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Safe fueling

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  • Safe fueling

    I had not given this much thought, until I saw a fellow biker fueling his bike. I'm sure lots of people do this, and I have probably seen it done a thousand times and just never paid it any mind..

    Anyway, the story is that as I was stopped at a gas station, a bike pulls up at another pump, the guy pulls out his wallet, swipes his card, and starts fueling up; all while still sitting on his bike.

    I don't mean to start a fight or sound like I'm preaching or anything, but that just seemed stupid to me. I could only imagine what would happen if his arm twitched wrong, or a bug flew up his visor, or the shut off valve not work properly, or something.

    As time went on, I found myself thinking about it more and more. I ended up finally doing a quick web search and found this information regarding the fuel company, Shell. Now there is a back story to this. Simply put, a rider was told by a Shell attendant to get off his bike while refueling. I'm sure that the attendant came off as having an attitude, and the biker probably responded likewise when he asked, why. The attendant said it was Shell policy and it was the law. Well, after fueling, the biker and attendant had some words and even got a manager involved. Later, the biker looked it up and found this:

    Good morning, Riders.

    Here's some information related to those who fill up their bikes while straddling them.......

    Responses to questions is normally directed through to the customer service group. In this case, I am also an avid rider with more than three decades of riding so I thought I would respond directly to this inquiry.

    While the station attendant was correct in requesting that the rider dismount their motorcycle before fueling, his explanation of the reason for this was not entirely complete.

    The reasons for asking riders to get off their bikes:

    This reduces the riders exposure to breathing gasoline vapors by increasing the distance from the fill point

    This reduces the possibility of the riders skin and clothing being exposed to fuel splash and overflows if they occur

    Should a refueling fire start, the rider's ability to quickly separate themselves from the fire is improved if they are already off the motorcycle

    If a fire forced the rider to jump off the bike, the risk of the motorcycle falling over and spreading the fire is greatly reduced

    As you can well imagine, Shell being a global company also operates in many countries where motorcycles are used as the primary mode of motorized transport. This allows us to review incidents all over the world and apply best practices developed in other countries that may have more experience in a particular area. In this case the policy came about as a result of investigations into multiple incidents that were compounded by the individual remaining on the motorcycle while fueling. In most cases the damages were relatively minor and related to fuel spills and tank overfills resulting in the customer who was straddling the motorcycle being splashed with gasoline. In more severe cases the fuel splash has reached hot engine parts resulting in fires and in a tragic case, the resulting fires caused fatalities when the rider jumped of the bike knocking it over with it's still open fuel tank and the resulting fuel splash exposed the rider, as well as other individuals in the vicinity with burning gasoline.

    There is currently no provincial, state or national regulation requiring riders to dismount prior to fueling, but Shell believes it is our corporate responsibility to ensure that we create as safe an environment as possible at our stations. We have not widely communicated to the motorcycling community our global policy, partially because we are not aware of any other major oil company adopting a similar policy. We do not wish to create the mistaken impression that Shell is not motorcycle friendly because of this policy. Our motorcycling community is still relatively small, so we have tried to manage this policy by asking station staff to reinforce this policy with customers in a respectful manner. We do have a pamphlet available at all our locations called "Shell Helps with Gasoline Safety" that does mention this subject.

    I hope you find this explanation adequate and that you consider how Shell is doing this to improve rider safety when you make your choice of fuel supplier. I do understand the difficulties in topping up a fuel tank while the bike is on the side stand, but from a technical standpoint the tank should not be filled beyond 95% capacity to allow for expansion and the design of a modern Harley fuel tank is such that this limit should be able to be reached even when the motorcycle is on the side stand. The center stand is also an alternative.
    So it seems it is Shell policy for a biker to get off their bike. Although I personally have not checked if it is really Shell policy or not. but it is not a law in any state. So fill up however you want. As for me, I'll do it the safer way and dismount my bike.
    Always Believe,
    Marc VanderPal

    President - Rock River Valley Vulcan Riders

    Email -

  • #2
    Never thought of it that way but makes sense. I normally get off my bike when I am fueling more because I have to get to my wallet in my back pocket and it is easier to do so off the bike. :-)
    Patrick "Hotwheels" Sharon
    National President
    President Columbus Vulcan Riders Chapter 1-32
    Columbus, Oh
    Chapter Coordinator

    National Vice President 2019
    National Treasurer 2013 - 2015
    VROC Member # 34133
    2014 Vulcan Voyager
    2007 Vulcan VN2000 Classic LT
    2007 Vulcan VN900 Classic LT

    2002 1500 Mean Streak
    2015 CanAm Spyder RT-Limited
    Columbus Vulcan Riders Chapter 1-32 FaceBook Page


    • #3
      Interesting. I guess I never really thought about it since fuel stops are often times a chance to fluff the behind a little bit. Thanks for sharing!
      Randy - aka racinfan101
      National Vice President
      Central IL Chapter 1-39 President
      Former National President
      2002 Vulcan Drifter 800, 2010 Vulcan Nomad 1700, 2008 Vulcan Mean Streak 1600, 2002 Vulcan Drifter 1500


      • #4
        I get off the bike ,your right Randy it is time to stretch ,also its much easier , also ive seen someone fall over while fueling sitting on the bike , because they lost thier footing and was pinned against the pump , my BIL always fills while sitting on his ,he thinks he gets more in the tank ,but usually just spills it everywhere because he overfills it.
        2013 Voyager "Ivory"
        2003 Nomad FI (gone)
        1996 Vulcan 1500 se 88 (gone)
        ROK #ROK100029773
        Former VRA National Store Manager
        Former VRA Secretary
        Chapter 1-70 President


        • #5
          I used to fill my dirt bike while sitting on it - no kickstand. Once you soak your crotch you learn stay away from the tank when filling.
          2007 VN900 CUSTOM


          • #6
            Originally posted by marcvanderpal View Post
            but that just seemed stupid to me.
            It goes way beyond stupid.

