Fuel-efficient riding

Road transport makes up around 20% of all emissions making it one of the biggest sources of air pollution, particularly in densely populated areas.

Air pollution, including the carbon dioxide and nitric oxides released when burning fuel in an engine, can

  • contribute to health problems (for example, respiratory problems, heart or vascular disease)
  • damage vegetation and disrupt wildlife
  • weaken buildings
  • deplete natural resources.

Vehicles also contribute to noise pollution. To help keep noice pollution down, try not to rev your engine. You must not use your horn between 11:30pm and 7am unless another vehicle poses a danger to you.

Different types of fuel have a different impact on the environment.
Fuel type Advantages Disadvantages
Petrol: 4-stroke Modern engines are becoming more efficient.

Catalytic converters are fitted to the exhausts of all new petrol engines to remove up to 75% of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons.
Catalytic converters do not reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted.

If you ride at over 3,000 rpm, the catalytic converter cannot clean up emissions completely.
Petrol: 2-stroke Small, light and simple engine with high power output for the engine capacity. Higher emissions, particularly unburnt hydrocarbons.

The way you ride affects the impact your motorbike has on the environment. Fuel-efficient riding is all about keeping this impact to a minimum.

Riding in a fuel-efficient way will

  • make your journeys more comfortable
  • reduce your fuel bills
  • reduce emissions that are harmful to the environment.

It’s not difficult to do either: the most important things are to

  • ride smoothly: sharp acceleration, heavy braking and stop–go riding will use more fuel
  • load your motorbike carefully if you’re carrying extra luggage to avoid creating too much air resistance
  • maintain your motorbike to keep it working efficiently
  • switch off your engine if you’re stationary for more than a couple of minutes
  • plan your route so you can avoid roadworks and congestion.

Although it’s good to save fuel and ride in a fuel-efficient way, riding safely must always take priority. There will be times when you’ll need to change the way you ride to make sure you and other road users are kept safe instead of riding as efficiently as you might.

Braking and accelerating

Scanning what is happening on the road ahead of you will help you to be aware of potential hazards so you can take action in good time: this will help you avoid having to brake sharply. Always try to brake and accelerate smoothly because this will use much less fuel than sudden braking or accelerating.

Using the gears correctly will also help reduce the amount of fuel you use: see using the gears to find out about ‘block’ gear changing, which can reduce the amount of time when you’re accelerating and so reduce fuel consumption. To use the engine as efficiently as possible, try to use the highest gear possible without making the engine struggle.

Engine braking will help to reduce fuel use too. This is when you use the resistance of the engine to help slow the motorbike. Anticipating when you’ll need to slow down and choosing the correct gear will allow you to use engine braking rather than relying completely on the brakes.

Keeping your motorbike working efficiently

Your motorbike will use more fuel when it’s carrying an extra load so avoid carrying more weight than is necessary.

It’s important to look after your motorbike to keep it working efficiently. A badly tuned engine will use more fuel and emit more exhaust fumes than a well-tuned engine.

Check the oil, fluid levels and tyres regularly and fix any problems as soon as you find them. See basic maintenance checks for more information.

Technologies such as catalytic converters, new fuels and engine improvements are helping to reduce the amount of pollution created by vehicles. Find out more about the environmental effects of different fuels in the Planning for a bike journey section.

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