Sunday, April 15, 2012

DIY Tool/Fuel Tube

One of the reasons I bought the V-Strom is its range. The 2009 DL650 has a 5.8 gallon gas tank, and my experience so far says the DL650 gets an average of 43.6 miles per gallon, for a total range of 231 miles (with a 1/2 gallon reserve). However, sometimes in Alaska, gas stations can be quite a ways apart, and you never know for certain if the next gas station will be open when you arrive since many of them are seasonal. If you are out for an early or late season ride, will your planned fuel stop at 220 miles still be open? Will you have enough range to backtrack to the last open gas station if it's not? So I started looking around for options for some additional gasoline, just in case.

My ideal solution is Peg-Packer. Available in one or two gallon sizes, this looks like a great way to add range without raising the center-of-gravity of an already top-heavy bike. Unfortunately, my budget for goodies is pretty much spent this year. Another, more affordable, option that I found is the Mega-Tube Fuel Combo. This looks like a really nice solution, and it's roughly 1/3 the cost of the Peg-Packer (although, it carries 1/4 the gas, so arguably, the Peg-Packer is the better deal).

However, I've already got several MSR fuel bottles from 11 oz. to 22 oz. for my dual-fuel camping stoves and lanterns. How hard would it be to roll my own Tool/Fuel tube? I went to my local Lowe's to find out. Here's what you need to buy, if you want to try it yourself:

Materials List:
  • 2 foot length of 3" ABS pipe (my local Lowe's sells them in 2 foot lengths; you can buy a full length pipe and cut to size if you want);
  • cap for 3" ABS pipe;
  • coupling for 3" ABS pipe;
  • screw-top cap for 3" ABS pipe;
  • ABS cement.


First, measure the length of the fuel/tool tube. I wanted mine to be large enough to carry a 22 oz. and an 11 oz. fuel bottle, so I laid the ABS pipe on a shelf next to two fuel bottles stacked end-to-end.

Next, test fit the tube on your bike.

Scuff up the ends of the tube with some sandpaper so the cement will adhere better. Scuff up the inside of the end cap, as well.

Make sure you are using the right kind of cement for your tubing. I am using black ABS tubing, so I bought ABS cement.

Smear some cement on the outside of the tube where the cap will go, and on the inside of the end cap. Make sure all of both surfaces are coated, but don't use so much that it runs or creates globs of cement. You want a thin, even coat on both surfaces.

Twist the end cap as you slide it into place on the end of the tube. Make sure it is pressed as far onto the tube as it will go.

Scuff up the outside of the other end of the ABS tubing and the inside of the coupler. Smear some cement on the tubing and the inside of the coupler, then press the coupler over the end of the tube, again, twisting it slightly as you press it into place... so.

This cap comes in two pieces: a threaded end cap, and a plug that screws into the end cap. Scuff the outside of the end cap, smear some cement on it, smear some cement on the inside of the other half of the coupler, and press the end cap into the coupler. You guessed it -- give it a little twist as you push it in place.

Here is the completed tool/fuel tube.

Here is the tool/fuel tube fixed in place on my left-hand side carrier with zip-ties. I'll try to find some padded aluminum straps to permanently attach the tube, but for now, this should work.

Edit: I've had the tool tube on the bike for almost a work-week now, and I have found two problems with my design so far. First, by making it large (long) enough to carry two fuel bottles, I have a bit of a problem. If you have two bottles in the tube, retrieving the top bottle is trivial...but what about the bottom bottle? How do you reach a fuel bottle that is halfway down the tube? A three inch diameter tube is too small for my hands to fit inside. To solve this problem, I am thinking about incorporating some kind of leash or strap inside the tube that will either fit under the bottle or through the lid that you can use to pull the bottle out. While carrying a water bottle to work this week, I have used a length of copper wire (it was handy...), but I started using it like a spring until this morning, when it got crushed into the bottom of the tube. Now the copper wire *AND* my water bottle are trapped at the bottom of the tool tube :banghead:

Second, I picked up a 33 oz. MSR fuel bottle at the local outdoors shop since I want the most distance possible with the bike. Unfortunately, the new MSR bottle is about 1/16 inch too wide to fit into the tube. It is so close, but won't quite fit. The ABS tube is stout enough, I am thinking of gluing some sandpaper onto the tapered top of the bottle, then using it to grind away enough width on the tube for the larger size bottle to fit, but I'm not certain it's worth the effort. As is, I can fit a 12 oz. bottle and a 22 oz. bottle into the tube, so maybe I'll just use the tube to carry them, and if I am really worried about range (say on a ride to Deadhorse), I'll strap the 33 oz. bottle to the top of my Pelican cases, giving me almost a half gallon of extra gas.

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