Let me tell you, I am meeting a lot of gas station cashiers. My UK cards can’t pay at the pump and out here if it’s cash you gotta pay first. So until I can guess the exact cost of a fill I need to trot back in to get my change. Two or three times every day…
Leaving Phoenix I had two days unavoidable road riding during which to pin down the odometre error and so establish true fuel consumption and so my possible range. Also, the bike had been brought back from Stage 1 mods (extra airbox holes, noisy light pipe, smaller front sprocket) and with the quiet OE pipe refitted, the air box taped back up to stock but the EJK fuel controller still plugged in and unmodified, chances are the bike would run rich but I thought I’d give it a try as who knows, the ECU might somehow compensate. I’m not sure how all this stuff works.
Riding out of town, strong head/side winds sprung up and at only 73 miles the fuel warning came on. Already? We all know that feeling of tensing up to will the bike on while counting off the miles. I was convinced I’d not make the ten miles to Wickenburg and once I did, I made sure I filled up that Liquid Containment fuel bladder right there (it took 1.42 US or 5.3L). And one day soon I’d better run the main tank dry to see what it really takes – supposedly 2 USg or 7.7L.
I recorded an average of 57.1 US (68.5 UK – see this) on day 1, at around 55mph – the slowest thing on the road. Arriving in Kingman the winds were howling out of the southwest and riding the Honda was like piloting a hang glider into a gale. Drivers behind me kept their distance, but I actually felt a lot safer than in similarly strong cross winds on my XT660Z a few years ago in southern France. It was way too windy to camp and anyway parks out here are exposed and grassless – not really set up for ambient tenting. A chummy Gujaratti guy at a motel made me smile and gave me a deal.
Out towards Vegas next day I still had trucks breathing down my neck, but there was no other way to get north to Beatty. I ran dry on the freeway cutting through Vegas with the Honda showing just 100.3 miles, but all the signs suggested that was not an accurate figure even if empty was still empty. The F-L somehow reads speed off the gearbox – never heard of that before and surely reading accurately off a tiny gearbox cog compared to a big front wheel will take some precision, even if it;s all cheaper and tidier than a mechanical speedo cable.
The Trail Tech Vapor I’d wired in requires you to precisely measure front wheel diameter and fit a sender wire to the fork tube opposite a magnet on a rotor bolt to calibrate the speedo. It’s a system they claim is more accurate than GPS and on that day I was running the Garmin 62 GPS, a Garmin satnav and the Vapor – all up enough nav gadgetry to invade a small country.
I knew well from logging routes in Morocco that for a GPS track log to show accurate distance, the ‘pings’ have to be set very high – say every 2 seconds or 50m. Doing so eats up GPS memory and most are not concerned with measuring accurate distances, but that is the only way to do it with a GPS. Otherwise, with less frequent pings, the series of straight lines between the recorded time or distance points cuts corners and gives a shorter distance than true over a day;s riding, especially on a bendy track. GPS speed readings are not affected like this.
The road to Vegas had been straight enough and when the Honda ran dry at 100.3 miles, the Trail Tech Vapor showed 112.3 and the Garmin 62 was on 111.2, about 1% out. So the Honda odometre is 11-12% short on distance while the speedo (less important) is 8-9% under; both unusually inaccurate compared to recent bikes I’ve run. Relying on Honda data, my mpg would be reading 11% worse (assuming gas station pumps are all accurate of course – I’m not always sure they are).
Out of Vegas
The bike seemed slow but I’d hardly ridden it and assumed it was the strong winds and the load. But leaving Las Vegas, on a whim I tried 89 RON fuel instead of 87. As 95 turned west, I braced against cross winds and at times the Honda was rolling along at 65. The manual says use 86 RON or more, so it’s probably not octane but something occasionally made it run much better. Could it be Nevada fuel? Al had told me they put ethanol in AZ fuel (E10?). Who knew all the variables but I wasn’t making any mpg records today.
