North Cape to Gibraltar
Europe North – South in five days on my Diesel motorcycle

3548 Miles - 150 Mpg

How long will it take, straight through Europe? And how much fuel does a small motorcycle have to use for this distance?

4.7.2005; 4:00 AM.

It is foggy and cold at the North Cape. The steel structure of the globe is only slightly visible.
Starting my custom-built Diesel motorcycle, its 11 hp powerhouse sounds regular like clockwork. Some caravan guys camping nearby wake up and stare unbelievingly from their mobile fortresses.
The last days on the road, as a warm-up, have led me from Germany all along the Norwegian West coast to this northernmost point of our continent. From now on, I will just be heading South. Just a couple of hours later, once I am out of the reach of the freezing cold of the Polar sea, Scandinavia’s summer sun accompanies me once again. The task is clear: get to Gibraltar as soon as possible, using as little fuel as possible. Thus a little bit of Finland, and then east in the direction of the Swedish coast. The E4 unfortunately is much less of a scenic route than the Norwegian E6 which I took going north. It is rare to get a glimpse of the scenic coastline; but at least I can make good progress, chugging along at 50-60 miles. Taking full advantage of the long Scandinavian summer days, I leave the Polar circle way behind me. It is late in the evening when I pitch my small tent, eagerly encircled by virtually thousands of grossly oversized mosquitoes. Only after closing the net I finally dare to take off my helmet. (763 miles).


Sweden is long; much longer than I thought. The whole day, my trusty Diesel is fighting for progress in the ever denser traffic. The bridge to Denmark is already visible when I call it a day. (735 miles)


Today’s task will be easy. My route is nearly passing by my home town, and I decide to risk a 2 mile detour and spend the night in my own bed. I am getting there early enough to take my other bike, the Ruggerini Diesel combo, out for a pizza. It is sounding kinda ‘neglected and jealous’, but then it would probably not even manage to achieve the 100 mpg. (384 miles)


Looks like I probably was too certain of myself and success; thus the goddess of fortune decided to set the stakes just a little bit higher. In Luxemburg, I get thouroughly soaked by this year’s worst thunderstorm and just at the coldest and wettest moment, the secondary belt decides to rip. Well, yes, of course I carry a spare one, but the special puller necessary for the change could not have picked a worse moment to break as well. Will this endeavour end in disaster, right now and just because of this fubar tool? Well, after some time of contemplation, it stops raining, my mood improves, and we do a 3-mile downhill roll back into Echternach, where I am able to borrow some tools from the local VW dealer. (Take the engine out of the frame, change the belt, put the engine back in again. Four hours lost…. ) Well, I’m back an the road and the French motorway is constantly passing by. For some time, I’m chasing some Ducati pilots from Cologne who earnestly believe they can match my progress. They give up after 500 miles and I continue to the Spanish border which I reach shortly after midnight. (880 miles)


It is just 5:00 AM when I pop out of my sleeping bag. Today is the big day! Will I manage to get to Gibraltar? The Spanish motorway drags on forever and, at least for me, it consists mainly of ever shorter distances between ever more costly paying booths. I try to pass the booths as fast as the truck drivers. Sometimes I even manage to beat them. Slowly my excitement level rises. Please don’t let me have another stupid breakdown right now. The last hours, just nerve-racking ascents and dispiriting headwind, drag on forever. The Diesel bravely batters on, maintaining a 55 mph minimum. Not a thought devoted to saving fuel any longer; now I just want to reach my aim. Then finally, at about 9:00 PM, the rock of Gibraltar appears at the horizon; at first just as blurred as the globe at the North Cape five days ago. Just a few more miles to Gibraltar. The Spanish custom official at the border does not have the faintest clue why I get a laughing fit as he requests to see my passport. How is he to know that after finishing a 5 day trip all through a rather unified Europe, to me he just represents an outdated relic from the previous century. (787 miles)

The Diesel bike – Flitzbitz – Technical Data
• Based on MZ Supa 5 frame
• 442 cm3 Diesel, 11 hp
• 4-speed gearbox
• Primary and secondary drive by tooth belt
• 2.3 gallon tank
• 137 kg weight w/o fuel
• 70 mph max (limited)
• 300 mpg minimum (at 30 miles average)

So, why the bother?
I thought it was well worth reminding the motorcycling community that a bike does not necessarily have to be able to reach the speed of sound or outrun every sportscar to be interesting. It is great fun to run the most fuel-saving vehicle around, in most cases you will even be faster than the modern fuel guzzlers, and at the end of your journey, you’ll still have a lot of fuel money left to spend on other nice things.

By the way - what does fuel-saving mean?

A cheap 125cc fourstroke can probably give you more than 140 mpg, the Enfield Diesel may reach 200 mpg, the vehicles of the annual Shell Marathon will achieve breathtakingly high figures. But are riding speeds of 10-30 mph really realistic? My measuring level is a vehicle which is capable of easily competing in modern traffic, which can swiftly overtake every slow truck and which is not constantly disturbing the traffic flow. For this, you’ll need a top speed well in excess of 60mph.

Can it be done on even less fuel?

The relatively simple stationary engine which was used in my Diesel bike certainly lacks most of the progressive features of modern Diesel technology. This bike could already have been built 20 years ago. A high-tech motorcycle Diesel engine built to today’s standards would probably allow a further 30% reduction in specific consumption. Aerodynamic tricks like advanced fairings or FF design would further lower the consumption. It is not impossible to touch the 300 mpg barrier. But that vehicle would then not have much to do with a simple and cost-efficient commuter bike.

What really pissed me off:

That the tiny 10l tank forced me to stop for fuel every 300 miles.

That Norway has considerably more Radar traps than filling stations.

That I had to pay much more money for using the French and Spanish motorways than I had to pay for fuel.

That the Scandinavian beauties which really attracted me two decades ago now all sport considerable McLove handles just like their German or Spanish sisters: Europeans are getting obese!

That Germany REALLY has the worst weather in the whole of Europe.

Country I liked best:

Country I liked least:

North Cape Alta Kautokeino Lulea Umea Stockholm Copenhagen Hamburg Cologne Luxemburg Dijon Lyon Marseille Barcelona Alicante Malaga Gibraltar
3548 miles 150 mpg
Total length of route, including getting there and back: 7531 miles in 12 days

Further information:

Reinhard Hoetger © Copyright

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