Saturday, December 31, 2016

An orange tennis shoe

It's winter here in Pennsylvania, and the scooter is not getting as much use as it had been since the heater in the Jag was fixed a few weeks back. Scooters are great for driving on dry or wet pavement, but ice and snow tend to make the ride far too interesting for my taste.

Owning an older Jaguar is one of those things that has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it is just such a beautiful place to sit. The leather and wood work together to soothe the senses and when one sits in the driver's seat, the cares of the world just drain away. This is so, even if it's not running, which is often. And that is the other hand. Over the time I owned the Jag, I had to put almost $5,000 of work into her. This past year alone, it's been $2,000+.

So, about a month ago, I started looking at replacement options. Unfortunately, there was a problem. I didn't really want to get rid of the Jag. In my mind, I had planned to keep her as my "classic," and while that was a good idea on paper, the practicalities didn't really work out. Add to that the feeling I get when I sit in that space filled with leather and wood and it made the decision that much more difficult. The Jag spoiled me.

So, I went looking for something that would give me a similar feeling. The first thing I looked at was a Fiat 500 Abarth. Sitting in the driver's seat, looking at all that stitched leather and enjoying the feel of the leather seats was very nice, but the price was not really where I needed to be. And then there was the salesman at the Dodge dealer who was very rude to one of his co-workers. The Fiat was out of the running.

I went looking some more and ended up at the BMW dealer. Of course, that was just me being fanciful and none of the vehicles there had the honor of being a seat for my derriere. I even looked at the Mercedes dealer since, well why not, I was only looking.

Then there was the Mazda Miata (or MX5), which has always held a special place in my heart. It's the middle aged man's simple pleasure, which I discovered this middle aged man can't get out of once he has sat in it. I gave the Miata a chance, I really did. I tried three different examples, but the seats didn't feel right and they were too low to reasonably get in and out of. This turns out to be a good thing, since the Miata is far too impractical.

A couple days ago, I had an appointment to test drive a Scion FR-S. The FR-S is an exciting little sports car, but I had my doubts since it really is no more practical than the MX5. It all worked out, because when I arrived at the dealer, they informed me it had just been driven off the lot by its new owner.

(Interesting point of order here: my wife and I prayed together the night before for guidance and wisdom, and it seems the Almighty had a plan in this the whole time as He always seems to.)

This turn of events led me to the Ford dealer across the way. What really pulled me in was the blinding glare from an orange chunk of metal sitting in their lot, though I tried very hard not to be interested in that one. I looked at the Focus STs, which were out of my price range, and the Fusions, which were too large (I didn't want another big car), and kept going back to look at the Orange tennis shoe.

It is a 2013 Dodge Dart RallyE in blaze orange, and while I know it is not perfect, I test drove it and found it to be very near as comfortable as the Jag, and it even corners as well if not a touch better, despite being front wheel drive. The fuel economy is double that of the Jag on regular gas. Granted, it's still more thirsty than either scooter, but let's be fair; it's a car. Since I purchased it used with 57,000 miles on the clock, I get to enjoy all the bells and whistles and it has almost every option equipped.

Understad that there's a bit of a family connection. My dad, rest his soul, had two Darts back in the 60's. It is not the same car, by any means since it's a Fiat underneath, but there is still that nostalgic feeling when I sit in it, which is nice.

And it drives, boy does it drive. The handling is surprising. It's actually just a touch better than the Jag. Steering, in my most humble opinion, should always be responsive to just a touch and this is precise and then some. Cornering in a front wheel drive car can produce understeer and despite my best efforts on a deserted rotary near my house, the little Dodge just went around and around and around at speeds at which it should have deposited me in the nearby cornfields.

The engine is a naturally aspirated 2.0 which needs a little urging to put me back in my seat like the Jag's used to, but it does get up and go. On paper the 0-60 time is around 9 seconds, but that's ok with me since it does all that I need.

Then there are the benefits of buying a used car (especially at the end of the year when the dealers are working against the clock to meet their sales goals). The price was reduced well below blue book, and it has more bells and whistles than a steam locomotive. Automatic windows, remote starting, bluetooth, back-up camera (which I don't use because that's cheating and I know how to park a car), auto-dimming mirrors, tinted windows, premium wheels, the list goes on.  When one buys a used car, the gizmos that the original owner paid so much for come along with it and you don't really pay that much more than you would for the base model since the depreciation has eaten most of that overhead away.

