Monday, 6 April 2009

Dumbed down by technology

The progression of technology in all things motorcycling has been pretty amazing and generally beneficial. We can ride harder than ever, stop faster than ever, be more comfortable than ever, and go longer distances without breakdown and/or major maintenance than ever. And while I know lots of folks with vintage iron (I’ve been known to lust after a few specimens myself) those bikes are usually ridden with a lot of care and a healthy respect for their limitations compared to today’s models.
But at what point does all this technology just end up dumbing down the riding population?
One example. A relative of mine who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty (but who’s first name starts with Bob) rides a fuel-injected Road King. Last year while on a trip to Australia he rented a Heritage Softail in Melbourne to ride the Great Ocean Road (one of the best riding roads in the world in my opinion). The rental agency advised him that the fuel gauge was broken, so he’d better keep an eye on distances between fill-ups. However that does no good if there aren’t gas stations every few miles – which is the case in Australia. Gas stations can be few and far between and so Bob found himself in the unfortunate position of having run out of gas in the hinterlands of Victoria, somewhere northwest of Melbourne. “Damn” he said, or words to that effect.
The first farmhouse he walked to didn’t have any gas, but the person who answered the door allowed as how the next farm over usually had some on hand. So a bit further along the road he knocked on another door to be greeted by an older gent who said his son was out, but he might be able to find some gas. Off he went into the barn and returned with a battered old coffee can full of brownish stuff that smelled vaguely like gasoline. So Bob headed back to the bike with his open pail of gas, dumped it in the tank, fired it up, and rode off hoping he had enough to get to the next filling station - and that whatever was in the can wouldn’t blow anything up in the meantime.
fuel petcockSure enough a few miles later he found a gas station. And from then on made it a habit to fill up every chance he got.
When he got back to Melbourne a few days later he was asked about his trip. He casually mentioned running out of gas and having to go begging the locals for anything combustible. The young lad looked at him and said, “Why didn’t you just switch to reserve?”
Now back in the 70s, we knew that!


  1. An absolute delight to read and of course, why didn't he just switch to reserve...probably never occured to him these useful features still exist...My old BSA, my Triumph, my Honda...all have the reserve switch... When I go for a long run in a remote area, I always carry a small gerry can of extra fuel on the back rack. Of course it presents some danger to do so, but I find the benefits far outweigh the danger...besides never had any mishaps and always helpful in getting the camp fire going at night. I just made a long run to Beaverton/HillsBoro OR on Saturday and back...hard core riding only...(Roughly around 612 miles in one day) will make a post on it this week if I get the time...and I stop vibrating...stay tuned and keep on blogging...Good job!

  2. I had assumed he already hit the reserve. Would've been a given for most of us (I thought) anyway.

    Good post!

  3. Baron - Looking forward to reading about the ride. 600 miles is more than my sorry butt can handle in a day. I can imagine you're still vibrating!

    Mr. M. - That was my immediate assumption too, but no, he just assumed there was no fuel tap, like his RK.

  4. The old R switch is fantastic as long as you don't ride with it in that position all the time...and then run out of petrol, err sorry, gas.

  5. Got caught out once ourselves with our Guzzi. Reading the owners manual it stated that the tank held 5 gallons, and yes we ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere. Found a garage a mile down the road and filled up to the top. Tank held 4 gallons! Me thinks that the manual was printed for American market as our gallons are more in volume.
    Seems that all models with injection have lost the saftey net of the reserve tap.

  6. Nikos - Yeah, I've been caught like that, forgetting to switch it back on a fillup.

    Bikerted - Between gallons, imperial gallons, and liters it can get pretty confusing for sure. And fuel guages can be pretty inaccurate as well. The only reasonably reliable way, IMO, is knowing the distance you get on a tank and filling up when you get within 20 or 30 miles of empty. Or, as Baron says, carry extra gas with you.


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