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Motorcycling Legend Craig Vetter Presents His Streamliner Challenge

Motorcycle designers in search of high fuel efficiency consider every angle for their machines when they enter the 2011 Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the result of their work ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Craig Vetter founded the efficiency-seeking event in the early ’80s, then decided to back off from his participation to spend time with his family. Vetter recently revived the event which now focuses on developing motorcycles which can  transport people at real-world speeds and in real-world conditions.

Entrants this year were required to build bikes which can sustain speeds of at least 70 mph running into a headwind, give the rider a comfortable operating position and can carry four bags of  goodies to demonstrate their daily rider utility.

“I don’t want to end up with museum queens,” Mr. Vetter said here on Sunday. “I want to change the world.”

In all, some 20 participants answered the challenge.

Charly Perethian, a motorcycle efficiency geek from Dahlonega, Ga., took home the prize with this Honda NX 250 dirt bike modification which notched a whopping 153 miles per gallon on its way around the 110-mile-long  highway test course.

But for Perethian is was a hollow victory at best and marked a step back for the Georgia designer as he won the 1983 Vetter Challenge with his 185 cc Yamaha-powered bike. The numbers for that winning entry? A fuel-defying 372 miles on a single gallon of gas.

That performance earned Perethian’s machine a spot in the Smithsonian Institution’s collection, but it wouldn’t have cut the mustard at this year’s event as it only managed to reach 50 mph and offered no room for cargo.

Fred Hayes of Hesperia, Calif., took second with 144 mpg on his bike built by his Hayes Diversified Technologies. Hayes and his company supply the U.S. Marines with Kawasaki KLR 650 bikes featuring diesel engines, so Hayes knows a couple of things about building efficient bikes. His streamlined diesel-powered entry was a thing of beauty.

For his part, Vetter only managed a sixth-place finish on his Honda 250 Helix-based entry scooter which turned in a respectable 110 mpg.Vetter’s  home-built machine is, in the true spirit of do-it-yourself construction, made from plastic loose-leaf-binder covers,  plastic rivets and paper used for making milk cartons.

While it was certainly ugly, it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of Vetter’s machine…


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