Although fuel prices are thankfully starting to return to normal after the huge hike brought on by Covid-19 and the Ukraine war, fuel economy remains an important factor when choosing a new bike. But how fuel-efficient are the latest and most popular bikes? Should it affect which bike you buy? And is there anything you can do to maximise the mpg of your machine?
To make things easier for you we’ve researched all the leading bikes in the 10 most popular biking categories using the real, owner fuel consumption figures aggregated on the site Fuelly.com. Here’s our pick of the bunch, in ascending engine capacity plus our tips for how to get the most mpg out of your bike!
Although it can’t quite match the economy of its CBF125 predecessor or live up to Honda’s claims of 150mpg, Honda’s latest CB, as introduced in 2021 with an even more efficient engine, is still the class-leader in terms of fuel efficiency. What’s more, being simple and easy to ride and costing just over £3000, it makes a great commuter. Watch out on dual carriageways, though, as top speed is only around 65mph. On top of that, if you find the CB125F’s style and performance a little too pedestrian, Honda also offers the stylish CB125R roadster, with 15bhp and which also returns an impressive 106.6mpg.
Although Honda’s long-lived PCX125 remains a best-seller both in the UK and Europe it’s now mostly matched by Yamaha’s NMAX 125, which is the Honda’s equal in terms of performance, style and spec and the latest version, introduced in 2021 with a an updated engine featuring VVT, actually now beats the Honda in average mpgs, recording an ultra-impressive 125.3mpg according to Fuelly.com compared to the latest PCX125’s 109.8mpg. Like the Honda it’s also got start-stop technology, Bluetooth compatibil8ty and more.
The X is the most popular, adventure-styled version of Honda’s A2 licence-targetted CB500 parallel twin family (which also includes the CMX500 Rebel custom, CB500F roadster and CBR500R sportster), which all just pip KTM’s Duke 390 single, which returns an average of 65mpg. While the F, R and X all have the same engine and all return around the same 79-80mpg, we’re picking out the taller, roomier, faired X as it’s the most versatile – but all are great, frugal buys with all most recently updated to meet Euro5 in 2021.
Another case of a recent Yamaha scooter offering now usurping its Honda rival. Honda’s Forza 300 has traditionally been a best seller in this category for its mix of value, classy touches, durability, value and economy and was most recently updated into 350cc form in 2021. Its closest rival, however, is the equally impressive Yamaha XMAX 300 as first introduced in 2017, has a perky yet impressively frugal 28bhp engine and, according to Fuelly.com, is more economical than the Honda in returning 88.1mpg on average compared to the Honda’s 65. Also worth considering is the stylish and beautifully built Vespa GTS300 which returns around 63mpg.
Times are-a-changing in the popular middleweight roadster category. Dominated by Yamaha’s punchy, lively and great value MT-07 since 2014 largely due to its all-new, 74bhp engine which was is impressively frugal as well, Austrian firm KTM’s 790 Duke actually beats it – just – for frugality. But we also suspect that won’t be the case for long. Honda’s just launched (and brilliant) CB750 Hornet has already bettered the Yamaha in our tests both for performance, value and economy but doesn’t yet feature on Fuelly.com as it has only just gone on sale. Others to consider include Suzuki’s aging SV650 which returns 56mpg and Triumph’s Trident 660 (58mpg).
It’s no real surprise the NC leads this class for fuel economy. First introduced in 2012 as a 700 then successively updated in 2015 and 2021, it’s based around a low-revving, car-derived twin that’s intended to be frugal and completely unintimidating – which it is. With a scooter-style luggage compartment in its false tank and a semi-automatic DCT version also available, it’s exactly that. If you want more excitement, Yamaha’s MT-07-based Tracer returns 66.7mpg, Suzuki’s SV650-derived V-Strom 650 64.5mpg, Kawasaki’s Versys 650 61.6mpg and Triumph’s popular but three-cylinder Tiger 900 51.4mpg.
In recent years retro-styled machines have become hugely popular with Britain’s own Triumph leading the way with its popular Bonneville family of twins which were completely updated in 2015 and 2016 and again for 2021. Leading the way of these is the 1200cc Bonneville T120 that returns an average of 60.8mpg. Most of its rivals aren’t far behind though, with the Moto Guzzi V7 averaging 59mpg, Ducati’s recent Scrambler 52mpg and BMW’s R1200-based RnineT 42.7mph. Best of all however, is Royal Enfield’s Continental GT, with the air-cooled, single-cylinder café racer returning 66.5mpg on average although it has to be said that, with just 29bhp, it the Indian-built machine certainly can’t match the performance of those rivals.
