Thursday, June 5, 2008


(If you don't care about your fuel economy, don't bother to read this.)

The price of fuel is on pretty much every civilized person's mind these days... at least those who have to pay for fuel.

The best way to economize on fuel is to not drive a fuel-burning vehicle. But there are other, less committed, practices as well.

My friend Cindy recently emailed me:

For entertainment, I've been working on being a 'hypermiler'. Generally, I accelerate slow, try to never use the brakes or stop completely, and coast whenever possible. It amuses me! I can coast .7 miles on my street right into the drive way. It feels funny and I am too embarrassed to do it much when there is someone behind me, but it's all worth it. I can't wait until fill up time so I can see if I made a noticeable improvement in the mpg!

This may seem odd to those who haven't had similar experience, but I can confidently say I can operate a motor vehicle much more economically on account of my extensive bike riding experience. And Cindy is doing the things I've learned on a bike.

In a nutshell, here's the explanation - I have instant tactile feedback when I'm riding my bike, on whether I'm doing so "economically." Obviously my bike-riding habits don't affect fuel economy... but I've learned that my riding style has a big impact on how hard I'm working, and how quickly I wear out ("run out of gas").

If you do a web-search for hypermiler, there are a bunch of links to an article about Wayne Gerdes. Apparently he is the "Hypermiler." (He can get 84 mpg out of a standard-issue Ford Ranger pickup... that got my attention!)

The article about Mr. Gerdes can be found HERE.

Here are Wayne's tips - you can practice any or all of 'em to get better mileage. (I've also put some "bike notes" on some - how I learned this on the bike.)
1) Inflate your tires to their maximum recommended pressure.
My road-bike tires (120psi) roll significantly easier than my mountain-bike (40psi) tires.
2) Use the lowest weight oil recommended for your vehicle.
Bikes don't use motor oil, but they are affected by whether they are well-lubed or not. And there's more mechanical friction in the winter than in the summer. (It's subtle, but you can feel "subtle" when you're pedaling regularly.)
3) Change your air filter at least once a year.
Um... I s'pose having an old air filter on your car is a little like riding a bike on a yellow-alert air quality day, or at high altitude.
4) Drive as if you hypothetically do not have brakes.
I do this ALL THE TIME! (And probably write about it too often!) I hate putting on the brakes, because I've worked for that speed! I coast and watch the road up ahead, anticipating green lights, etc. (I'm to the point where it's almost painful to ride with people in their cars, who zoom up to the light and then jam on the brakes.)
5) Don’t use cruise control or worry about keeping a constant speed — instead, be concerned with not changing the load on your engine.
This comes TOTALLY naturally to somebody who bicycles regularly.
6) Don't drive above the speed limit.
7) Turn your engine off if you are idling for more than 10 seconds.
8) Practice “potential parking.”
(This seemed complex on a quick read... and not very applicable to bike riding.)
9) Install an automotive computer that calculates and displays your fuel consumption.
(Not needed on a bike, thanks to real-time tactile feedback. The article linked to above has more about this gizmo, which looks pretty awesome.)
10) Sweat it out sans air conditioning.
(Wayne says the A/C can reduce MPG up to 25 percent.)
Duh! I'm air-cooled, and have no A/C.

Previous musings can be found HERE and HERE.

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