So now Penelope awaits an uncertain fate, and the Dodge sits in front of my house, waiting for me to drive it to work. It's going to take me a while to get used to the color, but I don't find myself worrying about whether I'm going to get to work, or wherever, and I've still got a fun and interesting car to drive from place to place when it's too cold or sloppy to ride the scoot.

Thank you to all my friends for reading, and a happy new year to you!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Choosing the right Scooter brand - Video and summary by a guest writer

I posted one of my recent motovlogs to the board at and recieved a great response that sums up the video very well. First, the video:

Leo the Old Chopper Guy writes: 

"I agree with your advice. And now that this old Harley guy is a die-hard Kymco rider, AND former Chinese 150 rider, I can tell you all it is good advice to only go with Chinese rides IF you are willing to be ready for some extra work in return for the low initial cost. Obviously, some Chinese scoots are trouble-free, but VERY often, they are not. I wrenched on my Xingyue 150 for THREE FULL SEASONS getting it right, BUT... Then it was absolutely trouble-free for four seasons. It was still running perfectly when I traded it in on my Kymco.

"Yes, potholes ARE a PIA on 12" wheels... My Grandvista 250 has 12-inchers. It depends on how FAST you are going when meeting the pothole... LOL! Fast enough carries you OVER the hole. Too slow will plant the wheel IN the hole. Not good... Seriously though, any wheels smaller than the "big-wheel" rides with 17" or larger are a little hard on rough surfaces. With good, speed-rated tires, well-balanced however, they cruise the highway at 70+ smooth as a Harley.  And I must admit, I'm hopelessly addicted to the look of small wheel scooters.

"If you REALLY have a "Jones" for something irresistible, quick, but pricey on 10" wheels, ya jus' gotta check out a Genuine Buddy 170...  But ya gotta remember, this old geezer used to run 80-mph, (often sneaking up to 100-mph) on Chicago freeways on a McCulloch-powered 40-pound mini-bike on 5" wheels as a kid... Even though I had an "animal" Harley chopper in the garage...  Woo-HOO!  FUN! But NOT recommended now that I'm 70 and still alive and riding.....

"Here's a pic of "Minnie Mouse" when I first got her for wheel-size reference.
 You can see the wheels ARE a tad small on a 250. The Grandvista was a flat-floor version of the original "Bet n' Win" 250. Kymco has come a LONG way from these early scoots, but they are still great rides, and nearly bullet-proof... I've yet to meet a Taiwan-made Kymco or SYM rider who didn't love his/her scooter.

"Above is a Kymco "People 200" I rode as a loaner while my dealer changed my tires. It looks decidedly "Italian" with its 17" wheels. It truly amazed me, partly because of the large wheels smoothness. Big difference from 12" to 17" wheels. This little blue scoot felt as light as a Schwinn bicycle, and was EASY to ride, and to put onto the center-stand. Being an air-cooled GY6 type engine (163cc, NOT a true 200) surprisingly, it had plenty of acceleration and would haul my 230-pound butt to 65-mph with ease.

"It ran like we WISH our Chinese 150's would... Yup, I like Kymcos!

"Whatever size, brand, style, etc. you like, DO test ride everything possible before deciding. You'll be happier in the long run by not getting something you don't enjoy...

"Ride safe, whatever you ride!

"Leo in Texas"

Thanks Leo, it's great to have such thorough feedback that really sums up the video and compliments it well.

Read more:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Repair, replace, upgrade (Honda PCX CVT clutch repair and variator upgrade)

The Honda PCX (both 125 and 150), seem to have an annoying habit of wearing out clutch bearings. From what I've been able to deduce from the things I've read, it's not so much a fault in the bearing but in the folks who install them without applying enough grease.

After about 6,000 miles, my PCX started making a light whooshing noise inside the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). By 10,000 miles it had become very loud, though it still did not seem to be affecting anything performance-wise. Just the same, prudence won out and I ordered a clutch bearing inner face assembly with the bearings pressed in (about $30, so not bad).

I had changed the belt around 9500 miles, and observed the drive plates were looking a bit worn, so I ordered a replacement for those too. These came in the form of NCY parts as it was only a mite more for performance parts than for the OEM equivalents. It seemed there was little wisdom in getting stock parts in this scenario, so I went for the NCY bits with 13 gram rollers.

Everything finally arrived this week, so I braved the heat and did the deed. It didn't take all that long, though I did have to run the clutch assembly to Lancaster Honda since I didn't have the tools to get it apart. Just the socket alone would have cost me more than the $9.00 I paid them to put it together.

