The Route

Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012: We left Las Vegas at 8:30 AM and arrived at Barstow at 3 PM

224.5 official miles. It took a little longer than we expected. We were having fun.

The Results
Take a close look at the above. The winner, Fred Hayes spent $7.51 to travel the 225 miles.

Nancy spent $19.90 to make the same trip... at the same speed. And she couldn't carry the groceries.

Look at the horsepower: The more power, the more fuel is burned in the same conditions

Except for... the Honda Insight car is rated at 73 horsepower. My Honda Helix is rated at 16.

We consumed about the same amount of fuel. Can somebody explain this?

Lets discuss the Challenge:

To begin with, to win, you must be able to carry four bags of groceries. Carol Vetter, my wife, is an expert in groceries. It is her job to check that each Challenger can carry her four bags of groceries to her satisfaction:

The Bag Check

Treven mounted a hoop with holes for bungee cords on his Diesel Challenger. He had never carried the grocies before. Four bags went in to Carol's satisfaction Croft Long had enormous aluminum bags on his Kawasaki 650 Mother Ship. Obviously, Carol was pleased with how her groceries were handled.

The other Challenge machines were certified by Carol at previous events. I must confess that it always makes me chuckle to see the grocery check. But this is an important quality in helping to develop bikes that we really want to use.

The Ride

Paul Golde led us on his brand new Kawasaki 300 Ninja.

Paul's job was to lead us at the posted speeds, riding as if it was a fun, no hurry, Sunday morning ride. Which it was.

The web site hosted a fuel economy event in which their Ninja 300 averaged around 87 mpg. That looks very promising indeed and I was anxious to see how this new bike would do in Vetter Conditions.

Our results were not much like those of At the end of the day, Paul consumed fuel at the rate of 53 mpg. 53 mpg is really good but it is not close to 87 mpg. This is why we have these Challenges.

Paul Golde and his new Kawasaki Ninja 300

The other bike I wanted to see run was the new Honda NC700. In spite of repeated requests, nobody stepped forward to challenge us.

Nobody, that is, until I mentioned it to Malcolm Smith over breakfast Saturday morning at the Las Vegas Hall of Fame Inductions. Malcolm and Mert Lawill were there to receive special recognition for their extraordinary motorcycle accomplishments.

"I have a VC-700 in my shop right now" he said "I could make a call and have it here this afternoon. I'd love to ride with you"

But it wasn't to be. Malcolm had an emergency come up and had to cancel.

Malcolm Smith wanted to challenge us with his NC700

The conditions of the Las Vegas to Barstow Challenge
Sunny... hardly a cloud in the sky. Temp: Very pleasant. Cool leaving Las Vegas, warming up in the desert to high 70s. First 60 miles on the I-15 were 70 mph, into a 20-25 mph est. headwind slowing down to 55-60 mph two lane hilly riding to Rt 66. 65 mph to I 40 when we went 70 mph into a stiff, 30 mph est. headwind. We stopped 6 times along the way in the 225 mile ride.

We loved the whoop-dee-doos (left.)

We have three classes for awards in the Vetter Challenge:
Traditional Fuels: Gas station liquids

Electric: Plug-in-the-wall energy

Alternative Fuel: Everything else

The Traditional Fuel Class Finishers:
6th Place: Ron Johnston's streamlined Honda 500cc Shadow 73 mpg 5.5 cents per mile
Ron comes to the Vetter Challenges from Canada. Last summer, he was plagued with cooling problems en-route to the 2012 Mid-Ohio Challenge. Ron has made great progress with his innovative, ultra-simple riveted aluminum bodywork. Ron reports:

"I will begin work on the next two projects and hope to have the
Yamaha WR250 ready for next years Vegas to Barstow Vetter Challenge. The CBR600 may be ready for a Bonneville run in 2013 or 2014.

Ron continues: I must confess that I did not notice the headwinds on the Vegas to Barstow Vetter Challenge, on the VT500. The fairing protects the rider very well. I did notice a tail wind on the 270 km [168 mile] trip back to Vegas, on I-15 though, from flags etc. beside the road, and will send you the fuel consumption numbers when the roads are not covered in snow and I can unload the bike and take it to the gas station.
Some other observations about my VT500 on the Vegas to Barstow run are that once up to speed I never had to shift out of sixth gear for anything; hills, head winds, or passing. I did not help my fuel economy by some of the ways I was riding, in that I would just open the thottle wide open to pass and go much faster than was necessary. Just like Alan, I find my bike much more fun to ride on long trips even if it will never win a Vetter Challenge.

