7 Lessons from Motorcycles About Running on Empty

Running on Empty is part of a series of Life Lessons from Motorcycles, exploring the lessons we learn through riding.

In this issue, we examine the wisdom our bikes impart regarding energy consumption. Here are seven parallels.

running on emptyRange

Motorcycle: The gas tank on our bike has a finite capacity.  It’s important to know how far you can go on a tank before refueling is necessary.  We also realize that bikes are different and have varying capacities.

Lesson: Knowing when we need to stop and refuel is important for our well-being.  This applies to all areas of our beings.  Knowing when to stop and eat is usually pretty obvious.  Recognizing that it’s time to recharge mentally, emotionally, spiritually can be more subtle – but just as disabling if we run out of fuel.

Fuel leak

Motorcycle: Aside from being a safety hazard, fuel that leaks out from faulty seals, gaslines means we have less gasoline to fuel our trip.  It shortens the range the bike can travel and means more frequent gas stops.  Fortunately, the distinctive fumes mean it will be detected quickly.

Lesson: Giving our energy to the wrong people or endeavours means we don’t have as much to put towards our own goals.  Not being able to say no is a perfect example of how this happens.  It’s less obvious than detecting a leak on our bike.


Motorcycle:  Gas can degrade when it sits too long, which is why adding stabilizer is recommended if the bike is going to be idle for extended periods – i.e. over winter.  It needs to be used.

Lesson:  Our energy needs to be used as well.  If we’re not growing or challenging ourselves, we too stagnate.

Reserve/Warning light

Motorcycle:  Most bikes have some sort of indicator to alert you that it’s time to top up.  This can be either a gauge with a warning light or a fuel tap that you need to switch to reserve.  Whatever the case, it’s an indication that it’s time to stop and refuel.  Ignoring this warning sign will leave you stranded.

Lesson: We too receive warning signs when it’s time to fuel up. The problem is they’re often less obvious. There are no indicator lights or fuel tap that tells us to stop.  Others may recognize the signs in us before we do and hopefully give us that feedback. As we become more self-aware and intuitively astute, we recognize the signs in ourselves earlier and can take proactive measures.

Premium or Regular

Motorcycle:  Your owners manual will tell you what type of fuel your bike requires.  Feeding it the wrong kind will cause premature engine wear.

Lesson: We’re all different and have individual requirements.  What feeds one’s soul is not necessarily the same as what another requires. Here again self-awareness, being kind to ourselves, learning when to say no will keep us running at optimal efficiency.

Running Out

Motorcycle:  When a bike runs out of fuel, it sputters and stops, right where it is.  It’s not going to go anywhere until it’s refueled. If we know we’re going to be traveling through an area where fuel is hard to find, we need to plan accordingly, otherwise we’ll be stranded.

Lesson: We too will sputter and stop if we ignore signs warning us that we’re running low.  Unfortunately, the solution is not quite so immediate as filling up your bike and going again.  If we run ourselves to the point of total exhaustion, it can create illness and disease.  Pushing ourselves when fatigued can lead to accidents.  It results in poor judgment and sub-optimal decision making.

Poor mileage

Motorcycle:  There’s an optimum engine speed where our bikes use fuel most efficiently. Excessive speed increases consumption and reduces our range.  So does blasting off, shifting inappropriately, frequent stops and starts.

Lesson: Pushing it too hard will deplete our energy. So can using it sporadically, inappropriately or erratically. Frequent stops and starts drain the tank more quickly.

In summary, fuel up your tank with the correct grade of gas and get out for a long, comfortable ride at reasonable speeds.  It will be good for bike and biker!




Healer, author, and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.

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