Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, 2009 is a bit over an hour away. I'm not really one to get excited about the change from one year to the next. Watching a bunch of drunk people while they in turn watch a giant ball of glass lowered from a tower in Time's Square just doesn't thrill me. In my opinion, one year is much like another and every day should be a day for new opportunity and growth. Much ado is made of the celebration of every new year, but It seems a hollow facade to me.

I rode my scooter today in the snow flurries that visited this area. It was cold, but pleasant, until the wind picked up later on. As I rounded a corner, someone tooted their horn in greeting. It turned out to be my fellow blogger, Lee, who's blog is featured in my links.

As a side note, I've recently discovered a new word through some of my co-workers. Three of my co-workers are from Ethiopia. They have asked me several times about my "dok dokeh." I'm not sure if that's the proper spelling, but it is an onomatopoeia in Amharic, the primary tongue of Ethiopia for the sound of a single cylinder engine on a motorbike. So, whenever I see them, I joke about riding my dok dokeh around in the cold.

Well, despite my feelings on the celebration of the New Year, I wish you all a pleasant one.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shakin' it up!

Last night, after I returned home on my scooter from work, my wife and I were sitting peaceably on the couch, talking about the events of the day, when suddenly, there was an enormous booming sound that seemed to come from all around, but seemed to especially echo up from our basement. The house shook, and then within a short time there was a smaller booming sound and another shake. We were unsure what had happened, but no one in our neighborhood seemed alarmed, so we checked our furnace and water heater, assured ourself that all was well, and went to bed.

This morning, we had forgotten all about the event, until we were at Oregon Dairy and noticed one of the headlines on the local Saturday paper. Apparently the sound we heard was due to an earthquake of magnitude 3.3. It's a bit surprizing, but at least now we know that we were not imagining things.

Just prior to the quake, my wife had noted that our cats were acting crazy. During the quake, our cats were truly spooked and seemed to be gripping the floor with their claws. once the quake had passed, they were fine and stopped running around like mad.

Apparently the epicenter of the quake was only a few miles from our house, which is why we heard the booming sound and why the earth seemed to shake so drastically. We are just thankful to be unhurt and to have our house undamaged.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS

I know I'm a day early, but Merry Christmas to all who may read this blog. May the season bring joy to all, and may the message of the Christ Child lend us hope.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Too cold to ride?

I'd originally thought that I'd never find a day when it would be too cold to ride. Tonight, I found that day. It wasn't too cold for me, but it was too cold for my scooter. I've decided that when I ride to work, I'm going to start putting the scooter in the garage at work so that when I come out of work at 10:00 pm, the throttle isn't frozen.

I got on the scoot tonight to ride home, and tried the throttle. It moved, but then it stuck open. I was able to adjust it manually, but it was sticky. To make the ride even more interesting, the wind was gusting so strongly that I almost got blown over a few times, then, another vehicle came up behind me along Landis Valley road, and I thought, oh great, someone's going to tailgate me in this awful wind, with my sticky throttle. Then his lights went on, you know, the red and blue ones, so suddenly, my thought changed to "oh crap!"

I pulled over, he went around me, and I breathed a sigh of relief. There must have been something going on up toward the airport because there was another officer buzzing through the intersection at 501 and Valley road.

When I finally arrived at home, my entire body hurt from fighting the wind. Rain, light snow, even a little ice, I can deal with, but I hate wind. Wind is unpredictable and can really catch you off guard. So, from now on, when I know it will be very windy, I'll leave my scooter at home and take the car. I may be crazy, but I ain't stupid.

Ride safe.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nice surprize: Take 2

I went to Lancaster Honda today to pick up my prize. As stated in my previous blog entry, I was the chosen winner of a Honda CRF-50F dirt bike. It was wonderful to receive such a fantastic gift that I can put under the tree for Christmas morning.


During a time when my family is struggling to make ends meet, this little blessing has opened my eyes and heart to realize that God is in control and is watching out for my family and me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nice surprize

God is good. Of that I am convinced. This has been a very rough couple of months. My wife has been in and out of the hospital since Mid October and at this point will be unable to return to work until possibly next school year. So, our financial situation is somewhat...difficult.

Thankfully, we've had our church family and friends to back us up and my employer has been more than fair and flexible, which has been a wonderful encouragement.

Christmas was going to be very minimal for us this year...until I recieved a phone call earlier today. Lancaster Honda had a drawing for a Honda CRF-50 dirt bike. I put my name in, figuring that I never win anything. Well, I've apparently won. My son won't forget this Christmas soon, I am sure.

It was a great encouragement to me and my wife in our current financial situation to not have to worry about finding that special something for our son. So, I repeat;

God is good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winter Visibility

It's cold, wet, and cold. It gets dark earlier, and it's cold. There's a lot of cloud cover which cuts down on winter visibility, not to mention that it's cold. I think you get the general idea.

It seems that the winter months bring out the stupid in people, so we intrepid few who still ride in the frigid weather must take extra care to be visible and watch for those who think we aren't. Lights are good if you can afford to mod your bike, but if not, reflective strips and tape help some. Bright colors are a big plus.

I had a strip of tape across the back of my brown jacket, but it began to crumble and came off in pieces. I do have some on my helmet still and it has held up better since my helmet is a solid object. I've taken to wearing an orange hunting vest which serves a dual purpose. Not only is it "blaze orange" but it's also an extra layer of warmth over my torso. I've found that if my chest is warm, the rest of my body is warm as well. This is simple biology since the most important systems of the body are found in the chest and head and will draw heat to themselves from the extremities if they begin to feel cold. If they are warm, the rest of the body does not have to give up as much of its heat, though some capilaries in the fingers and toes may constrict still, causing them to become a little cold.

In any event, stay safe if you're out there in these colder dreary months. There's still a bunch of nimrods out there who seem to think the road belongs to them, so ride safe.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Back to the woods

I love the outdoors, especially during the fall and winter. Deer season opened on Monday here in Pennsylvania, and I had my first opportunity to get out into the woods this season. I took my Daniel Wession .357 Magnum revolver with me, hopped on the scooter and went up toward SGL 46. My best friend was planning to meet me on the edge of another friend's hunting land and we planned to walk through to the game lands. When I got to the turn-off, I was reminded of how interesting it can be to drive a scooter on mud. It rained last night, so the dirt road was slick. I went under the Turnpike, through a tunnel that a small creek runs through in company with the dirt road, and worked my way up the muddy road on the other side with my back tire spinning most of the way. I was able to get up the hill and parked the scoot on it's center stand on a fairly level spot.

My buddy arrived a little after I did and we geared up and walked into the woods. It was a very pleasant morning for a hike. There was a little light rain now and again, but only for a few minutes at a time. We walked and talked for about 2.5 miles, but didn't see any deer, not that we were seriously expecting to see any since we were making plenty of noise. All in all, it was relaxing, though my thighs are feeling the strain of the exercise.

I left the woods around 9:30 and went back down mountain road toward Rt. 72, and stopped to take a photo of "Hope Church" which is a pretty little stone church building at the corner of Mt. Hope Drive and Mountain Road, just north of Elstonville. Unfortunately, the building's front door was recently boarded up. Just the same, I got a picture of the building with my scooter out in front.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Riding at sunset

I haven't had much time to ride over the past few days other than to and from work. My son and I went for a two hour ride on Saturday. It was a little chilly, but enjoyable just the same.

I did get the above picture on my way home from work this evening. The sunset was breathtaking.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

Today is the most dreaded shopping day of the year. My wife and I considered getting up at 5 am to go shopping but decided at 8 am that we would pass. Think about that one for a moment, you'll get it.

In any event, I started the day by making pancakes for my family, after which, my wife and I did go shopping, but we went to places that aren't exactly known as high cost shopping destinations. We started out at "The Dollar Tree" in the Golden Triangle on Lititz Pike. We then went to Michael's Arts and Crafts to pick up some craft stuff for my wife so she could make some Christmas gifts for our relatives. After that, I had to take her to physical therapy, and we went to the Olive Garden for Lunch.

I am very glad we did not try to go to the mall today. the mall parking lot was packed, and people were parking accross the street at the Olive Garden, just to have a space to park.

After lunch, I took my wife to Jo-Ann Fabrics for some more craft items. I was then able to impose upon her to let me go over to Lancaster Honda to look around.

