Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another Convert!

I finally got to my wife!


I took her to a local private parking lot and she went for a spin. Granted, she topped out at 5 mph, but still! I am so proud of her for taking this step toward two wheels.

The only downside is, now she wants a pink Vespa!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mid-Atlantic Scooter Rally, Spring 2010, Saturday Morning

I left my house at 7:45 this morning and rode my scooter to New Holland over the back roads I love so much. She made it safely to Yoder's Restaurant where I parked her amongst the other scooters. There were definitely more scooters this year than last, and more were arriving by the minute.

The breakfast in the banquet facility was very good. We all went to the buffet and enjoyed the various tasty items available.

After Breakfast, Will gave a rundown of basic group ride protocol and how to ride in a staggered formation. He went over the planned route and we then departed to get on our scooters.

The ride was to take us from New Holland to Strasburg in three groups of up to 50 riders each. There were no mishaps on the way, though some riders had trouble riding in formation. I kept counting "one Mississippi, two Mississippi," when the rider ahead of me would pass a stationary object to keep my distance even, but the rider who was supposed to be in the left-hand side of the lane next to the rider ahead of me, kept falling back. This screwed up the formation and was a bit unnerving. Additionally, the rider ahead of me put her feet up behind her on the back of her seat at one point, which freaked me out just a bit.

All in all, the ride to the Strasburg Railroad was fun, but since I'd already been there a few times, I became a little bored after a while (not the fault of the leadership, rather just my short attention span). Luckily for me, another group had decided they wanted to get back to New Holland rather than waiting for the rest of the group. Since I'm hyperactive, I didn't hesitate and decided to go with them. The splinter group went to Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, which I also found a bit on the tedious side, but then, I'm not into shopping at tourist traps.

We left from there to allegedly go back to New Holland, but I had to leave the group after a little while since I needed to get home to my wife and son. I will be going back this evening, but returning home gave me an opportunity to save the money I would have had to spend on supper.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mid-Atlantic Scooter Rally, Spring 2010, Friday Night

I hopped on the scoot this evening and motored over to The Hollander Motel in New Holland for the annual tire kicking and general breeze shooting that occurs on the first night of the rally.

I met up with Gerry, writer of the Scoot Lancaster Blog, and several others whom I had met last year. There were several more people there than I remember from last year, including one rider on a Honda SH-150.

The most common scooters represented were Suzuki Burgmans, but there were a number of Honda models and even a few motorbikes. One intrepid rider came in on a 1970-something CB125. It wasn't in the greatest condition, but it was still pretty cool. Unfortunately, I failed to get a shot of it.
There was a grill set up with burgers and dogs and some pork BBQ as well. I had a dog and some BBQ and settled in to talking with the other scootsters.

After a while, I had to leave so I could get back to my family, so I took some back roads on my way home and ran into my old nemesis: The tar and gravel road. There was so much gravel in fact that I nearly dumped the scoot. Pennsylvania townships really need to abandon this type of road repair. It may be an inexpensive option and may work for cars and trucks, but it could mean a serious crash for a motorcyclist or scootster. I hope we do not run into any of these roads on the ride tomorrow.

I also hope it does not rain.

Off to the Rally...

Today is the first day of the Mid-Atlantic Scooter Rally. Tonight is just a meet and greet, but there will be a ride tomorrow. I'm considering taking the motorbike tonight, but I'm not certain.

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to go, which is why I had not mentioned it yet.

It will be a nice end to my week's vacation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Honda Elite 110 : A pleasant little puddle jumper

I finally had my opportunity to ride a Honda Elite 110 today. Yesterday, while at Lancaster Honda, I noticed the new Elite sitting there, and Kevin, the Sales Manager, said I should come back today for a test ride, so I did.

The little Elite carried me over to Fruitville Pike and back again so I could pick up some prescriptions for my wife.

