How green is my motorcycle?

Motorcycles are more environmentally-friendly than cars, right? They take less raw materials to produce, burn less fuel, do less damage to the road surface and don’t get stuck in traffic pumping out fumes. End of argument, or so you might think.

The problem is that, in the bid to improve air quality in our polluted cities and towns, private motorised transport is being discouraged, and that includes motorbikes and scooters along with cars. Instead, the authorities want us to switch to public transport. We no longer need to argue that motorcycles are ‘cleaner’ than cars, instead we must prove that they’re better than buses.

That isn’t easy, because emissions from buses are measured differently to smaller vehicles, so it’s difficult to make direct comparisons.

Fortunately, Transport for London published details for their eco-friendly hybrid Routemaster buses, which were introduced in 2013. These pump out 690g of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometer – is roughly half that produced by equivalent diesel-engined buses.

Meanwhile Honda’s PCX125, one of the country’s best-selling scooters, emits just 48g/km of CO2 and the hugely popular CB125F is even better, at just 45g/km. That’s 93% less than an eco-friendly design of bus or, to put it in real-world terms, a bus would need to carry more than 14 passengers to be ‘greener’ than a 125cc motorcycle/scooter.

Average bus occupancy in the UK was 11 people in 2012 – the last year for which the government published figures – which is far short of the 14+ needed to offset the emissions from such a big vehicle. And that’s a hybrid bus – a diesel-engined model would need to carry 25 passengers!

It’s a slightly different story in London, where 19 people travel on the average bus, so the hybrid designs are marginally better for the environment, but the full diesel models still fall short of powered two-wheelers, by some distance.

How green is your motorcycle? It’s probably better than a bus, in the real world, and it will deliver you door-to-door without having to wait ages for three to turn up at the same time!

Life in the bus lane

Why are motorcycles only allowed in some bus lanes?

Picture a situation in which the rules of the road varied from city to city. Imagine if, in Leeds, vehicles already on a roundabout must give way to traffic joining it; or in Lincoln, you’re allowed to park on double yellow lines for up to 30 minutes and in Leicester you may ignore no entry signs after 6pm.

For Britain’s 1.26 million motorcyclists, this mayhem is reality.

Bikers in Bath, Bristol and Belfast can use bus lanes. In some parts of London riders have access to bus lanes, which then changes when they cross an invisible border into the next borough. Motorbikes are not permitted to use any bus lanes in Oxford or Cambridge.

You’re probably wondering how this confusing state of affairs was allowed to evolve. The answer is that the Highways England is only responsible for motorways and major A-roads. All other routes are controlled by local authorities, and they all have different views about motorcycles.

Some, like Northamptonshire, embrace powered two wheelers as part of the solution to their congested roads. Others see any private transport with an internal combustion engine as a major threat to the environment that should be discouraged (or, better still, banned).

So far, every council that has run a pilot scheme, to test the effects of bikes in bus lanes, found no significant problems and allowed access. You won’t be surprised to learn that authorities which refuse to permit motorcycle use of bus lanes also refuse to run pilot schemes. It’s almost as if they’re afraid that they might not get the results they want.

If you can’t use bus lanes in your area, you might want to bend your local councillor’s ear, or even arrange a meeting with your MP. And if you need some facts and figures to back up this common sense proposal, the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) has published an excellent report on “PTW access to bus lanes” which you can read at

Bristol ‘Biker’ Café outperforms posh restaurants


A Bristol Biker Cafe has scored top marks in its recent food hygiene rating from City Council inspectors, outclassing some of the city’s most stylish restaurants.