The most popular category of the past 20 years has also now evolved into one of the most competitive and sophisticated with the leading machines from KTM and Ducati now 1200cc+ behemoths bristling with equipment and features – which isn’t the most conducive to fuel economy. For instance, Ducati’s latest V4 Multistrada now returns an average of 36mpg! They’re not all that bad, however. KTM’s biggest 1290 Super Adventure produces an average of 50.1mpg with Suzuki’s comparatively low-tech V-Strom 1050 returning 53.5mpg. The best, however, remains the most popular. BMW’s latest 1250cc, ‘ShiftCam’ version of its perennially popular R1250GS comes top returning an impressive 54.6mpg on average.
As has been the case in the middleweight category with the MT-07, Yamaha’s MT-09, its three-cylinder bigger brother, has proved a huge success in the larger naked bike class for its combination of performance and value. Here, too, the MT engine has proved impressively frugal, not just compared to four-cylinder rivals (Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 returns 48.9mpg), but even the established three-cylinder class king, Triumph’s latest Speed Triple 1200, which averages 39.2mpg. Most recently updated in 2022 with a new frame, extra power and new dash, the MT-09 produces a punchy 117bhp, is light and nimble and costs from under £10,000.
True, you wouldn’t expect 1000cc superbikes to deliver much in the way of economy and their focus, and that of their owners, is more on outright performance, but there are differences, nevertheless. But while world superbike contenders like Yamaha’s latest R1, Aprilia’s RSV4, BMW’s S1000RR and Kawasaki’s ZX-10R all return around in the high 30 mpgs on average, surprisingly Ducati’s astonishing V4 Panigale beats the slightly with an average 44mpg. The class king, however, at least in terms of fuel economy, is Honda’s latest CBR1000RR-R Fireblade with average consumption of 46mpg.
All the above figures were taken from www.fuelly.com/motorcycle which lists consumption figures of almost all models and years using real data collected from actual riders, worldwide.
Happy with your bike but want to improve your fuel economy? Here's some top tips on how to get the best out of bike from Ian Biederman, Chief Instructor at BMW Rider Training:
One of the simplest things to do yet something that is often overlooked. Ensure your tyre pressures are correct and in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Too soft tyres increase drag and adversely affect your machine’s fuel economy. Another positive consequence is that this also improves the bike’s handling and should make you feel happier and more comfortable on the bike.
Ensuring your bike is regularly serviced and well maintained can make quite a difference to the economic properties of the motorcycle. A poorly set up machine will certainly use more fuel as will things such as a poorly lubricated chain.
Smooth, careful use of the throttle, especially when moving away from stationary, improves economy dramatically. Try to avoid traffic light races, a motorcycle is considerably lighter than a car and can easily get up to road speed with minimal effort and strain. You will find that just a quarter turn on the throttle will happily keep acceleration of your bike ahead of other traffic. Avoid aggressive use of the throttle. It uses far more fuel.
Try to avoid labouring the engine at low revs and also avoid the top third of the rev range. Both extremes use far more fuel.
Look further ahead to anticipate what other traffic is doing. This way you can reduce your use of the brakes and allow engine braking to reduce your speed. With careful planning and timing you can often avoid coming to a stop altogether and just gently keep the bike rolling. However, be aware that this can confuse following traffic as they won’t see a brake light. To ensure they don’t run into the back of us a light caress of the rear brake pedal is a good idea to inform other road users that you are slowing down.
Unsurprisingly this will not only save fuel, but also keep your licence nice and clean.
Those lovely panniers may look great on the bike, but they increase both weight and drag and require more fuel to keep the bike travelling at speed. If you carry very little consider removing them and wearing a rucksack instead.
When travelling at higher speeds consider how you are sitting on the bike. Motorcycles are tested in wind tunnels with riders on them to work out the best airflow. If you are sitting up into this airflow or your arms and legs are sticking out you are creating drag, which results in higher fuel consumption. By tucking in a little you reduce drag and often find that the wind noise is reduced thus saving your hearing and allowing you to arrive at your designation less drained.
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