It seemed to fit in very well on the suburban roads I took it on and I found that I could easily get used to it's snappy handling.
My initial impressions of the Honda Elite 110 are as follows:
  • Appearance: This is my biggest issue with the Elite 110. From the back, she's a prom queen. From the front, she's a drag queen. The front end looks ok from a distance, but when one draws closer, the horn vents look like a pair of cetacean nostrils (otherwise known as a whale's blow-hole). The back end is nicely done with a very streamlined tail light.
  • Fit and Finish: The Elite seems very well put together, but there were a few places where the paint was scuffed. There was also an issue with the seat lock on the vehicle I tested.
  • Noise polution, from the Elite 110 is minimal. This could be accounted for by the gigantic muffler, but there were no discernable extraneous engine or transmission noises
  • Seat height is good. I was able to stand flat footed when stopped which is comforting. I don't really like the feeling of being on my toes while stopped at a light. It's just a bit unnerving.
  • Footroom is fantastic and easily accommodated my huge feet. There are even secondary footpegs to either side of the seat, just in front of the pop-out passenger pegs, that could serve as an alternate foot rest. The footroom on this scoot is impressively huge.
  • Mirrors are wide set and allowed a good view behind me, but the one on the left was a little loose on the scoot I tested. I was told that this was an error on the dealer's part and not an issue with Honda quality.
  • Vibration is only noticeable at a stop, but it isn't bad.
  • Instruments are easy to read, with bright turn signal and headlight indicators. The speedo is dead center which is a nice touch.
  • No side-stand which could be difficult for more mature riders or those with difficulty lifting.
  • The underseat storage for the new Elite is gigantic. It's large enough to carry a gallon of milk, and a modest amount of groceries, but, while Honda claims that it will hold a full face helmet, they fail to mention that the seat will not close on top of one. Just the same, the storage rivals that of a Silver-wing and is perfectly suited for basic errands in an urban or suburban setting

Now, on to the ride.
  • The stability of the Elite 110 was surprising to me. The wheels are small (10 in rear, 12 in front), but the stability was quite good despite this. The scooter feels extremely well balanced.
  • The Elite 110 handles very nicely. She corners well and counter-steers around bumps and obstacles without feeling too loose or too tight.
  • I was completely taken aback by the suspension. This is a 110cc scooter, but the suspension felt better than its 150cc counterpart. I was so shocked (no pun intended), I even took her over a few manhole covers to reassure myself that I was not mistaken. Sure, you feel the bumps a little, but my experience with small wheeled scooters and even with my big-wheeler, is that even small bumps can be quite jarring. The Elite blew that particular perception away.
  • The seat comfort is decent. It feels softer than other scooter seats I have rested my hindquarters on, and seems to have a little pocket that one settles one's tush into. It's certainly a different feel, and I wonder how it would feel over a longer ride.
The Elite 110's performance is good for its engine size.
  • The fuel injected engine accelerates well, but does not seem particularly aggressive until it reaches about 20 mph (indicated). Between an indicated 20 and 40 mph, acceleration is much more peppy. Bearing in mind that this is a new engine that has not yet been broken in, the acceleration tendencies may change as the scooter is used.
  • The scoot motored up to an indicated 53 or so on the straight stretch outside the Honda dealer. Knowing the tendency for scooter speedos to be optimistic, I'd guess she hit about 45, which, for a 110, particularly one that is brand new out of the box, is not too bad.
  • Braking was competent. It was so competent that I failed to notice anything about it one way or another. I hadn't even realized that I had not thought about the brakes until I arrived back at the dealer. I believe that to be a good thing.
All in all, riding the new Elite was a conflicting experience. While I know the scooter is built in China, it has the solid feel of a well constructed machine.

It sounds beautiful, meaning that it hardly makes a sound at all. This is a scooter that you can stop on the side of the road to have a pleasant conversation with a friend, without shutting off the engine so you don't have to shout at each other.

I think Honda hit a home run with this machine, and with their current price incentives, the Elite's MSRP is $2,499, which makes it competitively priced (which is a shock coming from Honda).

Now if only they could do something about that front end...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Honda 125cc coming to US market

It looks like Honda has heard the distress of her American fans and has deemed that they shall bless us with another scooter, the PCX-125.

They claim that it is inspired by sportbikes, but I'll have to ride one before I agree with that assumption. It has 14" wheels, which are a bit smaller than those on the SH-150, so I'm a little leery of their claims of sportbikeyness (I know, not a word, but I don't care).

They are releasing this scoot to the US as a 2011 model, which means I'll probably be able to test-ride one around mid summer.

