The Search for Fuel Economy

Pages from a Designers' Notebook

Freedom Machine
The goal: 100 mpg at 70 mph, into a 30 mph headwind, with four bags of groceries.
Chap. 32: Fitting Prius headlights
Jan 18, 2010
Caravan - Prius light comparison
Prius headlights... I am not sure about this
I wanted headlights with integrated turn signals that fit smoothly into the streamlined shape I was generating. But we need more than that. Since I plan to offer my components in kit form, we need headlights that will be cheap and available.

The Caravan lights fit the shape perfectly and are cheap. The problem is that they are not pointed in the right direction. This has kept me from riding at night.

Prius headlights from 2004 thru 2006 are the only lights I could find that might be made to fit and still be cheap and available. EBAY is filled with inexpensive Prius lights.

Willie helps

Jan 23, 2010: Look at all the extra aluminum I had to add to generate the shape to accept the Prius lights. I removed a block of lead from the front.

Will they work? Will they look OK? Will the new body shape be better or worse in sidewinds?

As a designer, I have come to realize that:

"We like what we are used to"

I think I can like this

This is my favorite machine to ride. I have missed it
Jan 25, 2010: The Prius lights certainly fatten up the front. This just might be good since we want to fit this streamlining over a future machine with 16" wheels. ( The Helix has a 12" front wheels )

We are experiencing the worsts storms of the year in California. Trees are being blown over. The power has been out. This is a great time to ride my streamliner.

The results?

I really like this machine and I am so glad to be back in the saddle again. It sure is nice to finally have headlights that point at the road (instead of pointing at the trees like the Caravan lights). My careful efforts to point the new Prius lights straight ahead paid off. I don't even need to adjust them. At the moment, I just have the right side light plugged in. Eventually, I will wire the right side with the low beam and the left side with the high. But only one at a time. I don't think the Helix makes enough power to run two 60 watt bulbs together, car style. There is plenty of light. as is

Again, I have been riding with and without the tail. There is no difference until I get to 50-55 mph. Acceleration is noticeably faster with the tail on. Otherwise, I cannot tell the difference. I cannot feel any difference with the new nose, either. The thing handles the blustery winds just fine. This, I am sure, is because the sides are open) I have not taken it down thru Hurricane Point in Big Sur. But I will.

I will ride and make the minor changes as I see the need. I will continue to pass on what I have learned to you.

So, what is it like to ride with the sides open?

"Its a kinder, gentler" ride. No kidding. That describes the changes well. It is California in the winter. Windy and rainy. With the sides gone I now feel drafts. With the sides on, there was no drafts, period. It is more like driving in a car with the window down a little. Still much much better than any motorcycle I have ever ridden.

Most important, the little gusts of wind are now hardly noticeable. Bigger winds do not "slam" me. Now, with the sides open, the winds "Gently" blow me a little. Much better.

So, it is a little draftier but a whole lot more stable in sidewinds with the sides open. I guess the wind needs a place to "blow through." But it is so much easier to get on and off. It is easier to push around. I think it is a pretty good compromise.

Send me pictures of your projects and I will post them

There is not much more I can do since the Helix with 17 hp has too much power. I would like to start over but no 14 hp running gear is available in the US. I am still searching. The Honda CBR 125 is not sold in the US and is probably not licenseable in California. I have requested that Honda sell them in the US.

In the meantime, Alan Smith's CRF 230 is pretty impressive. It may be nearly as good as a 125.

More important right now is the fact that I need to direct my attention to completing a street fairing for Carol's BMW and my KLR to ride to Anchorage this summer.

I think I will put my major efforts for the next 4 months, anyway, into this fairing which I call the Alcan Fairing. I will watch Alan's progress on his CRF. I will see what Honda does about offering the CBR 125 in the US. Also, Jan Vos in Belgium has offered to cut me a set of gears for my Helix to slow the engine down.


This is a street fairing project I began in 2005 but postponed to develop fuel economy.
I temporarily suspended development of the Alcan Fairing in 2007 to design the Last Vetter Fairing, the streamlined Helix on these pages. If you look carefuly, you can see some common design features in how the handlebars rotate with the windshield.
The Vetter Alcan Fairing Prototype: Rugged, utilitiarian, revolutionary
My 50th High School Reunion is coming up the summer of 2010, in Anchorage, Alaska. This is the BIG ONE. I had hoped to be riding a 14 hp streamliner to Alaska but there are no 14 hp motorcycles sold in the US. The Helix is not suitable for such a rugged journey. Therefore, I return to my KLR 650 and this fairing.

I promised Carol that I would make her something better than a Windjammer for her BMW GS650. Can you think of a better trip to design a fairing for?

Altho it I do not expect any quantum leap in fuel economy, the Alcan Fairing design will take off from where the Windjammer left off and will employ lessons from my streamlining experiments. You may follow the development of the "second to last Vetter Fairing" on these pages.

Of course, I will continue developing my streamlined Helix and encourage others with their streamliners:

Posted Jan 18, 2010

Updated March 18, 2011

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)

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