Extending range

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A bad idea

A lot of bikers are putting larger gas tanks or auxiliary tanks on their bikes. Others just plan to carry extra gas in a container. Having discovered years ago that my gas tank has a greater range than my bladder, I never gave the idea much thought. I’m usually pulling into a convenience store with gas pumps to discharge some liquid long before I need to take on fuel.
There was one occasion when I was traveling with my son on a bike with a small tank and limited range. We were making the trip in the wee hours of the morning, and I was certain that none of the small towns we were traveling through would have pumps open. Desperate times called for desperate measures, so we bought the smallest gas can we could find, filled it with 2 gallons of gas and strapped it to his luggage rack. Even though the weather was cool and heat wasn’t causing the gas to expand, the jostling ride did. The plastic container quickly ballooned up and gas began to fizz past the cap. We stopped every few miles to transfer as much of the volatile liquid from the plastic can to the gas tank as it would hold. We only got 30 miles out of that 2 gallons. On his little bike, 2 gallons will take you 60 miles, but at least half of the fuel fizzed out past the cap.
I’ve listened as some riders caution others about the dangers of carrying gasoline in containers. Most of them understand that it is dangerous, but the expense and effort of installing either a larger tank or auxiliary tank drive some to consider stuffing extra gas in a container carried in saddle bags or strapped externally. Then the discussion turns to what sort of container to use.
Several people I know recommend several types of small fuel containers. These are made of aluminum and have screw in tops. They feel it is safe to carry gas in these “fuel” containers. Unfortunately, it is not. The specific containers I’ve seen suggested are camp fuel containers. Camp fuel is usually some variant of kerosene. Camp fuels have a relatively high boiling point. (175 degrees c to 325 degrees c for kerosene) A high boiling point means a lower vapor pressure. Thus the fuel doesn’t push as hard against the container walls. Gasoline has a relatively low boiling point (40 degrees c to 220 degrees c) and a high vapor pressure. As I discovered on the run with my son, it puts a lot of stress on the container it is stored in. Underwriters Laboratories tests gasoline containers to a minimum of 25 psi. And even then, gasoline containers are supposed to be vented. These are containers intended to sit stationary out of direct sunlight in a well vented area. They are not to be jostled, exposed to heat, or stored in an enclosed space. I have yet to see a safe, or approved, container for carrying gasoline in a saddle bag or trunk. Those fuel bottles will get weaker and weaker as the gas continues it’s relentless push to escape. Eventually the aluminum will give way. With luck, the only problem will be having the clothing, tools, or food in your saddle bag or trunk soaked in gas. But there is potential for much worse problems. In my estimation, it’s just not worth it.

- Guy Wheatley

2 Responses

  1. WillieTKana Says:

    I’ve seen 2 Valkyries, with nice looking shiny gas tanks, built to fit in with the design of the bike…one guy said his was a 3 gallon, and he did it when he rode out west, where Gas Stations can be 150 or more miles apart….me….on my few long trips, we’d fill up everytime we stopped for a coke, even if was only a gallon…

  2. Chris Hinds Says:

    Actually, most of the small aluminum bottles for camp stoves are made to hold white gas, NOT kerosene. (Kerosene is basically clean diesel, and is used for stationary heaters and “torpedo” style heaters, not any camp stove I’ve ever seen…

    Anyway, gasoline and White Gas have very similar properties, and the containers that are safe for white gas really ARE safe for gasoline too. But carrying an extra 20oz of fuel seems stupid, unless you’re also using it to cook with, which is what I do. :)

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