As it is, I will finally get an opportunity to test-ride the new Elite. I sat on one at Lancaster Honda this morning, but the weather was not conducive to a ride. I have to say, for a scooter seat, this one is more comfy than most. It's not quite up to the comfort of most motorcycle seats, but it's a far sight better than the seat on my Kymco (not that Kymco seats are known for their cushy-ness).

One other note on the PCX, it is, yet again, a fuel injected scooter. This is a good thing, and it gives Honda a nice little repertoire of FI scoots.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Safely back to PA.

The ride home was uneventful, which is a good thing. The engine temp remained low, only rising when we would come to a stop.

We were told we would hit rain, but it didn't hit until we got to Lancaster County, which was, again, a good thing. It's a lot cooler here than it was up north, strangely enough, but this spring has been up and down with the weather.

Sometime this week I will need to take Natasha to the Honda dealer to get some radiator hose of the correct diameter to stop the cold leak that she has.

I'll write some more later. I am going to spend some time with my son.

Safely home and on the road again.

We left from Danbury CT on Saturday morning, around 9 am. The ride was a little on the chilly side, but we decided to follow US 202 up into the hills. We caught Route 8 in Torrington and followed it to 44, 318 and so on until we came to that unnamed reservoir I always like to stop at.

My son enjoyed looking out over the lake and we rested for a little while before continuing on.

Shortly after arriving at my mother's house, my sister's family showed up. My nephews wanted to sit on the bike, so all three boys got on for a group picture.

The roadside repairs done to my cooling system seem to be holding up and other than a few cold leaks, it's been ok once the engine is hot. Thankfully, the engine has not been too hot.

I also did some repairs to my exhaust system which I do not have time to discuss at this point since we are stopped at a McDonald's in Danbury CT and my kid wants to get back on the road.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Morning is here.

Wouldn't that be a great sight to wake up to?

It was for me. We had a good nights sleep and are now enjoying breakfast at the Super 8. It's your typical continental breakfast with bagels, waffles, and toast, a juice machine and a coffee machine, as well as a pair of cereal dispensers. Not exactly Denny's, but it works.

The room we got last night was surprisingly clean. It was a smoking room, but did not smell badly of smoke.

We awoke rested and are now ready to continue on our way.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Traveling Mercies...

I remember hearing people pray for "traveling mercies" when I was a kid, but I never really understood what they meant. Until today.

I had planned to take a vacation to visit my mother this week, but had thought I would be unable to do so. My boss would not let me take back my vacation time, so I ended up having it anyway. My wife and I decided that she would go to her parent's house while I went to visit my mom, and our son would go with me. So, this morning, I started out by heading to work. I was about an hour late because, while I had set my alarm, I'd left my phone on vibrate, which is a great way not to hear an alarm if you have an LG Xenon. I got my work done and was home by 10:00 am.

I took a moment to pray and asked God to provide me with a pair of saddlebags so my son could ride with me. I really didn't have the money to purchase a pair, but I called Lancaster Honda and asked the sales manager, Kevin, if he had any used saddlebags for sale that might have come in on a used bike but were not attractive enough to sell on the bike. He did not, but said they had a pair that they were not sure of their ownership that I could borrow over the weekend. Answer to prayer #1.

Since I saved the money I had expected to pay for the saddlebags, I purchased an inexpensive tank bag instead, and hopped back on Natasha with my son and headed home. We packed our stuff in the bags and got ourselves on the road.

We headed up 222 to Allentown and hopped on 78 out to 287 in New Jersey. We stopped for gas, and continued on our way up 287 to 87 in New York. We got off the highway at Exit 16 and took US 6 east to where it connected with 202. We then followed 202 past the Taconic parkway, enjoying the Twisties around the Hudson.

Just east of the Taconic, in Yorktown, NY, Natasha suddenly erupted in a cloud of noxious steam. We pulled over to the side of the road and I turned her off right away. She'd been running a little hot, so I suppose this should not have been a surprise. After pulling over, I noticed a stream of engine coolant flowing from one of the radiator hoses.

I started out by praying and asking God to send someone to help, then I called my insurance company, but they were not of much help, so I looked up "Honda Yorktown NY" and the first hit I got was Mt. Kisco Honda, which I did not realize was about 45 minutes away from Yorktown. I also did not see that they were a car dealer, not a motorcycle shop, but I spoke to one of their mechanics anyway, and while he was unable to help me, he thought for a moment and said, "Wait, Joe knows motorcycles, let me get Joe on the line for you."