Lancaster Honda has two Ruckii (the plural for Ruckus?), two metropolitans, and a SilverWing on the showroom floor. They also have two 150cc scooters and a sport bike by United Motors on the floor. The UM scoots are Chinese built, and the build quality seems so-so. I will say that they seem to have a good amount of floorboard space, but it's angled inward, which felt a little uncomfortable on the ankles for me. Perhaps I'll take one for a test ride and give my impressions here. The scoots do have the fake ABS common on Chinese scoots, which is little more than a pass through valve and makes the front brake less responsive than it could be. Of course, I've read that the valves are easy to remove, making braking much less slushy.

Well, I am off to take my son for a ride. In the meantime, here are some photos for your perusal:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kymco picks up the slack...

There's an interesting article I found recently, detailing some new Kymco models. The writer, of course, is very excited about Kymco's new 700cc scooter, and that is what he primarily writes about; however, what interests me is not the 700cc, or even the 300cc below that, but rather, the new 125cc "naked" motorcycle.

As I have written previously, there is a tendency in America for motorsports companies to focus on large displacement bikes. That is fine as far as it goes. Many Americans like big, noisy, smelly vehicles, and that is their right; however, there are some of us who prefer spunky, perky, small vehicles with less noise but plenty of character. I happen to be one of the latter.

A 125cc motorcycle may not get a lot of street cred from the hard core biker crowd, but a smaller bike offers nimble maneuverability that no Harley cruiser can match. They also offer greater fuel economy, which has always been a big factor for me when purchasing a vehicle.

The small displacement niche has been neglected by most other motorcycle companies, so it is nice to see Kymco filling some of the holes. Certainly, there are several scooters available under 250cc, but I'm only aware of one other motorcycle currently in that range (Kawasaki, Eliminator 125). Again, Kudos to Kymco!

There is a fourth vehicle mentioned in the article, but I am not terribly sure of my feelings about it. It's a small electric scooter concept with a top speed of 15 mph. At 0.5 horsepower, it's not much of a scooter. The limited range is also a problem. I'm not one to mind the low speed, personally, but from a safety perspective, I'd not want to try riding one in traffic or even down the side of the road.

Electric vehicles make sense from a theoretical perspective, but in practical application, there are few that offer the range and power of a gasoline powered vehicle, in fact, I can only think of one, and that is the Tesla Roadster. There are some that show promise, but aren't quite there yet. Take the Vectrix Scooter, for instance. The Vectrix has the styling of a maxi-scooter, and the power of a 150cc gas scooter, but it doesn't quite have the range that one would want for longer rides. The top speed of 62 mph is also a bit disappointing, though it is more than sufficient for casual riding. Unfortunately, due to the limitation of top speed and range, the Vectrix is relegated to the role of daily commuter and errand runner with little flexibility for long range cruising.

In time, perhaps better batteries and better electric engines will overcome these speed and range issues, making electric scooters a more realistic alternative to gas scooters.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some people think I'm crazy...

Including my wife, but she's held that opinion for years.

I rode my scooter in to work this morning. It was about 25 degrees or so when I woke up and my car was all frosted up. It would have taken longer to defrost the car, so I just started the scoot, let it warm up for a minute while I bundled up, and took it to work.

My nose and chin were a little chilly when I arrived, but otherwise I got there in one piece. I did notice a few patches of what may have been black ice, but I was able to avoid them fairly easily.

I stopped at the Neffsville flower shop on my way home and the ladies behind the desk chuckled, but were more than happy to help me find a small flower arrangement that would fit in my scoot's topbox so I could take it home to my wife. It's a nice little bouquet actually, with hydrangea and lillies mixed with a couple sunflowers. Very autumnal.

I even got a pic of the scoot in front of the shop. It looked very "old world" parked in front of the brick building.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The weather outside is frightful

But I went for a short ride on the scoot this afternoon anyway. It was a nice ride, despite the cold, and the roads were all clear.

When I went outside this morning, I found about an inch and a half of light floofy snow on the Silver Streak. I had to run to work and my wife was going to help me with the shopping, so we took her car, but not before I got some pictures of my poor scooter all covered in snow.

The fact that the snow was not laying on the road did not stop a couple of folks from having an accident along the intersection of Rt 272 and Landis Valley road, shortly before my wife and I got there. It amazes me how even the threat of snow seems to throw Lancastrians for a loop.

We did see some beautiful scenery along the way. it's too bad that winter shots don't come out as well as they could.

After I finished up at work, and we returned home, I took the scoot for a short ride. Since the roads were clear, I had no trouble with skidding at all, and got to see some remarkable wintry landscapes.

Scoot safe and enjoy the weather!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Back to normal!

Well, sort of.

My wife is finally home from the hospital. It has been a rough week, but hopefully, now that she's back, things will start to feel normal again. I'm sure she will keep me busy with housework, which I'll be happy to do.

Our one cat is already sitting behind her on her pillow purring contentedly. He was lost without her here.

Sometimes we get so used to having people around, that even though we love them dearly, we don't appreciate them as much until they have been away for a while.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Scootsickle!

The weather outside is...freezing, but it hasn't kept me from gettin' on the scoot to ride.

People keep asking me if I'm cold, and after my teeth stop chattering enough so I can answer, I say, "No, not really."

That's not 100% true, in fact, I hardly feel the cold. It helps to have some facial fur and a heavy coat, and my windshield is priceless. I also wear several layers. Even my feet don't seem to get cold due to the nice fairing in front of them, despite the holes in my Crocs (Yukon style). Yes, I know, Crocs are technically a sandal and are nowhere near being protective gear, but they are insanely comfortable and I'm on my feet at work for 10 to 12 hours some days, which requires a comfy pair of shoes.

Getting back to the topic of winter clothing, It's possible to ride a scooter in cold weather and not feel the full effect of the low temperatures. I wear a simple canvas jacket from Wal-Mart, with a hooded sweatshirt and at least one more shirt under that. On my hands, I wear a pair of suede leather driving gloves with a fleece lining. For pants, a pair of blue jeans does the trick, again, because of the fairing.

When riding in the cold, the wind is your enemy. Unlike a motorcyclist, a scootster's legs are protected from the wind. A decent windshield (the taller the better), ensures that one's chest is protected as well. It's also important to have a decent helmet with a face shield. Some scooters come with hand shields, but if yours is not equipped with them, heavy leather gloves are recommended.

Leather seems to be one of the most wind resistant materials. If you need any proof, look at cows, they wear it all year long. Unfortunately, if you're like me, and you can't shell out $300 for a leather riding jacket, heavy materials are good. I'm partial to canvas since it's very sturdy. The trick with woven materials is to layer them. It works well for hunting, and the concept transfers well to riding a scooter.

I rode my scoot over 40 miles today. The temperature ranged from around 30 degrees when I awoke, to 40 degrees in the afternoon. With all my gear on, the weather was little more than a mild inconvenience.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Driving me buggy!

If you've read this blog at all, you've come to realize that I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. If there's one thing Lancaster is known for, it's the Amish and their unique way of life. They are, for the most part, a relatively quiet people who keep mostly to themselves, unless they need to interact with the "English" for trade or whatnot.

I've known several Amish folks, and the vast majority of them are decent, hard working, peaceful people. The Amish primarily use horse-drawn buggies for long distance transportation (meaning, a few miles or more). It is customary to carefully pass an Amish buggy, but unfortunately, many of the folks who come to this area as tourists, and many who've lived here all their lives, have no idea how to pass them safely.

This afternoon, I was trying to go visit my wife at the hospital, and I was fighting the clock, trying to get there during visiting hours. I had the poor fortune to get stuck behind a lady who decided to follow a buggy for almost a mile. When she finally passed it, she decided to travel far below the speed limit. It took 30 minutes to travel 6 miles, which put me far behind schedule for getting to the hospital, which is two hours away. Since I was riding the scoot and it was cold and windy, I decided to just turn around and head home.

I do love this area, but sometimes the local drivers test the limits of my sanity.

As a note about the above picture, if you are not familiar with the Amish, that buggy is actually not an Amish buggy. In this area, we have Amish, and Old order Mennonites. The Amish use grey buggies, while the black buggies belong to the Mennonites. There are other subtle differences between the two, and there are many many different flavors of Mennonites, of which the Amish themselves are an offshoot. I could fill several pages with explanations of the differences between the two, but I don't really feel like it at this time, and it's not the focus of this blog anyway.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

YAY!

Well, I took my motorcycle test today, and got very wet.

When I started out from home, it wasn't raining. I stopped to get gas at the WaWa in East Pete, then headed down 741 to the driver's center. By the time I got there, is was raining steadily, though I was not yet terribly wet.

