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Ron Major's 3.6 Aux Fuel Cell ( ST1100 ) *

Started by KoTAOW, March 27, 2009, 09:56:43 PM

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NOTE:  The original pictures from the Archive of Wisdom for this "farkle" from the web page, as maintained by Warchild, were not able to be recovered.  Also, keep in mind this information is at least 6+ years old.


Have you ever ridden 1000 miles in one day? How about 1500 miles in one day? Long-distance, high-speed endurance-touring is my claim to motorcycling fame. That is what I love to do... riding mile after mile, hour after hour, day after day.

I am a member of the Iron Butt Association, an organization dedicated to safe, long-distance, endurance motorcycle riding. They host several different rides, including the SaddleSore 1000 (1000miles/24hrs), BunBurner 1500 (1500 miles/36hrs), and also the world-famous Iron Butt Rally, an 11-day, 11,000 mile endurance rally held once every two years. Obviously, since events are timed and distances are great, fuel management is a critical issue.

The Iron Butt Association places a limit on the amount of onboard fuel a rally competitor is allowed to carry: 11 gallons. I don't know of a production motorcycle that carries that amount with the stock fuel system, although with a fuel tank of 7.4 gallons, the Honda ST1100 already carries more than most bikes. This is one of dozens of reasons why many long-distance riders consider the Honda ST1100 to be the premier long-distance platform on the road today. However, to be truly competitive in these rides, it was apparent that I needed to add more fuel capacity to my ST. But how to safely add additional fuel to this high-performance, sport-touring machine? Enter Ron Major.

Ron is a well-known endurance rider. His reputation and credentials are tremendously respected among the long-distance community. He is a previous winner of the Iron Butt Rally (1991), finished 4th in the 1995 Rally, and has many, many long-distance events under his belt. He also has a reputation for excellence in engineering, specializing in modifications to the Honda ST1100 to improve it as a long-distance mount. Among the many modifications he offers is a 3.6 gallon auxiliary fuel cell, which brings the total capacity up to the 11-gallon maximum. Actually, the total capacity is a few ounces under 11 gallons, to allow for fuel expansion.

The design and construction of this fuel cell is beautiful in its simplicity. There is no complicated plumbing, no valves to open, no additional fuel pump to fail, no switches to actuate. The system is 100% automatic, requiring no intervention from the rider. Just pull into your gas station, pump in your eleven gallons, then cruise another 400-500 miles!

The tank itself is fabricated from an extremely corrosion-resistant, high-grade aircraft aluminum. After the seams are welded, the cell is pressure-tested. Although there are a variety of methods to finish the tank, Ron recommends to have the tank powder-coated with a black 90% gloss finish. I was very pleased with the looks of the powder-coated finish. The cell is mounted where the stock rear fender normally is, thereby effectively replacing the fender. The very top of the fuel cell is below the top of the main (stock) fuel tank; the bottom of the fuel cell rests above the bottom of the stock tank. The result: an auxiliary fuel cell that is completely gravity-fed! There is only one main fuel line, and one vent line. No other operational valves, fixtures or plumbing.

The fuel cell functions as follows: as you fill the tank, the fuel naturally drains into the fuel cell, replacing the air which is vented back to the top of the stock tank. As you ride, the fuel drains (by gravity) from the auxiliary cell into the main tank via the lower fuel line. Due to Ron's exact design measurements and his crucial routing of the two Perform-O-Flex lines, the system automatically fills the aux fuel cell before the main fuel tank is completely filled, and subsequently, the aux fuel cell feeds all of it's fuel to the stock tank before the stock tank is completely emptied. Again, all automatic, requiring no operator input.

The modification starts with the removal of the stock fuel tank and drilling just two holes: one at the bottom of the fuel tank, the other at the near top of the tank. The bottom serves as the main fuel line feed from the aux fuel cell to the main tank. The top line, obviously, vents the system. The fuel lines and fittings are the finest components available: Earl's "Perform-O-Flex" stainless steel braided hoses, extremely strong and heat-resistant. These are simply the BEST lines you can use, and are found on all the top-fuel dragsters and race cars. These lines are designed and built to handle hydraulic applications up to 1500 psi, and can withstand EXTREME temperatures of -40F to 300F! In fact, they are of such superior design and are so reliable, it is not unusual to find those top-fuel dragsters routing their nitrous-carrying Perform-O-Flex lines right on top of their exhaust manifolds!! Now THAT demonstrates maximum confidence in your components!!

The system was obviously designed and engineered by a Master Craftsman. For example, since the fuel cell replaces the rear fender, it must also replace the license plate bracket and light. Ron supplies a beautiful custom license plate bracket made out of solid machined billet aluminum, which is polished to a high luster. The bracket contains an integrated 10 watt tail-light which Ron further modifies such that it also serves for license plate illumination. This bracket mounts on the rear of the fuel cell to threads which are tapped into machined aluminum plugs. These plugs are welded inside the gas tank during fabrication. Instead of routing the license light power lead up and around the tank, Ron elected to run the circuit through the tank, via an aluminum tube, which is also welded inside the tank. The result is an exceptionally clean installation with no unsightly wires dangling about.

Ron Major is a Master Craftsman, indeed! To illustrate, consider the close-up photo of the rear vent line.Notice how Ron carefully positions the Perform-O-Flex line such that it does not touch the fuel cell, the taillight lens or the rear body cowling. This precludes any component from vibrating loose or damaging the bodywork. This is just one of many examples of Ron's extreme attention to detail.

To allow one to change the rear tire, Ron has built in a shutoff valve so that the fuel cell can be isolated from the main tank, then easily taken off after removing the four fasteners. (One does NOT use this valve on a routine basis; only when changing tires or related-area maintenance). Ron has elected to use, where possible, new and original Honda ST1100 hardware for mounting the fuel cell. Indeed, over 80% of all fastening hardware used on this fuel system is comprised of original Honda hardware. Where original hardware can't be used, Ron utilizes high quality aircraft-grade stainless steel sockethead bolts and fasteners. Again, nothing but the best is used in this system.

But you indeed pay for it! The system cost $800 (bare components), and if you want Ron to do the work (and trust me, you do!), be prepared to pop an additional $350 for labor. While many people believe $1150 is an outrageous amount of bucks for an accessory/modification, the old saw "you get what you pay for" absolutely applies here. Try finding ANY aftermarket auxiliary fuel system that is so well made, so reliable, has these extremely high quality components, and engineered to the nth degree as is this system! Trust me, you will not find another aftermarket system that even approaches Ron Major's auxiliary fuel cell for the Honda ST1100. Evidence to support this claim: Between Ron himself and his ST1100 customers who have his fuel cell, they have a combined total well in excess of 250,000 miles of high-speed enduro-touring WITHOUT A SINGLE FAILURE!!! This speaks for itself.

I am extremely happy with this system. While it does allow me to be more competitive in Iron Butt endurance rides, I am even more excited about not having to worry about fuel management during "normal" touring. To provide you with a graphic illustration of the benefits of an 11 gallon fuel system, consider the following: after leaving Ron's house with a full tank, I rode 1400 miles home, north of Seattle, Washington. I had to stop for gas twice. Once in Nevada, once in northern Oregon. 1400 miles with 2 fillups! That's some serious cruising range!!

Footnote:  Ron Major died during the 1997 Iron Butt Rally. All that is known is that he was found approximately one-quarter of a mile away from his Honda ST1100 near Yuma, Arizona, with the bike propped up against a guardrail.


These Ron Major 3.6 gallon fuel cells are available at:  Sampson-Sporttouring

Approximately $600 ( March 2012 prices plus additional hardware kit)