He cooked up crazy ride
A former oil explorer has lapped Australia on a unique bike, writes Mark Hinchliffe.
AWORLD land speed record for a bike that runs on used chip-frying oil is the next challenge for Paul Carter. The former oil explorer has just completed a book on his historic first lap around Australia on a diesel-powered motorcycle running on used cooking oil.
His next plan is to go 300km/h on a new bike with a Holden Astra turbodiesel car engine.
It all started after the English migrant finished working in offshore oil exploration in Third World countries and wrote two books about the experience – Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse and This is Not a Drill.
‘‘After that, I got married, had a baby and found myself living in suburban Perth,’’ he says. ‘‘I got bored.
‘‘One day, I told my wife, Clare, that I wanted to do a lap of Australia on my bike and she asked if I’d write about it. I said ‘Yes’ and she said ‘What’s so different about that’.‘‘I’ve been an ecoraping oil industry vandal for 20 years so I did a bit of research and decided to ride a bike on environmentally friendly fuel,’’ he says.
The 40-year-old started searching the internet for a diesel bike that would run on cooking oil and found them in Germany, Japan and the US, but he couldn’t get them insured to ride in Australia.
‘‘Then Clare Googled biodiesel bikes in Australia and found that the Adelaide Uni had made one and entered it in a race on cooking oil,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s the only diesel bike in Australia that would run on cooking oil.
‘‘So I talked some oil service companies into sponsoring me in the middle of the GFC which was the hardest part of the whole venture.’’
What followed was a 14,500km ride anticlockwise around Australia from Adelaide over three months using 600 litres of cooking oil at 2.9 litres/100km.
The bike, nicknamed Betty, is based on a 1996 Cagiva W16 frame with a 400cc single-cylinder irrigation pump engine with 8hp (6kW) and continuously variable transmission.
Carter had to make the fuel in advance as it took about 12 hours to filter one tank full of used cooking oil. It was carried in a second-hand council truck driven by family and friends.
Carter says the trip was ‘‘a lot of fun’’ and he met some ‘‘really cool people’’, but it wasn’t all easy riding.
‘‘We were getting a lot of abuse at the start because the bike was so slow and holding people up,’’ he says.
‘‘So we did a lot of night riding to make up the time and I had run-ins with a lot of emus, roos and buffalo trying to kill me. However, after some media coverage and with the truckies talking to each other, people started to recognise the bike and ask ‘Is that thing diesel?’ or ‘Is that the chip burner I’ve heard about?’.
‘‘Some road houses were even offering me chip oil but it took so long to filter I couldn’t accept.’’
It wouldn’t be an epic bike yarn without a crash tale: ‘‘Five kilometres out of Longreach, I high-sided the bike pulling off the road for a pee,’’ he says.
‘‘It hit a pothole full of bulldust and I woke up in hospital with rotor cup damage, three broken ribs and snapped groin muscles.
‘‘Five days later, I got out and we took the bike to Darwin for repairs.’’
Betty’s engine is now mounted on a stand in the National Motorcycle Museum at Nabiac, NSW, while Adelaide University has put another engine in the bike and is displaying it with Carter’s riding gear.
A DVD on the journey will be released next month.
Is That Thing Diesel? by Paul Carter, published by Allen & Unwin, $24.99.
Motorcyclist Paul Carter on the Nullarbor and, inset, the cover of his latest book.