I went into the driver's center, the man behind the counter took my info and told me to go to the back of the building. At this point, the rain was really coming down.

I pulled around behind the driver's center and waited ten minutes for the examiner to come out. By the time he came out, I was thoroughly drenched, despite my thick canvas coat.

He had me do three figure 8's, then had me maneuver around some dots on the pavement and stop at a specific spot. Let me tell you, doing figure 8's in the rain is not easy, but counter steering around the dots was easy stuff.

Needless to say, I passed, which is exciting since now I can legally ride with my son or after dark (or both).

Happy day!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day off

Today is my day off. I had wanted to take a nice long ride accross the countryside, but my wife was feeling ill, so I put off the ride for a little while. I was getting ready to go, when I got a call from my son's school. Let's just say...he got a little enforced vacation...

Turns out, my son was having some difficulties due to some pent up emotions. If you've ever worked with anyone with post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you'll understand that sometimes it can be set off at the least provocation.

Here's a little history. My son was adopted two and a half years ago. He came from an abusive home when he joined our family as a foster child four years ago in September. His PTSD comes from the abuse he received from his birth parents. He's a great kid, but he has some definite struggles.

To add a little more stress to my day, when i was coming home with my son, my wife called to say she was feeling worse and the doctor had told her to go to the E.R., so, my day was all sorts of fun.

Needless to say, I didn't get a chance to ride the scoot today. I do have a pic I took on Tuesday morning though. It was a beautiful day for a ride. Chilly, but beautiful.

I can't wait for the first snow to fly.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Autumn is beautiful!

You have never truly lived until you have ridden a scooter (or motorcyle, I suppose), during the autumn months. The feel of the chill wind on your face, the beauty of the autumn leaves, the crazy squirrels darting out in front of you...

Well, the squirrels I can do without.

I love the cold. I was raised in the foothills of the Berkshire mountains in western Massachusetts, so chilly weather is nothing new to me. I get quite a chuckle out of Lancaster County natives who utterly freak out at the first hint of winter weather. All the weatherman has to do is say "snow" and the grocery stores are suddenly emptied of their entire stock of eggs, milk, and bread. I'm not 100% sure why those items are so much in demand before a snow storm in this area. Perhaps the natives want to stick French toast to their tires to help with traction.

Snow has never been a deterent for me. I'm not likely to ride my scooter in it since I'm not entirely insane (a little, sure, but not entirely), but I have no qualms about driving my car in a blizzard, never mind a mild flurry.

Autumn is the harbinger of winter. The colors of autumn give way to the blues and whites of winter, the joys of snowball fights, and the pleasure of hot cocoa and a snuggle with my hunny. It is truly a delightful time of year.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Getting away from obnoxious children: Priceless

Don't get me wrong, I love my son. He's a good kid, but after supervising him for a significant period of time, I sometimes find my myself edging closer and closer to insanity. Today was one of those days. We had a water treatment system installed today and i was stuck at home, which is enough to drive me crazy by itself, but to add to it, my wife had an appointment to go to, so i was watching our son.

I had almost despaired of having a moment of sanity, when my wife suggested that I help her return some clothing to the store. So, we left our son at home for a bit (he's 12 now, so not a terribly big deal to leave him alone for an hour or two), and I followed my wife's car to the store, and then, after making the return, she stayed to shop, and I went for a ride. I was able to add a little more to the radius of places traveled on my Google map.

I went up past the lake at Speedwell Forge, which was beautiful, then went along north to Mountain Road, where I traveled West for several miles to route 72 (Lebanon Road). I then took a left onto Oak Tree Road and made my way around Manheim, then made my way home.

All in all, it was a relaxing ride.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Google maps fun!

Today was an excellent day for a ride. I rode to work, then took the long route home. I wish it weren't so dark outside or I'd be out riding som more. Sure, I'll ride at night when I have to, but I'd rather avoid it.

On a note more related to this entry's title, I found a neat little feature in Google maps and put together a map of the places I've been on my scoots. I will update this map as I expand my riding range.



View Larger Map

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sporting event mentality

Warning: This entry is not scooter related.

That said, I'm rather irritated at the mindset which seems to be prevalent in American politics. We seem to have adopted a sporting event mentality when it comes to politics, making both sides appear silly. It's almost like kids in a school yard saying, "My dad can beat up your dad!"

I have my political opinions, and I enjoy discussing them, but I don't get all bent out of shape if someone disagrees with me. I hold to the viewpoint that everyone is entitled to their opinions, whether I agree with them or not, and if I disagree, it is better to discuss it with them in an adult manner, rather than resorting to petty namecalling.

Over the last year and a half, I've watched people squabble over their choice for president, and now that the race is over, many of those who believe themselves to be "winners" seem to be thumbing their noses at those who voted for the "loser," again, much like children saying "nyeh nyeh nyeh."

I'd like to think that if the situation were reversed, the opposition would be more civil, but since I am a cynic, I doubt that would be the case.

It's really quite a shame that people behave this way, but it's become the norm in this country.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Scoot to the polls!

It's November 4 and the polls are open. Go support the democratic process and make your voice heard. Not only is there a presidential election occurring, but there are also congressional seats up for grabs and state government positions being voted upon.

Here in Lancaster county, we also had a referendum for "Home Rule" which would fundamentally change the form of county government. Here is a link to a site in support of Home Rule. Unfortunately, I could not find a group specifically opposing the idea; however, a search of the forums at the Lancaster Newspapers' "Talkback" will reveal several arguments against the idea.

Regardless of whom you are going to vote for and which referendums you will support or stand against, please, exercise your freedom and go vote. If you are a scootster or a motorcyclist, I recomend that you also ride your two wheeler to the polls. This is a great day to show off your ride and build awareness that we are out here, and perhaps win some converts to a two-wheeled way of life.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

incongruities...

Earlier today, I was at the local Pep Boys to pick up some reflective tape and a convex mirror for my scoot, and noticed a McCain/Palin campaign bus in the Home Depot parking lot. My wife and I went over and I picked up a bumper sticker and a yard sign, which I never do, but this election seems to be the most important in my lifetime so far, so I am unwilling to just stand back and not let my voice be heard, so to speak.

In any event, when I mentioned that I planned to put the bumper sticker on my scoot, the gentleman standing there suggested that if McCain is elected, I will no longer need to ride my scooter. The first problem with that statement is that regardless who is elected, gas will most likely never be inexpensive. The second issue is that he obviously does not understand that scootsters and cyclists do not ride their scooters or motorcycles simply to save on gas. The third problem with his statement is that he seems to disregard the fact that using a large amount of gasoline to get from place to place is wasteful and pointless.

The latter of the three mindsets can be easily observed anytime one goes out on the road. Yesterday, my wife and I had gone out to the store, with our son, and I watched to see how many vehicles there were with only one occupant. I was surprised, yet unsurprised, to note how few vehicles were occupied by more than one person, on a Friday night!

I'm not a proponent of man-made global warming, or man-made climate change, or whatever you want to call it; however, I do believe that as a created being, I am responsible for my own little corner of creation. I believe in good stewardship of the things over which I have any measure of control. If that means using less gas in order to save even a small amount of money, I will do so. If it means not littering and not producing as much pollution in my local area, then cool, I'll do it, but mostly, I'm thinking money here. Regardless of the price of gas, a vehicle that travels 80 miles on one gallon of gas is less expensive to operate than a vehicle that travels 25 or 30 miles on the same amount. It's simple mathematics, and saving money is saving money, no matter how much one saves.

I will never say that the government should dictate how people spend their money. In fact, I believe that it is up to each person to make their own decisions on how they will spend their money. Just the same, since this is my blog, and I can say what I please on my own blog, I will say that I am ashamed of my fellow Americans for their wastefulness.

We live in a throw away economy. We don't bat an eyelash at spending 2.00 a gallon for gas that we will use to travel a measly 30 miles on. We fill landfills with heaps and heaps of refuse. When something is no longer useful to us, it ends up in the trash. Computers, cell phones, plastic bottles and bags, cars, whatever. We use it until it's no longer useful to us, then we just dump it. Many times this stuff ends up in some third world country being dug through by kids as they search for bits of metal to sell for a pittance.

In less than a month, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. The concept of the United States of America as visualized by the founding fathers is fantastic. This country is a great one but I fear that if we, the people, continue to be so wasteful, the greatness of America is in grave danger.

I doubt this will ever be read by anyone in the government, but I will write it anyway, just in case. If America is to survive, each of us must do our part to conserve. We need to use less fuel, but also seek new sources of oil, and seek out renewable alternatives to fossil fuels.

