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Motorcycles and Ethanol (E10 and E15) - The Shocking Truth

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By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

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Marc Rauch

When you read or watch anti-ethanol stories on the net you ultimately find stories about how E10 has destroyed someone's motorcycle engine. I've had any number of run-ins with guys like this.

To hear them tell it, if you use E10 this is what happens:

    • "The ethanol starts going bad in one month."

    • "The ethanol attracts water that sinks to the bottom of the tank and stops the
     engine from starting."

    • "The ethanol caused my hoses and connectors to rot, and the ethanol-gasoline leaked
     out of the bike onto the garage floor."

    • "The ethanol hardened into a hard lacquer and froze the cylinders."

    • "The ethanol turned to a gummy gel, clogged the injectors, and ruined my engine."

I own a 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic. Yesterday, April 23, 2017, I went into the garage to start my motorcycle and take it for a ride. The last time I started and rode the motorcycle was about 5 months ago, at the end of October 2016. I hadn't planned to let the bike sit for that long, things just happened to get in the way. Normally, living where I do there are usually unusually warm spring-like days even in the dead of the winter months, and this gives me the chance to take the bike out to charge up the battery and get some "fresh" fuel. We did have a few nice days in January and February, but this year we also had lots and lots of rain. So on those really nice days instead of taking my motorcycle for a ride I took my very large German Shepherd to the dog park instead (and he's way to big to ride as a motorcycle passenger).

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From past experiences with a lawn mower in the 1990's, as well as other vehicles I've owned, I know that you are not supposed to let an internal combustion engine sit with fuel in it for an extended period of time without having put something like Sta-Bil in the tank; and 5 months is an extended period of time.

When I first tried to start the bike nothing happened...nothing. There was no electric power to start the bike. The battery was dead. I swapped it for a fully charged battery. I turned the key, the electric light indicators and headlight illuminated. I flipped the ignition switch on and then pushed the starter. It immediately started. I let it run for a few minutes to see what happens. Nothing happened, it continued to run normally.

I turned the bike off, went to get my riding gear and boots, and came back out to the garage. The bike roared to life instantly, again. I took the bike out for a half-hour ride. It was fine. I then filled the tank with fresh E10, drove a short while longer, and then headed home.

Before I left the garage I made certain that there was no pool of ethanol-gasoline lying beneath my bike; there wasn't. There was no "dried" spot from where any fuel might have leaked. When I arrived back home and drove the bike into the garage I let it run for another minute or so to see if any fuel would leak from the now fully fueled motorcycle. There was no leak.

The truth can sometimes be shocking, if you're expecting something else to happen. But sometimes the truth is just calmly reassuring.

• SEE ALSO: Lauren Fix Takes Ethanol Opposition To A New Level Of Stupidity