Sunday, June 28, 2009

Leaving a legacy...

I'm not generally one to follow the rich and/or famous, but within the last week, I have learned of the deaths of four different celebrities, mostly by chance and word of mouth.

Ed McMahon, perenial perveyor of magazine subscriptions through the Publisher's Clearing house, is probably best known for that and his role as sidekick to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. He passed away last Monday.

Michael Jackson, who was one of the shapers of pop music and culture, particularly during the 80's, passed away this past Wednesday. His legacy includes a single white glove, the moonwalk, and allegations of pedophilia.

Actress and celebrity Farah Fawcett, passed away this past Thursday. Her legacy includes her television and movie career (particularly her role on Charlie's Angels), and her fight against cancer.

Billy Mays, the Oxy-Clean guy, is the well known face and voice of everything "$19.95." His annoyingly high pitched voice sold tons of products for a horde of manufacturers. Sadly, his family also grieves this week, as he passed away on Sunday, June 28th.

It struck me this evening as I became aware of this most recent death, that life is indeed short and uncertain. I have often wondered how I will be remembered by those around me. Will I be the annoying guy with the silly sense of humor, or the sensitive man with a heart for people, or just another person on the street with little legacy outside his small circle.

Will any of the celebrities who died recently be remembered for any lasting positive impact they had on the world around them, or will people remember more of the negative aspects of their lives?

It reminds me of the Scripture in Matthew's gospel where the Apostle wrote the words of Jesus Christ:

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be."

Christ's basic teaching seems to come back to the idea that my life is bigger than just me. If, after my death, people point to my life and see only my accomplishments, then I have truly accomplished nothing at all. On the other hand, if those I leave behind see that I relied on Christ and gave Him the credit and glory, then I have truly lived.

So then, one day when I am no longer for this earth,
I hope the legacy I leave behind is one of self sacrifice and deference to my fellow man. I hope to be remembered, not for the ways I stepped on others to reach the top, but rather for how I reached out to others to help them reach their full potential.

Alright, I lied!

Ok, I couldn't resist. I had to fiddle some more with my lights. I took the rear fender off and drilled some holes in it, put installed the four red LED's on it. I think I got the wires well and away from the rear tire, and I put enough silicon around them to keep the elements out. They are nice and bright, so I now have even more added visibility. Here is a night-time video of the entire lightshow!

Lighting project video

Well, I thought there was little more that I could do, but I fiddled some more with my lighting. I changed the red LED's in the top box for white. They are much more visible now as you will be able to see in the video below. They glow brightly, even in broad daylight. The red LED's were barely visible during the day.

I still want to install a fuse box for the system, but I'll have to wait on that. As it is, the LED's are all rated for 12 volts. They draw very little power. I've left them on accidentally for more than 24 hours and the scooter started up with the starter switch without a complaint.

I am still working on ideas for the red LED's I took out of the top case. I think I may drill out some holes in the red reflectors in the back, but I want to ensure that the wires are protected from any debris that might come off the back tire.

Another project for another day I suppose.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More lighting fun

I added some more LED's to my scoot today, and cleaned up the wiring some. The LED's I added were four white high intensity LED's which I installed under the empty amber lenses on the faring. I had to drill a pair of holes in the plastic on each side, after removing the lenses of course. I think it came out very well.

I am pleased with the lights. I purchased them from Advance Auto Parts. The brand name is "Alpena" and they are a preconfigured 12v set. The price for the four LED set was $10.00

They are very bright and visible, even during the day. They are bright enough that they are visible even with the headlight on high beam. It's nice to have a little more visibility, and it cost very little.

I'll probably do a little more tweaking to my existing lights. I want to replace the red LED's in the top case with white LED's since I currently have red LED's behind a red lens, which, if you know anything about light refraction, you know that putting red through red cancels it out. So, I'll put the red LED's in the reflectors where they can be a bit more effective.

Lights are really easy to install. With a little work, it's no trouble to fix up a scooter with all sorts of luminous "bling."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gone Fishin'


Today, after work, I decided to go fishing. I wasn't able to find my fly box, so I ended up at "The Evening Rise, Flyfishing Outfitters" on Fruitville Pike. They seem to have a nice selection of fly fishing gear, and a huge selection of flies. I picked up a nice little box and a few flies, including a pair of crayfish imitations, a nice streamer, and a couple of different sized wooly buggers.

