One important factor in adventure touring is range; how far can you go between fuel stops. Gas stations can often be few and far between in the remote areas that adventure riders trek. For example, riding the Alaska Highway from the United States through Canada to Alaska and then riding the 414 mile long Dalton Highway north to Deadhorse, Alaska (to the Prudhoe Bay oilfield) is on many adventure riders’ “bucket list”. There is one stretch of the Dalton highway where the distance between fuel stops is a bit more than 240 miles. Similarly, distances between fuel stops along the western portion of the Trans America Trail can be quite long. Due to situations like this most adventure riders prefer to have a minimum range of ~ 200 miles, with some preferring 250 or more.
Unfortunately many dual sport and adventure motorcycles don’t come from the factory with particularly large gas tanks. For example, the stock DRZ tank is only 2.6 gallons and the Honda XR650L comes with a 2.5 gallon tank, limiting both bikes to a maximum range of only about 120 miles. The Suzuki DR650 is a little better, with a 3.4 gallon tank that provides a range of about 170 miles. Even so, this is less than what riders want.
A Bigger Gas Tank
There are multiple choices for extending the fuel range of the DRZ. One of the most favored options is replacing the stock 2.6 gallon metal gas tank with a larger aftermarket plastic gas tank. The four best options for aftermarket tanks for the adventure rider are:
- Clarke 3.9 gallon plastic tank
- IMS 4 gallon plastic tank
- Aqualine Safari 4.5 gallon plastic tank
- Aqualine Safari 7.4 gallon tank (yes, 7.4 gallons!)
Conservatively ridden DRZs will usually get 45-50 miles per gallon. The Clarke and IMS gas tanks will get you very close to 200 miles on a tank of gas, perhaps even further if you are easy on the throttle. With the Aqualine 4.5 you will get a bit more than 200 miles and you can go more than 300 miles with the Aqualine 7.4 gallon tank.
The 3.9 gallon Clarke tank uses the stock DRZ “wings”, which many find to be a more attractive look. Conversely the 4 gallon IMS and both Aqualine tanks extend beyond the radiators, providing the benefit of increased crash protection for the radiators. The IMS tank actually holds about 4.3 gallons, but due to the design of the tank only 4 gallons are useable without resorting to the super secret “2nd reserve”. (The secret 2nd reserve involves laying the bike over onto its left side and then slightly inverting the motorcycle so that the tires are higher than the gas tank. This causes any gas that is trapped in the lower right wing area to flow to the left side of the gas tank where the petcock is located. The secret 2nd reserve will provide about another 10-15 miles before you are walking or siphoning gas from a buddy who has a larger gas tank).
The Aqualine tanks are imported from Australia and are more than twice as expensive as the IMS tank but if you desire more than a 200 mile range from your gas tank then they are your only choice.
Accessory Fuel Packs
Another method of extending the range of the DRZ is strapping a gas can somewhere on the bike. For this option, the most popular choice seems to be Rotopax fuel packs. Rotopax makes auxilliary fuel packs in sizes ranging from 1 – 4 gallons for motorcycles. They also make a good pack mounting system for permanently mounting the pack to your motorcycle. If for any reason you don’t want to use the larger aftermarket tank option or if there is a situation where you know you will need more range than provided by your current gas tank then the Rotopax units could be a good choice for you.
The least expensive option is to buy a gas can from a local store and just strap it on the back of your bike. It’s not very pretty and care needs to be taken so as not to lose the tank or end up with gasoline splashed all over your stuff but it can be made to work.
Another popular option if you don’t need a lot of extra range is to carry several metal fuel bottles stashed in your luggage. Primus, MSR, and a few other manufacturers make a variety of sizes up to about 1/3 gallon (1 liter) that can be purchased over the internet or at a local camping store such as REI. Each 1 liter bottles should provide about an 12-15 miles if you are riding conservatively.
Ultimately, if you want to ride more than about 115 miles between gas stations then you will need to find a way to extend the range of your DRZ. My preferred solution for the type of riding I do is the larger aftermarket IMS 4 gallon tank which I supplement with one of the other options on an as-needed basis. I prefer the permanent solution of a larger gas tank versus using the stock gas tank and mounting a fuel pack on the back of the motorcycle. I rarely need more range than that provided by the 4 gallon IMS tank so it is a great choice for me. However, if I were planning on riding across Australia I would surely opt for the 7.4 gallon Aqualine tank. In short, let your personal situation dictate what method works best for you.