Saving fuel: The most economical bikes in SA

<B>FRUGAL  BMW:</B> Despite its size, the BMW R1200 GS is one of SA's most fuel efficient bikes, says Dries van der Walt. <I>Image: Dries van der Walt</I>
<B>FRUGAL BMW:</B> Despite its size, the BMW R1200 GS is one of SA's most fuel efficient bikes, says Dries van der Walt. <I>Image: Dries van der Walt</I>
Dries van der Walt

Cape Town - Have you ever wondered which bikes are the most fuel-efficient in their categories?

We did, but finding directly-comparable figures turned out to be practically impossible - manufacturers’ claims sometimes bear little relation to real-life consumption, while different publications use different techniques to measure fuel consumption during road tests. 

However, there is one way to compare the bikes under exactly the same set of conditions, all neatly slotted into the various categories: the annual motorcycle economy run.

Although rider technique is a variable in this event, the leading riders tend to use very similar techniques to ride as economically as possible. It stands to reason, then, that the economy run results would give a good indication of the fuel efficiency of the various bike models. 

Mid-size surprise

For this article, we looked at the results of the 2015 event, which took place on public roads between Pretoria and Hazyview in Mpumalanga, and one of the big surprises was that the winner wasn’t a small bike, but a mid-size one. 

READ: Lane splitting in SA for bikers: The do's and don'ts

BMW R 1200 GS. Image: Dries van der Walt

The big machines weighed in with surprising frugality: a BMW R 1200 GS won the category for adventure bikes above 1001cm³ with a consumption of 3.97 litres/100km, while its stable-mate, the R 1200 R won the over-1001cm³ road bike category by returning 4.03 litres/100km.

BMW R 1200 R. Image: Dries van der Walt

A Triumph Trophy used only 4.0 litres/100km to win the category for touring bikes over 1001cm³.

A frugal Ducati?

In the mid-size category for road bikes up to 1000cm³, a Ducati ST4S took the honours with a consumption of 3.67 litres/100km, while the most frugal machine in the category for multi-cylinder adventure bikes up to 1000cm³ was a BMW F 700 GS with 3.31 litres/100km.

BMW G 650 GS Sertao. Image: Dries van der Walt

The category of single-cylinder adventure bikes over 501cm³ fell to the BMW G 650 GS Sertao with 3.18 litres/100km, while a Yamaha R3 won the category for all bikes up to 500cm³ with an impressive 2.83 litres/100km consumption.

Yamaha R3. Image: Dries van der Walt

READ: 8 fuel-saving tips for bikes: Maximise your motorcycle’s mileage

At this point you may wonder why I haven’t mentioned the category for two-cylinder road bikes between 501 and 800cm³. The reason is that the winner in this category is also the overall winner, which makes it arguably the most economical highway-capable bike on the local market.

With an average consumption of just 2.70 litres/100km, Honda’s NC750X took the top honours. 

So, if fuel economy is an important part of your decision of which bike to buy, this article should give you a good indication. With the exception of the Ducati ST4S, all of the winners are currently available models.

But remember, economy is in the hands of the rider as much as it is in the bike.

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