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Fuel’s gold

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The only time an adventure rider can have too much fuel is if he’s on fire.

This nugget of wisdom is a great philosophical truth and outlines a big concern for a great many riders.

On the Australian eastern seaboard, a rider who stays on the coastal fringe can probably get away with around a 300km fuel range, and that’s not too far beyond the offering of a lot of stock tanks. Still there’s plenty of bikes that’ll still need a little nursing to make that distance on a single tank, and most riders, at some stage of their riding career, will want to branch out and tackle a ‘big’ trip – something likely to include at least one very long haul between fuel stops.

Then of course, there’s the tear-arses who just want to go flat stick everywhere, or the riders who find themselves confronted with long stretches of deep sand.

Increasing fuel capacity is an everyday consideration for adventure riders. Here’s a few possibilities to achieve that desirable end…

Safari Tanks

There’d be very few Australian riders who don’t know about Safari Tanks fuel cells.

The company, owned and operated by Robin Box in rural Victoria, makes big tanks for a huge variety of brands and models, and the research and development never stops. It’s the podium top step for riders who want big, fuss-free, tough, durable fuel capacity, and who want it every time they ride. The standard tank on a DR650 is something like 13 litres for instance, while the Safari Tanks DR650 cell is 30 litres.

Similar capacities are available for the fuel-injected bikes with under-seat tanks. Clever design incorporates and connects the stock tank with the Safari Tank, giving a much-increased capacity without interfering with the bike’s regular plumbing and fuel-feed system.

Just a tip for the newbies: the big Safari tanks stretch a little over time, so it’s not unusual for the capacity to creep up a litre or two. We’ve never heard anyone complain about that.

Small jerries

A big slice of riders won’t need big fuel capacity most of the time, and they’ll be reluctant to swap the shiny, three-layer pearl paint jobs on their steel tanks for a plastic jobbie. But they’ll find themselves, every now and then, needing enough capacity to deal with a long-leg or two.

One answer is to simply grab a small, plastic fuel container, like a five-litre plastic jerry for mowers, and ocky-strap it to the bike somewhere.

That works fine. Just make sure it’s secured properly, and that it doesn’t leak. It’s also worth considering a fall. Will the jerry cope? Will it break free, perhaps puncture, and maybe even spew fuel everywhere?

It won’t if it’s secured and stowed properly, but a rider needs to consider that.


For riders who don’t really see the need for a big tank full-time, or don’t want to swap their stock tank for whatever reason, but need extra fuel fairly regularly, the Rotopax range is a good one.

These super-tough plastic fuel containers are cleverly designed to attach with big fasteners to pannier mounts or racks, and they also allow stacking. So on a ride where only five litres extra is needed, only one container can be added, sitting flat on a rack with gear stacked on top or maybe attached to a pannier rack with the panniers laying over. For bigger rides, bolt on two, three, four or however many are needed.

These things are tough-as and very compact and serviceable.

The compact solution

Fuel bladders are fast becoming popular for those in need of a part-time solution.

The beauty of fuel bladders lies in how they can be rolled up and stowed in a backpack or pannier when they’re not being used. Where an empty jerry or Rotopax takes up the same amount of room as a full one, a fuel bladder only needs to take up room when it’s carrying fuel.

The Australian-made Liquid Containment bladders are incredibly tough and available in a huge variety of sizes, everything from a two-litre splash right through marine, aircraft and on to industrial units of 800,000 litres (that’s right – 800,000 litres). Liquid Containment bladders also have a clever venting system that allows pressure to be bled off without removing the lid completely. On the other hand, it’s a pain the way Liquid Containment hasn’t figured out a way to store the spout more neatly and securely.

Probably more appealing for riders, companies like Desert Fox offer motorcycle-specific models.

The various sizes and compact possibilities of fuel bladders make them very appealing for those only needing extra capacity on odd occasions.

If you do decide on a bladder, ask around before you purchase. Make sure the brand you’re considering isn’t prone to leaking, has earned a reputation for coping with rough treatment, and is certified to carry fuel. We’ve seen quite a few riders using MSR Dromedaries in the past, for instance, and while they do the job well, they’re designed for water, not petrol. Petrol expands way, way more than water in the heat, and it has a solvent nature that shows itself very smartly in contact with some plastics (which is why the good ol’ litre-in-an-empty-water-bottle-stuffed-in-the-backpack-for-30-minutes should be avoided. We’ve all done it, but there’s no need to any more. Don’t risk it).

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