I would also like to thank all those involved in putting on these events. The Vetter Challenge has become like a family reunion of sorts." Ron

5th Place: My Streamlined Honda Helix: 80 mpg 5.1 cents per mile

My Helix holds a bit over 2 gallons of fuel. To go the 225 miles, I had to stop in the desert to add a gallon of very expensive gas. You know what old timers say:

"Don't pass any gas in the desert"

The expensive gas is why the car beat me. We measure the winner by the dollar amount of fuel.

But how is it that a Honda car beat me - along with 9 other motorcycles?

My bike is down on power. The Honda Helix was never intended to be run this hard. I blew a head gasket last summer showing Ron Johnston how it would go 80 mph, into a 35 mph headwind. Altho I replaced the gasket, the engine still consumes water and seems to lack power. On the last stretch of Highway 15, before we turned left onto the side road to Kelso, I was down to 57 mph going up the long grade. I am reluctantly concluding that 16 hp might not be enough. Look at those 250 Ninjas. With their 28 hp, they run back and forth from California to Ohio with no problems. Alan Smith can always go faster than me and consume less fuel.

Alan comments: "I think the problem with your streamlined Helix is that you are now running with more powerful motorcycles. Your 16 horse power just can't keep up on the steep hills, with head winds, and at the higher altitudes. I think your 16 horse power is adequate at sea level but not at higher elevation. The rule of thumb is that you loose 3% horse power per 1,000 feet above sea level. At 4,000 feet you have lost 12% of your horse power. At 4,000 feet that would leave you with approximately 14.2 horse power. Your engine has no reserve power."

Hmmmm... Of course, Alan is right. I forgot about the altitude in Nevada.

Do you want this Streamliner Kit?

4th Place: Ron Elder's Honda Insight car: 78 mpg 5.1 cents per mile
Ron consumed 16 cents less fuel than me. Fantastic! How did he do it? Ron's words:

"I typically get around 60mpg, however I typically drive faster with 2 people in the car ( more weight ) and the ac on high ( wife with hot flashes ) the good mileage is due to optimization of all factors by Honda ( very expensive to do. The rumor is Honda spent about 50,000 each to build the insight, not a moneymaker for them) low weight, about 1600 lb without the hybrid

battery due to a full aluminum structure, good aerodynamics, not perfect but much less total drag than a motorcycle, engine optimization, the engine runs about 2800 rpm at 75 mph, also at cruise the manual insight goes into an extreme lean burn condition, Honda put considerable work into making this possible even to the point of having to have specific indexed spark plugs for each cylinder.

I have removed the hybrid battery from the car because it was no longer accepting a charge. The results from the removal was a 70 lb weight loss, a loss of regenerative braking, a loss of the engine stop feature, and a loss of torque from the electric motor. The car is harder to use in stop and go traffic now (must spin the engine faster to accelerate) but gets better mileage on the highway due to less weight. My plan is to remove all hybrid equipment from the car and add a conventional alternator ( currently all electrical power is produced by the IMA motor generator and must be stepped down from 144 V to 12 V ) this will further reduce weight and complexity (simple is good). I also hope to do a valve job and install new piston rings soon, at 205,000 mi. the little engine is feeling a bit tired (compression down to around 60 psi per cylinder)."

3rd Place: Alan Smith's 250 Ninja: 98 mpg 4.1 cents per mile
Alan says: "I liked the longer route because it was more like we really ride, well like I ride anyway. The longer route gives a more accurate average on the fuel consumption, less need to worry about who topped off their gas tanks incorrectly. The higher speeds shows that streamlining makes a difference on fuel consumption.
I managed to make the whole ride home from Barstow, 405-miles, on one tank of gas or 4.1 gallons of gas. Vic and I cruised between 70-80 MPH on the interstate freeways. For me, with Craig's generous help, I have built a great cross country motorcycle. Now if I can only beat those diesel motorcycles.

I want to thank Craig and Carol for organizing this great event. Also thank Paul for taking the time to lead us on some great yet bumpy (in some places) roads."

Do you want this Streamliner Kit?