I then scooted around to try to find a suitable stream for some fishing adventure. I looked at Little Conestoga Creek, south of East Petersburg, but didn't see a spot with easy access, so since I was in the area, I scooted over to Lancaster Honda to see what they thought of my recent reviews, and their sales manager indicated that he was quite pleased. After a brief chat, I left there, and scooted over to Chiques Creek to see if I could find a place to wet my flyline.

I started to have a bad feeling about my fishing outing, when I started down toward the creek, and saw the tail end of what appeared to be a very large water moccasin, slithering off into the grass. Things only got worse when I went over to the other side of the creek, took off my shoes, stepped down toward the water, and immediately sunk to my knees in the mud. I found a rock to sit on and got most of the mud off my feet, then found a better spot upstream. I didn't catch anything, but I found the peace and quiet of my spot along the water's edge to be refreshing and restorative.

After fishing, I scooted back toward home and stopped in to chat with Lee who writes the "Life is Good" blog. It was good to talk with him, but in typical hyperactive fashion, I had trouble sitting still.

After that, I went to Gargano's Pizza in East Petersburg to pick up something to eat. I ordered a sausage grinder (what most folks outside New England call a "sub"), which was very good. I thought the scoot looked rather "old world" out front.

I took this shot from inside, looking out from the dining room. While I sat there, I had little else to do but play Ms. Pac-Man on my phone and listen to the conversation of the only other folks sitting in the restaurant at 3:30 in the afternoon, a pair of mid-teen girls. While I listened to them chatter, it struck me that women, no matter the age, when talking to each other, seem to often return to one specific subject: clothing (or shopping at the very least). I chuckled softly to myself as I pondered that when my wife and I were first married, we had equal space in our closet. Over the years, that balance has shifted, in her favor.

Most men do not mind this clothing obsession as it means that our ladies are always nicely attired. In fact, I have often felt a sense of pride and fulfilment when I have taken my wife shopping for new clothes when I see the joy it brings her.

It was an odd topic to ponder while I sat there I suppose, but it did bring a smile to my face.

After purchasing my supper, I went along home, parked my scooter, and went inside to enjoy a few episodes of Stargate SG-1 on DVD.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Batchin' it...

My wife and son are embarking for a trip to her parents' house. This means I'll be alone for the next week. *sniffle*

Actually, I'm pleased at the opportunity for some time to myself. I'll be able to go riding Monday and Wednesday without having to worry about someone else's needs. Not that I mind that, of course, but it will be a nice break.

I haven't done much joyriding this past week due to the rain, and I'm itching to get out. Perhaps tomorrow afternoon, after work, I can go south into Maryland...Or perhaps north into Berks county.

It was a good Father's Day. Not having a ton of money to spend, my wife and son are getting me my fishing license...well, they've authorized me to get it myself, since they can't actually go buy it themselves. So, maybe I'll get out and do some fishing this week.

We shall see...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Scooter Turtle Rescue!

After work this morning, I went over to Bainbridge, PA, and BMA cycles; the closest SYM dealer. They didn't have a CityCom 300i in stock, but they did have a Symba. It's a nice looking bike, though it's not really a scooter since the engine is mounted to the frame rather than the swingarm. at 100cc, it should be a peppy urban and suburban commuter, though rural use would probably be limited to the intrepid few. At $2600, the Symba is priced a little higher than might be appropriate, but, with it's retro styling...uh...classic styling...(retro would indicate a design that harkens back to an older style, but the Symba is essentially, the SuperCub, which is an old design)

The Symba they had in front of the shop was missing something. I'm wondering if my reader can guess what it was.

After leaving Bma cycles, I scooted off toward Elizabethtown. I saw a very rustic barn in an idylic setting. It perfectly embodied the rural charm of this area.

I then scooted off through Mount Joy toward home. I passed Lancaster County Bible Church on Mount Joy Road, and saw a funny round rock in the road.

It dawned on me, as I was countersteering past it, that there was a little reptilian head peeking out from inside the "rock." I stopped and turned around, and was able to rescue the small turtle from the middle of the road, just before a tractor trailer bore down on it.

I carried him the short distance to Chiques Creek and set him on the muddy bank. With a slight nudge, he slid on into the creek and buried himself in the mud.