Situated on the mezzanine area of the top floor of Fowlers Motorcycles, close to Bristol Temple Meads station, Harry’s Café was given top marks under the city’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, which is run in partnership with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The 5-star rating awarded to Harry’s Café was judged in three categories, hygienic food handling, food safety management and the condition of the premises, all of which were assigned the highest grades available, exceeding those of the city’s fashionable eateries. Jane Waite, who has run the café for nearly 10 years, is delighted;

“I’m really pleased with the online published results from the recent inspection by Bristol City Council and it’s fantastic to have our efforts acknowledged by the authorities. Over the past 10 years, as word has spread and ever more customers enjoy visiting Harry’s, our seating has increased from 30 to 100, and our behind-the-counter team has responded brilliantly. My great passion is to supply top-quality food to our customers, and the staff in Harry’s receive a high standard of training and are given a thorough understanding of food safety/hygiene, meaning we have the best practices in place. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved at Harry’s and how such a wide variety of customers are attracted to visit us – some have never even ridden a motorcycle! Most of our customers simply say they enjoy coming for the tasty food we prepare here in our kitchen, as well as the relaxed atmosphere and some friendly conversation.” 

Harry’s Cafe (named after Harold Fowler, who built up the successful Bristol motorcycle dealership) serves freshly prepared hot and cold food in fully air-conditioned premises, with access for disabled persons. It is open from Monday – Saturday 8.30am to 4pm and 11am to 4pm on Sundays. Find out more at

Notes – Food hygiene ratings for Bristol businesses can be checked at

Picture left to right: Popie, Alf, Emma, Jane, Jack, Tia, Beth & Emily.

Less Is More

Are small capacity bikes more fun on today’s overcrowded roads?

Have you noticed that, while Wagon Wheels are getting smaller, bikes seem to be getting bigger?

Take the BMW GS adventure sport bike for example. It started out in 1980 with an 800cc motor, pumping out 50 hp and tipping the scales at 186 kg. By 2013, engine capacity had increased by 50%, to 1200cc, horsepower had more than doubled (to 123 hp) and weight had ballooned to 238 kg.

Something else has changed; between 1971-2007, car ownership in the UK rose from 19 million to 31 million. As motorcycles grew bigger and more powerful, our roads became significantly more crowded.

Some riders have decided that it’s time to downsize and it’s easy to see why smaller capacity bikes are attractive;

  1. They ain’t heavy. Light and compact, they are less hassle to hustle through traffic or squeeze into tight parking spaces and are easier to throw a leg over too.
  2. More bang for your buck. They’re less expensive to buy and generally cost less to run, so it’s much easier to justify your hobby, especially if you only get out for a ride occasionally.
  3. Take it to the max. Apart from the track, there aren’t many places you can ride a powerful modern motorcycle at anything close to its limit, and certainly not legally. You’ll have plenty more opportunity to explore the limits of smaller bikes.

Whatever style of motorcycle appeals to you, the major manufacturers all offer their popular big cc models in a ‘fun size’. From Suzuki’s V-Strom 250 adventure sport bike to the Yamaha YZF R3 supersports machine and KTM’s 390 Duke street bike, you’ll find something small, but perfectly formed, to suit your tastes.

And for the minimalists among you, Honda recently reintroduced the Monkey Bike, inspired by the huge success of their MSX125 (AKA ‘Grom’). Originally conceived as a paddock bike, many fans will think nothing of riding serious distances on the modern versions, which are incredibly capable machines.

Could ‘pocket rockets’ be the future of motorcycling? Maybe it’s time to book a test ride and decide for yourself.


Christmas Gifts

Christmas is just around the corner, so beat the shopping centre queues and pick up the perfect gift for the motorcycle lover in your life from Fowlers Online Shop. #Christmascracked

Great stocking fillers from the KTM range:

Keep track of your keys with this 1290 Super Adventure Rubber Keyring: £4.98

Enjoy a brew in the Ready To Race Mug: £6.72

Crack open a cold one with the cool twist-grip Bottle Opener: £12.54

Triumphant gifts:

Keep time with the Triumph Sports Chrono Watch: £299.00

Fly the flag with these Triumph Mono Flag Gloves: £80.00

For the tech fans:

Record your rides with the GoPro Hero7 Black: £379.99

Expand your horizons in the new year with the TomTom Rider 550: £399.98

Stay connected while you ride with the Cardo Freecom 2: £159.95