Monday, August 30, 2010

Nice rack!

Perhaps the greatest challenge for the scooterist, aside from avoiding crazy motorists, is carrying the things you wish to carry, in order to do the things you wish to do, whatever that may be and wherever that may take you.

For this reason, most modern scooters come with a back rack and underseat storage. Some scooter companies offer additional add-on options such as front baskets, hard bags, and so on. Such things are also available as after-market items as well. The downside of this is that these additional items cost money.

If you're like me, money is probably something you are currently trying to save rather than spend, so you may need to be creative. While it is equipped with a rear luggage rack, the People 150's rack is tiny compared to some others, and will not accomodate a crate or other contrivance, so I had to modify the rear rack myself.

I looked at several options. PVC pipe was a thought, but I could not find connectors that would work for my needs. Copper pipe was another option, but I didn't think I wanted that kind of temptation out there for copper scavengers, plus, the stuff is not cheap. So I turned to my basement where I found some 1X3 lumber from a previous project.

A few slices with a saw, a couple holes made with a drill, and several countersunk screws later, and I had my rack extender.

I secured it with some bolts, and then decided to look at my options for carrying devices.

A crate will fit nicely and can be bungeed or zip-tied in place. While it doesn't look elegant at all, a crate can be highly utilitarian.

Since I don't have a car, I was concerned about how I could get my shotgun to the range or the fields without alarming other motorists. A shotgun slung over the shoulder would likely raise too many eyebrows.

I have two Plano hard gun cases, so I used one for some experimentation. For the moment it is secured with screws, but I will be changing that to bolts and wingnuts eventually to enable relatively easy removal.

A test ride revealed that the balance and aerodynamics of the scoot have not been affected. I will have to be careful to balance the load inside the box, but while empty, it doesn't cause any ill effects.

As I was riding, I stopped in at Lee's house. I've been meaning to get over there, and since my afternoon was open, it was an excellent time to stop in. We talked over some iced tea, and he suggested that I attach some reflectors to the box to minimize raised eyebrows from those with badges.

We talked a little more before I hopped back on the scoot. Lee had pointed out one of his neighbors who rebuilds bikes as a hobby. Since I was passing by that gentleman's house, I stopped to admire his most recent accomplishment; a fully restored 1984 Kawasaki 454. While we were talking, he said he had some reflectors I could have, so they are now on either side of the hard case.

I suppose it's a bit unorthodox, but as I said, sometimes you just have to be creative when you don't have any extra funds to throw around. All told, my day's expenses total exactly $0.00. That's a number I can gladly accept.

**Edited to add:**

I rode around with the gun case on the back a little more and one of the nuts holding the rack on came loose. I replaced it and put it on with a lock-washer this time. Now it should hold.

All I need to do now is stain it and try to weatherproof it a bit.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Relaxing after work.

Today was a fun day at work. I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible.

It wasn't the residents, they were fine.

It wasn't my co-workers, they were fine too.

It wasn't the work, since I really enjoy my job.

It was the migraine I had from about 7 am until I left work.

I'm wondering if it's not something in the heating/cooling system ducts that might be messing with me, but it was not a good time in any event.

After I got on the bike and got the wind in my face, my headache went away. The Sabre thrummed along happily beneath me, taking me safely home. Once I got home, my son and I went fishing along the Conestoga River.

We took the car, since my wife wanted to come along, and she sat at a picnic table reading while we loaded some live bait on circle hooks and headed down to the water.

The water itself was refreshingly cool, despite the 90 degree heat, and I had soon settled into the rhythm of casting my makeshift fishing combo out into the flow of the river. It is interesting how necessity breeds odd bedfellows, as I did something with my tackle which would probably give a fly-fishing purist an aneurysm. I paired an ultralight spinning reel with my 15 year old 8 ft fly rod and I was amazed by the flowing casts I achieved. It also made fighting the smallmouth and red-eyes (rock bass) very entertaining.

The Conestoga is, perhaps, not the best smallmouth bass fishery in south-central PA, but it's not far from home and the bass aren't afflicted by any of the issues they are having in the Susquehanna River at the moment (odd fin formations and such).

My son did not do as well as I, but he did manage to hook a bullhead and one tiny smallmouth.

All told, I caught around ten fish, of which none were gut hooked and all were released, though one exceptional specimen (about 14 inches), was allowed to pose with me in the above picture. This was accomplished through the use of a circle hook, which I have come to trust as my weapon of choice for all live bait fishing. Circle hooks, due to their shape, tend to cut down on gut-hooking, which allows for more successful catch and release.

One important note, when fishing for bass it is pertinent that the fisher limit handling of the body of any fish that he or she will be releasing. Bass secrete a protective mucous on their scales which can be rubbed off by the hands of a careless fishermen; however, through use of a net and picking the fish up by the lower jaw, this can be largely eliminated (as illustrated in the above photo). This method does not harm the fish, and minimizes contact with the mucous which the fish depends on to protect itself from bacteria and the like.

It was nice to get out fishing this weekend. I've only been out a few times so far, and I have to say, I miss the sport dearly.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The price of exhaustion

No, I did not wreck, but I did learn something about my limits this week.

