Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Running out of Gas

Temps in the mid to high 80s, sunny.

I ran out of gas on my 1987 R80, Brigitta, while riding home from work today.

FYI: Airheads have an internal hump down the middle of the gas tank so that fuel is delivered to the carburetors from two petcocks. One on each side of the tank, they have three settings: Off, Main and Reserve. I tend to ride with the left side on Main and the right side on Reserve. This way, the theory goes, when the motorcycle starts sputtering from lack of fuel, I can reach down with my left hand and switch it to reserve. It's not so easy to reach over the tank with the left hand to manipulate the right petcock, since one's right hand is on the throttle.

There's a crossover gas line between the two lines coming out of the two petcocks so each side can supply both carburetors.

Using the above method, I believe that when I put the left side on reserve, the right side is already completely empty and all I have left is the Left Reserve.

She started signaling she was running low (it feels like the engine is losing power) at 185 miles on the trip meter and so I switched the left petcock to reserve, thinking that I had at least 1 gallon left. Not so, more like 1/2 gallon. Not only that but I didn't notice that I was running with my right petcock on main instead of reserve as usual.

Around mile 200 or so, she started sputtering and I thought to myself: Damn, I should have stopped at that gas station by work instead of trying to make it to my usual gas station near home! I coasted to the side of the road to assess things while traffic flew by a few feet to my left. I looked down and finally noticed my right petcock was on main instead of reserve! So I switched it over and voila, the engine cranked right over and I thought myself fortunate.

I eased my way into the traffic stream after building up some speed on the grass besides the pavement and motored on towards the gas station near home. At mile 207 on the trip meter, the engine quit again as I prepared to enter the gas station's shopping center's parking lot and I got off the motorcycle after trying to crank it and pushed it 30 ft into a nearby parking spot. Damn. There I switched off the ignition and put it on the sidestand for a minute. I thought about calling my wife and asking her to bring a gallon of gas I keep at the house for the lawnmower.

Before I called though, I cranked her over one more and she caught! I quickly backed up and turned my self around and headed once more to the gas station. Wouldn't you know it, 100 ft from the gas station she quits again on me. No more fuel this time as I cranked the engine several times.

Sighing in the heat, I got off the motorcycle after putting her in neutral, and pushed her all the way to the nearest open pump. I am sure I made for an amusing sight to the patrons of the gas station but I didn't care. After all, 100 ft of pushing is not bad when one is riding the R80 which weighs 432lbs dry. Had I been on Maria though, with her 550lbs of dry weight, it would have been a much harder ordeal! Woof.

So, now I know I've 20 miles when on my second reserve before I am pushing the motorcycle or walking to get gas or waiting for someone to bring me some. I also know now that while my tank capacity might be rated at 5.5 gallons, it's closer to 5 due to the design of the tank flap under the gas cap. Apparently a lot of other airheads cut out this flap to get the most capacity out of their tank. Might be a winter project for me when I do the recommended flushing/cleaning of the gas tank.

I guess those are good things to know and a reinforcer of the concept of getting gas when its present and not hoping to get to one's usual fuel stop instead. A sort of a motorcycling version of "A bird in the hand, is worth two in the bush" if you take my meaning.


Derek said...

When I first began riding, a few of the old guys I knew who had been riding for years would hand me little pieces of advice, usually hard-earned. "Never buy a bike you can't push." Always one of my favorites.

SheRidesABeemer said...

good story..but where are the pictures. 8^)

Charlie6 said...

Gail, no pics, too busy pushing the bike to the pump.... : )

irondad said...

I feel your pain. Been there although I hate to admit it. Here's a favorite quote from Will Rogers.

Good judgement comes from bad experience. A lot of that comes from bad judgement.