ALBION, Pa. – The overwhelming scent of French-fried potatoes is not usually associated with a cruising Harley-Davidson hog.
But that is exactly what Harold Benich smells every time he rides his new diesel-powered motorcycle that he runs on soy biodiesel.
“I think it smells real good,” Benich said.
Benich, who runs the diesel rehabilitation shop at Albion State Prison in Pennsylvania, said he has been working on diesels all his life, and when a neighbor joked that he couldn’t put a diesel on a Harley, he decided to try.
And with Benich where there is a diesel, there’s biofuel. He thinks it is the only way to go.
It won’t catch on fire, and if you have a major fuel spill, he said, you can just wash it down the drain.
Besides, he can run the motorcycle on biodiesel for $2.50 a gallon and get 100 miles to the gallon.
Built from parts.
Benich put the motorcycle together himself, from parts he ordered from Harley Davidson. He bought a regular gasoline-powered 1992 Fat Boy to use as a model, but made a few modifications along the way.
The engine came off an old Miller welder he acquired from a neighbor. By the time he had cleaned it up, he had it gleaming like the rest of the cycle.
After three years of working on the bike, he rolled out of his workshop on the motorcycle his neighbor and just about everyone else thought was impossible.
Although there were small diesel motorcycles during World War II when gasoline was scarce, there hasn’t been one built for more than 50 years. There has never been a diesel-powered Harley. And no motorcycle has ever before been run on soy.
Sounds like tractor.
It sounds more like a tractor than a Harley, Benich said, but it still gets most of the power of a gas-powered cycle.
“It will go 100 mph, as opposed to 140 mph,” he said. “The big thing is that it gets double the miles per gallon.”
Benich said his motorcycle has gotten a lot of attention.
When he rode it to Florida during Bike Week, Benich said people stopped him all the time wanting to take his picture.
Harley riders who laughed at him whenever he told them what he was trying to do, telling him it wouldn’t work, are amazed at what he has done.
He has also been featured and given an honorable mention for an innovative use of horsepower by Diesel Progress Magazine.
May build touring bike.
Benich now rides the cycle to work every day, but has no plans to do anything more with the idea unless he decides to build one more with a bigger engine – to be more of a touring bike.
“It’s really more of a show bike than anything,” he said.
It was the diesel part of his project that interested him the most, as well as experimenting with using biofuel.
Now he’s thinking about raising money to finance an experiment to rig a sports-utility vehicle with a vegetable oil generator that feeds batteries to drive the motor.