Friday, August 8, 2014

Still running

Six years ago, I made an entry about my friend Kevin's purchase of a Wildfire scooter. At the time, I'll admit I didn't expect it to run for more than a year. As it is, it's still running, but it's not his anymore, it's mine. Well, technically, it's my son's, but my name's on the title, and I've offered to pay him a bit for it as a little extra to put down on something bigger, just so it doesn't get sold away. See, my buddy got a Honda Elite 110 from Lancaster Honda a year ago, and he gave the Wildfire to my kid.

Looking back at what I wrote all those years ago, it's apparent that I wasn't wrong about some things. The plastics are now old and brittle. A brisk wind knocked the thing over and shattered a side panel, not just cracked mind you, shattered. Any plastics that were originally clear are now yellowed and foggy, and the amber plastics on the rear blinkers are now clear. I find the irony in that amusing.

As you can see, the instrument cluster is unreadable.

The brakes are still pretty bad, and I've not sure how I got the impression that the front brake was a disk; it's a drum.

As the machine has aged it seems the CVT has loosened up a bit. Acceleration isn't quite as bad as it used to be, and on a downgrade, it will get up to 45 mph. Uphill is still dodgy, but then, it's a 50cc. As the boy and I have been putzing around, I've noticed that it seems very perky for him, but then, he's about 50 lbs lighter than me. Just the same, he's been able to keep up to the speed limit easily in 35 and 40 mph zones, which is what one expects from a scooter of this size.

note the missing lower side panel

As one will observe, the Wildfire is now red and black. Yes, it's a rattle can job, and it needs another coat, but the boy wanted it that way and I didn't see the harm. 

The machine sat for a while and it had some flooding issues, but after a carb cleaning. it runs fine again. As I was riding it back from the shop where the carb was tended to, I was reminded just how much fun it is to ride a 50cc scooter. Yes, the machine isn't quite as peppy for me as it is for my son, but it's still a lot of fun to ride. The engine still runs well, if a little fast at idle (which is adjustable of course). 

So, six years later, I still think you get what you pay for. Yes, the scooter still runs. It has over 4,000 miles on the odometer (converted from over 7000 km), which is quite something really. It's certainly a testament that the machine was well put together, but while the plastics on my Kymco are still bright and all the right colors, and I can actually see my instrument cluster, well, the Wildfire just isn't. The motor runs and there's no argument that if that's what you're looking for, that's what you'll get, but if I were looking to plop down good money on a new machine, I'd still go for something with a longer track record and fewer issues. let's not forget the issues with the transmission blowing belts a few years back. Yes, that issue has now been fixed, but it took finding a mechanic who works on Chinese scooters and there's not too many of those around here. 

Bottom line, I'll abide by what I've said all along; If you know what your doing, or have a good mechanic who knows what he's doing, then a Chinese scooter is not necessarily a bad choice; however, you're going to have to deal with issues other than the mechanical, and that, for me, makes it a tough call. If you're absolutely desperate for transportation, or just want something really cheap (in more ways than one) to bop around on, then it's not the worst choice you can make, and I say this as the owner of just such a machine. 


kz1000st said...

I won't argue about the plastics but from what I see the scooter spent a lot of time outdoors. My three have perfectly readable instruments, no fade paint and function well. I keep them in a garage, resist riding in the rain and am the son of a motorcycle mechanic so I might do work that others shy away from, I guess.
You might clear up that instrument cluster lens with a headlight restoration kit. Long hours with regular car wax won't hurt either. While not a Kymco the 50cc GY6 was designed originally as a 72cc and is slightly overbuilt. Many people have high mileages with them. You should have many hours of fun with it.

Paul Smith said...

That is most definitely sun damage; however, my kymco sits out uncovered and the lens over the instrument panel is still perfectly clear. There are going to be trade-offs when one goes on the cheap. I tried some headlamp renewal stuff on the instrument lens, and it helped a little. I've also been treating the plastic with various oil based substances to try to get it back to at least slight transparency.

kz1000st said...

Yes Paul, you're right about the quality of your People. One thing though. As I recall the People 150 cost a tad bit more than the Wildfire 50cc.

That's a little more than a free Wildfire. :)

kz1000st said...

Forget the previous comment Paul. There's no doubt that your People is much better built and believe me, I've read Modern Vespa, your People is a major bargain in comparison to a near $5000 Vespa. What you will find is the Wildfire is a hoot, it's easy to repair and parts are cheap and plentiful.

Paul Smith said...

Parts are amazingly cheap. If I get a replacement side panel from wildfire directly, its like $25, but I've seen that part generic for 12. If you can get one cheap and know what you're doing, no doubt it's not a bad thing at all...and like you said, free is free.

Joe said...

Scooters aside, this is the same son who was a little boy just a few years ago it seems? Methinks I've been reading you longer than I'd thought!

Paul Smith said...

The very same. He just got his driving license on Monday. I can't afford to insure him on either car (and have reservations about letting a teenager drive my beloved Jag unsupervised ;) ), so the scooter is what he has. It's a good sight better than what I had at his age (a bike or skateboard, or the bus)

Paul Smith said...

I realized Joe, he was 11 when I got my first scooter in 2008. Wow. Time does fly.