So, I got to see a cool looking motorbike, and I did my good deed for the day, all in the space of about two hours. It's been a good day so far.

And yes, I washed my hands after touching the turtle.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Finally rode a Suzuki Burgman

Several folks have been pestering me to ride a Suzuki Burgman, so yesterday, I finally had an opportunity to do so. I showed up at Trans-Am Cycle at around noon and the salesman brought the scooter around for me so I could take it for a spin. The model I rode was a used 2006 Burgman 400. Unfortunately, it was not a new scooter, nor was it the current design, but since many folks will probably be interested in saving money by buying used, I think my impressions have merit.

As I've done on the previous two scooter reviews, I will start with my initial impressions of the Suzuki Burgman 400:
  • Appearance: The Burgman looks good. Its lines are aerodynamic and smooth.
  • Fit and Finish: Good. Even with the age of the scooter I rode, the body panels and console and so on were still flush with no obvious signs of seperation.
  • Storage: Underseat storage is cavernous. Not quite enough to transport a body, but close. The glove box is deep, and there are two small covered pockets just inside the handlebars which could be used to carry wallets, keys, and so on.
  • Sound: the Burgman is quiet enough, though the muffler does have a slight little rumble under acceleration. It's nowhere near as loud as a standard motorcycle and that's just fine with me.
  • Seat height is good. it's a bit lower than what I'm used to, which is a nice change.
  • Footroom is fantastic. As with the Yamaha Majesty, there are forward floorboards which allow for the rider to stretch their legs easily.
  • Mirrors are wide set, allowing a good view behind.
  • Vibration is minimal, with none of the thumping I felt on the Yamaha Majesty. Seems to be realy well counterbalanced.
  • Instruments seem well placed. I've heard complaints about the instrument panel on pre-2007 Burgmans, but I liked what I saw.
  • Windshield is nice, though a slightly taller shield would be preferable.
As for the ride;
  • The Burgman's stability is good. Not the same as what I would expect of a big wheel scooter, but close. I think the longer wheelbase throws me off a little since I'm used to the smaller wheelbase of the big-wheel scoots.
  • The Agility and suspension seem pretty good. Again, the agility is not what I am used to, but the suspension is indeed better. The suspension was comparable to the Majesty, though not quite as nice as the Piaggio BV-500.
  • The seat comfort is fantastic. I love the backrest. the backrest on the Burgman 400 is better than that of the Majesty. Probably the best I've had opportunity to try so far.
The performance of the Burgman is as follows:
  • The engine is fuel injected, but the acceleration was a little choppy. It felt good, and accelerated up to an indicated 70mph, but it felt less certain of itself than the SH-150, which seemed very odd to me. It may have been a specific issue with that scooter, due to the fact that it was used.
  • The Burgman's speed was similar to the Majesty. of course, the two scooters are in the same class, so that was to be expected. I was unable to test it past 70mph due to the limited test ride I was allowed by the dealer.
  • Cornering was good for as long as the wheelbase is on the Burgman. It didn't feel quite as sporty as a big-wheel scoot, but it did corner comfortably, without any feelings of ungainliness.

On the whole, I liked the Burgman, but after riding the Piaggio BV-500, and even the Honda SH-150, it was a bit of a letdown. It's accelleration was a little sluggish compared to both of those scooters. Nevertheless, it seems to be a very capable machine, despite the acceleration issues I noticed.

I think I like the seat comfort better than anything I've sat upon so far, though the BV-500 came close. I think it would certainly be more comfortable than my current scooter for long distance rides. The storage also makes it a great choice for touring.

At this point, I think I'll put the Burgman 400 in the second position on my short list, of possible future purchases, just under the BV-500. Both scooters have a nice, smooth ride, without the vibration I found so unsettling on the Majesty.

The Burgman is an impressive scooter, and is sure to please.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Not a Honda...not a Kymco...but...UM Matrix II

Yesterday, I rode both the Honda SH-150 and the UM Matrix II at Lancaster Honda. The Honda was an eye opener, and in some ways, the UM was as well.

While the UM is definitely no Honda, it certainly provides a low cost option for those who may not have around $5,000 to drop on a scooter.

