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Riding greener

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Simply by buying a motorcycle, you've done a lot to minimize your impact on the world. Bikes use less fuel and oil than cars, create smaller amounts of emissions, take up less space on the road and in parking lots, require much less raw material and energy input to build, and are almost endlessly repairable and reusable - motorcycles built 40 and 50 years ago are still in common use, with spares readily available for most. It'd be hard to claim the same for cars.

The Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council (MMIC) is a trade association with members from almost all Canadian motorcycle and moped manufacturers and importers. Jo-Anne Farquhar, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, says, "Even with bikes as good as they are, all of our member companies are always looking at reducing emissions, improving fuel economy, and so forth. It's an ongoing process."

Fuel economy and emissions

Even a monster 1,000 cc serious sport bike like a Honda CBR1000 will get something like 14 km/L, which is as good as any small econo-box car. A big sport-touring type machine, say a Suzuki Bandit 1250SEA, is going to give you nearly 20 km/L most of the time. A smaller urban bike in the 250-500 cc range is going to be in the 25 km/L range, while a small scooter will be chasing 40 km/L - all very impressive numbers in terms of saving fuel on your daily commute or weekend rides.

And, of course, the less fuel used, the fewer exhaust emissions created by the engine. It's a double-win situation.

So - most motorcyclists are already helping by using smaller and fuel-efficient vehicles. But given that, can we do more?

Easy maintenance

Whatever machine you ride, it's easy to further minimize your impact on the environment by implementing a few simple maintenance items. None of them are difficult, and all of them help. Never forget that big gains can be made over the long term by paying attention to a number of small items.

Reduce oil use

For example, if you're looking at buying a new motorcycle, consider one that uses a driveshaft or a belt for its final drive instead of a chain. For a start, a driveshaft will probably last as long as the motorcycle, and neither a driveshaft nor a belt requires regular lubrication. Modern chains are superb as even on a big bike they'll last 30,000 km or more, but that life requires regular lubrication - that's oil being released onto the roads.

Check the tension

If you do have a chain (or a belt), pay attention to the tension. A badly adjusted chain or belt will play havoc with your fuel economy and decrease the mechanical life of the chain or belt and the sprockets. It's no big deal to check once a month or so; look for about 30 mm (1.25 inches) of free play in the middle of a chain. It'll be less for a belt; check your manual for the appropriate slack.

Tires are crucial players

Tires are critical items on motorcycles, even more so than on cars. And, of course, motorcycle tires are much smaller than car tires, so there's a big environmental plus right there.

Be wary of "performance" tires. There's not a rider in a thousand who can tell the difference between "sport-touring" tires and high-performance ones. Save your money and buy the touring or mid-range tires to maximize tire life and street performance.

Engine-tuning tricks

Keeping your bike's engine properly tuned is easy and not expensive if you keep on top of it. Fresh oil at the recommended intervals, a clean air filter, and clean spark plugs are all easily serviceable items at home and will keep your fuel mileage as good as it can get.

Keep it quiet!

The MMIC's Ms. Farquhar says, "Keeping sound levels down is another concern of our members. They all put a great deal of research into reducing engine and exhaust noise. Some accessory mufflers are loud, of course, and here at MMIC we've worked for several years with our U.S. counterpart to encourage municipalities and police forces to use a common noise measuring standard - SAE J2825 - to ensure that there's an easy and consistent way to evaluate whether or not a bike is too loud." SAE J2825 is a recently developed standard, issued by the Society of Automotive Engineers for measuring noise emissions.

Of course, more and more electric bikes will be available in the future - and even hydrogen-powered prototypes have been built - putting a whole new spin on staying green on two wheels.

Republished from In The Saddle. To subscribe to this free newsletter, simply request a motorcycle insurance quote!

To learn more about TD Insurance products, visit our Motorcycle insurance section.

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