The Fuel is the Problem

Recently produced motorcycles are capable of handling fuels containing ethanol up to 10%, but older motorcycles have no chance of surviving an ethanol-fueled diet for more than a few years without extra maintenance. Even higher percentages, as currently proposed by the petroleum industry, will lead to worsening deterioration issues.

In addition, over the next 20 years, we can expect gasoline stations to be more and more difficult to locate as the world moves to electric powered mobility. For these reasons and more, Conversion to electric drive is one of the few long-term solutions for keeping an older motorcycle on the road. Fuel additives can help, but you don’t really want to pack a bottle of ETHANOL FIXER everywhere you go – that’s some poisonous stuff.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every motorcycle will need to be converted to electric drive to keep it on the street…

But the days of easy fueling for old motorcycles are on the way to zero.



There will be a future demand for canned gasoline, and boutique-antique filling stations will be popular for all types of classic vehicles that require petroleum fuels. Collectors and aficionados will be charged special licensing fees and probably find restrictions on where they can drive their old vehicles, especially in cities.
There are many classic motorcycles that just aren’t suited to conversions.

Many will consider it sacrilege to swap out the noise-making gas-hog for electric propulsion, and others that will simply learn to home-brew the fuels they need as filling stations become charging-only locations. But considering a gallon of “engineered fuel” for 4-cycle lawn equipment sells for $72us at the local garden Big Box store, you see obvious indication of what’s written in our future.

So when we consider that major automakers are already planning the end of combustion engine production lines, we must also expect the reversal of the range anxiety felt by early adopters of electric cars. The route will be specifically planned to get the old bikes home before the tank is empty, while the electron-riders in the group can pick up energy everywhere.

And that will be an interesting problem to have.


— Ernest Eich

Know Your Tire Date Codes – It Could Save Your Life

More than any other system on your motorcycle the tires are critical to your safety. And although that statement seems to be self evident, there are many new riders and used-bike buyers that don’t give a first or second thought to the age of the tires. An older tire can still look as if it’s brand new, especially when you are accustomed to four-wheel vehicles where the physical demands on the tires are very different than the forces at play on a motorcycle.

The generally accepted safe age for motorcycle tires is five years – and I saw firsthand how quickly a tire which is exactly 5 years old can fail. I’d picked up an old bike and the rubber looked good; the tread was clean and pliable. However after only 100 miles – cracks started to develop between the tread blocks. Cracks are failures – and can split at any moment.

Old Tires mean Old Valve Stems, too.

When you go looking for a used motorcycle, knowing the age of the tires is a great bargaining tool on price. You’ll have an idea when the bike was last maintained, and how long it has been sitting. Old tires also mean old valve stems, which can fail suddenly, too.

A motorcycle tire will not give you a lot of warning before it fails – and when it does there’s very few options for landing safely. If you lose a back tire you can generally get to the side of the road. But a front-tire blowout will be dangerous at almost any speed, and require more skill than most new riders have to recover safely. The best insurance is a new set of tires – even the cheapest tires you get will be better than old rubber.

What are the date codes? In the US and many other locations, it is a four digit code molded into the sidewall of the tire, at the end of a long series that describes the tire like a VIN number. The last two digits are the year it was manufactured and can tell you a lot about how to price the bike as you buy it. The first two digits are the week of the year, and are more helpful to the manufacturer.



So, if you haven’t verified the age of the tires on that used motorcycle you bought last year – make sure you look as part of your seasonal readiness check. At the very least, you’ll know you have good tires on the road and at worst – you’ll get new tires.