With one eye on the mirrors and the other on the speedos and passing ranges, up ahead a sign proclaimed ‘BROTHEL’ in big red letters. I’d arrived at the Alien Cat House, a roadhouse/whorehouse which it owner suggests (see vid below) is well suited to the socially stunted individual who spends too much time playing space games on his PC and likes his women sprayed green and with pointy ears.
Inside, past masses of pointy-chinned alienobilia alongside sexy towels, rough-looking guys slouched in the diner – I guess any passing holiday-making families get scared off; ‘Mummy, what’s a brothel?’ They reminded me of the sleeveless, Blunnie-shod, truckers from the Northern Territory and hadn’t dropped in to get an update on the chances of anything coming from Mars. Then I realised that just over the hill was the huge Nellis AFB or ‘Area 51’ on whose secret experimental activities the region’s UFO reputation is surely based.
On the counter was a copy of the local paper, the Pahrump Valley Times. Headline: a local guy got drunk, flipped and tried to strangle his girlfriend. As it happens a couple of days earlier I’d read that ex-Dakar racer Jimmy Lewis was doing a two-day dirt riding session the following weekend. (That’s his old Dakar BMW desert racer from ’83 below let, on display at an open day recently).
There had been some discussion about him versus what was claimed as themore promo-savvy Rawhyde outfit over the border. I considered about attending, like you do when you’re abroad and can get away with doing something spontaneous. It would be good to learn how to ride properly and I was bound to learn something, but I had the wrong tyres, no MX gear the CRF would get a hammering and it was $600 plus lodging. Maybe another time.
Out of the Cat House I tried 91 RON but battling the wind, in nearby Beatty that added up to an all time low of 42 US mpg (50.5 UK). Even my Tenere didn’t get that bad in similar conditions. And to cap it all the fuel bladder had leaked and everything reeked of gasoline.
Out on the street an old guy had a huge range of ex-military ammo boxes but no small fuel cans and Lou’s Hardware up the road had baffling stick-out spout cans. Over the road a semi derelict casino looked like a tornado had passed over it. My scavenger antennae twitched and out among the debris of fridges and furniture lay a 2 gallon can. I sized it up, unsure if I was breaking some local anti-vagrancy bylaw, but decided by the time I’d flushed it and filled it to find a leak I’d waste more gas. I was on the California border, a better can could be found I was sure. Until then I sealed the fuel bladder as best I could and perched it on the back where it could drip harmlessly.
Beatty seemed a bit beaten up and neglected, but no more so than your average South London high street these days. Generations of autos rotted in front yards, the old clapboard church looked a bit shaky and it seemed this town was only big enough for one casino to prosper. Shelling out too much for motels, that casino did at least have a Subway which became my sustenance on the road, a six-incher for lunch and another for dinner. Less than $8.
While I’m prepared to sacrifice bit of mileage from the EJK as others report, I need to get to the bottom of this fuel consumption. An FI 250 ought to do 65 US (80 UK) – that plus dirt lightness is why we make the compromise after all. Is a smaller engine more sensitive to large loads – me probably 110kg in all my gear + 25kg of baggage. Is it down to different fuel qualities from state to state? Actually, I don’t believe baggage or screen have any real aerodynamic effect at the speeds I go – they certainly didn’t on the XTZ or BMW in Morocco. Winds are a more likely cause, as Al had warned me, and maybe elevation too. But I think the bike is simply running rich, as with the noisy Q4 and opened airbox (but no baggage) it had run 62US on that day in the dirt. The fuelling is off for sure and our CRF-L man Rick R has all the answers on the EJK ‘black box’ under the seat. In the end I knew all I had to do was return it all to stock by unplugging the EJK, or less easily but perhaps more effectively, try to lean out the adjustable EJK to run with the stock pipe.
Plenty of time for all that. Tomorrow I will at last able to get off these truck highways and ride some dirt roads at my own pace and without battling the winds. We’ll see if that makes a difference.