How Far can a Motorcycle Travel on a Tank of Gas?


For any motorcyclist, planning out gas stops is a typical part of any ride. It seems we are always checking our fuel gage or odometer to see if we can make it to the next town to top off the tank. So, I’m not surprised when this question comes up.

How far can a motorcycle travel on a tank of gas? Typically, the average motorcycle will get anywhere between 120 to 200 miles on a tank of gas depending on tank size, engine size, and riding conditions.

Tank Size

The most obvious determination of distance is the size of the motorcycle’s gas tank, and they can vary greatly from bike to bike. For instance, A Harley Davidson sportster forty eight has a 2.1 gallon tank. When I ride with my sportster owning friends, we have to stop for gas avery 110 miles or so. However, I ride a Honda CB500X with a 4.6 gallon tank. I often skip a gas stop since my bike can travel twice as far on a tank.

Some motorcycles, which are designed to go longer distances out in the middle of nowhere, will come with larger tanks. For example, the KTM 1190 Adventure has a 23 liter tank, or 6 gallons.

Most motorcycles come with a reserve tank and a switch that needs to be turned on to allow the reserve fuel to be use. It’s a good idea to know approximately how far your motorcycle will travel on reserve. Generally, it is only about 10 to 20 miles. So, when you switch to reserve, your first thought should be “find a gas station now!”

Engine Size

Just like cars and trucks, bigger engines will use more gas. However, manufacturers know this and usually build their bikes with the proper fuel tank capacity to accommodate the larger engine. There’s no point in selling a big bore motorcycle that can only travel a short distance.

Let’s take the Triumph Rocket III Roadster for example. It’s the largest production motorcycle engine available at 2,294cc. That’s big. It’s average fuel consumption is around 35mpg, and for a motorcycle, that’s not very much. Bu, it has a 6.3 gallon fuel tank. So, a big bike like this can travel and average of 220 miles between fill ups. Probably more like 200 to be safe. That’s pretty good for a big engine touring bike.

Let’s look at an example of a smaller engine. The Kawasaki Ninja 300, with only a 4.3 gallon tank, gets an impressive 75 miles per gallon, so, it can easily travel over 300 miles on a tank of gas.

Old Motorcycle vs. New Motorcycle

The age of your motorcycle will also determine how far it can go on a tank of gas. Modern day motorcycle fuel consumption has greatly improved with all the advancements in technology. Older motorcycles, with gravity fuel supply systems and no fuel injection, will often get fewer miles per gallon, therefore, fewer miles on one tank. So, for older motorcycles, it’s even more important to keep your carbs clean and your fuel system in top shape.

Riding Style

Your riding style can effect your fuel efficiency. For example, I used to own a Suzuki SV650, which got about 45 miles to the gallon. On average, I could get about 140 miles of riding in before I needed to fuel up.

I took this motorcycle out on a couple of track days, and it was a different story. The aggressive, high speed, high rev riding that I did on the track lowered my miles per gallon down to about 30. I had to top off between each session and I wen’t through a lot more gas than expected.

So, if you do a lot of fast, aggressive canyon riding, you can expect your motorcycle’s fuel efficiency to go down. If you’re cruising down the freeway at a moderate speed, your motorcycle will be at it’s most fuel efficient and you’ll go farther on one tank.

Other Fuel Efficiency Factors

There are other factors that can effect your fuel efficiency. One being how much weight you are carrying. If your motorcycle is fully loaded with luggage, you’re going to get fewer miles per tank of gas. Also, if you’re carrying a passenger, you’ll get a lower mpg. Are you pulling a trailer with your Goldwing? You can bet you’ll get fewer miles out of your tank.

Riding in cold weather can also reduce your fuel efficiency. Although most motorcyclist choose to avoid riding in winter, still, some hard-core riders will tough it out. While reduced fuel efficiency in cold weather is more noticeable in cars and trucks, it only reduces your mileage by about 12%, which, on a motorcycle, is not really a factor.

Low fuel efficiency can also be an indicator that your motorcycle is not running properly. If you notice a sudden change in your average MPG, you could be dealing with dirty carburetors, under-inflated tires, a clogged fuel filter or faulty fuel pump. These issues should be looked into and repaired before they cause more damage, or leave you stranded on the highway.

How to Calculate Your Average MPG

Here are the steps to calculate your motorcycle’s average miles per gallon. To get an accurate number, do these steps 3 or 4 times. Keeping a written log of your mpg is a great way to monitor your bike’s performance, or alert you if there is a mechanical problem.

  1. Start with a full tank of gas.
  2. If your motorcycle as a trip odometer, set it to zero. Otherwise, write down the miles on the main odometer.
  3. Ride your motorcycle as you normally would until the tank is almost empty.
  4. Fill up your tank again, to the top.
  5. Write down the exact number of gallons it took to fill up the tank.
  6. Next, from the odometer, write down the number of miles ridden.
  7. To calculate the miles per gallon, divide the miles traveled by the number of gallons it took to fill the tank again in step 4.

The formula: Miles Driven ÷ Gallons Used = MPG
It works the same with kilometers. Same formula.

Example: If I rode 150 miles, and it took 3.2 gallons of gas to fill my tank back up, then I calculate: 150 miles ÷ 3.2 gallons used = 46.8 mpg

How to Improve Your Motorcycle’s Fuel Efficiency

Now that you know a little more about what effects the distance you can ride on a tank of gas, there are some things you can do to increase your miles per gallon, and get more miles between fill ups.

  1. Properly inflate your tires. Underinflated, or over inflated tires can affect your fuel efficiency. Check your bike’s manual or your tire manufacturer’s recommended psi. Always keep a tire gauge in your on-board tool kit so you can check it from time to time. It’s also a good idea to carry a compact air compressor, especially if you’re going to be riding in areas with no services available.
  2. Ease up on the throttle. Faster riding speeds will reduce your fuel efficiency. So, if you need to reduce your fuel consumption, lay off the throttle.
  3. Use higher grade gasoline. It may cost a little bit more at the pump, but, when it comes to motorcycles and their small tanks, it only makes a few dollars difference. The higher fuel grade will keep your engine cleaner and, in the long run, you’ll get better gas mileage.
  4. Keep your bike properly maintained. Carburetors, spark plugs, fuel pump, fuel filter; all of these should be in good condition to keep your fuel consumption low.
  5. Pack Light. If you’re doing any multi-day touring or camping on your motorcycle, keep your load as light as possible. Pack up you ride like a backpacker packs the bag. The lighter the better.

To wrap it up

The best thing you can do as a motorcycle owner is to know your bike and how it operates. Calculate your average miles per gallon and keep track of how many miles you can travel on a tank of gas. Keep your bike well maintained and your load light. Be aware of your trip odometer or your gas gauge and play it safe when planning your gas stops.

Related articles: 5 Ways to Carry Extra Gas on Your Motorcycle

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