Yes I can!

Wisconsin man attempts world record on E85-optimized minibike
By Holly Jessen | January 17, 2011

Scott Dillman doesn’t work in the ethanol industry. He doesn’t even own a flex-fuel vehicle. That didn’t stop the Fond du Lac, Wis., resident from riding 475 miles on an E85 powered minibike to show people that the fuel is safe for use in two-cycle engines. “I know I changed some people’s minds,” he tells EPM. “I know I did.”

It all started with demolition derby cars sponsored by a local business. When the business owner asked them to run on E85, he was told that wasn’t possible. Dillman’s interest was piqued by the story because he doesn’t like the phrase “you can’t do that.” He was convinced that, with a little tinkering, any engine can run on E85. So he started researching it. “It was fascinating how much bad information there was and the little amount of good information,” he says.

Eventually, he hit upon the idea of educating the public by converting his late-model Chevy S-10 to burn E85 and then setting a world record with the vehicle. He scrapped the plan because he would have had to drive 400,000 miles. Dillman then turned to Guinness World Records, the authority on record-breaking achievements such as the most concrete blocks broken whilst holding a raw egg (24), the most nationalities in a sauna (91) and the tallest living married couple (a combined 13 ft 4.4 inches). The people at Guinness suggested a record breaking attempt on a pocket or mini bike.

He located a 1989 Yamaha YSR50 minibike that qualified under the strict parameters set by Guinness. Then he set out to find a mechanic to increase the size of the carburetor jets in order to burn E85 in the bike. He called mechanics all over the state and they all said it couldn’t be done. Finally a mechanic at Mid-Cities Motorsports in West Bend, Wis., said yes and $200 later Dillman had an E85 minibike.

The bike is about three feet high and goes a maximum of about 45 miles an hour. It has a 48.5 cc engine, or about the size of a chainsaw engine. Dillman is over 6 feet and weighs 240 pounds. “I felt bad for the bike actually,” he says. “I think a lot of people did.”

The record attempt itself should have only taken a day, Dillman says, but in the end it was a three-day adventure. The bike repeatedly had mechanical problems and twice Dillman had to haul it back home, repair it, and then haul it back to where he’d stopped to resume the trip. “You had to restart exactly where you stopped, no matter what occurred,” he says.

Not one of those mechanical problems, however, had anything to do with E85. In fact, the majority of his issues had to do with the exhaust pipe, which is located only 3 inches off the ground and was knocked off the bike several times. His first attempt was derailed when the bike’s engine overheated and had to be rebuilt because it was accidentally filled up with E10 at a full service station. Dillman was also chased by a dog and nearly run over twice, once by two deer and the other time by an Amish buggy. Still, Dillman enjoyed driving the E85 minibike. “You could hear how nice the engine was running,” he says, “and I knew E85 was a good idea.”

Dillman could have driven the minibike as is, without converting it to E85, and still have broken the record. Using E85 was about educating the public, he says. Along the way he talked to many people who were under the impression that E85 would damage a two-stroke or two-cycle engine, like that in Dillman’s minibike, lawnmowers, weed eaters, boats and chainsaws. That’s not true, he told them. A two-cycle engine can be optimized to run on E85.

Dillman has submitted the required information to Guinness and was hoping his world record trip of 475 miles would be verified by the end of January, beating the previous record by 25 miles.