Fred Hayes with his diesel streamliner, which finished in second place at the challenge, achieving 144 m.p.g.
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Motorcycle tinkerers questing after high fuel efficiency were forced to consider everyday practicality at the 2011 Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last weekend.
An industrial designer best known for his work with motorcycle fairings, Craig Vetter founded the efficiency event in the early 1980s before taking a break for a few years to raise a family. He decided recently to revive the event, with a new focus on developing two-wheelers that could transport people and their effects comfortably at real-world speeds.
John T. Gurley
This year’s contenders were required to create bikes that could sustain 70 miles per hour running into a headwind, provide a comfortable riding position and carry four bags of groceries onboard as a demonstration of everyday usefulness.
“I don’t want to end up with museum queens,” Mr. Vetter said here on Sunday. “I want to change the world and carry four bags of groceries.” About 20 entrants answered Mr. Vetter’s call.
Today’s motorcycles generally return fairly poor mileage for their size and weight because the market has emphasized high performance above other factors. But with escalating fuel prices and rising awareness of carbon emissions, it does not seem inconceivable that a manufacturer might create new products that incorporate some of the ideas seen in the home-builts on display here.
Charly Perethian, a longtime efficiency chaser from Dahlonega, Ga., took top honors on a machine based on the Honda NX 250 dirt bike, which achieved 153 miles per gallon over the 110-mile highway course. For Mr. Perethian, winning with 153 m.p.g. might have seemed perfunctory at best. He prevailed at the 1983 Vetter Challenge on a 185 cc Yamaha-powered bike that went 372 miles on a gallon of fuel, earning it a spot in the Smithsonian’s collection. That bike, however, was a peapod-shape micromachine that traveled at 50 m.p.h. with its rider tucked tightly inside. It was hardly comfortable, and there was no room for cargo.
A streamlined diesel-powered motorcycle ridden by Fred Hayes of Hesperia, Calif., earned second, at 144 m.p.g. Hayes Diversified Technologies, Mr. Hayes’s company, supplies the United States Marines with Kawasaki KLR 650 scout bikes equipped with special diesel engines.
Mr. Vetter placed sixth, achieving 110 m.p.g. on a bulbous yellow machine derived from a Honda 250 Helix scooter.