My initial impressions of the United Motors Matrix II 150 are as follows:
  • Appearance: Lots of angles. Looks a bit like a Malagutti I've seen. Headlights seem eye-catching
  • Fit and Finish: Mediocre. As an example, there were plastic shavings tucked around the edges of the instrument panel cover.
  • Storage: Fairly good for this class of scooter. Probably big enough for a full face helmet and certainly big enough for my 3/4 helmet.
  • Aesthetically, Not terribly loud. Not terribly good looking in my opinion, but looks are not everything.
  • Seat height is a little tall and the floorboards are so wide that putting my feet down was an uncomfortable experience.
  • Footroom is very good, with plenty of room for me to flop my big ol' stompers around.
  • Mirrors vibrate horribly when stopped, making it impossible to know what is going on behind. When under way, the vibrations settled down some, but there were about three of each vehicle behind me, in each mirror.
  • Vibrations were very noticeable.
  • Instrument panel is made of cheap plastic. It gave me the impression that I was riding an oversized powerwheels. The turn signal indicators were impossible to see in full sun until I squinted real hard and got up close, which would be a difficult way to ride. As a plus, it does have a tachometer, though that seems a little pointless when one has no control over shifting.
  • Kickstand included at no extra charge!

Now, on to the ride.
  • The UM Matrix II is nicely agile and countersteers well. It feels more agile at speed than it does for slow turns. In fact, it was harder to turn around in a full circle than either my Kymco People 150 or the SH-150i. At speed, it seems very stable, of course, I think the chunky tires on the 13" wheels help a lot.
  • The UM Matrix II rides solidly for the most part, though there was a little play in the steering column, which was a bit unnerving. The suspension was pretty good. Nice and bouncy. It absorbed bumps fairly well.
  • The seat comfort is average. by the end of my 15 minute ride, I had repositioned myself at least five times. I was starting to feel a little saddlesore. There is minimal back support. Of course, these issues can be easily modified.

As for performance, the UM Matrix II is a capable machine.
  • Acceleration is moderate. While it accelerated more gradually than my People 150, it did so capably without complaint.
  • I wasn't able to really test top speed since I didn't take it on the highway, but it did register about 55 on the speedo on a downhill. It seemed to do pretty well uphill, on a rather steep grade it registered 48 on the speedo, though it did not seem to struggle. I didn't even think to look at the tach since I'm not used to one on a scooter.
  • Cornering was pretty good. Since the UM Matrix II is fairly stable, this wasn't an issue, though, as its turning circle seemed a bit larger than the SH-150i.
As a whole, the UM Matrix II is a capable and sufficient scooter. It's not breathtaking, but it does what it needs to do. At $2100 (I'm fairly certain that's the price I was quoted), it is an easier pill to swallow than the SH-150i at over $5,000 out the door (OTD). Even my Kymco People 150 cost $3100 OTD which is a good chunk more than the Matrix II.

That seems like a pretty good deal to me. Certainly, there are trade offs in order to get that savings, but for the price, it's an ok Chinascoot (edited after more research). As mentioned, things like seat comfort can be modified. I'm sure that the play in the steering column can be fixed as well.

For the money, it's hard to beat the UM Matrix II. It's no Honda, It's not even a Kymco, but it is affordable and should deliver good value for those who simply need serviceable, reliable transportation.

Friday, June 12, 2009

That's it!

The next Italian I see, I am going to go up to them and give them a big wet sloppy kiss, right on the lips!

Ok, maybe not, but when it comes to scooters, I have reached a definite conclusion: The Italians know what they are doing.

This afternoon, Kevin, the sales manager at Lancaster Honda, invited me to test ride and review two of their 150cc scooters, the Honda SH-150i, and the UM MatrixII. Not being one to turn down a test ride, I agreed immediately and told him I'd try to be back later in the evening since I had to retrieve my wife from an appointment.

I showed upat 6:00 and he asked which one I wanted to start with. Since he was the one who had extended the invitation, I allowed him to choose for me, and he suggested the SH-150i. Despite some earlier statements that may seem to contradict me on this, I have been itching to try one, just to see what it was like, so I did not hesitate to agree with his suggestion.

