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Do you really need a bigger fuel tank?

BMW Adventure fuel tank

Some adventure bikes are big and heavy enough already, so adding a larger fuel tank seems an unnecessary addition of weight.

Do you really need up to 500km of range when service stations are a maximum of about 250-300km apart even in the remote outback?

It’s also extra weight right over the front wheel; just where you don’t want it in soft sand and mud.

Reasons for bigger fuel tank

However, Robin Box of Safari Tanks says there are many reasons for carrying extra fuel.

“It’s true that there aren’t many occasions when you’ll need the full 500km range that our larger tanks offer, but things don’t always go to plan,” he says.

“For starters, with a bike’s standard tank you will often have enough fuel to get you to where you’re going, but that will often mean topping up three to four times a day, just so you have enough fuel to get to the next fuel stop.

“It will probably also mean that you’re only half filling your bike every time you stop, and the novelty of that wears out pretty quickly.”

His comments come in a press release about their new $1140 34-litre tank for the Honda Africa Twin which provides up to 500km of range.  The standard tank is 18.9 litres.

Honda Africa Twin Safari tank Adventure fuel tank
Honda Africa Twin with Safari tank

Fuel tanks in many touring and adventure bikes are getting smaller as bikes become more fuel efficient. It’s also done to reduce weight and costs.

Robin says a bigger fuel tank is an “insurance policy” that you have more than enough fuel to do the job.

“Nobody likes getting low on fuel, and we all know the feeling of staring at the fuel gauge in sparsely populated country when the tank gets below a quarter full. It’s nobody’s idea of fun,” he says.

“Carrying extra fuel will also give you peace of mind should that next petrol station – just 250km away – be out of fuel, and it does happen.”

Robin says that on several occasions he has had to camp for a couple of days to wait for a fuel truck to arrive after bad weather or a breakdown delayed delivery.

I also encountered an outback servo that had a power failure and couldn’t pump any fuel. We eventually siphoned some out of the owner’s truck and I paid top dollar for the privilege!

After that, I carried a five-litre plastic gerry can on the back rack as my own insurance policy. It also meant I didn’t have extra weight over the front wheel.

Adventure fuel tank
Back-up fuel on a three-state Transalp adventure


It’s not just about surviving a lack of fuel, Robin says. It also presents extra opportunities to explore.

“The extra range also gives you the option of checking out that side track you’ve been told about or, in some instances, even turning back and retracing your steps if weather or other events put your trip in jeopardy,” he says.

“The extra fuel range helps to bring out the serious adventure capabilities for those who like the long haul.”

  1. Suprised they haven’t looked at belly tanks similar to the st’s and wings…lower the center of gravity

  2. A bigger fuel tank? Why? Why don’t they work on the fuel efficiency? Why is my car (a Peugeot 207SW from 2008) more fuel efficient, not much more at 1 L : 15.9 km compared to the 1 : 14.7 (derived from the max 500 km and 34 L) for the african twin? My cars engine is bigger (1.4) and the car is a lot heavier than the bike. The Kawasaki GTR1400 is runs even more fuel efficient than my car (1 : 17) according to several sites.
    Sure, I understand that a bigger engine uses more fuel and give you more Umph. But what’s up with the “bigger is better”? My bike (BMW F800ST, with piston slap.. ) runs about 1 : 22 and still beats most cars at the traffic lights (I got beaten by several muscle cars and a Tesla model X). But I don’t ride to beat cars at the traffic light, that’s just a nice bonus. I ride because I enjoy it and, with the fuel efficiency for my bike, I can pretend to conserve the environment on my way to work and back again.
    To make a long story short, why do the bikes get bigger instead of (only) better?

  3. Bikes aren’t becoming more fuel efficient, a little research will show you that. My 1973 850 Commando uses less fuel than either of my other bikes – 1995 Triumph Trident 900 and 2008 Harley Sportster 1200. There are a few bikes that are becoming more fuel efficient, but most “improvements” are turned into higher engine output rather than better range, because that is what sells more bikes. Typical full size bikes seem to use around 6l/100km, which is about the same as most 5 seater hatchbacks. So to go through the Pilbara last year my friend and I had to carry extra fuel because there simply weren’t any stations on some of the roads we used. Another friend and I had to stop every 150km to fill up touring the goldfields because his bike couldn’t quite make the 300km to stop at every second petrol station. So Mark Hinchcliffe is completely wrong IMO – fuel tanks do need to be bigger than they are, because they have been shrinking for the last 20 years or so.

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