Saturday, December 31, 2016

An orange tennis shoe

It's winter here in Pennsylvania, and the scooter is not getting as much use as it had been since the heater in the Jag was fixed a few weeks back. Scooters are great for driving on dry or wet pavement, but ice and snow tend to make the ride far too interesting for my taste.

Owning an older Jaguar is one of those things that has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it is just such a beautiful place to sit. The leather and wood work together to soothe the senses and when one sits in the driver's seat, the cares of the world just drain away. This is so, even if it's not running, which is often. And that is the other hand. Over the time I owned the Jag, I had to put almost $5,000 of work into her. This past year alone, it's been $2,000+.

So, about a month ago, I started looking at replacement options. Unfortunately, there was a problem. I didn't really want to get rid of the Jag. In my mind, I had planned to keep her as my "classic," and while that was a good idea on paper, the practicalities didn't really work out. Add to that the feeling I get when I sit in that space filled with leather and wood and it made the decision that much more difficult. The Jag spoiled me.

So, I went looking for something that would give me a similar feeling. The first thing I looked at was a Fiat 500 Abarth. Sitting in the driver's seat, looking at all that stitched leather and enjoying the feel of the leather seats was very nice, but the price was not really where I needed to be. And then there was the salesman at the Dodge dealer who was very rude to one of his co-workers. The Fiat was out of the running.

I went looking some more and ended up at the BMW dealer. Of course, that was just me being fanciful and none of the vehicles there had the honor of being a seat for my derriere. I even looked at the Mercedes dealer since, well why not, I was only looking.

Then there was the Mazda Miata (or MX5), which has always held a special place in my heart. It's the middle aged man's simple pleasure, which I discovered this middle aged man can't get out of once he has sat in it. I gave the Miata a chance, I really did. I tried three different examples, but the seats didn't feel right and they were too low to reasonably get in and out of. This turns out to be a good thing, since the Miata is far too impractical.

A couple days ago, I had an appointment to test drive a Scion FR-S. The FR-S is an exciting little sports car, but I had my doubts since it really is no more practical than the MX5. It all worked out, because when I arrived at the dealer, they informed me it had just been driven off the lot by its new owner.

(Interesting point of order here: my wife and I prayed together the night before for guidance and wisdom, and it seems the Almighty had a plan in this the whole time as He always seems to.)

This turn of events led me to the Ford dealer across the way. What really pulled me in was the blinding glare from an orange chunk of metal sitting in their lot, though I tried very hard not to be interested in that one. I looked at the Focus STs, which were out of my price range, and the Fusions, which were too large (I didn't want another big car), and kept going back to look at the Orange tennis shoe.

It is a 2013 Dodge Dart RallyE in blaze orange, and while I know it is not perfect, I test drove it and found it to be very near as comfortable as the Jag, and it even corners as well if not a touch better, despite being front wheel drive. The fuel economy is double that of the Jag on regular gas. Granted, it's still more thirsty than either scooter, but let's be fair; it's a car. Since I purchased it used with 57,000 miles on the clock, I get to enjoy all the bells and whistles and it has almost every option equipped.

Understad that there's a bit of a family connection. My dad, rest his soul, had two Darts back in the 60's. It is not the same car, by any means since it's a Fiat underneath, but there is still that nostalgic feeling when I sit in it, which is nice.

And it drives, boy does it drive. The handling is surprising. It's actually just a touch better than the Jag. Steering, in my most humble opinion, should always be responsive to just a touch and this is precise and then some. Cornering in a front wheel drive car can produce understeer and despite my best efforts on a deserted rotary near my house, the little Dodge just went around and around and around at speeds at which it should have deposited me in the nearby cornfields.

The engine is a naturally aspirated 2.0 which needs a little urging to put me back in my seat like the Jag's used to, but it does get up and go. On paper the 0-60 time is around 9 seconds, but that's ok with me since it does all that I need.

