Official results of the 2013 Vetter Fuel Challenge on the Quail Ride

The Vetter Challenges are all different. But they represent real riding conditions. The 2013 Quail Challenge was a little slower this year. In addition, there were almost no headwinds. On the other hand, we ended the Ride with 3 laps around the Laguna Seca Racetrack. How could you go slow given such an opportunity? We all raced. We had to.

At the end of the day, everybody got better milege than the previous year. Well, everybody but me. I have worn out my poor Honda Helix. It barely would go up the mountain pass and really slowed down going into the Corkscrew at the track.

Diesel Fred Hayes took top honors again at 149.68 mpg!

Fred says: "The ride was one of the best with great weather and a very nice course. The diversity of bikes this year added to the enjoyment. I was impressed with the performance of the Zero Electric Bikes and very impressed with Alan's performance. Clearly his improvements in aerodynamics and riding technic worked very well.

I'm not sure what my next steps are for the Diesel bikes, but they will include, at least, modified fairings and engine upgrades. I have already started testing for the next event. The AMA Vintage Days Vetter Challenge should be very informative and very competitive."

First the fun stories: The Bag Loading Party
You must be able to carry four bags of groceries
The Vetter Fuel Challenge begins the night before at a "Bag Loading Party." This is where my wife Carol checks to see that four full grocery bags can be carried to her satisfaction, in each Challenge machine. Afterwards, we eat the food in the bags.
Dezso Molnar had no trouble carrying the groceries with his his flying motorcycle's 12 foot wheelbase.

Dezso (pronounced Desher) is designing, building and riding this incredible flying motorcycle. It is powered by a 2005 Suxuki GSXR 1000 stock motor rated at 162 horsepower. The engine drives the rear wheel on the ground. For flying, the shaft on the side brings the power to the center-mounted propeller. A big aluminum tube connects the front and the rear. The red propeller with "swing-blades."spins around the tube. The blades tuck in for road driving. When they are driven by the belts, they spread out to push Dezso forward in "Gyro" mode.

Yep... this is an autogyro in the making.

Early on, Dezso discovered that he could not stay with the pack. His 12 foot wheelbase did not allow him to corner with the rest of us. He slowed down and kept riding alone until he finally experienced an electrical problem. In the 110.4 miles he did ride, he used 3.48 gallons of gas: 31.6 mpg. Hopefully, next year Dezso will have the mast and rotor in place.

Imagine riding part of the Quail Ride and flying the rest.

Packing groceries in Terry's Zero and Reg's NC700X
Canadian Champion Ron Johnston seems suspicious
Kay Hayes readies bags 2 and 3
Terry Hershner and his electric Zero almost squeeked through. We have two problems here. The rules clearly state:

"If any part of the bags are exposed, you will have to ride in the Challenge with the grocery bags filled and in place."

Terry did not carry the four bags on the Challenge. Maybe he figured that they would fall off in the 116 miles. Maybe it was because we ate the food from the bags at the party.

When these bikes get streamlined and carry the groceries, they will be unbeatable.

A new entry this year was the Honda NC700X

We have been waiting a long time to see the new NC700X in action and I am happy to say we were not disappointed. Moto-journalist Reg Kittrelle made a special trip to LA to pick up Motorcyclist Magazine's NC.

Kittrelle was impressed: “I was surprised at how well the Honda did. This was an aggressive ride with a lot of on-and-off the throttle action. I think 80 mpg might be possible if it was ridden very carefully.”

First, Reg had to figure out how to pack four bags of groceries:

The front "Tank" swallowed the first grocery bag
Reg went to work packing the NC's saddlebags
The Prego jar was a problem.
Terry Hershner offered his bungee net and the judges seemed pleased. But, like Terry Hershner above, Reg still did not meet the letter of the Challenge rules.
The NC700X turned in a solid 70 mpg at the Quail ride. A good showing, Honda designers!

The Quail Ride
Fuel prices Friday morning May 3, 2012
Usually Diesel prices are much higher than gas, making it much harder for Diesel Fred Hayes. Not this year. With prices like this, we expected Fred to win by a landslide. But he did not. After 116 miles, Alan Smith and his streamlined Ninja 250 consumed just 7¢ more fuel than Fred! Competition is heating up.

Joshua Chen again piloted the Hayes Bio-Diesel entry to victory, consuming 1.118 gallons of the stuff to get 104 mpg. That was 3.85¢ a mile.
Hayes Diesels still rule.

But not by much.

Two Zero Electrics actually went the distance!

At the 2012 Mid-Ohio Challenge, Mark Gielbien of Enertrac was able to go 20 miles out and 20 miles back. 40 miles total. But this year, two Zero electric bikes went the entire 116 miles - and more!

This is BIG NEWS!

Jeremiah Johnson, visiting racer from Florida, rode his race bike, a new 2013 Zero S 11.4 all 116 miles, in the middle of the pack, exactly where he belonged.

The ride featured a mid-point stop at Rob Talbott's Winery, where Johnson pumped 45 minutes of 'tricities into his Zero.* He finished the ride with power to spare, and mentioned that he probably could have gone the distance without the recharge.