With everything assembled, I went for a ride on rt. 283, and got it up to an indicated 74, which I guessed was probably 73. I'll admit, I chickened out at that point and let off the throttle. Riding a tiny little scooter that fast is just a bit nerve wracking.

I did go back after dark when the road was mostly deserted with a GPS running. It recorded a top speed of 71, which is still impressive from a 150. I'm sure if I had a perfectly flat stretch, or a bit of downhill, it could do better, but it's not something I really care to test. That was a bit fast for the little bitty PCX, and I'm fine with what I've learned so far thank you kindly.

So, my first impression of the NCY variator bits with 13 gram pulleys is complete happiness. The low end acceleration felt a bit weak at first, but once I'd ridden it around a bit, it seemed to loosen up.

The replacement clutch inner assembly was well worth it. I no longer hear the constant whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the worn bearing, and my mind is eased.

Should you wish to watch the video of the process and my highway run, here it is:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Took a little break

For those who follow my YouTube channel, you may have noticed I haven't posted any new videos in almost a week. There is a very good reason for this. I've been busy. My graduation from YTI's Motorcycle Technology Center took place on August 30th and my wife's parents visited from North-Western PA,

My dear mother, was unable to attend because of a recent surgery. So I went to visit her over the weekend. I purposefully left my filming equipment at home so it would not take away from the weekend and found myself wishing I'd had it along, especially after seeing a near miss between a bear and a Jeep Cherokee on the way home. Crazy stuff right there.

I took the Jag because the Honda needs a bit of CVT work and I didn't trust it for nearly 700 miles of travel, and of course, in typical Jaguar style, something went wrong. one of the seals on the power steering rack blew. After opening up the power steering reservoir I found it filled with this:

This liquid was also leaking all over the ground. Obviously, it's not right, and looks to have gotten contaminated somehow. I still have to repair it properly, but I was able to flush the liquid out mostly and added some sealer, which got me home.

It was nice to visit my mom, and Maggie certainly enjoyed it. She slept most of the way to Massachusetts, but also spent some time with her nose out the window.

Of course, she also did a lot of sleeping at Grandma's house. I'll admit, having a dog makes traveling a bit more enjoyable. Maybe next year we can take the scooter instead, but I don't think she'd enjoy that length of a ride on the scoot.

So, here's the graduation ride video, thanks for reading, and thanks for watching.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The right stuff

Starting out as a moto-vlogger takes work, and it takes equipment. One needs the following:

  • camera(s) with helmet or handlebar mount
  • sound recorder
  • microphone
  • computer with video editing software
  • Motorcycle or scooter
One doesn't really need the most expensive solution for any of these items and it is possible to use a makeshift solution until a better option makes itself available. 

I've found that if I use a tool properly, I can make it work, even if it isn't the perfect choice. It's a learning process, but it's been fun. 

The one issue I'd like to solve is with sound recording. I've been able to work with the earbud microphone that came with my cellphone, but it is imperfect and picks up a lot of extraneous noise. I'm not sure I want to just get another mic, or get a third camera with a microphone so I can add a third angle. 

One thing is certain, I'm having fun, and that's what I was aiming for. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

While I was vlogging...

So this morning I'm filming for my second "Scoot Commute" segment, and as I was passing Coby's Family Services, I decided to talk about being a foster parent.

Whilst talking to my audience, I came to a discovery, I've finally come to terms with the struggles that come with adopting an older child through the foster care system.

Foster parenting is hard. Adopting an older child is hard. Your family won't understand and the birth family will probably hate you. I know that is how it was for us. We even got death threats from the birth mother.

I've come to the conclusion that no matter what has happened, it was worth it. It was difficult. It still is, but it was well worth it to have an opportunity to show a child that life can have meaning.

Please find the video attached.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Revisiting the Honda Elite 110

six years ago I reviewed the Honda Elite 110. It was, as I called it, a pleasant little puddle jumper. Today I had opportunity to ride my friend's 2010 Elite.

It's been six years, but the machine has lost none of its charm. I'm still amazed at the suspension on that tiny little scooter. It's so small, yet it eats up the bumps as if they weren't there.

If you wish to see the rest of my impressions, please watch my vlog below:

Friday, August 12, 2016

A visit to the 'Ville

Millersville Pennsylvania is a little college town. I happen to work there currently so I see it a lot, and since I seem to be on a small town kick, it seemed fitting to do a video of the place.

