The 2012 Vetter Challenge at the Quail Gathering is history
Your winner (again) Fred Hayes on his Diesel: 109.6 mpg!

The Quail Gathering showcases the finest motorcycles from the past, present and future.

We represent the future.

For reference: The routes for 2011 and 2012 were pretty much the same. The 2011 went a few miles farther on back roads to visit a special young people's school for our mid ride break. This year it was Talbott Winery. 2012 speeds: Up over the mountain out Carmel Valley road the speed was around 50. It was wet and scarey. Down the mountain... about the same but dry. Heading home into the wind... sunny and dry...65-75. Laguna Seca track? WFO.

For the Vetter Challengers, the event began the night before with a Bar-B-Q and Grocery Bag Testing
How many motorcycles do you know of that can carry 4 bags of groceries?
The next day we woke up to rain
At the Quail, we were treated to a covey of Gurney Alligators!
Rumor was that Dan was sending one up... but four? Every version from 1976 was here, including his new V-twin powered bike. Movie actor and Hall of Fame Announcer Perry King, second from left - rode his personal blue and white Alligator while road racer, Thad Wolff piloted the new V-Twin Alligator. Canadian Vetter Challenger, Ron Johnston took pictures.

Carol liked Perry's Alligator. Meanwhile, the rain let up and Gordon McCall and Sgt. Ray Faulk, our CHP ride leader explained the rules of the ride. Rob Talbott, red shirt on the right, owner of Talbott Wineries, hosted our pit stop along the way. Rob rode with us, the "Fast" group, as opposed to the "Slow" group, which was made up of vintage bikes. The "Slow" group had left a half hour earlier.

I asked that the Vetter Challengers be allowed to ride immediately behind Sgt. Faulk so we would stay bunched up. I wanted to eliminate any "tricky driving" like speeding up and slowing down, thought to result in consuming less fuel overall. The ride out was over a twisty-turny mountain pass, still raining slightly, wet and slippery. We heard later that some of the other riders were worried that we would slow them down. They did not understand that we really ride on the Vetter Challenge like we really ride.

Where was everybody? It turns out that the Vetter Challengers were way out front, right behind Sgt. Faulk and his big Concours 14. The rest of the bikes were several minutes behind us at our first break at the top of the pass.

So much for streamlining and low horsepower, huh?

It was all downhill after that. When we got to the bottom, we turned north into the 35-40 mph headwind. Even with the powerful headwind, I hit 77 mph a couple of times on my streamlined Helix. The Vetter Challenge bikes led the pack all the way back to the track.

The end of the ride was the promised lap around Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.

We were told to not race. But that was asking too much. After all, Fred Hayes and I are old racers. We were able to slip in two laps, getting faster on each lap.

Later Fred was heard to say:

"Why did I do that? This was a Fuel Economy ride. I really messed up"

The average US gas price on May 4 was $3.79.

Welcome to California and its high living costs.

For all the complaining about fuel prices today, the prices were about the same as in the 2011 Quail Ride.

Here are the final results again. Compare this year's numbers with last year's numbers. Because the cost of fuel varies and the length of the ride varies, measuring the winner in dollars and cents of fuel used, is not very useful, is it?

Lets see if we can make some sense of this

First Place, 2012 Quail Vetter Challenge - $4.80 in fuel
Fred Hayes and his Diesel:
Fred got worse mileage this year. Why?

Last year he did not ride with his saddlebags.

This year he rode with his saddlebags.

The headwinds were stronger this year, too.

Could streamlining have made the difference? Fred comments:

2011 Fred Hayes Diesel: 128.4 mpg
"The John Cronshaw fairing from AirTech works very well by itself and the RTWF saddlebags work quite well on the Adventure Touring bike Joshua rode. But mixing the John Cronshaw fairing with the RTWF saddlebags just didn't work aerodynamically as well as I had hoped. During the run, it wasn't apparent because the bike ran so well. Overall performance was up from last year, so it was very easy to keep the faster pace, maybe a little too easy. The increased performance may have contributed to my over exuberance at Laguna Seca. That clearly cost me some mileage.
2012 Fred Hayes Diesel: 109.6 mpg
I've been thinking and over the past 8 years, I've gained about 35% in power because of our efforts at Bonneville, but over the past two years, I've been able to increase fuel mileage over 35% because of the Vetter Fuel Mileage Challenges.


Second Place, 2012 Quail Vetter Challenge - $4.87 in fuel
Alan Smith, Ninja 250
The difference between first and second place was 7¢

Look at these two bikes. They are the same Ninja!

