Batty the Bike*

 *June 2012. The '*' by the title is to draw attention that as of May/June 2012, I have had to give up using veg oil in the new Yanmah Engine as it keeps gumming up, even using as little as 10% veg oil mixed in with the diesel. I will write more extensively in due course on my findings and the experiment as a whole.

Batty; I don't know why this name has stuck with me, but I guess she had part of her conception in Battersea, which combined with her owners ambitions seem to rather gel together.

Now that I am underway here are pictures of Batty, with the background to acquiring her below.

 Without a mile on her

With her new Metal Mule panniers and top box
Laden with all the trip kit...approx 7 stone (45kg) of weight

Henry Price of Price Part Motorcycles is building my bike as I type and with a fair wind hope to start riding and trialing her and all the kit in Mid April...until then here is the copy that got me when I found the site when in a Cambodian village, miles from anywhere over Xmas 2010:

This is the sort of look...a classic, and one that has been trustingly transporting millions of Brits and Indians around for 50+ years. That said only a very few have a diesel engine and even less run them on vegetable oil.

There are links at the bottom of this page to sites that helped seal the deal for me to embark on this venture, along with a vital email string.

Royal Enfield Diesel Conversions

Price Part Motorcycles specialise in converting Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycles to run on diesel fuel.

The motorcycle enters our workshop where it is totally dismantled, the frame is then adapted to take the diesel engine mounting.
The Engine is a 418cc single cylinder direct injection diesel engine 10hp @3600 rpm, either kick start or direct electric start.
14 amp hour capacity battery is fitted.
Gearbox is completely stripped cleaned and inspected, new sealed bearings, gaskets and seals are fitted as routine. All springs and kick start parts are replaced, all gearchange parts are replaced, new layshaft bushes & bearings replaced. New final drive sprocket seals & locks fitted. We recommend either an 18 or 19 tooth sprocket. New special longer main shaft is fitted.
New wheels and brakes, the wheel rims are WM2 x 19 stainless steel.
A special outboard mainshaft bearing support is fitted in primary drive case.
A complete new clutch, engine sprocket, primary drive chain and special inner primary case is used.
The main frame is powder coated to a high standard gloss black, as well as all small fitting parts, ie foot rests, mudguard brackets, stays, engine mount, etc.
All other parts are painted high gloss and lacquered.
All new electrical switches, wiring looms and lights are fitted.
New seat, either dual or single seat if specified.

Wheels are rebuilt with new stainless steel rims and spokes, either new hubs are used or existing ones shot blasted and re powder coated.

New steering stems and bearings, forks are either reconditioned or replaced as required, new rear shocks.

For the panniers and topbox we are fitting Metal Mule, which seem to be the gold standard of panniers, for strength, water-tightness and taking off and on ease etc. I also liked the internal locks that will take a lot more getting open than external ones...if you are a thief...on the other hand if you are the legitimate owner, it is much quicker than fannying around with padlocks etc.

Some other links: .
There is a lot on this site about how it all works mechanically and environmentally.
This was really what swung it for me and below is a compelling email string  with Charles, whose blog it is (I have reversed it for ease of reading):

am 09.01.2011 11:00 Uhr schrieb Harry Lyon-Smith unter

Good Morning,

A note of thanks and appreciation for the inspiration and information that your excellent site/blog gives.

I find it fascinating your quest for running the Enfield on salad oil and the success you have had. It has been instrumental in causing a change of thinking to a global circumnavigation motorcycle trip that I have been planning.  Now, if at all possible, I would like to make the trip almost exclusively on vegetable oil.

Much of what you have said gives me confidence that running a Royal Enfield with a Yanmar clone diesel could run 90%+ on vegetable oil. I'm getting quite close to commissioning a bike with this specification from, with the adaptation of a dual fuel
tank, one quarter being for bio diesel/conventional diesel and the remaining for vegetable oil.

Whilst I see it being important that I tried to acquire well refined vegetable oil on my journey, and always start and stop on the bio diesel tank, are there any other sites that you might be able to direct me to that give direct experience of riders who have enjoyed long-term and reliable results?

The information that I have been able to find out there seems to deal with larger and more complicated engines, and tales of engine damage and reliability.

Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated

All the best


On 9 Jan 2011, at 12:18, Charles Altmann wrote:

Hey Harry,,

I have been riding on 100% veg. oil for some time (and still do it when I get some cheap) as well as on bio-diesel until they raised the taxes and made it more expensive than standard diesel fuel, which also made bio-diesel completely disappear from all the gas-station, very progressive, LOL :)

It is possible to kick-start 100% veggie oil from temps of 10 deg C and above.

(I should note that I have no electric starter and no battery on my bike, as they are not needed.)

Below that point kick-starting on 100% veggie will become difficult, but there is a trick: If you have a spray can (brake cleaner or even deodorant), you can spray it into the air filter inlet, and then kick. The engine will start on that spray, and the heat developed in the combustion chamber will keep the process going with the veggie oil.

This way you can start and run 100% veggie also at temps down to zero and also below zero.

However it maybe a good idea that at such low temps you just spare the hassle and run bio-diesel or straight diesel.

I have clocked about 12 or 13 thousand km on my chinese engine, but there are others who have done twice than that and more.

One point of caution is that those engines come in 2 versions: with chinese bearings or with western industrial bearings.

The chinese big crank bearing broke after 6000 km on my engine, it made funny rythmic noises from 4000 km on, so you are warned long before it finally gives up duty.

However replacing the bearing is easy, as you can do almost any repair on this engine without removing it from the frame and at the side of the road. So a new SKF replacement bearing was installed within one hour.

Other than that, I rate the reliability of these engines very high. My bike has been standing outside in the weather for years, and it always starts first kick (once you get the knack of starting a diesel).

There are no complicated parts, just a piston, a flywheel and some hydraulics, and as one of my professors once noted: "hydraulics always work.. even on the scrapyard".

IMO you do not even need the dual fuel tank.

So have fun with your travels,

Charles :)

am 09.01.2011 13:36 Uhr schrieb Harry Lyon-Smith unter

Hi Charles

Thank you so much for your has reassured me is also so useful to hear about the bearing problems you have had...will cover that one off.

It is probably a silly virginal question, but do you favour a particular vegetable oil? or are you happy with whatever is the cheapest in the store?

All my best


This reminds me of a funny story ...

I was on the Autobahn heading to Freiburg, when I ran out of bio-diesel (my bike has no petcock and therefore no reserve).

I was still able to leave the autobahn and ride the bike for some distance, but could not reach the next gas-station when the engine finally halted in front of a house.

I rang the bell and a lady opened the door. I asked for diesel (they had a small truck in front to the house) but she sad she had no fuels.

Then I asked for a bottle of vegetable oil and this you will get in almost any household on the entire planet.

She gave me a full bottle of Thomy Sunflower oil and I paid her 2 EUR.

So I filled the tank started the engine after a while (when its completely empty it takes some cranking for the fuel to finally reach the injector)

Then I rode to the next gas station and filled up with regular diesel.

Since then I have attached a small aluminum bottle to the front tube of the frame which is filled with sunflower oil.

That's my reserve, but you can also use it for cooking ...

Charles :)

Keen readers will have seen a few problems that I have had, and I regret not having the twin tank now and probably the oil heater, all of which I knew, or had heard about, but in my enthusiasm and faith, thought all would be OK without. Here is the post that leads to my reality check >>