So far, all we've seen are crappy excuses for alternatives, like ethanol. Is that the best we can do? Ethanol is water based. It's corrosive garbage that really doesn't provide any cost advantage to the user. My scooter runs like crap with that stuff in it, and it doesn't work much better for my car. Unfortunately, due to eco-nazi efforts, ethanol is the "in" thing, and I don't forsee that changing unless we, as a people, wake up and actually work to make a difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

U.S. Scooter trends

There is a dearth of variety when it comes to scooters from what are called "the big four" motorsports manufacturers. The big four consists of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki. Here is a list of each company's current scooter offerings here in the U.S.A.:

  • Honda: Metropolitan, 50cc; Ruckus, 50cc; Silverwing, 600cc; and Silverwing ABS, 600cc with ABS (duh!).
  • Yamaha: Vino Classic, 50cc; Zuma, 50cc two-stroke; C3, 50cc Cushman look-alike; Vino 125, 125cc; Zuma 125, 125cc; Majesty, 400cc maxi scoot; T-Max, 500cc sport scoot.
  • Suzuki: Burgman; available in 400cc and 650cc with or without ABS and extras. Considered by many to be the epitome of what a scooter should be.
  • Kawasaki: Nothing, absolutely nothing! They do not currently offer any scooters in the U.S. nor in the U.K. nor Australia.
I've been seeing a lot of conversation on the various web forums about this subject, and have come to a conclusion of my own. Here in the United states, most states do not require one to have a motorcycle license in order to operate a 50cc scooter. This is true for Pennsylvania, and this is, I believe, the reason that Honda and Yamaha offer 50cc scooters for sale here. However, at this point in time, the market for 50cc scooters that cost over $2000 does not seem to be attractive enough to force these companies to bring some of the scooters they offer in other countries here to the States. Suzuki doesn't have any 50cc offerings here, though they sell them in other countries.

A quick look at Honda's U.K. website shows another interesting trend. This trend is toward 125cc scooters. Honda only offers one 50cc scoot in Britain at the moment, that being the Ruckus, or "Zoomer" as they label it there. I believe, again, that this has a lot to do with licensing regulations. In Britain, as I understand it, one must take an initial test to ride a motorbike which authorises them to ride anything up to 125cc's. To ride anything larger than that, they must pass an additional test. Yamaha's U.K. website seems to bear this out as well, with multiple 125cc offerings, though they also have at least 8 50cc scoots available there. If it weren't so cost prohibitive, one would be tempted to buy one of the U.K. offered scoots and ship it over here. The only problem with that would be getting used to riding with the handlebars on the wrong side (Ha Ha).

Looking at Honda Australia, they seem to have a wider variety of engine sizes available, similarly to Yamaha Australia. They actually have what looks like a 100cc version of the Zuma in Australia called the "Bee-Wee."

I'm not even going to bother looking at Suzuki's offerings since it would just be more of the same trend, so it's not really worth our time at this point.

Now, I've gone into all that, to say this; It appears that these companies are abandoning the middle ground of scooter sales in the U.S.. At least in Britain, if one takes their second test, they have a few options to choose from. Here in the U.S., Honda, has nothing to offer to someone who wants to upgrade from a 50cc to a slightly larger scoot. Suzuki has a 400cc maxi scooter that is very high quality, but nothing for the 125 - 300cc crowd. Yamaha does a little better, but there's still a gaping hole between 125 and 400cc. The thought seems to be, if someone is going to upgrade from a 50cc, they will most likely go for a motorcycle, and while that may be true for some, or even possibly most, it is not so for many.

Personally, I like scooters. I like the design and the fact that I don't have to worry about a manual tranny. I could deal with one, and might eventually get a regular motorcycle, but there's enough I have to worry about on the road without fiddling with a manual tranny. It comes down to a style thing.

Thankfully, despite this abandonment by the "big four" there are other companies from Taiwan and Korea that have stepped up to the plate. Kymco, Genuine, and SYM to name a few, are good brands with reasonable pricing. Of course, there are the Italian brands as well, but they tend to come with a hefty price tag. I do have to hand it to Piaggio though. They have certainly maintained a good variety of Engine sizes and scooter styles even as the Japanese manufacturers abandon us.

And of course, there are tons of Chinese scooters available; however, as I've said before, I wouldn't recommend going that route.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Rain in Spain...

Actually, I wish the rain we are getting at the moment would go to Spain instead. It's not as bad as I had originally expected, in fact the rain is much more bearable on my current scoot compared to the Vino. The Kymco is taller, so the windshield sits higher, and there is less space between the fairing and the bottom of the shield on the new scoot. Surprisingly enough, even with the more narrow fairing of the Kymco, my legs do not get nearly as wet as they did with the Yamaha.

My heavy canvas jacket and heavy leather driving gloves keep my chest and hands nice and dry, and a hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up under my helmet keeps my neck warm and dry.

I suppose proper rain gear would be more highly recommended, but what I have works very well and I haven't found any reason to change just yet.

Wind, rain, and cold I can handle, but I draw the line at snow and ice. When the snow flies, I think I will use my car and stick a tender on my scoot's battery. When the roads are clear, I'll ride the scoot. Otherwise, I think I'll play it safe.

Now, if I could rig a pair of snowmobile skis to the front fork of the scoot...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Slipstreamer Scoot 30 Windshield

A recent commenter asked where I purchased my windshield. It is a Slipstreamer Scoot 30, and I purchased it from B&B Yamaha in Salunga, PA. I purchased the shield for my previous scooter, and moved it to the Kymco when I traded up.

The windshield attaches to the scooter at the mirrors using a pair of post risers and a pair of extenders. It took a fair amount of adjustment, as well as some lock-tite to keep the screws in the various connections from coming loose from the scooter's vibrations.

The Slipstreamer shield is tall enough to keep the wind off my chest (I am 5'10"), but not off my face, so a helmet with a face shield is recommended. Slipstreamer does offer two taller shields, but the smaller shield fit my needs better.

Despite the initial issues with the connectors loosening, this windshield has been a great addition to my scoot. It will certainly make my winter commutes more bearable.

A quick search of the manufacturer's website will reveal some brick and mortar locations where their windshields may be purchased, and a Google search for "Slipstreamer Scoot 30 Windshield" will reveal some web resources where the shields may be purchased.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Frosty

It's that time of year again. For a few days now I've gone out to my scoot to find a thin layer of frost on the windshield, seat, and instrument panel. Once the frost is removed and the scoot warms up for a minute or so, I put up the hood on my sweatshirt, don my gloves, zip my coat up to my chin, and putter off down the road.

After a few minutes of riding, my nose and chin no longer feel the cold and my fingers have taken on a familiar numb sensation as frostbite begins to set in. after about ten minutes or so, I start to hear a tinkling sound as frozen body parts fall off and shatter on the pavement behind me.

In reality, cold weather riding is not as bad as I remember it being back in the spring, but then, I did not yet have a windshield, so I noticed the cold a little more. I also did not always remember to wear my nice gloves. They are not armored, but they are heavy leather (suede too, so I can maintain the look of a well educated gentleman scooting around the countryside, despite the fact that most well educated gentlemen are smart enough not to do so), and even though my fingers get a little chilled, it's not all that bad. My coat is heavy canvas, and while it is not leather, it does a great job of keeping me warm and the weave is so heavy that I feel it would serve as well as leather if I were to be in an accident.

I will break out my scarf soon and my winter boots and my winter scooting ensemble will be complete.

Some would say I'm crazy, and I suppose I may be, but I can't see the point in using a gas guzzling, multi-passenger vehicle to commute to work when my fuel sipping scooter will get me there. So, unless it snows, I'll be on the scoot enjoying the brisk weather and listening to the tinkle of shattering body parts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One month later

It's been almost a month since I purchased my Kymco People 150. After some initial hiccups which turned out to be fuel related (for which I am most thankful to the Almighty), the scooter has shown itself to be reliable and trouble free.

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, the issues I had on my road trip three weeks ago were apparently due to fuel starvation. A bit of fuel cleaner and all was resolved.

I've ridden the scoot almost every day and have caught myself trying to find excuses to go riding or extend my route once I was already out. Of course, I was already doing that with my Vino, but I was limited in how far I could ride due to the lower speed. The last month has given me a clearer impression of the scoot, so here goes. Bear in mind that some of this will have been covered in previous blogs, but for the sake of continuity, I'd like to put it all together.