The university started out as a Normal School. These were teacher training schools which have their beginnings in the early 1800's here in the U.S., and as early as the 1700's in Europe.

Horace Mann is the name generally associated with the start of these schools in America with the first being founded initially in Lexington, Massachusetts. From what I understand, it was moved to Westfield Mass and eventually became Westfield State College. Millersville was founded soon after and some of the buildings on campus reflect the age of the institution.

In my travels I met a Honda SH-150 owner and we chatted about older motorcycles. Unfortunately, my audio recording cut out about halfway through, but I had fun even if I cannot share it with you.

So, here is a link to the video. I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jaunting around

Let me start with an update. In my last entry, I mentioned that two of the young men I had been riding with had been in an accident. From what I understand, they had switched bikes and one of the young men hit a bump on the other kid's bike. When he did so, the shocks on the Harley 883 he was riding bottomed out and he lost control of the bike and swerved into his own bike with the other kid on it. 

As you can see, it got a bit warm.

Thankfully both boys were only doing 45 at the time and while one ended up with a broken wrist and elbow and the other has some hairline fractures along his spine. I am glad that they escaped with only those injuries, though spinal fractures can be serious enough. 

I'm still buzzing around on my scooter. Yesterday I spent some time in Lititz. It's a neat little town and I took some video of the highlights. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ride-in, Ride-on, Ride-away

I went to my favorite monthly event today: The Ephrata First Sunday Ride-In.

It was a glorious day for it. The temperature was balmy, the sun was shining, the clouds were...clouding. Maggie wanted to go along of course, but it just so happens that Communion Sunday at church is always on the first Sunday of the month as well. This would work out poorly since Maggie would see everyone else eating a "cookie" and want one for herself. Barking would ensue. Bad dog! Bad bad dog!

So, the dog stayed at home and I went along to the monthly rally. Last month I was halfway across the state and unable to attend, but this month there was no such prohibition. I mounted my trusty steed (with a fresh drive belt), and proceeded off into the sunrise.

There were many many bikes gathered at the American Legion, even as I arrived around 8:30. The lower parking lot had not yet filled up, but it was starting to collect a few examples. I was wandering around with my coffee and had passed close to where the PCX was parked when I heard a familiar voice exclaim, "Isn't that Paul's scooter? It is, I know it is!" I looked over to see a couple of the kids from the class after mine at YTI.

I greeted my two young friends and their companion and we proceeded to chat for a while. It was decided that they were going for a ride out toward Harrisburg. While this was opposite the direction I needed to go to get to Church, I figured there was enough time to go partway with them then turn around, so this is what I did.

Watching their antics I was reminded of what it is to be young and slightly immature, though I am older and extremely immature. after about ten miles, we parted ways and I retraced my steps back through Ephrata and then off toward church in Terre Hill.

After church, I revisited the site of the Ride-in and the parking lot which just a few hours prior had been teeming with chrome and noise, was nearly empty. After recording a final bit of video, the trip home commenced.

So it is that I give you today's vlog, please enjoy:

UPDATE: apparently two of the young men I was riding with crashed a short while after we parted ways and were rushed to Hershey Medical Center. One of them suffered some broken bones but is otherwise ok, the other is unknown at this time.

Photo Credit : Garret Evans

Monday, August 1, 2016

The aftermath

Today dawned bright and sunny and I was able to see the scooter in the light of the sun. I'm still a bit sore and probably will be for a few days, but the scoot, well, I'll let you see for yourself. Just off the cuff, I'm going to guess at least $500 worth of damage, and that's a low estimate.

The front fender and right wind deflector are toast.

Then there are the forks themselves. They are at about a five degree angle from each other. This isn't good at all and is causing issues with the front brakes. I see no reason why I can't fix it, but I need access to a shop. I've been told I can do repairs at the shop at YTI, but that's 30 miles away and I have no truck and trailer to get it there.

I've been busy on the job hunting front, and hope to soon have some fruit from my resume carpet bombing efforts. As soon as I have a job, I'll have access to a shop and can do the needed repairs. Of course, this means the Beverly really isn't able to be sold as is, not without selling it at a loss.

There's also the option of parting it out and selling it on E-bay. I'd rather not because I hate to see the machine relegated to the junk-heap of history, but I would easily get the money back that I've put into it that way.

The time for some deep thinking is at hand.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rain rain go away!