No engine changes.

No gearing changes.

Stronger winds.

The only difference is the real streamlining.

Alan comments:

"I agree that this year's Quail competition was very close.  I think my gas mileage would have been better if I slowed down a little but I kept up with the pace bike at speeds up to 85 MPH.   Personally I think the pace on Carmel Valley Road was a little to fast.

2011 Alan Smith Ninja 250: 93.4 mpg
2012 Alan Smith Ninja 250: 103.4 mpg

Fred- When time allows I think you need to think about using something like Craig Vetter's design for better performance and comfort."

Alan Smith

Third Place, 2012 Quail Vetter Challenge - $5.83 in fuel
Joshua Chen riding the Hayes Diesel
No change in the bike. No change in the mileage.

How do we explain the stronger winds? Fred says:

"I think Joshua actually got better mileage than last year if you factor in the fast pace and headwinds. I lowered his bike by an inch and did some minor changes to the fuel delivery curve. He seemed to like the riding position and performance, but I'll let him provide his impressions."
2011 Chen Hayes Diesel: 90.82 mpg
2012 Chen Hayes Diesel: 90.32 mpg

Fourth Place, 2012 Quail Vetter Challenge - $6.82 in fuel
Craig Vetter's Honda Helix 250
No engine changes.

No gearing changes.

Stronger winds.

Better streamlining

But the mileage was terrible.

What happened?

"Simple. The engine was not running right.. It was caughing... hunting... backfiring when coasting. (turns out it had a blown head gasket)

The new aluminum streamlining is heavier. Now I need help in lifting the tail off. It is also 3" longer than before. In stiff side winds, it seems to be less affected. Maybe it is the extra mass. Maybe it is slippier to side winds. Really, we are in pioneering territory"

2011 Vetter streamlined Helix: 88.6 mpg
2012 Vetter streamlined Helix: 76.6 mpg
Newcomers to the Vetter Challenge:
Vic Valdes was headed to a 3rd place victory until his 250 Ninja failed to fire at the rest stop. It finally started but I had to pass him by so the bikes behind us could leave.

89.3 mpg 5¢ per mile $5.64 fuel cost

Vic... comments below Ron:

5th place Ron Johnston and his 500cc Suzuki 69.82 mpg 6.2¢ per mile $7.22 fuel cost.

Ron rode all the way from Alberta, Canada to participate. He arrived early and was very helpful to us all. Thank you, Ron.

Ron comments:

Hi Craig
I just want to say thanks to you and all of your family for putting on this event.

What I have learned from participating in the Vetter Challenge is that although my bike is quit an improvement over the stock GS500 it still has a long way to go, before it gets to, as good as it can get. I suspect that although a 500 cc bike is to big to win the Vetter Challenge I believe that 100 mpg is possible. My plans for next year are; finish the full streamlining on the Honda VT500 and the Honda CBR600 with the objective of getting into the 90 mpg zone on a 500 cc or 600 cc bike. Ron

Vic says: Hi Craig, Sorry about the delay in providing my comments, I was out of state again on my new job and didn't have much time to check on my personal emails. Chapter 60 looks great!

First off, thank you for your vision, leadership and hard work in organizing the Vetter Challenges. They are best test of real world motorcycle fuel efficiency bar none! I had a lot of fun as usual and was pleased to have a better machine to compete with this year. I think the reason that better fuel efficiency was not achieved for 2012 was due to the cool ( and wet ) weather, the winds and the faster pace. Also, I think you are under-reporting the total distance that the Challengers covered ( 110 mile course+ 2 laps of Laguna Seca+ distance to start ), I think we went at least 116 miles. I was disappointed my bike didn't start up immediately after the first rest stop and that I got separated from our group resulting in my disqualification for an official placement. However, I was pleased with using only 1.25 gallons during the Challenge and that barring my starting problem would have finished third. Not bad for about an $850 total investment. Hopefully I'll get enough time to do some improvements to my 250 Ninja streamliner before we compete again in Ohio.
best wishes, Vic

This is enough to digest for now. I am sure this page is loaded with typos and mistakes. Don't hesitate to point them out. I have more stories for another page.

We thank the Quail Motorcycle Gathering folks for all they do to allow these pioneers of fuel economy to make motorcycle history.

What the Quail Gathering looked like Saturday, May 5, 2012

I wrote a nice review of the 2011 Vetter Challenge for the Quail Show Magazine.

Download the PDF

Master Index to the Last Vetter Fairing Story

Page posted May 9, 2012

Upgraded Nov 29, 2012