The Kymco People 150 is a very classy looking scooter with euro styling that looks very much like it could have come out of the early days of motorcycle and automobile manufacture, until you get up close and note that the body panels are all plastic. Its slender lines and delicate appearance belie the power of the 152cc engine. It's a beautiful machine both inside and out.

The seat is large enough to comfortably seat my son and I with plenty of room for both of us. It is also comfortable for long rides and the scooter will maintain 55 mph tolerably well. She tops out at around 63 (70 on the speedometer), but the engine is screaming at that point so it's definitely not recommended to ride at that speed for long.

The fairing is rather narrow and does not seem to protect from the wind as well as the Vino's did. Additionally, the floorboard is not very large. My size 11 feet just fit with no room to spare, yet the scooter's height is such that it would be uncomfortable for anyone much shorter than I, and there are very few tall people with dinky feet. There are foot rests for the rear passenger that jacknife outward, but they do not lock in place, which means that if the passenger does not maintain a constant forward pressure on them, they may close.

The rear rack is a decent size, but is more designed to be stylish rather than utilitarian. I was able to install a top box on it, but only after drilling holes in the heavy plastic. It would have been nice if the rack were better designed.

On the other hand, the scooter handles really well. It accelerates from a dead stop like a rocket. I've left several cars in the dust without really intending to do so. Of course, if the driver is agressive enough, they catch up to me eventually, but still.

The handling around curves is very smooth. The scooter feels like it is planted on the road. Even at higher speeds the stability is fantastic, though the wind can be problematic.

Maintenance has its pluses and minuses. Oil changes are easy, but checking the air filter requires a philips head screwdriver with a bent shaft for getting up under the side panel, unless you are able to take the side panels off. Accessing the spark plug is accomplished through a portal at the front of the engine compartment right by where the rider's heels would be. One screw holds it closed, so it's easy to get at. Battery access is also very easy. Accessing the Carb and idle screw is accomplished through a portal under the seat. Just loosen a large thumbscrew and pop off the cover. At this point, I'll leave the more difficult maintenance to the dealer, but once I find a service manual, that will change.

Since it's in the 150cc class, it's not intended as a highway commuter. What it is intended for is 35 to 50 mph riding, which it does very well. It's exactly what I wanted, with enough room left over at the top end to accomplish the occasional brief foray onto the highway.

After nearly one month and over 1200 miles, the Kymco People 150 lives up to its stellar reputation.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lancaster County Scooter Dealers

Here's a list of the dealers I've had experience with in the county. I've given them one to five stars depending on the experience I've had with them, and will qualify my experience with each with a brief commentary. In shopping for scooters and accessories, I've seen both good and bad, but more of the former and less of the latter, which is nice. Bear in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of dealers in the county, but rather, a list of those I've had some experience with. Some of the opinions listed in this particular posting vary from previous impressions, but only because my experiences with certain dealers changed over time.


Dealer Name: B&B Yamaha
Location: Salunga, PA
Brands available: Yamaha, Schwinn, Sachs/Tomberlin
Stars: ***
Commentary: I have mixed feelings about this particular dealer. on the one hand, I purchased my first scooter there. On the other, they ripped me off with dealer fees, and after I made the first purchase, I've gotten less than stellar customer service from them. After I traded my Vino for a Kymco, they've been somewhat cold toward me. I still purchased a top case from them and got really good service from their parts dept.. So, as I said, I have mixed feelings. One visitor to this blog mentioned recieving poor service from B&B and I've begun to see some of that myself.

Dealer Name: Bachman's Auto Sales
Location: Ephrata, PA
Brands available: Wildfire (Chinese Make)
Stars: ****
Commentary: I've not made a purchase from Bachman, but I've watched him. He treats his customers well and seems to go over the scooters he sells with a fine tooth comb before they leave his shop. He charges a fair price for oil change and is honest about the quality level of the Chinese scoots not being up to the same standards of others. I give him four stars because of his honesty and low prices, but can't give him five stars since the scooters he sells aren't exactly top drawer.

Dealer Name: Ephrata Honda
Location: Ephrata, PA
Brands available: Honda (what a surprise)
Stars: **
Commentary: Every time I've gone in to Ephrata Honda they've been a bit less than friendly. The times I've had a salesman approach me, they've shown obvious annoyance when I mentioned I was looking for a scooter. They have a good amount of stock (when they aren't sold out), but the level of customer service I've received has been less than stellar. To be fair, I've spoken to folks who've said they received good service from this dealer. I suppose your mileage will vary, so to speak.

Dealer Name: Miller's Cycle Sales
Location: Leola, PA
Brands available: Various, mostly used
Stars: ***
Commentary: I know very little about this dealer, so I could not give them high marks; however, they seem like good folk. I believe it's two brothers that run the place and they seem to know their bikes. The place has the friendly feel that any neighborhood cycle shop should and they seem to handle lots of Chinese scoots, which is good because we've got tons of them rolling around the county. Once downside I did notice is that they seem to have very little inventory. A positive I noted was the few mopeds and "no-peds" they have which apparently run and seem to be in rather good condition. I believe they will also service them should that become necessary.

Dealer Name: Lancaster Honda
Location: East Petersburg, PA
Brands available: Honda (and possibly a Chinese brand soon)
Stars: *****
Commentary: I've not purchased a vehicle from them, but they have treated me very well every time I've gone there, despite the fact that I've never made a "big" purchase from them. I go there to get AMSOIL since that's the only place I've found it close-by to my home. They have given me excellent service, even allowing me to buy a quart of oil 10 minutes after they'd officially closed one night. That's what I call customer service.

Dealer Name: Trans-Am Cycle Sales
Location: Lititz, PA
Brands available: Suzuki, Kymco
Stars: ****
Commentary: I've had only one poor experience with this dealer, and that was with a younger member of their parts dept who wasn't willing to discuss the virtues of their 150-200cc scooters because I didn't yet have my M class permit (though I was in the process and was researching). Despite that poor experience, I was treated well by both their sales dept and their service dept. They did not try to nail me with dealer fees when I purchased my People 150 from them, and they have been very patient with my tendency to ask tons of questions.

As I wander around the county, I'll keep my eye out for other dealers, and as I find them, I will list them along with my impressions.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Riding with the big dogs!

Today's ride was a great success. Thank you to Gerry at Scoot Lancaster for organizing the ride! We had five scooters and one sport/touring bike (Gerry's). We went down by the Conestoga River all the way to the Susquehanna to a nice little overlook down near Holtwood. We then scooted back toward Lancaster and stopped for Lunch at Cactus Willie's off of Rohrerstown Road.

My son rode with me and he had an absolute blast (though he said his face got pretty chilly).

I was very impressed with how the People 150 kept up with the other scoots and the street bike. The other four scoots were 400cc and 650cc Suzuki Burgmans, so I was pleased with my scooter's ability. It had some trouble on one or two of the hills, but otherwise, it handled extremely well.

Here are some pics of the day's ride:



Friday, October 17, 2008

New Top Case




I picked up an SMS Cargo Box C1700 this evening at B&B Yamaha for $50. They sell them as an accessory for Schwinn scooters, but I was able to adapt the luggage rack on my Kymco People 150 to accept the base.

Let's start with the luggage rack. I had to drill four holes in the plastic rack, which wasn't at all difficult. The only caution here is to not use too much pressure nor to use too long of a bit since the bit will pop through rather abruptly and might cause damage to the tail light casing or body panels.

Once the base was secured to the rack, it was a simple matter to attach the case to it. The box includes plenty of hardware for various modes of attachment. The instructions are limited to several pictures, and are somewhat obtuse, but with a little ingenuity and a bit of luck, you don't really need to follow them anyway. In the end, I didn't use the directions and just used the hardware in a way that it would work best for my setup.

Now, let's look at the case itself. It's not terribly big, but has enough space to hold my 3/4 helmet with room to spare around it. The box claims it will hold a full face helmet, but it is barely tall enough to fit the 3/4 so I doubt that claim. It will easily fit my heavy winter jacket or all of my pistols and several bricks of ammo for trips to the range. There is a plastic light fixture with a red lens, and slots for four LED's, but no wiring and no LED's. I can easily remedy that myself, and it certainly explains, at least in part, the lower cost of the case.

There is a built in back rest, which will be nice for my son when he rides two up, though I have cautioned him not to lean on it too heavily due to the weak plastic of the back rack. It also came with three keys, though one would hope it would come with keys since it's hard to open a lock without them.

