My Harley gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that’s the way I likes it!

The title to this post is a slightly adjusted quote by Abraham Simpson, aka Grampa Simpson.

One has to appreciate that 40 rods to the hogshead is about 0.002miles per gallon (mpg), or 120.000 liter per 100 km (l/100km). But this is not for certain, as the  American Heritage Dictionary claims that a hogshead can consist of anything from (presumably) 62.5 to 140 US gallons (52 to 117 UK imperial gallons or 237 to 530 metric liter). One rod is luckily quite clearly defined, as 161⁄2  feet 0r  51⁄2 yards or 1⁄4 chain or 5.0292 meters. So a Harley-Davidson V-Rod is about half a rod?

You may ask what this has to do with my new Harley-Davidson Road King Classic. Exactly 2 things: first, I am waiting for the bike to be delivered, I am bored and have nothing else to do then to research such trivial stuff, but more importantly, I wondered if my present tools will be of any help with the new Harley, as it suddenly dawned on me that the Road King may be needing imperial sized tools.

This Easter epiphany, and its subsequent research, opened a can of worms with quite unexplainable results.

But first lets cover the basics, and talk a bit metric: 1 liter (l) correspond to 0.220 UK Imperial gallons or 0.264 US liquid gallons. As for distances, 1 kilometer (km) is 0.621 mile, but only if you don’t travel on water, as it would be again different and just 0.539 nautical miles.

Confused? Lucky you may not be living in the UK, as here its kind off “lost in translation”, another variation and special case, as here distances are measured in miles but fuel is sold by the liter. As a result, both MPG and l/100 km are usually quoted for any given vehicle. How is it in Australia?

Note that because the UK imperial gallon is significantly larger than the U.S. liquid gallon, MPG figures are 20.095% higher in the UK than in the U.S. for the same real fuel economy, or in other words, in the UK we do more miles per gallon as the gallon is larger.

Still not confused? Try this and understand that MPG works differently than liters per hundred kilometers. l/100 km denotes a rate of fuel consumption, while MPG is a measure of fuel economy (or ‘gas mileage’). If a bike uses less fuel, the MPG increases, but the l/100 km decreases. The ugly problem is, the percentages will not match, because the values are reciprocal. For example: a 20% better mileage does not mean a 20%, but only 16.7% reduced fuel consumption. This comes from the following calculation: 20% is 1.2 times bigger distance, therefore 100% / 1.2 = 83.3% of the original fuel consumption, or 16.7% less fuel.

Do you now understand now why I said that I opened a can of worms?

But for a moment lets rest and just be happy that Harley-Davidson seems governed by a similar strategy as Rolls-Royce, it does not always need to mention the fuel efficiency, nor the consumption of its products.

And why should they… we live to ride and ride to live.

I initially fully trusted the Harley-Davidson engineers, I have to trust engineers, I am German. But then I got quite confused when I dig deeper and compared for the same bike, the Road King Classic 2010, the datasheet’s on the UK and USA websites.

Check this out (arranged screenshot data as of 4.4.2010):

Harley Davidson Road King

First things first: a Fuel Economy seems not available for Europe, neither on the UK nor the German website’s version. Well, it will surely exist somewhere, but is not advertised. Shall I start to worry now?

Will my Harley do just forty rods to the hogshead?

I doubt it, Websites are done by marketing departments, not engineers, but this marketing yuppie fresh from university should know that 54 mpg are not 54  l/100km. Or at least his boss, or her boss should know that, as nobody will buy such a motorbike for road usage, its tank will run dry after 50 km or 30 miles, exactly in between 2 gasoline stations. You then have just 2 options: do I push it to the next station, or back to the last. And trust me, serious fuel tank extensions kits will be very popular on eBay.

I accept that this is likely a honest error, and I figured out myself that 54 mpg are 4.35 l/100km, by dividing 235 by the US mpg number (235 : 54). If you to want translate UK mileage, you must divide 282 by the UK mpg, because 1 UK gallon is more then 1 US gallon, remember?

But I have the slight suspicion that again the marketing department did some wishful thinking here. I doubt, but am happy to be positively surprised, that a 1584 cc engine can move anywhere with such mileage, as it would mean I get 325 miles or 520 km out of one single refill! Never ever did that work with my Goldwing.

Experienced Touring drivers, please report (if you happen to care) about your fuel consumption!

But my last and most important question will be: how does Harley-Davidson ship its bikes to Europe? I ask this because I realized that some magical, or should I say rather terrifying transformation takes place. The seat height reduces itself by nearly 14 mm, while the ground clearance increases by a staggering  17 mm. Does Harley Davidson want to imply that European drivers are shorter, but more heavy then their US counterparts? Or that the roads in Europe are shit and need a higher ground clearance? A lot of other politically incorrect assumptions come to my mind…

Most worrying however seems the fact that the length increases by 7 mm, while at the same time the wheelbase is stretched by 12 mm, when keeping the rake steering head at identical 26° and trail at 170 mm. What is going on here?

Did I buy a stretched Harley-Davidson Road King Classic? Or do they sell the bikes to Europe that fell of a truck at home in Milwaukee?

And to come back to the initial question of tools, I have been advised that you will need both, imperial and metric ones, as its all mixed up in this global but non-unified world.

Didn’t a Mars spaceship crashed thanks to a imperial/metric fuck-up?


One Response to “My Harley gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that’s the way I likes it!”

  1. MacDuff Says:

    Wow, you’ve uncovered some gross ignorance. Sheesh.

    No surprise the US’ site has poor metric info, but it’s odd that the UK site is blank for it.

    I can’t say what my MPG is since I’ve constantly switched things around and I haven’t had enough time with 1 setup to build a fair average. I believe I’m running around mid-40’s MPG. If you want it to be in the 50’s, stick to riding 6th gear at 60mph. I can go as low as mid-30’s MPG when I’m rolling at 90mph. An aftermarket fuel injection module can make a lot of difference as well.

    Regarding tools, I’ve not needed anything metric so far, but I don’t know that the same will be true for you, across the pond.

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