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. 30: First evaluation from an outsider

Dec 20, 2009

Alan Smith... Test pilot
Alan Smith is a true enthusiast. Last summer he fabricated some rudimentary strreamlining onto his Suzuki Bandit and rode from California to attend our first "Gathering of Streamliners" at the AMA's Vintage Days. He is sold on streamlining and wants to do more.

We agreed to meet later, back home in California.

One of the results of removing the sides of my Streamliner is that other people can now ride it. It fit only me before. For the first time, I could invite friends to ride and share their opinion.

Alan rode cross-country on this Suzuki. Read his account of riding my streamliner below:

"I got an offer to test ride Craig Vetter’s “Freedom Machine”.  What made me nervous was that except for Craig, I was the only other person to ride it. I never rode a streamliner until this year.  Last July in Ohio I rode two streamliners at the “Gathering of the Streamliners”.  Craig’s streamliner would be my third this year.

After getting a short briefing on the controls I was turned loose.  Actually the controls are straight forward, the same as a standard Honda Helix 250cc scooter.  Craig rode with me on a Suzuki Burgman 400 scooter.

I've ridden motorcycles and scooters from 1930 to present.  It always feels awkward to get on a different bike.  My first impression of Craig’s “Freedom Machine” was that it feels a little claustrophobic with all the aerodynamic panels surrounding me.  Once underway I did not notice being enclosed anymore.  Despite the bulky look of Craig’s streamliner, it felt very light.

When we got out on the open road I wondered why Craig was going so slow.  I looked at the speedometer we were already going over the 50 MPH speed limit.  In a streamliner there is no wind blowing over a rider to give a sensation of speed.  It is dead calm inside Craig’s “Freedom Machine”.  Riding in hilly country one must be careful not to accelerate over the speed limit going downhill.

We rode over a winding mountain pass, the 250cc “Freedom Machine” felt agile and showed no hesitation climbing the steep mountain road. We also rode a short stretch of highway; the “Freedom Machine” did not seem to notice the higher speeds.  I would guess that the throttle was about half open at 65 MPH climbing a steep grade.

While on the highway I pulled up next to Craig.  I’m not sure who had the biggest smile! We were having a lot of fun.

Before returning back to Craig’s home we pulled off to the side of the road and switched rides.  Riding the Burgman I was surprised how much wind blasted around me.  I had gotten used to the calmness of the “Freedom Machine”.  It took me more time to get used to the wind on the un-streamlined Burgman 400 than riding Craig’s “Freedom Machine”.

Only once during the 35-40 mile test ride did I think a cross wind hit us but I’m not sure.  The only drawback that I can think of is in a parking lot.  The long tail requires a lot more space to park.  Also backing up a streamliner you have to remember the tail of the streamliner sticks out pretty far.

I’ve ridden coast to coast on motorcycles and know how tiring it can be.  On a long trip I would say that I would arrive at my destination more rested in a streamliner than on a standard motorcycle.

I’ve always liked the smaller bikes because you can use more of it’s horse power potential.  The throttle on my 1200cc Suzuki Bandit that I rode to Craig’s home can not be opened more than a quarter throttle without breaking the speed limit. 

I like the old saying, “It is better to do more with less than less with more”.

Thank you Alan

And now the "Streamliner's dilemma"
Here is Alan on his new Honda CRF 230. He is sitting up in normal riding fashion which is essential to happy, cross country cruising.

Alan plans to streamline his bike and I offered to help.

I asked Alan to lay a ruler alongside him so I could - through the magic of PhotoShop - lay a scaled Vetter Streamliner Fairing over him.

Picture 1: Alan's new CRF 230
Because the CRF is not scooter, the seat is very high. Look how Alan towers out of the bodywork.

He is hardly streamlined sticking up like this. And, he is going to get cold and wet.

What are the options?

Picture 2: With my existing Helix streamlining
Option 1: Make the bodywork taller

(PhotoShop makes it easy.)

But look at the size of this thing! From my own personal experience, the sidewinds are going to have their way.

I would not do this.

Picture 3: Vetter streamlining "stretched taller"
Option 2: Lower Alan

We can leave the Vetter Streamlining alone and lower the pilot.

Alan is now in the familiar position of my Helix.

Low... comfortable. Very cool, indeed.

(Pretend he does not have 2 right legs)

Picture 4: Alan sitting 12" lower
Thus the "Dilemma of Streamlining"

How do we do this?

See how I did it for my 1981 Streamliner. Major surgery. Foot controls must be moved forward. See Allert Jacob's modifications.

A scooter configuration makes it so much easier.

How do we easily lower the seat this much?
If you study pictures #4 and 5 carefully, it is obvious that the rear wheel is going to smack the pilot if the seat is lowered this much. The swing arm probably will need to be extended. Extra wheelbase is good because we are making a machine for the road.
Below is Alan's actual mileage:

Jan 4, 2010: Hi Craig,

You asked about my fuel economy on my stock Honda CRF230L purchased December 11, 2009 with approximately 2780 miles on odometer.

My daily test loop is 46-miles (to work and back), some freeway, frontage roads, some stop lights. Basically a good mix of road conditions. To eliminate any anomalies I prefer to test my motorcycles over 3 tanks of gas. Right now my gas mileage is not consistent yet. At least the gas mileage is much better than my daughter’s stock Ninja 250 (70-74 MPG) that she used to have. That Ninja was gear slightly taller than stock.

2811 miles- 88 MPG, stock air filter missing, needs replacing. Cruising speeds 60 MPH on freeway, 45 MPH on frontage roads plus some stop lights.

2859 miles- 79.16 MPG (head winds?)

Valves adjusted, spark plug re-gaped, etc. Sprockets changed from 13/39 to 14/39, stock air filter installed, inflated tires to 30 lbs, etc.
3038 miles- 91.3 MPG

Later this week I plan to order a 15-tooth counter shaft sprocket. Even without a streamlined fairing it still feels that it is geared to low. To much horse power?

Alan's report Dated Jan 13, 2010

Lousy weather has kept me from riding my CRF230L as much as I would like.

My 15 tooth counter shaft sprocket is on back order. I’ve managed to ride another tank of gas.

3212 miles- 93.96 MPG fog and heavy traffic kept speeds down to 50-55 MPH on some sections of the freeway. Otherwise my test loop is the same.

Alan Smith

Alan is going forward with streamlining this CRF so I have generated a special Alan Smith page to follow his progress

The best solution would be to make up a new scooter frame designed to accept the engines we want: CRF 230 the CBR125 or the Ninja 250.

This is expensive... maybe $10-15,000 in framebuilder tooling. Maybe $2-3,000 for each frame. Sandy Kosman, north of San Francisco is the man. He made our Mystery Ship frames, all the Defiant Scooter frames and the beautiful Mission Motors electric frame.

If 10 people wanted frames, we amortise the cost and could make this happen real fast.

Are there 10 people in the world who want to do this and have the funds to blow on it?

My Torpedo Scooter of 2003

If Kosman can turn a Sportster into a scooter, he can certainly make the frame we want for a 13-15 hp scooter

Master Index to the Last Vetter Fairing Story

Page posted Dec 20, 09

Updated Feb 5, 2010