Not a good day today.

It started off good enough. I went to church, played guitar, went to a baptism after church, then decided to take a back route home...that was my first mistake.

The last few days have seen heavy thunderstorms with torrential rains. You've probably guessed where this is going. I had a choice between traveling a more familiar road or taking a twisty back road with which I was unfamiliar. I took the latter, which was my second mistake.

As I crested a hill, I noticed that the road curved suddenly and sharply to the left, and there was a washout across the road from the previous night's storms. I used my brakes as I was able before the bend, but there was nothing I could do that would avoid some kind of crash. It was either go down on the gravel and probably break another bone (or bones) or head for the softer earth beside the road.

The softer earth cushioned my fall and I ended up with only a few small abrasions and some sore muscles, oh, my jeans and shirt got rather muddy too, which matters you know. I like that shirt.

The scooter...well, at this point I think I may be better off just parting it out. The forks are bent so badly that the handlebar is turned off to the left, and who knows if the steering stem is bent. It's really too bad, it was a very nice machine despite the few dents.

Well, tomorrow I will look it over some more, if I don't just stay in bed. I think I'm going to wish I had some oxy.

For pictures, see:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hot day in Amish-land (with video)

As I may have mentioned in previous blogs, I took this past week off from work to relax and do some scootering. This also gave me the opportunity to do some job hunting, and take some video. 

Yesterday it was hot, blisteringly hot. Despite this, I took the PCX for a ride around the various Lancaster County tourist hotspots, and boy were they hot...

Anywho, it's amazing how well suited scooters are to buzzing around looking at stuff. I found this to be true in Gettysburg, Lancaster City, and now in Amish country. Having a machine that can take its time helps quite a bit. 

So yesterday, I went through Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse, Paradise, Strasburg (with a stop at the railroad), past Sight and Sound theater, and up through the outlets. 

I hope you enjoy the ride. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lancaster City, Pennsylvania's delightful Red Rose

It's small as cities go, but it's still a city and we're all either proud of it or terrified to go there, depending on how much country mouse we have in us. For myself, I'm more of a rural type, but I find Lancaster to be a non-threatening city. Certainly, there are some neighborhoods with a high crime rate, but overall, Lancaster is charming. Lancaster is the "Red Rose City," harkening back to the war of the roses in England centuries ago. Of course then there is York, the White Rose City, on the other side of the Susquehanna River.

I had to be in town anyway since I was taking the opportunity to visit my son while he's on to speak. Since I had to be in the city anyway, it gave me an excuse to vlog a bit. Added bonus, you get to see parts of the city most tourists never see. In point of fact, there are many tourists who visit Lancaster County who never set foot in the city and I really can't figure out why.

Lancaster has lots of shops, many restaurants, and quite a number of cafes, not to mention the farmers' markets. There are several museums including a small art museum. Lancaster is also home to a number of colleges.

So, if you come to Lancaster county to enjoy some sight-seeing, don't forget the city.

And don't litter...or some weirdo on a scooter might yell at you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A celebratory trip...

Yesterday, I finally finished all my classes at the YTI - Motorcycle Technology Center. To top it off, I had a 4.0 for the last two terms. As my readers will know, I'd planned to go down the Skyline Drive, but that wasn't to be, so I settled for vlogging about local places. So as a celebratory trip, I went to Gettysburg.

It was a lovely day for a ride. The sun was shining and the heat was not terribly oppressive. I was reminded of trips through the area with my dad. He was a big history buff, particularly American histroy.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve traveling with my dad. One year we visited all of Abraham Lincoln's childhood homes. That was something indeed. My dad may not have been perfect, but he did spend time with his children and made sure that we were given many good experiences that we would take with us to adulthood.

In any event, here is the video from the Gettysburg trip:

Tomorrow, we'll bop around Lancaster City, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

It's not nearly as easy as you'd think.

The whole moto-scooto-vlogging thing is not as easy as it looks. Yeah, ok, you're yackin' away and shooting video and it's all good, then you have to pick and choose what you want to include in the final product, then your video editor takes a crap, then you've got enough video but not too much. It's just a bit crazy.

I'm shooting for ten to fifteen minutes on the final product, but that's not always possible. I did get about 40 minutes down to 22 on the last one. Today's video was even better. There is so much from which to pick and choose that it makes the process take quite a while, but so far I've been happy with the outcome.