The next voice on the phone was that of Joe (big surprise, I know), one of the Service Advisors at the aforementioned Honda dealer, and after explaining my problem, he said "I want to help you," and asked me to text him pictures of the problem area. It took him a while, but he took time out of his Friday evening, to bring some hose material and clamps to fix my trouble. In speaking to him, it turns out that he builds custom street bikes on the side and seemed right at home with his bag of tools by his side and his hands buried in the engine of my Sabre. He changed out the faulty hose right there on the side of the road (it had a sizeable hole in it). I thanked him heartily and gave him a small amount of money for his trouble, though I don't think it was nearly enough for his kindness.

By the time we got on the road again, it was growing dark, so we had to find a place to stay for the night since I didn't want my son falling asleep on the back of the bike, so I prayed again and asked God for a room for $60.00. After walking into the Danbury, CT Comfort suites and being told they wanted $109.oo for a room, we rode down to the Super 8. After explaining my situation, the man at the counter gave us a room, for $60 plus tax.

So, three for three today. I suppose one could say that it was all coincidence, but I believe in my heart that there are no coincidences in life.

* Since I am sure someone will point out the handlebar bag on the front of the Sabre, I did move it to the sissy bar behind the seat, to avoid any possible overheating it might contribute to by blocking airflow. After the bag was moved and the hose was replaced, I had no more trouble with overheating at all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vespa Lancaster

I knew this was coming, thanks to Gerry from Scoot Lancaster, and I've previously reported on this myself, but Vespa of Lancaster is now officially open. Keim Pre-owned on Manheim Pike, is where the dealership is currently located.

They still do not have a sign up, but they have received their motorcycle sales license from PennDOT, and their contract with Vespa. They only seem to carry the Vespa line since I did not see any other bikes or scooters there other than a used Kawasaki crotch rocket. I'm sure they could order other Piaggio scooters and Aprillia bikes, but for the moment, they have none in stock and I was only provided with a Vespa brochure.

The sales rep my friend and I met with was not terribly pushy, but my buddy (the one with the Wildfire), did seem to enjoy looking at the creme de la creme of scooterdom and they had a good conversation.

I'm guessing they may be moving the scooters to a different showroom at some point. Hopefully when they do so, they'll bring in some Piaggios as well.

For me though, Vespas are nice enough to look at, and if someone bought me one, I'd be elated, but I honestly can't see spending so much money on a scooter when my $3000 Kymco gets the job done at half the price and with the same reliability.

Friday, May 7, 2010

New opportunities

Spring in the Conestoga Valley is a beautiful time of year. While most of the trees are no longer in bloom, the fields are being turned, the trees are in leaf, and the weather is gorgeous. I've not been on too many joyrides lately, but my best friend and I were out for a bit on Wednesday while he was visiting members of our church's congregation who are confined to nursing homes. I was on the Sabre because I needed to give its battery a good long charge, and he was on his little Chinese Wildfire scooter.

He was actually clipping along fairly well. At one point, I clocked him at 45mph with my GPS. Not bad for a little fiddy. It was downhill, but still, my old Yamaha never topped 42 on the speedo even on an incline.

We parted ways in Farmersville, but a few hours later, he called to inform me that his scooter had blown another belt. That makes five, I believe. So, after having the entire CVT replaced, he's still blowing belts.

We might have a solution for him, one that he was highly enthusiastic about, which is an engine swap. We have a mutual friend with an old Honda Elite 150 that is just the frame, seat, and engine, which the prior owner had used as a pit bike. I hit on the idea of an engine and swingarm swap since the Wildfire R8 comes in both 150cc and 50cc versions using the same frame and body. My pastor's nephew is enormously gifted with anything mechanical, so he would be a resource we can tap into.

He's still ruminating on the idea. I will make further reports if we decide to go that route.

As for an additional opportunity, I will soon be taking a test ride on a Honda VFR1200. I am very excited at the prospect and will take some hefty notes. Having ridden my Sabre for seven months, I am completely sold on the V4 concept, and find the new Interceptor's lines intoxicating in their aerodynamic bliss. I'm a bit busy with work, but I will report again once I have taken the ride.