*Refilling en route is fair as long as it is at a formal break. I had to add gas to my Helix in the Las Vegas ride.

A stock Zero. 116 miles. Real riding. Wow!

Terry Hershner continues to stuff ever more batteries and chargers onto his Zero. He did not want to take on any energy at the Winery.

Terry had plenty of power but made a mistake in re-gearing his bike to make the motor run slower. When combined with streamlining, it works for gas motors to consume less energy. However, when Terry got to the Laguna Seca track, his bike could not climb the very steep access road.

And there I passed him. He took another route but it was too late. Terry was out of the Challenge.

Terry Hershner elaborates:
"We both went an extra 18 miles riding around the long way to get in the back entrance to Laguna Seca. Also that includes the extra 12 miles driving back from Monterey charge station the night before the challenge.

At the 2013 Quail I used 16.5 kwh for 143 miles of riding, Jeremiah used less, about 13 kwh for 137 miles. I also pay 13.2 cents per kwh"

Here is the math for Terry's ride: $.132 x 16.5 = $2.18 in electricity

The math for Jeremiah: $.132 x 13=$1.72

This assumes they paid California household rates*.

But we need to add in road tax. Challengers agree to add in the same dollar amount I use in my Helix but my Helix is running below par. If we assume I would have gotten 100 mpg, I would have paid about $.55 in road tax.


Hershner's cost is: $2.18 +.55 = $2.73

Jeremiah's cost is: $1.72 +.55 = $2.27

* Strange things are happening in California. For some reason, electricity is "free" at the public stations Terry and Jeremiah used. Of course, it is not free at all. You and I are paying for their energy. You and I are paying for and keeping up the roads they ride on.

Electric Vetter Challengers agree to have their fuel valued at local rates, plus they agree to figure in their fair share of road taxes.

If these electric Zero's had carried the groceries properly, they could have won the 2013 Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge

We are streamlining Terry's Zero next

A new day is dawning

Streamlined Ninja 250 of Alan Smith, America's best gas Vetter Challenger
Alan rides his streamlined Ninja everywhere. From Challenge to Challenge... from coast to coast. He gets 100 mpg. He can carry the groceries. He continually refines his bike. Notice the new streamlining behind his shoulders to help clean up some turbulance we found in tuft testing.

Alan said:

"Getting 144.28 MPG was an unexpected surprise. That is my personal best even under ideal conditions. Others also got higher than expected fuel economy that day.

Since last winter I have been making minor aerodynamic up-grades to my streamliner and refining my riding techniques. The engine is still stock. During the competition in Carmel I think the lower top speeds (65 MPH) and gentle winds helped this year’s gas mileage.

Carmel’s challenge showed me that I need to do more development work on some parts of my on my streamliner. Yes I think there is room for improvement.

I’m looking forward to a fun riding summer!"

Canadian Champ Ron Johnston at the Corkscrew
Photographer Don Ask
Ron said: "I had a great time and thank you and your family for the hospitality. My 86.4 mpg, on my Honda VT500, in this years Vetter Challange was a high water mark for this bike and I suspect it was mostly due to the lack of any wind. I did find the dragging of some of the front lower body work disconcerting, so much so that I fell behind the leaders in the slow and twisty first stage of the ride. After we got out into the straight sections of the ride I had no dificulties keeping up. When we refueled at the end of the ride I was very happy with the result, but wondered if I had done something wrong, on the refuel, until I saw that everybody had improved numbers. The VT500 ran hot the whole ride and that will be fixed when I install the remote engine oil filter and oil cooler. I will also trim another 2" off the front lower body work and redo the head rest. I will also adapt a 50% larger fuel tank for more range on long trips."

I rode behind Ron for a while. He indeed was making horrible grinding noises. I like the above image because we can see the wok Ron has done to "belly-pan" his streamliner. Notice how Ron has fabricated his bodywork with simple curved pieces of aluminum.

In the background is our new friend, Tyler Risk on her 3 wheeled Can Am Spyder.

Finally... my tired old Helix Streamliner
It has been a great ride. But I push it too hard. The head gasket leaks. On the Quail ride, it consumed a cup of water. Compression is way below spec. I have a new cylinder and piston ready.

Same with my left hip. I destroyed it at Road Atlanta in 1976. Gotta get it fixed, too.

Must find the time.

If I were you, beginning from scratch,I'd use a Ninja 250 or Zero electric.

Official results of the May 3, 2013 Quail Challenge, Carmel, California

Official results of the November 18, 2012 Las Vegas to Barstow Challenge

Official results of the July 20, 2012 AMA Vintage Days Challenge, Ohio

Official results of the May 4, 2012 Quail Challenge, Carmel, California

Official results of the July 22, 2011 AMA Vintage Days Challenge, Ohio

Official results of the May 13, 2011 Quail Challenge Carmel, California

Challenge Decals and Vetter Pins
Special Challenge Shirts

If you pre-ordered your new Vetter Challenge Shirts, you may pick them up this morning.

Don't worry. We will bring extras if you didn't pre-order.

Challenge shirt page

Posted June 2, 2013

Updated May 13, 2013