & R1200RT very close for a while now(and while at it get rid of that Pesky Needy Chain). Belts! I demand MORE BELTS!

    That or buy a Ninja 250 and slap a C14 Tank on it.

    I hope i never have to find one day how far i can make it on reserve (fingers crossed). That thing is HEAVY under human power.

  50. Dannytheman says:

    I have seen auxiliary 5 gallon tanks mounted on the rear of Harleys. Some of my iron butt guys have them. They mount on where the rear rack would go, or over the rear seat. They have there own fuel pump and move the fuel from the aux to the main tank, which is 6 gallons on a newer Harley. So with 200 in the 6 gallon tank and 160 in the aux tank that makes a fair addition. The tanks look like kegs on the back. I will try to find a link that shows some pictures of a couple!

  51. Mike says:

    While I don’t disagree that more fuel is generally handy, I also don’t think it’s as big of an issue as is being described here. I currently ride a Suzuki DR650 with a typical range of about 200km (125 miles) before reserve that I have toured pretty extensively on, including some fairly remote places in northern Canada. There have been stretches that I’ve had to plan very carefully and perhaps lower my speed accordingly to extend my range, and I’ve had a few pretty close calls when a planned gas station has shut down. But that is all part of the adventure to me, otherwise I’d just buy a Winnebago and travel in that.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “But that is all part of the adventure to me, otherwise I’d just buy a Winnebago and travel in that.”

      exactly, selling all one’s kit and freeing onesself from the burden that is motorcycling is in fact a valid option most never consider…? i gaurantee you’ll never be troubled by the “pure evil” that are abandoned gas stations ever again.

  52. George says:

    Yamaha FJR1300…..

  53. ABQ says:

    I went out for a nice long ride in the countryside awile back. When I got to my destination I expected to fill up at a local gas station and head back. But when I got there I discovered that the gas station had been closed and the pumps had been pulled out. So, there I was with 200 miles on my trip meter, and fifty miles from the nearest gas station… good thing I have a six gallon tank…(5.3 w/1 gallon reserve)

    This is why I complain when a motorcycle company puts teeny tiny gas tanks on their bikes. The reality out here in the real world often runs contrary to their stylish designs. They should expect people to want to ride their bikes a long way down the road… and back. Now how about an article about seats that don’t torture my butt.

  54. Dave says:

    I have never seen a GSHR, R1, ZX6/9/10, Ducati 916,996,999,1098 or CBR RR with any kind of luggage outside of a small tank bag actually on the road. Another gallon of fuel on board would be nice but the buying public at large has indicated that they want a race bike replica in this category. The designers are smart, they are making what the majority of this buying customer wants today.

    Add a gallon that’s not well enough hidden on one of these bikes (where can you do that?) and it’ll kill it’s sales for looking “porky”.

    • Stinky says:

      That’s probably true. A lot of those riders are divas that place a lot of their self esteem on looks. They’re usually using the words, cool, fugly, complaining about shapes, colors when it functions well. I think the engineers are getting lazy about capacity, worrying about the last bit of performance that the majority of riders can’t use but are using as a ego booster.

  55. Steve says:

    I know sportbikers are gonna bark but I have a 5.5 gallon tank & can easily get 150 miles + on my H-D Street Glide while riding it close to the maximum designed performance limit… feeling very comfortable at the same time with lots of room to move around… use the cruise control on the straight bits & crank up the CD player….windshield blocks the bugs, etc…
    Plus I can do this solo, in a pack, or with a good looking woman on the back! Can’t do that comfortably on a sportbike.
    I wouldn’t mind an 848 Duc though…

  56. brinskee says:

    Right tool for the job. I have a Multi 1200 for touring and a Mille R for track days and sporty road riding. Simple solution. I don’t want a ‘one bike does it all’ ride. No thanks.

  57. Youth says:

    I think any bike with displacement bigger than 650CC should have a 5 gallon tank. Anything less will definitely suck, especially with a 4 cylinder bike. It’s great that a guy with Versys can get 200+ miles since it’s a 650 twin. I have a friend who had a VTR1000 and gosh it had a tiny tank for a 1000 cc bike.

    Believe it or not, my old ’87 Ninja 750R had a 5 gallon tank so it’s okay. But not many Kawasaki has a tank of that size. On other hand, my Turbo 750 only has a 4 gallon tank….

    • Zuki says:

      My 2000 Kawi ZR-7… 5.8 gallons. Over 300 mile range. Ventura pack system, and Givi windshield. Ideal sport-touring machine.