My initial impressions of the SH-150 are as follows:
  • Appearance: Clean lines. Nice paint, with a few obviously plastic panels, but some not so obvious.
  • Fit and Finish: Very good. No loose panels. Very well put together.
  • Storage: Bleh. The storage on the SH-150i is a joke, but then, with the big wheels there is a trade off in storage, unless one wishes a completely unrealistic seat height.
  • Aesthetically, the SH-150i is easy on the eyes and on the ears. It does not make a whole lot of noise and is very pleasing to my eyes. It has a broader fairing than the Kymco People 150, but still maintains a thin enough floorboard as to be comfortable.
  • Seat height seems a bit taller than I'm used to, but I was able to balance easily on the balls of my feet.
  • Footroom is limited, and barely accomodates my size 10 1/2 feet, but I'm used to that.
  • Mirrors are set wide enough as to allow an ample view behind the rider. I could see my shoulders, but the mirrors seem to still be more than adequate. No jiggling, even when stopped.
  • Vibration is minimal.
  • Instruments are easy to read, though the fuel and temperature gauges seem to be at a strange angle which makes them a little hard to read, but not impossible. There is a trip meter and a clock, if that's important to you.
  • No kickstand

Now, on to the ride.
  • The SH-150i is very similar in stability and agility to the Kymco People 150, but then, the Kymco borrows heavily from the Honda. The SH-150i is everything the Kymco People 150 tries to be, and comes very close to being.
  • The SH-150 sticks to the road. It seems a little heavier than it's Taiwanese doppelganger, which would certainly make a difference. It seems just a little less agile, though not by much. The suspension is smooth.
  • The seat comfort is good. By the time I was done with my 20 minute ride, I still felt comfortable. There is a fairly good lower back, well, more just a butt support, which seems to help.
As for performance, the SH-150 is sure to please.
  • The fuel injected engine accelerates smoothly and much more agressively than the carbeurated scooters I've ridden. It was very close to the Piaggio BV-500, up until about 50 mph (reported). There is no hesitation in the acceleration. The CVT is very smooth.
  • I was hugely impressed by the speed of the SH-150i. I had it up to a reported 65mph on a short stretch of rt 283, and nobody was passing me. The stretch I was on is posted as 65 mph, and most drivers push that fairly agressively, so I was somewhat surprised. Even though the SH-150 didn't want to go any faster than the reported 65, it was making no complaint and there was none of the discernable vibration that I am accustomed to on my People 150 at speeds above 50mph.
  • Cornering was very good. As mentioned above, the SH-150i is very stable, so it corners like a dream.
All in all, some might question whether the SH-150i is worth $4,500, and while, personally, that is out of my price range, I don't think anyone who purchases this scooter will be disappointed. If I had the money to spend, and didn't already have a serviceable 150, I'd be sorely tempted.

The SH-150i is a sure winner, even if the price is initially a little daunting.

**coming tomorrow: UM MatrixII review - 150cc's on the cheap**

**edited to note: Kevin at Lancaster Honda confirmed my suspicions that the SH-150i is at least assembled in Italy, if not completely manufactured there. It certainly has the quality of the only other Italian scooter I've ridden so far.**

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You meet the nicest people...

...On a scooter.

Of course, the original quote was "You meet the nicest people on a Honda," which was an add campaign run in the 60's. It worked brilliantly for them at the time, and sold them tons of Honda 50's.

In the early 60's, Honda was faced with selling motorcycles to an American public for whom the image of a motorcycle was the outlaw biker. They came up with an ingenious add campaign which painted the Honda 50 as the common people's motorcycle upon which the friendliest people in the world could be found. Honda has a little blurb about this campaign here.

What I've found to be true, more than fifty years later, is that the nicest people in the world seem to be drawn to scooters. Of course, this is a subjective opinion, but then, that's what blogging is all about.

I can't think of any scooter rider I've met who did not give the first impression of being a friendly individual. Scooters do not have the stigma attached to motorcycles, which helps nudge the perception along that scootsters, such as myself, are friendly folk.

I get lots of smiles from people, and two days ago, I even had a lady intentionally set off a traffic light sensor for me even though she could have made a right turn rather than sitting on the sensor in the turning lane.

Sure, there are folks who look at those of us who ride scooters as dorky, effeminate (except for those scootsters who are already female of course), socially inept, etc., but those folks are shallow and not worth heeding. The vast majority of people I've come across, whilst riding my scoot, return my smile and exchange friendly smalltalk, if the situation allows.

