The Search for Fuel Economy

Pages from a Designers' Notebook

This page updated July 20, 2008

Chap. 12: Finishing it enough to head for Ohio
I had hoped to ride this thing to AMA's Vintage Days in Mansfield Ohio. But it ain't going to happen this year. This is a "Work in process" and I am resigned to trailering it from Carmel, CA cross country, unfinished. Actually, it will be a long time before it is finished and totally streamlined. Until then, I do not expect much in the way of fuel reduction.
Nose structure
It is time to create the nose structure. Fortunately, I had a perfect shape for the nose - a headlight mockup I made for my design for Custom Chrome in 2002.
This shape fits perfectly. I hand formed another aluminum bulkhead for the front. I plan to sandwich the yellow plastic skin between the bulkhead and the fiberglass nose.
My design for Custom Chrome, 2002
I would like to mention, for you designers who might be planning your own high-mileage project, that as we make a change, it is important to go out and ride it.

This way, we can spot problems before we invest a lot of time going in the wrong direction.

I knew from the beginning that the stock Helix headlight would not match the curves of the new streamlined body. I have yet to find a DOT approved headlight that fit the contours.

Any suggestions?

Not happy with the stock Helix headlight
It is time to design and make another bulkhead which follows the angle to the fork head. This bulkhead will offer structure as close to the rider as possible while not interfering with the handlebars.

Cardboard Aided Design comes thru.

This time I will make the windshield turn with the handlebars to make ingress and egress easier. This is a major design change. Will this cause problems in side winds?

Front structure
Notice that I have collected the mirrors, headlight and turn signals (from an old Vetter Qiucksilver fairing) together on the handlebar. This is to be easier to eventually streamline them into one, simple enclosure.

Notice, too, the aluminum structure I made to support the new skin. The work is slow here and I am beginning to wonder how I will ever get this done to depart in time for Vintage Days in Ohio.

You may have wondered why I am closing off the right side of my streamliner.

"Streamlining is a smooth, continuous shape"

Until the body is entirely smooth - without gaps - it won't be streamlined.

After riding I am confident that it will be OK to enclose the right side. I never get on or off on the right side. Besides, bikes don't like it when you get on from the right side.

Cardboard patterns aid fit-up
Radiator Bulkhead
Honda engineers had fitted a plastic baffle around the radiator that forced whatever air that came into the front to go through the radiator. Pretty cool. Of course, that original piece would not do the job with the new streamlined nose, so I made a new baffle out of 3/4" Ethafoam - which is ordinary packing material. Ethafoam is very light, durable and easily squishes into odd shapes. Gas does not affect it either.
Working late into the night: Three days before departure
Since the front is a compound curve - meaning that the skin curves in both directions - it will be impossible to make a perfectly curved shape from the yellow .035" polyethylene sheet. I must compromise and piece it together in segments that give it an armored look. Plack plastic barbed fasteners hold the skin to the aluminum bulkheads. Note the Ethafoam hatch covering the storage bay.

I didn't know it, but the wind will have its way with this this thin plastic in 100 degree weather at 70 mph.

I awoke for my test ride to a California continuing to burn
This plastic is so easy to use. Ordinary scissors are all that are necessary. How big should the air intake opening be? This was my first guess. It turned out to be correct. That is all the opening needed to cool the engine.
Carol and I rode over the Laureles Grade to see how everything worked. Carol rides with another prototype Vetter fairing on her BMW. I halted work on this fairing to develop the Streamliner.

This was my first and only ride before packing up for Ohio. Note the sliver of windshield.

It turned out to be a very warm day in Carmel. The windshield folded back at 70 mph. Carol noticed that the front yellow plastic sheet was severely denting in at speed.

Too late to do anything about problems

Gotta pack up and head east.

Vintage Days, here we come
It got even hotter in the deserts. The yellow plastic seems to want to expand and ripple.

The wind blows it in. Hmmm... This is how we learn.

Stay tuned. See you in Ohio.

This page updated July 20, 2008
Chap. 3: Road Testing the Long Tail Mar 28, 08
Chap. 1: Streamlining Saves Fuel Feb 20, 08
Chap.2: CAD Streamlined Body Mar 8, 08
Chap. 4: Planking with Foam Apl. 5, 09
Chap. 5: More Wind Testing Apl. 7, 08
Chap. 6: The Final Shape Apl. 17, 08
Chap. 7: Decisions about Details May 10, 08
Page 8: Making the Center Bulkhead June 1, 08
Chap. 9: Rear Bulkhead and Truck bed June 8, 08
Chap. 10: Finish Rear and go for ride June 17, 08

If you have not yet watched my DVD, How they Got 470 mpg it is time to get it for the basic foundation for what we are doing here

Chap. 11: Finish the Tail June 29, 08
Chap. 12: Heading for Ohio, July 13-23, 08
Introduction to Fuel Economy
Chap. 13: Riding in the Midwest July 24, 08
Chap. 14: Vintage Days Ohio, July 25-7, 08
Chap. 15: Summary to date Aug 12, 08
Chap. 16: Adding Weight to the Front Sep. 1, 08
Chap. 17: Truth and Motorcycle Design Sep 4, 08
Chap. 18: Where should the weight be? Sep 25, 08
Chapter 19: Finishing the Streamlining Oct 14, 08
Chapter 20: Streamlining the Handlebars Nov 4, 08
Chapter 21: Unexpected Problems Nov 11, 08
Chapter 23: Getting my feet in and out Dec 19, 08
Chapter 22: Streamlining is working Nov 25, 08
Chapter 24: Streamlining is beginning to work! Jan 1, 09
Chapter 25: Tuft Testing Mar 2, 2009
Chapter 26: Starting Over April 9, 09
Chapter 27: More Ideas for Starting over April 20, 09
Chapter 28: Show time! Aug 1, 2009
Chapter 29: Getting the big parts right Dec 10, 2009
Chapter 30: First evaluation from an outsider Dec 20, 2009
Chapter 31: Visit with Allert Jacobs Dec 24, 2009
Chapter 32: Prius Headlights Jan 18, 2010
Chapter 33: New Gears Feb 17, 2010
Chapter 34: New Mileage Records April 25, 2010
Chapter 35: The Quail Gathering of Motorcycles May 9, 2010
Chapter 36: End of the line with the Helix June 19, 2010
Chapter 37: Vetter Challenge Oct. 9, 2010
Chapter 38: John Keogh helps out Dec 8, 2010
Chapter 39: Working with Keogh Dec 17, 2010
Chapter 40 and up (Work continuing in 2011)
Designing the Last Vetter Fairing

Chapters 1 thru 39 (2007-2010)

Chapters: 40 thru 51 (2011)

Chapters: 52 thru 61 (2012)

Chapters 62 thru 68 (2013)

Chapters 69-up (2014)