As far as quality goes, the plastic seems pretty good and the hinges seem solid. It doe not feel at all wobbly, nor poorly put together. It may not be a GIVI, but I think it will do just fine. It actually seems on par with the top box that Honda sells for the Metropolitan and it's a bit wider.

My plan is to paint the top half silver. I also plan to pick up some wiring and LED's from Radio shack and wire the light on the back.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rolling along nicely

Well, it's been almost a week and my scoot seems to be running like a top. The fixes the dealer suggested seem to have done the trick and I'm noticing none of the problems I had previously written about.

The Silver Streak is proving herself to be a very capable machine. She seems most comfortable between 40 and 45 mph, which is not surprising. The Flying Cranberry was similar in having a sweet spot at about 60-75% of maximum speed. While the Silver streak will attain a top speed of around 60 - 65 mph (reported as around 70 on the speedometer), she really shines under 50 mph, and for the roads I ride, that's absolutely perfect! I rarely need to go faster than 45, so the scoot has it where it counts, with more than a little wiggle room at the top end.

Here is my theory on scooter selection based on two factors.

#1) Will the scooter meet the needs of the rider?
#2) Will the scooter exceed the needs of the rider?

If you are considering the purchase of a scooter, it should fall under both criteria.

For instance, a resident of Lancaster City who will only be using the scooter within the city with no plans for ever taking it outside the city limits might find that a used Honda Metropolitan 2 with a top speed of 25mph will meet his or her needs; however, it will not exceed those needs as it is not capable of getting out of the way of traffic that might be moving at 30mph (very possible in the city despite the 25mph speed limit). A standard 50cc scooter with a top speed of 35 to 40 mph should exceed the rider's needs and allow them a very comfortable commute.

A second scenario would be my own. I commute 12 miles to and from work each day on country roads. Along these roads, the speed limit varies from 25 mph to 40 mph and there are several hills. I purchased the 50cc Yamaha Vino expecting that it would be "all I really need." Unfortunately for me, I learned the hard way that I actually needed some wiggle room at the top end so I could more effectively evade traffic. a 125cc or 150cc scooter is much more adequately suited to these roads as it does not bog down on the mild slopes of the hills I face each day and is able to accelerate out of the way of cell phone wielding soccer moms in their Hummer H3's. This type of riding would also be suitable for a 200 or 250cc scooter.

And yet a third basic scenario. Our third prospective rider has a 20 mile commute from Eden to Reading. This commute requires highway riding on route 222. A 150cc scooter is capable of maintaining 55mph on a highway without too much trouble, but the speed limit along 222 is 65mph, and the majority of drivers on that road exceed that speed by more than a small margin. In this situation, an engine capacity of at least 250cc is highly recommended. A 150cc scooter pretty much tops out at 65, and running the small engine at that speed for prolonged periods of time isn't going to help extend the engine's life. A 250cc engine has enough oomph to travel at 80 mph, but may travel more comfortably around 60mph. even this smaller engine may not be beefy enough to handle the job, and then there's the size of the scooter itself. Wind resistance really pulls on a rider at high speeds (I was nearly blown off the Silver Streak a week and a half ago). A larger maxi-scooter is really recommended 65 mph roads simply due to the greater wind protection and larger wheelbase. There are some maxi-scooters available in 250cc variants, but due to the larger size, 400cc and up would be the recommended engine size for these scoots.

So base your purchasing decisions less on "all I really need" and more on "a bit more than I really need." You'll find that the scooter you choose will serve you much better if it's best suited for all your needs and then some.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ahh...nostalgia

I was following a thread on the local newspaper's forums this evening, and it caused me to feel nostalgic. Here is some of what I wrote there, with some editing.

I grew up in Western Massachusetts, amongst the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. Russell and Westfield to be exact. To be even more exact, though I was born in Springfield, we moved to Woronoco (a village within Russell, MA), when I was one year old, so my dad could teach in a seminary that used the old community building there (right next door to our house), which was torn down when I was eight or nine years old.

Directly accross the street from where the community building once stood, stands Strathmore Paper company's Woronoco Mill #2. Mill #1 is on the other side of the Westfield river across an old stone and cement bridge which has been condemned since I was ten years old. Both mills are closed at this point though I think Mill #1 is used for storage. At one time, there was some talk of turning the #1 mill into apartments. It is an old brick building with a lot of character.

Across the street from the house where I spent 12 of my first 13 years, there now sits an old abandoned parking lot, overrun with weeds and sumach trees (the lovely poison kind), beyond which runs the old Conrail east/west line from Boston, MA to Albany, NY. Beyond the tracks Mount Tekoa rises from the Westfield River valley. Wikipedia gives one history of the mountain, but there's more to it than that. What my dad told me is that the original name in the Woronoak Indian language was Tko, not Tekoa, and tko was Woronoak for rattlesnake. A rather appropriate name for the mountain as it is infested with timber rattlers. I saw several growing up. Most likely, the Puritan settlers missunderstood the name and used the word Tekoa instead thinking it more appropriate at the time.

Those mountains are beautiful and I miss them terribly. Next year I plan to fulfill my goal of traveling to Massachusetts on my scooter, at which time I will take special care to travel through the area in which I spent much of my childhood. I want to hike up Mount Tekoa once again, as I did with my father and sister when I was a child. I'll just need to watch out for those rattlesnakes.

Here you can see a picture of the Westfield River Valley, as seen from the back yard of my childhood home.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October 18th fall foliage ride route set!

Gerry over at Scoot Lancaster has finalized route details for the Fall Foliage ride next Saturday! I plan to be there, and several others have mentioned that they will be.

I don't want to steal his thunder, so check his blog for the meeting time, and so on.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Scooter boom...fizzles...

During the summer, scooter sales rose to record highs due to gas exceeding $4.00 a gallon for regular unleaded. Powersports dealers and hole in the wall cycle shops couldn't keep them in stock. Even the more expensive brands were selling like the proverbial hotcakes.

The Summer riding season has passed. Autumn is here with cooler temps and gas prices have now dipped below $3.00 a gallon. Sales of 50cc scooters seem to have stalled. The 125's and larger seem to be selling for dealers, but Trans-Am Cycle Sales in Lititz has had the same three Kymco 50cc scoots on their floor for the last month, not to mention the little Yamaha Vino they've had for two weeks (I shed a bitter tear).

Lancaster Honda has three Rucks for sale and four Mets. They've been sitting there for the last several weeks as well.

I stopped at Miller's cycle shop today in Leola and he has some chinese scoots sitting out by the road looking for owners, not to mention a couple older mopeds and a Vino 125 sitting outside the doors to his shop.

It truly seems the scooter boom has died down for this year, but this is good news. It means those looking for a 50cc scoot have a better chance of getting a bargain. The odds of getting a bargain are increased by the number of folks who, just like me, purchased a 50cc scoot and realized fairly quickly that they needed something with a bit more oomph.

So, if you're looking to get a scooter, now's a good time!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Can one be a hypocondriac about one's vehicles?

I took the scoot to the dealer today and they looked it over and took it for a spin. Apparently the issue I was having is not at all related to the front brakes, but rather to the natural way the scooter functions. The pulling or dragging sensation I was feeling is actually coming from the CVT and only really happens at higher speeds (40 +). It's a natural part of the engine function. The mechanic rolled the front tire and explained that with the type of brakes I have (something about a floating caliper or something like that), there will always be some resistance, but the amount of resistance I was seeing is normal.

Prior to going to the dealer, i decided to try to re-create my experience from last Friday. I took the Silver Streak to a local road where I could test it and it ran all the way up to 70 on the speedo just fine with no stalling. I wasn't able to get her any past that as she seemed to be at her limit. Apparently the fuel system cleaner did the trick. Again, the mechanic explained that if any of the jets or valves in the carb were gummed up, it could have caused the engine to be starved of gas at high speed, which would, in turn, adversely affect the operation of the vehicle.

I killed two stones with one bird apparently by using the fuel system cleaner.

At this point, I'm feeling quite relieved that those two scares are behind me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fall Foliage Ride reminder!

Only a bit more than a week remains until the fall foliage scooter ride. Gerry from Scoot Lancaster is heading this one up. The plan is that we will ride along the Susquehanna in the southwestern part of the county. Grab yer jacket and gloves, wrap a scarf around your neck, and come on out!

This will be a 50cc friendly ride, but all other scooters are welcome regardless of displacement.

If it's not one thing...

It's another.

