The Search for Fuel Economy

Pages from a Designers' Notebook

Nov 23, 2008

The goal: 100 mpg at 70 mph, into a 20 mph headwind, with four bags of groceries.
Chap. 22: Streamlining is beginning to show results
Back to fixing some mistakes
I could not fit inside

I had to cut away the opening and make it bigger so I could turn my head with a helmet. This meant making a new cockpit ring. At the same time, I made the windshield more vertical since it seemed to be in a position to cut my nose in a sudden stop.

Another problem was plaguing me. I cannot grab the left bar end which means:

I cannot push the bike around in my shop.

This will not do.

When I am baffled, I take a little nap and think about it. Somehow, I can see the issues better in my head than I can in real life. Just before I drifted off I saw this. I made it after my little nap:

The solution: A horseshoe shaped strut gives me room to grab the handlebar.
Now I can grab the handlebar: And push the machine around in the shop.
A more compact tail light unit


It is a Honda CBR954RR Clear Tail Light with Integrated Signals. Take a look at their web site. They have some innovative stuff.

Almost ready to ride again

I need only to add some more yellow plastic skin. I have missed riding this thing. It is so much more comfortable than my stock Helix. (And my stock Helix is really comfortable!)

The streamlining is beginning to show results
California Coast Route 1 is my test track. Bixby Creek Bridge is fifteen minutes away. River Inn, a little farther down, has a great food and is known to motorcyclists everywhere. We made a test ride to River Inn and eat. Somebody has to do it.
Let me share some observations:

Today, Nov 23, 2008, it was in the high 30s at dawn in Carmel. I intentionally rode with no gloves and no jacket. I wanted to see what part of me would get cold. This is an old fairing designer's trick.

Nothing got cold.

There is no wind coming into this thing. No drafts. It was like driving a car without the heater on. This is what I expect as the streamlining gets completed.

75 mph into this headwind
Later in the morning, my son, Zak and I rode south to Big Sur. QuickTime Movie. The wind came from straight ahead, a little to the right - from the ocean. Zak, rode the stock red Helix. From Carmel to the lighthouse - about 15 miles, the road is twisty and turny. The wind was the same. There is no way to know which way it will blow. All you know is that the wind is going to do something. This is why Highway 1 is such a good test track.

Today was very windy with blustery headwinds. It is easy to deal with constant winds. It is difficult, on any motorcycle, to deal with strong winds that switch directions rapidly. In the Midwest, we learn how to anticipate the freeway cuts and how they reverse the direction of the wind. In Big Sur, they are not predictible. I have also learned that when the winds are ferocious (they were not ferocious today) the best thing to do is to slow down. This gives me more time to react.

Are you ready for some good news? The streamlining is beginning to be effective in slipping through the wind!

After we passed the lighthouse, the road goes straight for a couple of miles. This meant a race. The wind was now stronger, from ahead and a little to the right. My streamlined Helix easily motored by Zak, topping out at 75 mph. Zak said he could go only 67. Most of you with Helix scooters confirm that 75 is all there is, on a good day with a little tail wind or downhill. Now my Helix was doing 75 mph into a strong headwind.

The wind held Zak back. The streamlining let me through. My Helix was hardly working. For the first time, I sensed that gearing was now holding me back. A Helix is simply not geared high enough to go any faster. There is no easy way to gear it up, either.

I don't care about going faster. I care about burning less fuel.

Inside this streamlined body, there is no sensation of wind. The only way to know there is wind is to watch flags or put your hand out. It does no good to hunker down to go faster.

General riding seems to be taking less throttle, these days. It seems to just slip thru the wind. We'll see when I fill up again.

I do not think I need any more power. 75 mph into a headwind is fast enough for any road in America. I think we need more complete streamlining and maybe higher gearing.

Vetter / Rifle 470 mpg Streamlined body headed to the Isle of Man
Do you remember way back in April of 2008 (in Chapter 1) when I thought it might be possible to begin with one of the record setting Rifle Streamliner shells? I superimposed one over my Helix. Well, it is a good thing that we did not do this. Even though it has the same overall shape, the size necessary to fit a man sitting upright on a Helix is so much bigger, absolutely no part of the Rifle body would have worked. But it just may be the best shape if you are willing to make yourself small and uncomfortable. Like for a speed or economy event.

This particular streamlined body is heading to the TTXGP to be held on the Isle of Man next June... a perfect appication.

The man behind the TTXGP is Azhar Hussain. It is apparent that Azhar is a man of great conviction, with energy and connections to make this event happen. I am especially pleased that he is allowing better streamlining that the FIM allows. Take a look at how my streamlined body kit form the 1980s might help. You may want to enter Azhar's contest.
Azhar explaining his TTXGP race.

Vetter Streamliner set up for the TTXGP

Master Index to the Last Vetter Fairing Story

This page posted Nov. 25, 2008