Adventure Bike Selection Myths and Old Wives Tales
In the previous post on bike selection I looked at weight and how it is the single most critical part of adventure motorcycle selection, and how 90% of riders end up with a bike that’s much too heavy for their first real adventure ride into the likes of Siberia or Mongolia. Having debunked the “I need an obese bike” myth, we will look at other adventure bike selection criteria, and see if we can’t debunk a few more adventure bike selection myths. In particular we are going to look at carbs, fuel injection, reliability, and air cooled vs water cooled engines.
Fuel injection is one of those topics that has the old guard screaming “no no no, never go adventure motorcycling on a fuel injected bike. You can’t rebuild a broken fuel injector or fix the electronic black box (ECU) that drives it in the middle of Mongolia, whereas you can rebuild a carburetor.” And to be fair, they are kinda right with the facts. And yet wrong with their conclusions. Why?
Fuel injection is simply the most simple, reliable and efficient way to get fuel into an engine. Mission critical machines like submarines and single engine light aircraft use fuel injection – demonstrating the extreme reliability of FI as a system for getting fuel into an engine. Those who rail against fuel injection often do so claiming its some sort of new fangled technology. Fuel injection was first used in an aircraft engine in 1902- YES 111 years ago. Fuel Injection is about as modern as the late Queen Mother! Direct injection has been around since 1925. In the second world war, Merlin powered Spitfires were upgraded to fuel injection (under the name Pressure Carburetor) because the engines would cut out in dives and negative G situations (engines cutting out in the middle of a dogfight with an angry fuel injected ME109 on your tail has to be the ultimate benchmark in unreliability). Alfa Romeo developed electronic fuel injection for cars in 1940. Sterling Moss won the F1 season in 1955 in a fuel injected Mercedes. EFI went into mass production automobiles in the US in 1958.
So FI is new? High tech? No.
EFI is many times more reliable than a carb. The failure rate among modern ECUs or actual injectors is near zero. The argument that ECUs can’t be fixed by the side of the road is rendered mute by the complete absence of ECU failures, even on the most brutal of adventure rides. I had a long discussion with adventure motorcycling legend Chris Scott some years ago and despite us racking our brains over an entire pub lunch session, neither of us could recall ever knowing first hand of an ECU failure stopping an adventure bike trip.
As for injector reliability … My previous car was a 1994 V8, in which I racked up 250,000 miles. It had 8 fuel injectors. Not once did I have to touch, service, tweak, adjust, clean or do anything to any one of the injectors that collectively logged two million injector miles. In complete contrast, my cousin has a 1970s car with triple carburetors. Every month he is in the garage balancing his carbs, cleaning the carbs, after just a handful of miles. The idea that his triple carbs could go a quarter of a million miles in perfect balance and reliability without ever being touched is so far removed from reality (and even possibility) that it might as well be in a fairy tale that has the car turning into a pumpkin at midnight. And yet that level of reliability is absolute reality with EFI.
The fuel injector itself is the pinnacle of simplicity; A system with almost no moving parts. Compare a diagram of a fuel injector with a carburetor (see below) and you will see why the fuel injection requires no maintenance, while the carburetor requires a lot. And if it needs a lot of maintenance, it’s not reliable. Simple.