2nd Place: Treven Baker 970cc home-made Diesel 104 mpg 4.0 cents per mile
Treven is a man of few words: "I had a great time on the ride! What a beautiful trip through the desert. I 40 was a little scary for me. There was lots of traffic and trucks."

The specs of Treven's bike

Treven represents the talent and drive that made America great. It is amazing what he has accomplished. Reigning Challenge winner Fred Hayes says:


What if he was streamlined?

1st Place and Overall Winner:

Fred Hayes riding the Hayes Diesel: 126 mpg 3.3 cents per mile

The fabulous Hayes MD670 SDR Diesel motorcycle
Fred says: "I had to make some last minute changes on both bikes. I actually used the turbocharged engine (less the turbo) from my Bonneville bike in the streamliner. I just changed the injection pump and cam timing. I used much taller gearing in the streamliner and it worked well at high speeds, but I couldn’t use 5th gear at less than 60 mph. That may have hurt my mileage a bit on the run from I15 to I40.

With the taller gearing, I had plenty of reserve power at any speed. I was able to move in and out of traffic at speeds approaching 80 mph on the run up I 40 from Ludlow to Barstow, even with the high head winds and lots of truck and auto traffic.

Fred Hayes: Overall Winner

See story below about this famous trophy*

I ran straight pump diesel from the Chevron Station across from the Red Rock in the Streamliner. I use AMSOIL Series 3000 5w-30 Diesel Rated engine oil in both bikes. The lighter, synthetic oil helps with fuel mileage and the diesel rated oil is compatible with our wet clutches.

What might be of interest to some is that I used a Lithium-Ion battery in the Streamliner. It provided good power to start the diesel and it weighed 11 pounds less than our standard battery. It is quite expensive relative to the standard battery, but much less expensive than trying to reduce the weight of the bike by 11 pounds."

Fred should have mentioned that he went 112 mph at Bonneville on this machine.

Email Fred

The winner of the Alternate Fuel Class

Joshua Chen riding the MD695 F2 Hayes Diesel: 89 mpg 4.5 cents per mile

Fred says: "Joshua’s bike used the same engine I used in the Streamliner at Bonneville. I also geared up his bike, but only 2 teeth less on the rear sprocket. He seems to like the new gearing and said the bike was much more comfortable than the Street Fighter he rode last year. His bike is very similar in configuration to the KLR650.

For Joshua’s bike, we mixed one gallon of Biotane Biodiesel (refined waste vegetable oil) with 4 gallons of pump diesel from the Chevron Station. That is the same mix I used to set the new FIM and AMA Land Speed Records. It provides slightly more power, at a very small penalty in fuel mileage.

Fred said that this was probably old McDonalds french fry oil"

Nobody entered the Challenge with plug-in-power

The original Vetter Perpetual* Trophy

dates back to the 1980s Vetter Contests.

It was last awarded to Matsu Matsuzawa in 1985 for his record-setting 470 mpg at the Laguna Seca Vetter Fuel Economy Run

This is the famous trophy that was awarded to the winners since 1981. It has been on display at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum. They have graciously released it for today's Challenges.

The Best Overall Winner will take this Perpetual home until the next Challenge when it will be awarded to the next Overall Winner

Awarded to the best since 1981
In 2012, the best is Fred Hayes
*Eventually, this historic trophy will be returned to the Hall of Fame Museum. The names of all the winners will be engraved on it. Will yours be there?
Marble plaques are awarded by classes:

Traditional Fuel


Alternative Energy

Thanks to our videographers...
Edwin Colon and Alpheus Desarden flew in from Miami to document the new pioneers of motorcycling at the Vetter Challenge. They were everywhere... filming everything. Personally, I cannot imagine how they will make sense out of the hours of recording they went home with. It takes a special talent, I guess.

Whatever they produce, you will see it here.

Thank you Edwin and Alphy

Official results of the July, 2012 AMA Vintage Days Challenge, Ohio

Official results of the May 4, 2012 Quail Challenge, Carmel, California

Official results of the July 22, 2011 AMA Vintage Days Challenge, Ohio

Official results of the May 13, 2011 Quail Challenge Carmel, California

Challenge Decals and Vetter Pins
Official Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge Shirts

Challenge shirt

Posted Nov 3, 2012

Updated July 30, 2013