Now, if only I could find an old Honda 50 in decent condition and not pay a mint for it...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More test riding - Piaggio BV-500

**Edited to add: HEY! Post 200. Man I write a lot!**

I did a lot of roaming yesterday. I had to make a delivery to a co-worker who was at Goodwill's Homefields farm. It is a wonderful program which allows persons with developmental disabilities to work in an agricultural setting.
The smell of the earth was intoxicating. Couple that with the smell of strawberry plants, and there's a wonderful bouquet for the olfactory nerves.

After leaving the farm, I headed west toward Washington Borough. I'd never been in that part of Lancaster county, but it reminded me a lot of my home in New England. The woods were dense and the hilly areas were cool and refreshing.

I turned south and found my way to the Conestoga River where I finally turned around to head back toward Washington Borough and Columbia. In Columbia, I turned onto rt. 462 toward York and stopped at Don's Yamaha in Hellam. They sell Kymco scooters, so I thought they might have an Xciting 500 Ri for me to try out. They did not, so I headed home.

Today, my son and I rode to Lebanon to visit the Vespa dealer there. I finally had my chance to ride the Piaggio BV-500. It was, to say the least, impressive.

Upon first sitting on the scooter, I was immediately aware of the solidity it possesses. It is well put together and the fit and finish are far better than other scooters I have sat upon. It sits a little higher than the People 150, or at least, it feels like it does. The BV-150 has an unmistakable feeling of mass, which, when combined with the hum of the engine, gives it a presence that is exhilarating.

The BV-500 is not only stable at speed, but also for slow cornering. It feels much like riding the People 150, though the engine has considerably more power and the acceleration was much more peppy, not that this was unexpected. The BV 500 does not feel quite as nimble, though it is very close, then again, it is substantially heavier than the People 150.

The rear disk brake is very nice. It had enough stopping power on its own, without the help of the front brakes, though out of habit, I did use both. Considering how good the rear brake is, the dual front disks are, unsurprizingly, even more grippy.

The seat was very comfortable, which is a big issue for me since I plan on taking very long rides. I didn't feel any hint of discomfort in the half-hour I was riding. That was quite nice. There is a definite depression in the seat where the operator's posterior comes to rest, with a slight lower back support, which at first felt a little strange, but after a few minutes was hardly noticable. The Vespa dealer had actually suggested that I take the scooter on a far longer ride, but due to time constraints, that wasn't possible. It was a nice gesture though.

The single cylinder operated smoothly with none of the pounding I sensed when I rode the Yamaha Majesty. It was obvious I was riding a thumper, but not blatantly so. Rather than a violent shaking, the scooter gave more of a smooth, intermittent vibration.

Storage is minimal compared to most other maxi-scooters I have looked at. It wasn't nearly as poor as a Morphous or my People 150, but it has about half the storage of the Majesty. Of course, adding a top box would fix the problem completely.

All in all, the BV-500 is a beautiful scooter. It is more than capable for the riding I do, and my conclusion at this point, barring falling in love with something else, is that I really, really like the BV-500.

Addendum added later:

I would like to add an interesting note. The BV I rode evidenced a strange canting from side to side. It was very slight, but noticable. I spoke to the dealer after the ride and he explained that the scooter had taken a spill when they took it off the trailer after the Ephrata Ride-in on Sunday. The spill had scraped some of the paint on the right side and cracked the right mirror. To some extent, I wish they had allowed me to use an undamaged scooter because it might have given a better idea of the performance of the vehicle.

I also disliked that there was only a small "Flyscreen" on the scooter. For something with the capacity for speed that the BV-500 has, a windshield is a must in my opinion. Traveling along at 65 with my cheeks flapping is not exactly my idea of a good time.

The last issue I had was with the price. The dealer wants to add on various dealer fees, prep, and so on. These are the sort of things that a savvy buyer generally will attempt to haggle down. If I do decide to buy the BV-500 from them (a nice midnight blue one, not the beige demo model), I will try to get them to throw in a full set of riding armor and a full helmet if they want to charge almost $7,500.

Still, the price is better than a new Silverwing...oh to dream.

