How I Spent $6.79 on Gas in One Semester

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Introduction: How I Spent $6.79 on Gas in One Semester

About: I've been tinkering and building things since I was very young. The hobby continues on!

One of the banes of transportation is the price of gasoline. It really puts a damper on things when nearly 6-8 hours of hard work is squandered away in the tank of a 5400cc machine. The gas prices are especially rough if you are a college student with limited income.

I am currently a freshman at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I set out to try and spend as little on gas as possible this semester. I did not have a car, and I did not use public transportation. Just, me, my feet, good friends, and my trusty motorbike.

Step 1: Learn to Walk

The nice part is that I live very close to campus. This allows me to walk to all of my classes. Walking will also work for any other short trips, but anything longer than a one mile walk will begin to eat away at valuable study time.

Step 2: The Secret

This experiment of mine would not have worked unless I had this motorized bicycle. I built it myself specifically for college. Kits can be purchased from many online sources, and many instructables are dedicated to these little bikes. It has a top speed of 30 miles per hour, approximately 50ccs* (The same as the Honda Metro and Ruckus), gets about 100 MPG, and only cost me a whole $350 dollars to build. Compared to the $1000+ price tag of any Honda or Chinese scooter, thats a pretty good deal. Parts are cheap, and the engine is simple enough to fix yourself.

With this bike, My transportation distance increased from just a 1 mile radius to potentially 20 miles. However, I never used it to leave town, just in case it runs out of gas or breaks down. An old snowmobile proverb says, "Don't ride further than you are willing to walk."

The $6.74 I paid in gas went directly into this machine. Thats exactly two gallons of gas, enough to get me to classes and work over the course of the semester. In fact, that two gallons of gas got me not only to where I needed to be, but also left room for me to take joyrides around town on nice days, and I still have gas left to spare. Because the gas has to be premixed and the tank on the bike only holds a half gallon, I used a 1 gallon gas container that I kept in the back of my closet to occasionally refill my bike up with.

*Also make sure you are aware of the laws in your area regarding these bikes. Many countries and states have outlawed them, and many more require registration just like a motorcycle. Fortunately in Utah, the legislature wants you to save gas.

Oh course, you can forget about a motorized bike and just ride a regular bike, but whats the fun in that?

For more information on the bike, check out https://www.instructables.com/id/My-Motorized-Bicyc...

Now what if you do want to get out of town, go further, or carry large heavy objects? Thats when you...

Step 3: Make Friends

Make some good friends. Now I know what you are thinking. "Dumb-butt college kid trying to bum rides from others who are unfortunate enough to own a car." Let me explain.

You DO NOT want to become a freeloader. Nobody like freeloaders. However, you can still hitch rides with friends.

For example, I once needed to get to the store, but didn't want to carry grocery bags of Dr. Pepper back on my bike. So I started listening around for potential rides. Pretty soon, a friend of mine mentioned, "I'm going to try to look for (insert product here) at (insert store name here)." So I politely asked, "Hey, can I come along?" To which he gladly agreed. BAM. Ride set, no hassle. You can even offer to feed them sometime as a makeshift payment.

Some colleges may have "ride boards" for people to to take advantage of if you really want to travel further. You can always turn to public transportation, or local family members as well.

Step 4: Additional Tips

Here are some things to remember:

1) Be patient. Spending less on gas means slower transportation. Walking is time consuming. 30 MPH isn't the fasted thing in the world. And you may have to wait weeks before a friend makes that much-needed grocery trip.

2) Look for opportunities. Always look for opportunities, but do not feel entitled to them. Always listen for possible rides, and don't turn down an offer if you don't have to. You may end up riding in the bed of a truck. You may end up at a regular grocery store instead of your all natural organic special store. It doesn't matter, take what you can get.

3) Plan trips wisely. You don't have the luxury of just cruising around to your favorite stores when convenient. When I went to to the store, it was a carefully planned excursion. What will you buy, and how much can you carry back? How far is the store? Does the road have a bike lane, or can you keep up with traffic? Just Be Prepared.

4) Obey the law. PLEASE don't be one of those tweakers who haul on their motorized bikes at 30 MPH on the sidewalk. All it takes is you almost running into a congressman's cousin to ruin everything for all the other bikers.

5) Don't tell anyone you store gasoline in your room. Dunno why. Just a good idea.

6) Stay in school. Yeah, stay in school.

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30 Discussions

unfortunately, bike commuting doesn't work in my neck of the woods.

An electric kit costs about the same or cheaper than a 50 CC kit. Bring your battery(s) to your dorm and charge.

1 reply

Which kit are you talking about? I'm curious. Because I haven't found any kits that are any less than $250-300

Great ideas! And it makes me so excited to see other college students living in Provo here! Glad I'm not the only one!

3 replies

Cool idea and project, but why not use the money you spent on the engine and put into a lighter human powered commuter/road bike? Around my city, Ill ride 15 to 20 miles daily on my road bike just commuting. The additional benefit is you get in ridiculously good shape in only a few months. Just wondering why you went the motorized route instead.

I do agree with your point. A regular lightweight commuter bike would be much easier and be less maintenance. Personally, I do have a mountain bike that I use for recreation (was on my school's cycling team for four years) but the reason I went the motorized route was, well, because its motorized. Its unique, and fun.

The same was true historically. The crossbow was more accurate and had a higher rate of fire, but the world switched to the blunderbuss simply because it went bang.

Anyway, both routes have their advantages, and it just depends upon personal preference.

As a student myself, I definitely feel you on all of this. One question, and sorry to be another person focusing on your cool bike, but is the model you used a single speed or does it have multiple? Ive been looking into making a motorized bike over the last month and now that finals are done I want to get moving. My biggest concern is that my school is set into the hills and id need the torque to make it up them. Thanks for any help and good job on the write up.

2 replies

The model is a Schwinn Delmar, and only has one gear. I chose one gear because it was cheaper, and I wanted to keep the handlebars uncluttered, although you could still use a bike with gears.

My school is mostly flat, but I have been able to get up hills. I know you could buy an aftermarket, larger sprocket for the engine so it gets up hills easier.

Also, the engine itself is one speed.

all you really need to touch off gasoline is static electricity.
very cool economical choices, tho.
could you just carry some 2stroke oil, and mix in the bike's tank when fueling up?

1 reply

It is possible to mix while you fuel up (some 2-stoke motorcycles do that, I believe) but things I've read on the forums don't recommend it. My guess is that its just hard to shake the gas tank on the bike around, like you can with a portable tank.

Please don't keep gas indoors. Gas is not flammable its explosive! Your one gallon has the potential to blow up a house.

3 replies

As a former firefighter, Not only are you putting your life at risk you are putting everyone around you in danger.

Store the fuel in accordance with your local building codes. If you dont know ask your local firedept.

I cant say it any nicer....

Thanks for your concerns. I'll do my best to find a better place to store it. Even though I have no source of heat or flame anywhere near it, I suppose one can never be too safe.

Well the problem is that it that gasoline vapor is extremely flammable. If you have a buildup of vapor from a venting fuel can. anything that has a spark can be an Ignition source from static electricity to flipping on a light switch.

Yes the likelihood is rare, however it can and does happen.

I ran a call once where a home blew up just from such a freak accident. The guy was huffing didn't seal the can and lets just say he no longer needs to plan for retirement or anything else.