Then there are the benefits of buying a used car (especially at the end of the year when the dealers are working against the clock to meet their sales goals). The price was reduced well below blue book, and it has more bells and whistles than a steam locomotive. Automatic windows, remote starting, bluetooth, back-up camera (which I don't use because that's cheating and I know how to park a car), auto-dimming mirrors, tinted windows, premium wheels, the list goes on.  When one buys a used car, the gizmos that the original owner paid so much for come along with it and you don't really pay that much more than you would for the base model since the depreciation has eaten most of that overhead away.

So now Penelope awaits an uncertain fate, and the Dodge sits in front of my house, waiting for me to drive it to work. It's going to take me a while to get used to the color, but I don't find myself worrying about whether I'm going to get to work, or wherever, and I've still got a fun and interesting car to drive from place to place when it's too cold or sloppy to ride the scoot.

Thank you to all my friends for reading, and a happy new year to you!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Choosing the right Scooter brand - Video and summary by a guest writer

I posted one of my recent motovlogs to the board at and recieved a great response that sums up the video very well. First, the video:

Leo the Old Chopper Guy writes: 

"I agree with your advice. And now that this old Harley guy is a die-hard Kymco rider, AND former Chinese 150 rider, I can tell you all it is good advice to only go with Chinese rides IF you are willing to be ready for some extra work in return for the low initial cost. Obviously, some Chinese scoots are trouble-free, but VERY often, they are not. I wrenched on my Xingyue 150 for THREE FULL SEASONS getting it right, BUT... Then it was absolutely trouble-free for four seasons. It was still running perfectly when I traded it in on my Kymco.

"Yes, potholes ARE a PIA on 12" wheels... My Grandvista 250 has 12-inchers. It depends on how FAST you are going when meeting the pothole... LOL! Fast enough carries you OVER the hole. Too slow will plant the wheel IN the hole. Not good... Seriously though, any wheels smaller than the "big-wheel" rides with 17" or larger are a little hard on rough surfaces. With good, speed-rated tires, well-balanced however, they cruise the highway at 70+ smooth as a Harley.  And I must admit, I'm hopelessly addicted to the look of small wheel scooters.

"If you REALLY have a "Jones" for something irresistible, quick, but pricey on 10" wheels, ya jus' gotta check out a Genuine Buddy 170...  But ya gotta remember, this old geezer used to run 80-mph, (often sneaking up to 100-mph) on Chicago freeways on a McCulloch-powered 40-pound mini-bike on 5" wheels as a kid... Even though I had an "animal" Harley chopper in the garage...  Woo-HOO!  FUN! But NOT recommended now that I'm 70 and still alive and riding.....

"Here's a pic of "Minnie Mouse" when I first got her for wheel-size reference.
 You can see the wheels ARE a tad small on a 250. The Grandvista was a flat-floor version of the original "Bet n' Win" 250. Kymco has come a LONG way from these early scoots, but they are still great rides, and nearly bullet-proof... I've yet to meet a Taiwan-made Kymco or SYM rider who didn't love his/her scooter.

"Above is a Kymco "People 200" I rode as a loaner while my dealer changed my tires. It looks decidedly "Italian" with its 17" wheels. It truly amazed me, partly because of the large wheels smoothness. Big difference from 12" to 17" wheels. This little blue scoot felt as light as a Schwinn bicycle, and was EASY to ride, and to put onto the center-stand. Being an air-cooled GY6 type engine (163cc, NOT a true 200) surprisingly, it had plenty of acceleration and would haul my 230-pound butt to 65-mph with ease.

"It ran like we WISH our Chinese 150's would... Yup, I like Kymcos!

"Whatever size, brand, style, etc. you like, DO test ride everything possible before deciding. You'll be happier in the long run by not getting something you don't enjoy...

"Ride safe, whatever you ride!

"Leo in Texas"

Thanks Leo, it's great to have such thorough feedback that really sums up the video and compliments it well.

Read more:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Repair, replace, upgrade (Honda PCX CVT clutch repair and variator upgrade)

The Honda PCX (both 125 and 150), seem to have an annoying habit of wearing out clutch bearings. From what I've been able to deduce from the things I've read, it's not so much a fault in the bearing but in the folks who install them without applying enough grease.