Monday, June 8, 2009

June Ride-in

Yesterday was the first Sunday of June, so it was time for the monthly Ephrata Ride-in. I've decided to make it my custom to go to the ride-ins, then go to church from there. Unlike last month, the skies were mostly clear, and the sun was shining steadily. My son and I parked the scoot next to a row of cycles and headed up to the main parking area to look around. I only took one pic of the gathered bikes so as not to annoy anyone.

There were only a few scooters aside from my own that I noticed, and they were all maxi's. I had begun to lose all hope for humanity, until I happened to see a Vespa across the sea of chrome. My son and I made a bee-line in that direction whilst dodging pedestrians and riders alike. As we drew near, I noticed an MP3, and then a Fly-50, and finally a trailer proudly advertizing Vespa of Lebanon. At first I was a bit disapointed, since I had been hoping to find like minded folks. I perked up when I noted the ivory colored BV-500 and went over to have a look. It was sitting right next to an MP3-500 which is significantly smaller in person than it at first appears when viewed in pictures on the Internet. The front wheels are also very small at 12", which I find a little off-putting. I've become so accustomed to the larger wheels on my People 150 that I'm not sure how well I'd like going back to 12's. I know I certainly did not like them on the GV-250.

Back to the BV-500. The gentleman attending the booth was kind enough to allow my son and I to sit on it. My son's feet reached the rear foot rests with ease and knee room to spare, so that would be no issue. I found the foot space to be a little better than the People 150, though it still had that annoying hump in the middle (One advantage of the Kymco GrandVista is that it has a flat floorboard with lots of room). On the subject of foot-room, the BV does not have any forward footrests as do the maxi-scoots, so the rider is stuck with their feet flat on the floor. Of course, the riding position of the big-wheel scooters tends more toward that of a standard street bike, whereas the maxi's have more in common with the seating position of a cruiser.

The BV-500 is certainly sharp looking, and the seat seemed very comfortable for the short time I was ensconced upon it.

After looking at the scooters, we visited a few of the other stands, and then left for church at promptly 10:00. We took the back roads to get there as it would have only taken about 10 minutes had we taken the direct route, and that would have been little fun.

After church, we started on our way home, only to become stuck in traffic on our way back through Ephrata. Thankfully, there was some entertainment at a Cycle business (the name escapes me) near the Honda dealer, so my son and I stopped to watch for a brief moment.

The riders seemed very skilled, but I wanted to get home, so we left after only a few minutes. My son was fascinated, but he reluctantly put on his helmet and hopped on the back of the scooter for the ride home.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Minimalism...the good and the bad

In researching my options for a larger scooter, I have come to an annoying, but interesting conclusion. There really aren't that many options out there. If I were able to ride a motorcycle, I would have tons of options, and many at very reasonable prices. Larger displacement scooters seem to be very light on choices here in the U.S.

From my perspective, not having a lot of choices has its positive and negative sides. For the negative, I think having few choices in a market where there is little push for competition leaves consumers with little chance of having a significant effect on what manufacturers build. Overseas, there are more options simply because there is more of a market for scoots over there. Here, we are limited to a mere handful of reputable manufacturers who make anything bigger than a 250. from my observations, the european and asian markets seem to have much more input with the manufacturers than does the U.S. market. Even the Canadians seem to get some extra goodies that don't appear on U.S. Scooters.

On the positive side, having few choices makes the choosing easier. The choices we have are not horrible, and there are enough to keep the choosing mildly interesting, few though they may be.

The manufacturers and models that I have found available in my area are as follows:
  • Yamaha - Majesty and T-Max
  • Suzuki - Burgman 400 and 650
  • Honda - Silverwing
  • Kymco - Xciting 500Ri
  • SYM - CityCom 300i (actually only a 263, but still a bit better than a 250)
  • Piaggio - BV-500, MP3 400 and 500
  • Vespa - GTS 300 Super
  • Aprilia - Scarabeo 500ie
I can't think of any other manufacturers, but these seven makes are the ones I know off hand. The SYM CityCom 300i might be interesting, but might still be a little underpowered. Vespa's GTS 300 Super might be a good choice, but a Piaggio BV 500 tourer can be had new for nearly the same price as can a Scarabeo. So, the 300's, while I will probably test ride them (and may test ride a BV-250 since it comes highly recomended), are not at the top of my list.

