RoadRUNNER Digital Rider

Tale of the Tank

Jul 03, 2012 View Comments by

I’m topping off the tank just south of Watertown, NY. It’s 280 miles to my house. All week long the dash of the 2012 BMW R 1200 RT has been reporting 42.1 mpg. I ask myself, “Self, it’s awfully hot out. You break out in a sweat whenever you stop. Can you make it home on one tank?” I do a little mental gymnastics … 6 gallons times 42 mpg … carry the 1 … it’s going to be close. Close enough to give it the old college try.

I hypermile for the first hour or so­—short shifting and keeping speeds below 70 mph. I’m rewarded with 50 mpg. Somewhere between Syracuse and Binghamton I cross the magic threshold—the bike says that I have more miles in the tank than the GPS says I am from home. That’s good because the thermometer is hovering in the mid 90s and heading towards triple digits. I’m getting bored though, so I blast up the hills of northern PA, leaving minivans and Saturns in my wake. MPG and range drop, but never below what I need to get home.

It’s 101º F as I cross over into New Jersey, and I must be delirious from the heat because I start comparing the fuel efficiency of the BMW to cars, particularly those that claim to be fuel-efficient. Take the Smart for example, the Passion Cabriolet is the topless model. It goes for a whisker under $18,000—in the same ballpark as the R 1200 RT. It weighs 1800 pounds and has 70 horsepower, yet it only gets 38 mpg on the highway. Yawn. The RT beats the Smart on horsepower, weight, mpg, and pure fun. BMW FTW.

I make it home with miles to spare, or more precisely, to the ice cream shop, where I promptly drown myself in a giant Italian Ice. For someone who’s never had a bike that’s gotten more than 150 miles out of a tank (and whose chosen bikes usually require a chiropractor at every fill-up), getting upwards of 300 miles on a single tank is eye opening. The Italian Ice must be giving me a brain freeze because I ask myself, “Self, has anyone done an Iron Butt on a single tank of gas? Without stopping?”

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About the author

You know that little boy who stares at you, mouth agape, as you ride by? That was me, thirty-plus years ago. I merged two of my passions, motorcycles and photography, when I became a contributor to RoadRUNNER.