  58. Tim says:

    I have a Versys, and have it equipped with aluminum side cases and a top case, and it’s a great pack mule. I typically get 200 to 225 miles per tank full at 80 miles per hour on the highway. Unfortunately, the guys I’ve taken long trips with the last couple of years don’t have near the fuel range. The last two summers I’ve traveled with different guys whose bikes would only do 125 miles or so between fill ups. It really is a pain in the rear stopping every couple of hours for fuel. When in states like Montana and Wyoming you have to stop at nearly every station you see, because you don’t know when you’re going to have another opportunity to buy fuel.

  59. jcott says:

    okay, I’ll give you 24 miles for the round trip…but still…

  60. Brent Meeker says:

    My ’87 GSXR came with a 4gal tank. But that included a big dent in the underside to clear the airbox. I replaced the airbox with individual K&N filters, cut out the dent and soldered a flat underside on the tank. This increased capacity to about 5.5gal and gives me 150mi range even ridden hard. My Aprilia RS250, being a 2-stroke gets the same (bad) gas mileage no matter how it’s ridden. With a 4gal tank I run out between 90 and 100mi. On both these bikes I have a tail trunk that will hold a helmet and a leather jacket. So I can also carry some extra gas (which I’ve used a few times). It’s not just the range though, I don’t want to ride somewhere and then have to carry my helmet and wear my jacket. A tail trunk may not look that cool but it doesn’t interfere with handling or splitting lanes – and I take it off when I race at Willow.

  61. jcott says:

    This seems like a lot of complaining over 12 miles of “extra” riding. I mean, I can see complaining if you run out of gas and have to walk it, but seriously – adding a 1/2 hour to the ride? Lot’s of riders spend that much time smoking cigarettes and BS-ing in the parking lot during a break. Just be glad you don’t live someplace flat and straight, where none of the roads are “interesting”, regardless of you fueling situation. I used to live in Milwaukee, and you had to use a tank of gas just to GET to the “interesting” roads….

  62. Eric says:

    LOL – all my buddies get on my case that my DL1000 is a mofugly bike. OK.. It may not be the sexiest bike, but it’s paid for, carries a bunch of crap, and has like a 6 gallon tank – good for 200 plus miles (even when driven irresponsibly). Woohoo! 🙂

  63. achesley says:

    Fuel range vs price has been a major deal breaker for me for quite some time. And, as I get older, more so. I use to joke with a dealer on how much he would give me off on a bike if I let him keep the seat and just order a custom made as I was going to do anyway. 😉 My steed for the last 3 years = 1250S Bandit with all kinds of comfort work done. 😉

  64. Moonbandito says:

    BMW RT1200s and R1200GS bikes can get upwards of 200 miles on a tank. The F800ST, being a fuel sipper, can get 200 miles (if babied).

    The Japanese and Italians don’t think of ‘touring’ the way riders in the western U.S. do.

    What about wind protection and rider ergos? An iron butt is more than just a name to a 1000 miles in a day – it’s the condition your posterior must be in to handle most motorcycle seats for a day or three in the saddle.

    Then, there’s ‘stuff’. Luggage/mounts for bags that can carry things one needs when on the road (tire pump-patch kit/rain gear/and whatever else you think you need for a 3-5 day road trip).

    Touring is more than gas range.

    • riley says:

      Even better.. R1200RT will regularly do 300 miles on a tank with 45+ mpg and 7.1 gal tank. The GSA holds 8.7 gallons and goes about 400.

    • EddyG says:

      The F800ST will do an easy 200 miles if babied. I ran a 1200 mile trip last week and was able to get 180 or more miles before the fuel light came on. When riding with others I’m amazed how much better my fuel economy is while running the same pace as the rest of the group.

  65. Jeremy in TX says:

    Amen to that. I have elected not to buy several motorcycles I was dead set on buying (a 2010 Ducati Monster 1100 being the most recent) because of tiny fuel tanks. It irritates me if I have to stop for gas too often. If I can’t reliably go 150 miles without worrying about whether or not the bike is sucking vapors, the bike just isn’t for me. 200 miles + is what I really like.

    A BMW F800ST I rented when visiting my brother in Salt Lake City averaged 61mpg through spirited riding on twisty mountain roads and some higway runs over 4 days time. My brother’s ER-6N averaged about 41mpg under the same conditions for comparison. I don’t know if this particular bike was exceptional or if all F800ST’s are this miserly, but I was very impressed.

    It was like having an extra 1.85 gallons more than him without the additional weight of added fuel. And more torque and power. Props to BMW. How does an engine with over 20% more displacement, 30% more torque and 27% more power get almost 50% better fuel economy under the same conditions? Granted the 6n is a naked bike, and perhaps the 650R would have managed better due to its sleeker aeros. But it wouldn’t be that much better.