            Back in the 80's I witnessed a rider on a "rat bike" fuel up while in the saddle.
            He got distracted at the critical moment, the tank overflowed onto the hot engine and he and the bike went up in flames.
            NOT A PRETTY SITE.

            I heard later that he survived.......but given the extent of his injuries I'm pretty sure that sometimes he wished that he had NOT.


            • #7
              I filled the tank once while sitting on the bike. Forgot to put the kickstand down when going into the store to pay, and almost dumped the bike into the pump. Only time I have done it that way.
              Fuel stops are usually a good time to get out of the saddle for a while and walk around a bit.
              Dwight Roth
              Chapter President
              Siouxland Tri-State 1-54

              "For future reference, the posted speed limits in Colorado do apply to motorcycles as well as cars." - Cheyenne County Sheriff's Dept.


              • #8
                Ok, I now have a new S.O.P.. I have gotten gas on my crotch when fueling a dirt bike with no kick stand before too. I just leaned it against the shed or a post after that though. I normally get off the bike to start. I fill it to almost full and then sit back on it to "top" it off.
                David 'B-Diddy' Bruce
                2016 1700 Vaquero & 2008 900 Custom
                Vice President Indiana Crossroads VRA 1-65
                Let the good times roll!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by LuckyB View Post
                  I fill it to almost full and then sit back on it to "top" it off.
                  Most street bikes are not designed or intended to have the fuel tank completely FULL.
                  There needs to be some air space for expansion.
                  And some "vapor recovery" systems can get clogged if filled too full, which can cause rough running.

                  AND.......that last "topping off" is exactly the place where fuel is most likely to splash out.


                  • #10
                    ....and like I said, "I now have a new S.O.P."
                    David 'B-Diddy' Bruce
                    2016 1700 Vaquero & 2008 900 Custom
                    Vice President Indiana Crossroads VRA 1-65
                    Let the good times roll!


                    • #11
                      Great posts. About 4 decades ago I personally witnessed a biker fueling a near empty 6.6 gal tank. He set the nozzle lock on the slowest setting and let go of it, continuing to sit on the bike while eating a candy bar. After it pumped about a gallon, the nozzle fell out of the tank filler neck, spun 180 degrees and lodged onto his fairing, creating an open air fountain of high octane gasoline. The stream hit him across the face, causing chemical burns to his eyes which left him blind for a couple of weeks. He, his bike and the surrounding area were flooded with fuel and had to be washed down before he was placed in an ambulance. He is lucky to be alive for there were no other vehicles around, no one smoking near him, no one using any sort of electrical devices. He was hospitalized and given a verbal warning by law enforcement, fire and medical personnel. From that day until this, he always gets off his bike before fueling. He never uses the nozzle lock. He always grounds the nozzle to prevent static discharge. He never lets go of the nozzle until it has been replaced in its pump cradle. He never over-fills the tank. How do I know he changed his ways? I am that biker.


                      • #12
                        Holy cow! You definitely have some stories!
                        Randy - aka racinfan101
                        National Vice President
                        Central IL Chapter 1-39 President
                        Former National President

                        2002 Vulcan Drifter 800, 2010 Vulcan Nomad 1700, 2008 Vulcan Mean Streak 1600, 2002 Vulcan Drifter 1500


                        • #13
                          Yhank you ,that is something to think about. Good reading .


                          • #14
                            I'm sorry. I know you are trying to keep us safe but this is pure nonsense.

                            1. I am the same distance from the fuel point whether I am standing next to the bike holding the nozzle, or sitting on my bike. I'm breathing the fumes either way.
                            2. I almost always stand next to my bike while fueling and I get splashed all the time,
                            3. Fueling point fires are virtually non-existant, and the rare ones that do happen are when the bike is running.

                            The truth of the matter is, if you shut off your bike before fueling the chance of a fire is essentially zero. I've seen a few fueling fire videos. Every single one of them the bike was running. Don't let the gas station attendants push you around, there is no legitimate reason for it.

                            I usually get off the bike to fill, but that's more a comfort and stretching thing than anything else. Easier to handle the wallet and swipe the card from a standing position. Fueling fire is a false flag argument. We've all been riding for how long? Known how many fellow riders? I guarantee nobody has personally witnessed a fueling fire when the bike was shut off. Because the don't happen.

                            This is one of those urban myths that are assumed to be true without any evidence. Somebody heard from a friend about this guy in a totally different state that was consumed by fire. Never happened.

                            Sorry. Rant off.


                            • #15
                              I love the our Forum page....I also like this post Mark. I have done both as all of us have. Now with O'l Trigger I have also refuel both sitting on and standing. I must agree with getting off to refuel. I enjoy stretching and letting my buttocks relax and get some blood to I have never seen any biker have an accident while refueling (good thing) BUT I can visualize a better chance of an accident happing while sitting on your ride. If the nozzle gets loose as it happen to Brother Chetin I can see this also. I do see a lot of people smoking while refueling. Mark thank you for posting and everyone with your input. I for one will be standing while refueling.
                              You only live once, so live life like a kid always