After about 6,000 miles, my PCX started making a light whooshing noise inside the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). By 10,000 miles it had become very loud, though it still did not seem to be affecting anything performance-wise. Just the same, prudence won out and I ordered a clutch bearing inner face assembly with the bearings pressed in (about $30, so not bad).

I had changed the belt around 9500 miles, and observed the drive plates were looking a bit worn, so I ordered a replacement for those too. These came in the form of NCY parts as it was only a mite more for performance parts than for the OEM equivalents. It seemed there was little wisdom in getting stock parts in this scenario, so I went for the NCY bits with 13 gram rollers.

Everything finally arrived this week, so I braved the heat and did the deed. It didn't take all that long, though I did have to run the clutch assembly to Lancaster Honda since I didn't have the tools to get it apart. Just the socket alone would have cost me more than the $9.00 I paid them to put it together.

With everything assembled, I went for a ride on rt. 283, and got it up to an indicated 74, which I guessed was probably 73. I'll admit, I chickened out at that point and let off the throttle. Riding a tiny little scooter that fast is just a bit nerve wracking.

I did go back after dark when the road was mostly deserted with a GPS running. It recorded a top speed of 71, which is still impressive from a 150. I'm sure if I had a perfectly flat stretch, or a bit of downhill, it could do better, but it's not something I really care to test. That was a bit fast for the little bitty PCX, and I'm fine with what I've learned so far thank you kindly.

So, my first impression of the NCY variator bits with 13 gram pulleys is complete happiness. The low end acceleration felt a bit weak at first, but once I'd ridden it around a bit, it seemed to loosen up.

The replacement clutch inner assembly was well worth it. I no longer hear the constant whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the worn bearing, and my mind is eased.

Should you wish to watch the video of the process and my highway run, here it is:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Took a little break

For those who follow my YouTube channel, you may have noticed I haven't posted any new videos in almost a week. There is a very good reason for this. I've been busy. My graduation from YTI's Motorcycle Technology Center took place on August 30th and my wife's parents visited from North-Western PA,

My dear mother, was unable to attend because of a recent surgery. So I went to visit her over the weekend. I purposefully left my filming equipment at home so it would not take away from the weekend and found myself wishing I'd had it along, especially after seeing a near miss between a bear and a Jeep Cherokee on the way home. Crazy stuff right there.

I took the Jag because the Honda needs a bit of CVT work and I didn't trust it for nearly 700 miles of travel, and of course, in typical Jaguar style, something went wrong. one of the seals on the power steering rack blew. After opening up the power steering reservoir I found it filled with this:

This liquid was also leaking all over the ground. Obviously, it's not right, and looks to have gotten contaminated somehow. I still have to repair it properly, but I was able to flush the liquid out mostly and added some sealer, which got me home.

It was nice to visit my mom, and Maggie certainly enjoyed it. She slept most of the way to Massachusetts, but also spent some time with her nose out the window.

Of course, she also did a lot of sleeping at Grandma's house. I'll admit, having a dog makes traveling a bit more enjoyable. Maybe next year we can take the scooter instead, but I don't think she'd enjoy that length of a ride on the scoot.

So, here's the graduation ride video, thanks for reading, and thanks for watching.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The right stuff

Starting out as a moto-vlogger takes work, and it takes equipment. One needs the following:

  • camera(s) with helmet or handlebar mount
  • sound recorder
  • microphone
  • computer with video editing software
  • Motorcycle or scooter
One doesn't really need the most expensive solution for any of these items and it is possible to use a makeshift solution until a better option makes itself available. 

I've found that if I use a tool properly, I can make it work, even if it isn't the perfect choice. It's a learning process, but it's been fun. 

The one issue I'd like to solve is with sound recording. I've been able to work with the earbud microphone that came with my cellphone, but it is imperfect and picks up a lot of extraneous noise. I'm not sure I want to just get another mic, or get a third camera with a microphone so I can add a third angle. 

One thing is certain, I'm having fun, and that's what I was aiming for.