Coming home from my weekend adventure, I noticed three things, in the order below.
  1. The first was some sluggish acceleration, and after draining some very black oil from my scooter and replacing it with clean oil of a light golden hue, she accelerates like a dream, but it didn't fix the next two problems.
  2. My People 150 wasn't starting up right away like it had originally and it seemed to be spluttering a little once started. I put some fuel system cleaner through it, and that seems to have cleared up. So now I move on to problem number three.
  3. The front end of the scoot seemed to be dragging. That's the only way I can describe the sensation. I did a little experimenting, and it seems the front disc brake is grabbing a little, with no pressure on the brake lever. This I haven't figured out how to fix yet and my manual has no helpful information.
So, once I figure out how to ease off the front brake just a little, I will, hopefully (crossing my fingers), have solved all of these little issues.

I think I need to get my hands on a service manual for my scoot. I will definitely give Yamaha the nod for better documentation than Kymco. The regular manual that came with my Vino even had some basic engine schematics. My Kymco's manual has little more than basic use instructions, and nothing that an amateur mechanic can use to really dig into the works with.

One thing I will say for Kymco, their manual is full of some wonderful Engrish!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rev Limiter? or something else?

This morning I changed the oil in my Kymco People 150. It was past 1000 klms on the odometer, and was acting a little sluggish. After the oil change, the sluggishness seemed to be greatly reduced. There was still some hesitation past 40 mph, but I was heading to the dealer to try to find out what the issue was with the rev limiter, if that was indeed what had caused my scooter to splutter and die on by trip north on Friday.

The technician at the dealer told me that there are two types of rev limiters. The first type cuts the ignition, which will cause the vehicle to stutter a little, but not die. The second type actually cuts the gas, and gives some kind of warning, much like what happened to me on Friday. The mechanic also wondered if the issue might not be due to bad gas. I tried to tell him I've been laying off the beans, but he wouldn't listen. *insert riotous laughter here*

He wasn't aware that the People 150 had a limiter like the second type mentioned, but said he'd do some research and give me a call. He did suggest that I try to avoid ethanol (which I already try to do, but that's almost impossible). He also suggested some fuel system cleaner.

I put some fuel cleaner in the tank and ran around for about 20 minutes. between the oil change and the fuel cleaner, it feels like the scooter is running a lot more smoothly, but I doubt that had anything to do with the sudden shutoff that occurred on Friday.

Well, at least for now I know not to try to run the scooter above 60 mph. That's alright though. I bought the scoot for safer navigation of 40 - 45 mph roads, and it is far more than adequate for that job.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Here's to returning home safely

Well, I'm home. The scoot got me here safe and sound and there were no further incidents like those that occurred on Friday.

I started out from Dubois, PA at around 11 am and worked my way down through the mountains. It was very chilly (about 4o degrees plus wind chill), but the views were spectacular. One in particular struck me as especially beautiful. The low lying clouds over the Susquehanna river through Clearfield were simply breathtaking.

The weather became much warmer as I came down out of the mountains. By the time I reached Harrisburg, I was scooting through 68 degree weather with bugs splattering against my windshield.

It was wonderful to finally arrive at home and rest my bottom, yet I was sad to leave my wife's family. They are wonderful people and my visits to their home are always pleasant.

I spent some time scooting around the hills of Clearfield and Jefferson counties. The new scoot really seems to fit well with the rural landscape. I also found it well suited to the windy mountain roads.

The foliage in that part of the state has already started to turn. On more than one occasion, I felt that I was traversing a tunnel of autumn colors.

The roads of rural Pennsylvania are some of the most beautiful. Perhaps that is what calls me out into nature, much like Thoreau.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Over the river and through the woods

Extended highway riding on a scooter is interesting. I've discovered that it's a bit scary to travel at 60mph and be buffeted by the wind.

I had a pleasant ride up through the hills of central Pennsylvania today. I went through Harrisburg rather than taking the bypass. The bypass is scary enough in a car, I don't think I'd want to try it on a 150cc scooter. I saw the capitol building, and a good portion of the city.

I then hopped across the Susquehanna to rt. 11/15 north and worked my way up to 322 West. I started up the mountain and was accellerating up to about 65 (the speedo reported 70, but it is 5mph fast), when suddenly the engine lost power and the right blinker came on. Thankfully there was nobody behind me, but that would have been pretty bad otherwise. I was a little panicked, but I pulled the scoot over to the side and the engine died. I was thinking "oh %^&#!" Well, I waited a couple moments, hit the starter and it purred to life. I decided I could either turn around and go home or continue on. Since I had a bit of a idea as to what had happened, I decided to continue on and kept my speed at 55 (60 on the speedo).

I made it safely all the way to State College, even up some pretty steep hills. The Kymco made it up the hills like a champ. It didn't have any troubles with it, and made my way through State College on Business 322. It was a great ride through a very pretty town.

I enjoyed the foliage, and made it back onto the main highway. I passed through Phillipsburg and then on to Clearfield where I stopped at Grice Gun Shop to purchase some ammo. I filled up at the Sheetz in town there and started up Clearfield mountain. Again, the Kymco handled the mountain like a champ with no signs of laboring. I took it easy on the throttle just in case, and when I came to the top of the mountain and turned onto a long stretch of road through a state park I can't remember the name of, and opened up the throttle to see if I could recreate the situation I'd had earlier. Sure enough, the scoot got to 65, the throttle turned to mush, and the right blinker came on. I pulled off the road and the engine died. It started up again without a problem, and I finished my trip.

I really had my suspicions at this point, so when I got to the in-laws' house, I called the dealer. Sure enough, the Kymco People 150 has a rev limiter. Once the engine is about to redline, the cycle goes limp. This is something I'm going to need to disable. I'll have to install a tachometer so I can monitor this myself, but I really don't think a rev limiter that shuts down the engine while on the highway is such a great (or safe) idea. I understand the point, but the limiter should "limit" the engine, not just shut it down.

In any event, now that I know the limiter is there, I'll be careful to never travel above 60mph so as not to set it off, but to all Kymco People 150 owners, now you know, this is not a high speed scooter so don't try to treat it like one.

Aside from that irritating aspect of the trip, the ride was fantastic and I was less saddlesore after 7 hours of riding than I would have been after 30 minutes on my old scooter. The Kymco's seat could use some more padding most definitely, but it's not horrible for long distance riding.

I've also discovered that I need to get another accessory: long underpants.

Monday, September 29, 2008

300km and planned solo ride

Well, I passed 300 km on the odometer today, so, as recommended in the owner's manual, I changed the motor oil and the tranny oil in the new scoot today. The oil changes were a snap, and the scooter runs very well.

I took it to fill up the gas, and was shocked to find that I got over 100 mpg, again. It's amazing to me that I've gotten better fuel economy out of a 150cc scooter than I was able to achieve with the 50cc Vino. Of course, I ran the Vino at top speed much of the time, which reduced the fuel economy. I run the Kymco at about 1/3 to 1/2 throttle most of the time, which probably makes the difference.

Overall, the last several days with the Kymco have been more than pleasant. As previously mentioned, it is easy to ride, stable, and peppy. I've tested acceleration against a friend's Jetta, which has a standard transmission, and found that my People 150 outpaces the other vehicle, even though my friend was trying pretty hard. Once we hit the top end, the Jetta took the advantage, but low end acceleration was one of the major reasons for getting the faster scooter.

This weekend I'll be riding solo up to Clearfield county to test the long distance performance of the Kymco. Route 322 is about 70% highway driving between here and there, but it should still be doable. I'll probably stop to rest and take pictures along the way, after all, it's beautiful country.

Upon my return I will post pictures and a full report on the Kymco People 150's highway and long distance performance.

Friday, September 26, 2008

More kymco impressions

It's the third day that I've owned my new scooter. I'm still taking everything in, but despite the two minor issues I've mentioned before (storage space, Kilometer odometer), I'm more than pleased with my purchase.

Aside from the obvious factor of engine displacement, there are some noticeable differences between the Kymco People 150, and the Yamaha Vino Classic. It's not exactly fair to compare the two, since, for what it is, the Yamaha Vino is a quality machine, designed specifically for low speed, urban commuting. The Vino does that job very well. That said, I wasn't riding the Vino as an urban commuter. I rode the Vino for extended periods of time, which could become very uncomfortable on my posterior. In addition, bumps in the road, particularly the occasional pothole, were terribly jarring. Fuel economy wasn't always the best either since I had to ride at full tilt much of the time, just to avoid getting run off the road.