    I’m not pointing fingers at Kawasaki. That F800ST proved to me that there is ample room for improvement, and ALL mfgs need to sharpen their R&D pencils. AND add larger fuel tanks!

  66. Superhawk says:

    I too, like that bag / gas cans back there… I thought this was about that.

    That said, even riding up in NC, you have to think about fuel at times so you don’t get lost out there, even though with some planning you can make sure you get where you need to go. Try it on the old VMax’s… you really had to plan if you drove those semi-aggressive.

  67. Brad says:

    Hear hear!! The lack of usable range has also affected buying options for new bikes. I’ve passed up a couple of new models simply because they gave no realistic range for their configuration. The most notable being the new 1200VFR. I was hugely looking forward to a new, revamped model that would bring new technology and some innovativeness to the model. What we all got was a bike that has a huge 1200cc motor and a 4.5 gallon tank!! Unbelieveable!!
    I have recently bought a mid-90’s CBR1000F because I can’t get that kind of bike today in the newer models.
    Great article!!

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “The most notable being the new 1200VFR. I was hugely looking forward to a new, revamped model that would bring new technology and some innovativeness to the model. What we all got was a bike that has a huge 1200cc motor and a 4.5 gallon tank!! Unbelieveable!!”

      no worries. necessity is the mother of invention. if there’s TRULY a demand (and that’s one big IF), some enterprising indivdual out here in this now global landscape will react to it and fill the void (for a price of course). my buddy has auxiliary tanks fitted to his /5 from the 70’s. he didn’t fit them, somebody else did. that’s how he got the bike. now if this can be addressed in the era of bell bottoms and platforms…? how much more so here in the 21st century…? 🙂

  68. Joe Betor says:

    I fully agree. I have a 2008 FZ1 I love, but even babying it, I hit reserve at 135. Many of my favorite rides have 40-50 mile stretches with no gas station, and if I forget to top off early, it can become very tense.

  69. Kjazz says:

    A small camp fuel bottle will store almost anywhere, is safe to carry and can get you down the road a bit; carry multiples if necessary. Also, sells some cool solutions to safely carrying fuel. I use one of their products bolted to the rack of my XR650R for extended Dualsport rides. Each module carries a gallon.

  70. ZRXrider says:

    It isn’t the size of the fuel tank that is the big issue. It is the absurdly poor fuel mileage these bikes get. That could be remedied with smaller, more efficient engines, in bikes that would still be a blast to ride. Unfortunately, the motorcycle journalists have convinced the buying public that if your motorcycle can’t go 180 mph, you aren’t a real man.

  71. Easy1958 says:

    I live in Las Vegas and fuel capacity is a big issue once you get out of the LV valley. My fiance rides a HD Dyna and I have a ST1300, and we have gotten close to her running out of fuel a couple of times. I carry a gadget from Aerostitch called E-Fill Siphon. I truly agree that many sport bikes and cruisers are not meant for any type of long distance touring.

  72. Bikergeek says:

    External fuel cans are unsafe. The bike manufacturers should offer as an option a “touring” fuel tank that would fit the motorcycle without extensive modification. The touring tank should have a primary chamber equivalent to the normal fuel capacity of the motorcycle and secondary chamber with space for an additional 2-3 gallons. Or how about an effective and lightweight hybrid system that could extend the range of motorcycle with more gasoline?

    • Zuki says:

      Like the Interstate 750 and 850 versions of the Norton Commando? I think they had 6 gallon tanks or more.

      • Zuki says:

        Found my one of my old motorcycle mags… The Norton Interstate had a 6.3 gallon tank. It was a bike before my time but I think it’s one of the most beautifully-proportioned bikes ever made. Light-weight too… the road test states it came in at 422 lbs fully fueled and oiled, ready to ride.

  73. Roadrash1 says:

    I like that gas can option….it could get me across the 300 mile wide piece of Minnesota I need to travel once in a while, without having to buy their ethanol gas. It’s not even labeled in MN, it all has ethanol….

    (there are a few pumps that sell straight gas, but pretty rare)

    • Marky Mark says:

      Google non oxygenated gas and you’ll find a suprising number of stations offering ethanol free fuel in Minnesota.I never run ethanol gas in my ST1100.

      • Roadrash1 says:

        Wow! Great tip. And yeah, it is surprising. I found stops in Jackson, and Austin that have it. That will allow me to stay ethanol free all the way to La Crosse, where I “penetrate the cheddar curtain”.


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