Thought I’d forgotten bikers? Not at all, and coming up are some tips on how motorcyclists can also save cash on their wheels. Many of the car tips mentioned regarding maintenance, fuel and driving are applicable here too. To make your lives easier, the two main areas are bike fuelling and fixing. Within these two areas, there are 8 ways to save money. Let’s get straight on with it!
It’s well known that motorcycles are more fuel efficient than cars. They are much lighter, and therefore don’t need as large or powerful an engine. This means we don’t have to apply as much throttle as quickly when setting off. How often do we do this, only to find that we have to get on the brakes again straight away? If we opt for a smoother approach, making use of the higher gears, we will see the rewards come fuelling time. We will also see the reward come maintenance time, but more on that later.
Another main way of reducing fuel is to reduce drag. So any panniers attached to the bike, any boxes need to go if not needed. Or at least we should empty them to save as much weight as we can. Lugging around 10kg of ‘stuff’ makes a proportionately larger difference to a bike versus a car. Therefore getting rid of this will make a positive difference to efficiency, performance and bike agility.
Another way to reduce drag is to consider the way we position ourselves when we are on the bike. Obviously it’s not practical to ‘tuck in’ at all times (and not recommended if attempting a U-turn). But our posture can make a big difference to fuel use (and also difference to our top speed, if our bike is slow). Get the head down, tuck the elbows in, and cut through the air like a knife. Let’s also make sure we aren’t resting our feet on the rear brake. Our bank accounts won’t like us if we do. We’re giving the bike extra mechanical drag it doesn’t need.
Some bikers will switch their engine on, let it warm up, and then set off. If we want to save fuel, we need to get straight on with it. The engine will happily warm up while riding (a bit too well in some cases) so there is no need to wait. While the engine’s idling, fuel is still being used. and We’re doing 0 mpg. The trees are not impressed. Another perhaps unrelated point is that bikes can be quite loud even even at idle, and my old Aprilia springs straight to mind. Reducing unnecessary disturbances can help make biking more socially acceptable, earning us extra points.
Touching on tyres briefly, these things are arguably more important on bikes than they are on cars. If one tyre lets go in a car, you don’t tend to fall out. Tyre pressure is key here, as flatter tyres are more resistant to motion. In addition to this, motorcycle tyres need to be a specific shape to enable the bike to turn. Once the pressure goes, the shape goes, the bike becomes tricky to turn, and we end up at risk of a crash. Which is clearly not ideal. A simple tyre pressure check could save hundreds at the pump (and thousands at the repair shop).
But which tyres should we buy? Most should buy sports touring ones. It’s tempting to go for full sports, or road legal track tyres. But unless you’re actually going on track regularly, save money by getting sports tourers. They tend to be made of harder rubber than sports tyres, which means they roll more easily and wear slower. Therefore the engine doesn’t work as hard to make the bike move, and we don’t have to visit the fuel station as often. The tyres also don’t need to be replaced as often, and rest assured that they have more than enough grip to cope with our demands. Win win!
Checking brakes and tyres should go hand in hand. A bit of surface rust on the discs should disappear once the brakes have been applied. Front brakes will normally wear out faster than rear ones. Unless your foot constantly rests on the rear brake, in which case fuel is being wasted, as mentioned before. Rear tyres will normally wear out before fronts, and generally the centre will wear out first. Find some twisties to keep the wear even across the entire tyre width. If not, the tyre will square off and need replacing sooner. Plus the bike will handle like a tank.
Maintenance and Checks
How well we are able to maintain the bike, will have a big impact on how much fuel we use. So having the bike serviced regularly can pay dividends. But motorcycle labour rates can be expensive, so there’s nothing stopping us trying this out ourselves. There are several methods we can try at home, and some that we should probably visit a dealer for.
It pays to clean the bike every so often. This is not from a vanity viewpoint but from a health and reliability view point. If too much dirt blocks the air filter and / or radiator, that can lead to overheating problems. Dirt left on the sides of the bike (if the bike is faired can have a marginal impact on aero, hurting fuel use. If moisture isn’t cleaned off and replaced with anti-rust spray, that can lead to rust problems, and parts being replaced.
Checking the oil should be regular. The oil will either be visible through a sight glass, or it will have a dipstick in it. Some bike engines do use a lot of fuel due to their high revving nature. Lack of oil means potentially more heat and friction. Both these things are bad news for efficiency. An engine running dry could be game over. Top as as necessary and relax. Check any other applicable fluids as a matter of course while we’re there.
We should lube our chains regularly (if we have them). This reduces friction, and therefore heat and noise. Even pushing the bike around, I notice how much easier it is after the chain has had a bath. Your engine will certainly notice, and therefore so will your bank account (in a good way). We should be doing this around every 500 miles or after a ride in the rain, as rainwater tends to wash away some lube.
It’s best to lube the chain after a ride, while it is still warm. The chain is then better able to absorb the lubricant, which should improve performance and reliability. Ideally, it should not be too tight, or it and the sprockets will wear out too quickly. The chain should not be too loose or there is a risk of it jumping, or coming off altogether. Which could be very expensive and dangerous.
Above are simple aspects of maintenance that literally anyone can (and should) do with their bikes. Oil, battery and brake pad changes are all relatively simple (even for me). I changed the rear brake on my Aprilia and can happily report that it was just as terrible as before. As with the cars, anyone who can hold a screwdriver can maintain their bike. Buying the parts and doing the work ourselves is a great way to save money and get to know our machines better. At that point, we can also learn how to ride better, in both dry and slippery conditions. But that’s for next time.
Don’t forget to have a look at the Blog: Journeys of Focus, which majors on real life experiences and applying various money saving tips, some of which are just as applicable to two wheels as to four. Feel free to also get in contact. Thanks for reading!