Sunday, April 19, 2009

Scooter Resource -- Speed vs Mileage

This was an experiment I conducted a few months back, when trying to
convince my wife to let me buy a scooter. I have the Reflex now, and I feel that
this group may appreciate the detail and implications I've included here.
NOTE - the intent was to determine whether a 55mph top speed for commuting
on the highway was sufficient, but I ended up with many more impressive
results as well, regarding almost every aspect of commute riding.


Determine if a scooter (greater than 50cc) is a plausible vehicle to
replace my Ninja 250. Mainly, this dictates one rule:

55mph TOP SPEED.

At first this seems ludacris, as the highway is rated at 65mph, and most
vehicles are going 75mph. Stupid? Maybe, but the results surprised even me.
More below.


Continue riding my Ninja 250 as normal, but go NO FASTER than 55mph;
commute to work, get groceries, make trips out of town. Forty-five minute trips
to surrounding towns are not uncommon, so I was determined to continue
making these trips as well.

I started with a full tank, and continued the experiment for a full 200
miles before filling up - I wanted to see the gas mileage result as well.


After 200 miles maxing at 55mph, a few main factors came to my attention,
and others arose that I had not even considered.

--Riding Style---

Changing the way I ride has got to be the most difficult part of this
experiment. I am used to taking almost every advantage in traffic, but I had to
think and drive differently. At 55mph, you absolutely must stay on the
right, and just follow the vehicle in front of you. I've found many times that
there are larger, slower moving vehicles that are staying around 55mph
already - just stay behind them and get yourself comfortable with the idea of
keeping the same position on the road, rather than trying to speed up and


HOLY COW! The wind resistance at 55mph is practically eliminated! I could
not believe the decrease in wind buffeting, and cross winds seemed to
disappear completely. The difference of 15mph has a huge impact. I had no need
to tuck under my windshield, ever. I was able to sit completely upright and
cruise right along. Excellent!

--Fuel consumption--

previous average: 50-53mpg
experiment average: 62mpg

WOW! I knew that changing my cruising speed would affect my mpg, but I
certainly did not expect a 10mpg difference. What a great surprise! 20 percent


I knew that deciding to ride a speed that was almost 15mph less than most
other vehicles on the road would effect my safety, this was a given. What I
did NOT expect was for the safety to actually IMPROVE. Read:

**I felt MORE SAFE, over time, doing only 55mph, while the rest of traffic
passed me at 65-80mph. It seems illogical and completely insane, but it is
the truth.**

At first, I held on to the bike with white knuckles, as I entered the
highway, expecting to turn in to an instant speed-bump. As the first vehicle
approached, it got over to the left and passed, and returned to the right
lane, textbook move, safe. What surprised me was the following vehicles: each
car I could see in the distance behind me organized themselves in the left
lane, a full quarter mile before reaching me, passed easily, and returned
to two lanes some distance in front of me. This brought a very important

**As people see others passing a slower vehicle on the left, they usually
follow suit, moving to left lane, instinctively, to pass as well.**

What am I getting at?

**I was MORE VISIBLE at 55mph!!!**

Since people in the distance behind me could clearly see larger vehicles
moving to the left to pass me, they had plenty of visual cues to my
presence. The did not have to see my single tail-light up ahead - they could easily
see the full sized car ahead that changed left to pass, and returned right
again. Drivers instantly recognize this passing maneuver, and prepare for
it themselves.


One would expect for time to drag by, and for trips to take forever at
only 55mph. The truth? Your travel time is barely even effected.

My wife took the van, and I took my bike, from Lake Wales to Bartow,
around 25 miles. She drove at normal speeds, leaving me in the dust, and I only
went 55mph.

I arrived three minutes after her. In fact, I was able to park directly
next to the building, and walked through the door with her - as she had to
park some way off in the parking lot, and had to walk a little ways.

Let's pretend you have a 100 mile commute:
100 miles at 70mph = 1.4 hours
100 miles at 55mph = 1.8 hours
0.4 hours = 24 minutes

Let's be more realistic. 20 mile commute:
20 miles at 70mph = 0.285 hours
20 miles at 55mph = 0.367 hours
0.082 hours = 4.92 minutes

The average commute amongst my office workers: 10 mile commute
10 miles at 70mph = 0.14 hours
10 miles at 55mph = 0.18 hours
0.04 hours = 2.4 minutes

Wow. 2.4 minutes difference in a 10 mile trip. So if I were to break the
law and speed all the way to work, I would still only arrive three minutes
early??? I could be stopped as long as that at any intersection for a long
light or accident. This is really starting to shape up!!!


I'm never riding at full speed again!!

Unless I have to travel I4 or an expressway with crazy speeds, I don't see
any use or advantage in travelling over 55mph for average, daily commutes
or cross-town travel.

My gas milage increased by 10 miles per gallon, I became more visible on
the road, and wind issues seemed to disappear! My overall riding experience
is so different that I actually feel like I'm riding a different bike now!!


The ride is smoother and more relaxed, and the world seems to just drift
by. There's a large difference in the inertia I feel at 55mph vs 70mph, and
I really feel like i'm just putting along. There seems to be almost no
stress involved, I can look at the scenery, and relax, just what I've always
loved about motorcycling - actually being able to enjoy being on the road.

I'd begun to miss it over the past year, wondering what it was that
changed. With my purchase of the Ninja 250, I was suddenly able to overcome much
more in traffic, and took advantage of it at every opportunity, passing
easily, getting better positions at lights, and easing through highway 'dog
packs'. But that kind of riding takes its toll on the daily rider, and the
relief that comes from simply laying back and letting traffic move around you

The ride is MUCH more relaxed when you aren't constantly fighting wind
turbulence and changing lanes to fight for better traffic positions. I cannot
accurately describe the difference in this style of riding, but I highly
recommend to anyone that rides regularly: try it.

I now arrive at my destination just as relaxed as when I left, without
feeling like I just did 20 miles on a bike. The stress is gone, and so is that
ache in my back and thighs from tucking in on a bike that wasn't quite
made for a guy my size.

**Riding fatigue is GONE.**


BENEFITS at 55mph on a bike:
-fuel economy incease
-reduced wind effect
-lowered stress
-higher visibility
-very small time difference


A 150cc automatic scooter may be my perfect daily commuter. With a top
speed over 60mph, it can easily reach the 55mph safety speed. Relaxed riding
position and full floorboards would be a welcome compliment to the relaxed
speeds, and with a decent windsheild, would provide better wind protection
than most motorcycles.

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