On the other hand, the Kymco People 150 was designed to be ridden. I've sat on it for two hours straight now with no discomfort. Fuel economy is amazing, but I don't need to ride anywhere near full throttle, so I'm not taxing the engine at all. Road irregularities are no problem at all, since the 16 inch tires just roll over potholes like they aren't there.

Now that I've compared things that are apples vs. oranges issues, let's look at apples vs. apples issues.

Mirrors:

The mirrors on the Vino were small, but even with a heavy coat on, I could see behind me very well. The People's mirrors are a little wider, but don't seem to give as good of a picture of what's directly behind me. I'm sure in time that this can be adjusted, or I could always replace them with something better.

Headlights:

The headlight on the Vino was great on low beam, but visibility dropped dramatically with high beams. I think the high beam was aimed a little too high. The People's high beam is very bright and illuminates the road very well, as does the low beam.

Maneuverability:

The Vino and the Kymco are both very maneuverable. It's hard to compare them on this aspect, but I'd say there's little difference between the two; however, the Kymco's larger wheels make it feel much more stable. This might be of interest to anyone in the market for a 50cc since Kymco does have the People 50 and People S 50, both of which have 16" wheels as well.

Conclusion:

If you want a 50cc scooter, the Vino 50 is not a bad choice. On the other hand, if you get one from a Yamaha dealer, they will try to nail you with tons of additional fees. I hate to admit it, but that is what happened to me. I paid more than $300 in dealer fees for a 2006 Vino with a sticker price of $1599. I still highly recomend the scooter as a daily commuter, if that is all you are going to use it for, and I think mine is still available at Trans-Am Cycle Sales in Lititz PA. If it's no longer there, they do sell other scooters, and the Kymco Agility 50 gets high marks from what I've read.

If you're doing more riding than just a short commute, I can't stress enough that a 50cc scooter may not meet your needs. I'd really recomend a 125 - 150cc scooter, or even something faster. Yamaha and Honda are both fantastic brands, but dealer fees are a big problem. They aren't necesary, but the dealers and salesmen tack them on to make a little extra. If you can't talk them down, go elsewhere. Kymco, Aprillia, Piagio, and a few others, make great scooters are either a comparable or less costly price-point over Honda and Yamaha, and their dealers aren't as likely to tack on extra fees.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Second day at 150cc (plus windlight update)

I rode my Kymco People 150 about 70 miles today, and I loved every second of it. I took her out on the highway again, but today was rather windy, so I kept to about 55 - 60 mph. The Scooter itself was completely stable and didn't seem at all perturbed by the wind, but the wind was buffeting me pretty well to the point where it felt like it was going to knock me off the scooter, even with the large windshield I attached (the same one I had on my Vino). It's something to be aware of for longer rides on windy days.

I did note that the odometer seemed to be going very quickly, and I checked in at Trans-Am cycle to see if they could give me an explanation (though I already suspected the answer), and, as I had suspected, the scooter came equipped with an odometer that counts kilometers, not miles. That's only a minor inconvenience, and I've seen other scooters with the same issue.

The only other thing I noticed is this strange tendency the scooter has to exceed the speed limit. It's the scooter's doing, not mine! I think it's a factory defect, but I'm not going to take it back!

As to the windlight, it seems to not flicker brightly enough to be seen during the daylight hours. It is certainly bright enough to be seen at night; however, according to a friend, it's not as bright as the scooter's tail light. For $10 +S&H, though, I think it's still a good option.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

50cc Perspectives

There's something to be said for taking it slow. Taking in the scenery is so much easier when it isn't going past at an unreasonable rate of speed. A 50cc scooter gives one an unhindered opportunity to enjoy their surroundings, but it comes at a cost, primarily the safety of the rider.

If you are considering the purchase of a 50cc scooter, that's fantastic; however, there are some caveats. It took me very little time to realize that motorists don't care about the safety of that guy on the scooter there that they just ran off the road. 50cc scooters are a great, cost effective solution for roads with a low speed limit, say 25 or 30 mph. Anything above that speed is asking for trouble. I discovered that, only after I'd purchased my Vino, and here, several months later, I found myself upgrading.

I recommend that if you are looking to purchase a scooter, you should weigh your options carefully. If you live in a city, 50cc is a great idea. If you live in a rural or suburban area, a 50cc scooter may not be enough to get you out of the way of that soccer mom in the hummer bearing down on your tail.

Happy Day!

Well, I broke down and traded in the flying cranberry. I'd had one too many close calls with stupid motorists, so I picked up a Kymco People 150 today.

I've christened it, "The Silver Streak" and hope it is able to live up to its name, though if my highway experience today is any indication, I am not going to be displeased with my choice. Yes, that's right, I rode a scooter on the highway! She is stable all the way up to 65. I didn't go past that point since it's a brand new scooter and I didn't want to screw anything up. Acceleration is very peppy. I was actually kind of surprised. Maybe I am just so used to the acceleration of the 50cc, but even with just a touch of throttle (I don't think I've had her above 1/3 throttle yet), the streak responds magnificently.

She has 16" tires and they have very good tread on them, so stability and traction are fantastic. I don't feel all wobbly like I used to on the 50cc. I was saddened to trade in my other scooter, but I am very pleased with my new one.

The only gripe I have about the Kymco People 150 is the storage space, or better yet, lack of storage space. It has a small glove compartment, which is great, but the trunk under the seat is very...limited, shall we say. It might hold a half helmet, but that's about it. so, I will definitely be getting a top case for it, and might eventually pick up some saddlebags.

Otherwise, the seat is nice and big, which means, once I get my M license, my son will be able to ride with me in comfort.

I had been looking at the People S 200, but it was a bit more than I wanted to pay, and for the additional 11cc's over the People 150, it just wasn't worth it. The People 150 is actually 152cc's while the People 200 is not anywhere near 200cc, but rather just a 163cc. I had gone to the dealer thinking I would end up with the People S 200, since he hadn't had a 150 the last time I was there, but I was tickled pink to see the 150 sitting there.

I will continue to provide info about the scooter as I break it in, and even after that. So far though, I am very impressed with the fit and finish, and with the handling. The storage issues are forgivable in light of those factors.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lighting up...

One of the biggest problems for scootsters, bicyclists, and motorcyclists (shall I add pedestrians to the scenario?), is visibility. How do we increase our visibility in reasonable ways, and how can we do so without breaking the bank?

Well, I found a neat little do-dad through the forums at MajestyUSA that helps accomplish both goals. It's called, A windlight, and you can find it for sale at New Enough. The company that makes it is HJC, and it's really quite cool. It's a plastic housing which holds a tiny turbine and 8 LED's. The housing attaches to a helmet with some adhesive tape. Once enough air flows through the turbine, it starts to spin, which lights up the LED's. The LED's don't just stay lit, they pulse, which is much more eye catching than a steady light.


Let's look at the Pro's and con's of the device. We'll start with the positives.

Positive Aspects:
  • No batteries
  • Uses wind energy, which should satisfy most eco-freaks
  • Innexpensive (it cost me $15.00 once the shipping and handling was figured in)
  • LED's flicker, which will catch the eye of following motorists
  • Lightweight, does not add significantly to the weight of the helmet
  • Comes in two colors.
Negative Aspects:
  • Plastic seems cheap.
  • Unit is slightly bulky
  • Unit somewhat resembles the camera emplacements on skydiving helmets
  • Unit does not light up until the rider reaches 25 mph* which means it is not like other helmet lights that work in conjunction with the brake lights of the vehicle.
The skinny:

All in all, this is a great product. It's less expensive than other helmet lights, yet practical in its own way. The other helmet lights I've seen have a transmitter that connects to the brakelight, which means they activate when you hit your brakes. That's cool, but they cost between $50 - $100, which is not so cool. And, the upside to the Windlight is, it lights up at speed, rather than when stopping, which means, it helps with visibility while moving.

The cheap plastic construction is concerning, and it will be interesting to see how well it holds up to bugs and such that might fly into the turbine. A grill over the turbine might have been a good idea, but it would have changed the airflow, which might have changed the speed of turbine rotation, reducing the energy output, and increasing the spead one would have to travel in order to activate the LEDs.

If you can afford to, combining a helmet brake light, and a windlight would be a good idea, since you'd have a light while at speed, and another one while stopping, once you drop below 25 mph*. If you can't afford to do that, I think a Windlight combined with reflective clothing is probably the best option.

Now all I need is a headlight modulator...

*The product advertisement says it activates at 25mph, though in m testing, I found that it started to work at 20mph, though not as brightly as at speeds above 25mph