I have read many times, and heard it said many more, that riding long distances or for long periods of time, can wear out a motorcyclist. For this reason, I have never ridden long distances without pacing myself and taking breaks when necessary.

This week marked the annual day camp and teen week for my Church. As one of the youth leaders, I pitched in and helped out with the teens on four of the five evenings. It was a genuine blast by the way.

This event is held at Woodcrest Retreat just northeast of Ephrata, PA. For the first three days, my wife and I took our son to the camp in our Toyota, but for the last day, my wife was not feeling well, so the kid and I hopped on the Sabre, and off we went. Knowing that the roads deeper into the retreat were gravel, I told him he would need to dismount once we were past the paved areas. Even so, I didn't proceed much further and parked the bike at the top of the hill instead of parking down the gravel drive near the pavilion.

Now comes the part about exhaustion.

After the teen camp festivities had concluded for the evening, I slowly coaxed the Sabre out of the graveled areas, and onto unbroken pavement, where my son re-mounted and we started home. We were nearing home when I started to feel some difficulty keeping the bike upright. It dawned on me that I was overtired and this was a symptom. I had worked all week, then devoted four hours each evening to the church's teen camp, and the week's activities had taken their toll. I said a quick prayer and was able to regain my focus, but I immediately got off the highway and made my way to quieter roads which would provide less risk to myself and my precious passenger.

We made it home without incident, but I have a new perspective on exhaustion and riding that I had little previous appreciation for. I'm not sure if it is a feature of ADHD or just something unique to me, but even when I am tired, I've never felt quite the same while riding, and riding my bike or scooter has never driven me to the point of exhaustion. We folks with ADHD tend to have higher metabolisms and tend to have trouble slowing down. Perhaps this accounts for my heightened stamina while riding, and could explain why I have never had the same difficulty riding as I experienced last night.

I wanted to take a ride tonight, but had worked another eight hours this morning, then spent a few hours at my church's annual carnival. Having learned my lesson from last evening, I decided to remain at home and watch Bicentenial Man with my wife.

My point is this, for less experienced, and even more, the warnings regarding exhaustion and riding must not be ignored. From personal experience, I can now vouch for how true these warnings are.

I'm very thankful that my experience ended well. I can't say I will never ride while exhausted again, but I hope I will be able to avoid doing so with a passenger, especially when that passenger is my son.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Inspection blues

It just so happens that both of my bikes are due for inspection and registration renewal at the end of August. The scooter passed inspection, but needed a replacement left brake lever. The Sabre, on the other hand...

Let's just say the speedo issue is catching up with me. While I was able to replace the cable and sensor about a month ago, the speedo still bobbles up and down but doesn't register anything about 10mph, which indicates that one of the gears, either on the top end, or the bottom end has probably lost some teeth.

So, I've got the bottom end on its way from a seller on eBay. Hopefully this fixes the problem. I just have to find somebody with a jack and an air wrench so I can get the front wheel off.

This should be fun.

On the plus side, I was able to take a friend riding yesterday. He gets around in a wheelchair and had never ridden a motorcycle before. He held on for dear life, but reported that he had enjoyed himself.

Hopefully I can get this speedo situation resolved so I can provide more rides in the future.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Interesting electric concept

After finishing my previous article, I got to looking at the Zap! electric vehicles website, and came across the Alias.

If it's not just talk, this could be a step in the right direction. It's still a plug-in electric and doesn't answer the problems of pollution from power plants, or the price aspects, but it does address some of the performance concerns, and a range of 100 mpc (miles per charge) is better than most other electrics. They make the claim that they are in collaboration with Lotus on the design aspects, which is promising.

It's a classy looking vehicle in the photos (though the above photo was obviously computer manipulated: the lighting and shadows aren't right).

If they can pull it off, and put a more affordable pricetag on it, the Alias might just be the ticket.

It's Electric!...

But it only goes 40 miles on a charge and costs more than a Prius!

I've been sitting on this topic for a few weeks because I've been trying to ponder all of the angles and provide as fair an assessment as possible.

Chevy recently unveiled the Volt and it was touted by our president as groundbreaking and so on. Well, I hate to say he's wrong, but he's wrong.

First off, GM has been talking about the Volt for several years now. As I recall, it was supposed to have hit production a few years ago, but they hit some technological snags. Now, they present it as such a wonderful breakthrough and herald it as an eco-vehicle.
Well...It's not.

Let's start with the range. 40 miles, extended by a gas generator if necessary. That 40 miles is achieved by plugging in the car to a power outlet, where the power most likely comes from a coal fired power plant. Yeah, that's "eco-friendly" alright. Now, if it were powered by a nuclear plant, I'd easily concede that point, but with the current view of nuclear power by the current regime in Washington, that's not likely to happen.

The range on the electrical charge is about the same or perhaps a bit better than most of the completely electric vehicles from China.