It's really the 500 class that interests me the most. It seems to be a good round number I suppose, but moreso, I'm a little concerned that a 400 just wouldn't be enough to keep me hooked the long haul. I liked the 400 that I rode, and think I could be satisfied with one, but I'd like to try a few 500's before I make a final decision.

So, once the rain quits, I'll get my skinny butt out to one of the dealers round here for a few more test rides.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rained on my parade...

Well, I'd planned to have done some more test riding over the last few days, but the inclement weather has made that impossible. I'm hoping to go up to Lebanon tomorrow if it dries up some, but my Weatherbug is telling me that tomorrow will be rainy as well.

I've gotten some good input from a few other folks, and I've enjoyed the two rides I've taken so far.

I discovered a little something about my "waterproof" gloves. they only work if water does not get in at the cuff. They are designed to fit over the cuff's of one's raincoat, but that is only effective if one's hands are above one's elbows. Since my scooter's handlebars are somewhat low, the rain went right down my sleeves into my gloves.

This occurred in a torrential downpour that started just as I left for work on Tuesday and stopped just as I arrived. Isn't it amazing how that happens? In any event, when I arrived at work, my waterproof gloves were waterlogged, rain had dribbled off my chin and down my neck into my rain coat, and had run down my rain pants into my shoes, which were drenched.

Now that I know this, I have been careful to put the cuffs of my jacket over the cuffs of the gloves. I've also tried to make sure that the cuffs of my pantlegs sit over the top of my shoes rather than off center. That worked very well today. I traveled home from work in a steady rain and arrived at home dry and comfortable, right down to my toes.

As soon as I get an opportunity to test some other scoots, I'll pass along what I find.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A BMW, SH-150's, and a Majesty

I always do shopping for work on Mondays. Today, on my way back to the group home from Oregon Dairy, I passed a 1984 BMW that had a for sale sign on it. Since I was at work, I did not stop, but continued on about my business. I arrived back at the group home, put the groceries away, then scooted to the Wal-Mart in Ephrata to pick up some other things for the house.

After I got back from that errand, I went back to where the BMW motorcycle was for sale. The owner stated that he had purchased it new in '85 and it had over 100,000 miles on it. There were a few other issues too, but just for kicks, I tried to sit on it. I eyed the high seat with some trepidation and decided to give it a go anyway. I lifted my leg to put it over the bike, and I heard and felt a loud "pop!" This was closely followed by shooting pain. I guess that's not the bike for me, but if anyone wants a project for $1800, I can tell you where to find it.

The pain subsided after a little bit, so I decided to go to Lancaster Honda to see if they had any SH-150i's yet. To my delight, they had three. I have to say, they are very nice to look at. I didn't sit on one, but I didn't really feel the need to since my next step will be something in a larger displacement.

I talked to one of the sales reps and was able to test ride a 2007 Yamaha Majesty. The Majesty was impressive. It was a little intimidating at first since the big single cylinder was thumping away beneath me, but I rolled out of the parking lot and took a right down Dairy road. I took another right after passing under the railroad bridge, then another onto Rohrerstown road.

By this time, I was starting to feel a little more comfortable, so I opened it up a little and soon had it up to a reported 50mph without so much as a stutter. After turning onto Harrisburg Pike I gradually accelerated and was keeping up with traffic until I looked down to see that I was well exceeding the speed limit. WOW! What a rush!

Another pair of right turns, and I was on the highway. The Majesty seemed very stable and capable. I wasn't able to test out its full capacity, but moving along at nearly 70 with nothing but the wind around me was exhilerating. I opened it up again on Dairy road and again, WOAH!

I am now fully convinced that I want at least a 400cc. I looked briefly at the Honda Silverwing, but at $9,000 it's a bit much to stomach. A used Majesty or Burgman can be had for much less, and will be perfectly suited to my touring needs. I'm not yet in the market to buy, but it's still fun to look at the various options that are available.

I got back on my own scoot and rode home. It was quite a difference, but it was nice to be back on my little scoot. It may not have the oomph of the bigger scoot, but the agility of my People 150 just can't be beat. The Majesty was better than the Kymco GrandVista, but it's stability and cornering weren't nearly as good as I'm used to on the smaller scooter.

I'll keep test riding until I find the scoot that really fits me well. I may even have to try the two 500's Piaggio has to offer, though I really don't think I want an MP3. At least I have a lot of time to make my decision.