Take the "Zap Xebra" for example. It gets 25 mpc (miles per charge) stock, which, if I remember correctly, can be extended to about 40 mpc with an optional expansion battery pack. The Xebra lacks a gas engine and only has three wheels, which are two of its biggest drawbacks. It qualifies as a motorcycle due to its wheel configuration, requiring the operator to obtain a motorcycle license. On the other hand, at $11,000, it's far less expensive than the Volt, and for someone who will use it for short commutes, it may be a far more attractive option (despite the country of origin and the inferior fit and finish that usually entails).

That takes us to the second issue with the Volt; its price. At over 40 grand, the only vehicle that Chevy currently makes that costs more is the 'Vette. The average American, struggling to break even in our current economy (raises hand), can't pay that much for a new car. The price relegates the Volt to "Fashion accessory" status for the elite who want to tout how "green" they are. This is as hypocritical as those who drive a Prius for the same reason. Even if they run the vehicle solely on battery power without ever hitting the gas generator, they still have to plug it in, which (as mentioned) probably uses coal power, which adds pollutants to the air, endangers the lives of coal miners, and so on. Then there's the question of what to do with the battery once it is no longer viable for recharging (which will happen eventually). The toxins in the battery will need to be disposed of and could be ecologically damaging (the biggest issue I have with the Prius).

It seems I rolled my third point into the second. In any case, I want electric vehicles to succeed. I want to see the U.S. move to clean, sustainable, constant power options (read clean nuclear). The problem is, the current electric vehicle market just doesn't measure up. Other than the Tesla Roadster, none of the electric vehicles that are currently available have anything resembling a respectable range. Not only that, but electric vehicles have yet to solve the problems of affordability for the masses and being truly environmentally friendly.

I hate to say it, but until something better comes along, the internal combustion engine is here to stay.

Whatever happened to Hydrogen Fuel cells?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rough day - Some bright points.

I woke up this morning feeling dizzy. It was a poor start to the day. I was supposed to teach Sunday School for the teen boys at church, but I could not risk trying to ride 20 miles while feeling loopy, so I called one of the other teachers to have her fill in. I went back to bed and felt a bit better by the afternoon.

Unfortunately, my son decided it was time to express his teenager-ness. I know it's normal, but this was a bit over-the-top. I was hurt and was very close to losing my temper. Since I was feeling physically better, I went for a little ride on the Sabre to clear my head. As I was riding, I came across a field of Sunflowers.

The bright yellow flowers were a reminder of God's grace. He knew I would need cheering up, and led me to a road with just the remedy.

After shooting the above image, I passed a tractor pulling a haywagon loaded with kids. As they hollared for me to blow my horn, I revved the V4 and blew the Sabre's dual horns in glee as I whizzed past. I don't generally hotdog at all, and this probably only marginally qualified, but it was fun to hear the kids on the wagon cheer and laugh.

So, it's been a day of pluses and minuses, but in the end, I am aware that God is good. Even in my darkest times when I am feeling lost and hurt, He has control and will get me through.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

More mechanical shenanigans

Today was a very relaxing and mostly uneventful day. I started out the day by running to the local Honda dealer for some oil and a filter, then took my wife and son to Costco for the obtaining of household necessities, we then went to the local hospital to return a holter monitor that I had to wear yesterday to observe for heart palpitations (fun fun), and returned home after that.

The Sabre needed an oil change (hence the visit to the Honda dealer), so I got out the necessary tools and got to work. There's something about getting down on the ground with tools and getting grease and grime under your fingernails that is terribly fulfilling. I think I've said something similar before, but it's worth saying again. After I finished with the Sabre, I changed the scoot's oil as well. My kid helped me clean the scoot's air filter as well.

I then rode the Sabre to work since one of my clients needed to buy some things at Walmart, and it seemed to purr with the fresh oil in it. After helping my friend out with his shopping, I decided stretch the Sabre's legs a bit. and headed for the highway.

As I turned onto the on ramp for 222 south, I was confronted by a huge line of traffic which did not seem inclined to move. I backed off the ramp, as many others were doing, and went around by another route. I turned onto Hunsicker road to see if I could see the reason the traffic was not moving. At this point, it appeared that the vehicular constipation had eased a bit, but the cause was obvious. A truck had caught fire in the opposite lanes and was completely obstructing nothing. Hence the need to go slow and stare at the burned out hulk of the trailer (all that remained at the scene), even though the emergency vehicles and the tow truck had already departed.

On the positive side, I got to take the roundabout route, which allowed me to stop in Neffsville and give the Sabre a bath at the car wash.

After coming home, my son wanted to go for a bike ride, so the bikes came up from the basement, got a tuneup on the front walk, and once I got on the seat of my old 18 speed mountain bike, I almost fell right off. I had discovered the difference between a bicycle and a motorcyle or scooter: several hundred pounds.

I finally got my bearings and we were off to explore some of the local paved bike trails, and I was reminded of something else I'd forgotten: I am very out of shape.

On the other side of it, I had fun spending time with my son. I'll be sore tomorrow, but it was worth it. It felt good to be outside, moving myself rather than trusting an engine. Not that I plan to stop riding the Sabre or the Scoot anytime soon, but it was nice to break from my normal routine.

All in all, it was a good day to mess around with my tools and spend some quality time with my kid. He's had a rough couple months and seemed to enjoy the one on one time.