Despite the complications, it's been fun. I get to meet people, chat with folks, and the reactions I get on camera can be priceless. I've also managed to fine tune the camera setup a bit.

Hopefully along the way I convince a few people that scooters are awesome.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Scooter Vlogging on the cheap

Moto-vlogging is a big deal and there is some money in it. I'm not certain if you get out of it nearly what you put in, but hey, I've got something different to offer, so why not give it a shot. I am now a Scooto-Vlogger!

As my readers will know, I've done a few videos here and there, but hadn't determined the best way to do moto-vlogging since I don't have a ton of disposable income. Last week, I tucked the earbuds and mic that came with my phone up into my helmet and that has worked passably well, except with no way to easily swivel the camera.

I had a gift card from Sears sitting in my wallet, and I had seen a possible option at K-mart, but it was a bit more than I had left on the gift card. Then I saw this online through the Sears website:

It's a "Z┼▒uma" 1080p action camera, and you know what? It's not that bad. for a sub-$100 camera, I expected less than what I got, and I got more than I expected. Who knows how long it will last, but it seems to take good video. The adhesive is good 3M stuff.

The big problem was finding a place on my helmet to stick it, so it kinda sticks up off the top a bit further than I'd like, but it works very well and the image quality is good. The video below was made using both cameras. I think it came out pretty decent. There's even a Honda PCX and a very pretty Moto Guzzi in the video, and a bit of history on the Amish and Mennonites. I nearly forgot about the 1971 BSA! How could I forget that!

All in all, a great day for a ride.

Friday, July 15, 2016

On the fly

I've produced my second scooto-vlog. Since there is much time to be killed during commutes, it seemed a good idea to do a commute vlog. Yesterday was a good day for roadkill. Aside from the numerous squirrels and occasional groundhog that normally litter the road, there was a young buck, maybe a six pointer still in full velvet, and a goose, then more geese.

It's uncertain how long I can keep using the camera on my phone for this. The image quality is good in full sun, but it gets blurry in dim lighting.

I've settled on the Skyline Drive for my trip next week. Here's to hoping the funds hold out. Worst case scenario, I'll go down and come back up in one day. The plans are still in the works.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Moto scooto vloggo

There's lots of these folks going around with moto-vlogs these days. Sure, I've done a bit of vlogging myself, but not true moto vlogging because I never really got the microphone right, until tonight. Funny thing is, I had the tools all along, but I never put it all together in my mind.

I'm still just using my phone. I can't afford a good helmet cam, so I'll stick to what works. all I had to do was plug in the earbuds that came with the phone and tuck the microphone into the padding of my helmet. It's not perfect, but it will do, and just in time for my trip down the skyline drive.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Planning stage. You can vote!

So, it's time again for an epic scooter journey!

I'm going to be setting out on the 19th or 20th of July and returning on the 24th. I will be taking the Honda PCX. So, here are my choices so far and you can enter your choice in the poll on the sidebar.

The first is a bit of a no-brainer. It's not really a motorcycle friendly option, but for a 150cc scooter, it should be perfect. It's the Skyline Drive in Virginia. I'd travel down in the first day, go up to Dubois the next to meet my lovely wife at her parents' house, then return home on Sunday. 109 miles of 35 mph asphalt that wriggles through the middle of the Shenandoah National Park. At that distance, I'll do the distance on just over a gallon of gas. Sounds perfect.

The second option is only obvious to me; Smithtown, Long Island. I only want to go because I've never been. Smithtown is the ancestral home of my family here in America. There's a story involving one of my ancestors, an American Indian chief, and a bull. Look it up, it's a great tale, and it's all about the founding of Smithtown. Whether the tale is true, or just a legend, well, you can decide that for yourself. This would probably be the most costly option since Long Island and cheap motels aren't exactly synonymous.

The third is a bit of a long shot, and I'm not sure I'm up for the distance with the allowed timeframe, but it is a dream of mine and one day I'll get there. The Tail of the Dragon, Deal's Gap, NC, is one of those places that many motorcyclists dream of visiting. I'm one of those dreamers.

So, which one should I do? I'll admit, the Skyline Drive sounds perfect to me. This will be a trip to relax and commemorate the finish of my motorcycle technician training. As such, I think the low speeds will be a nice way to relax and there's a whole bunch of corners just to keep it interesting.

So, please feel free fill out the poll and tell me where to go.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A cushy tush - Cheeky Seats Follow-up

As you may remember, if you are a regular reader, I purchased a seat cover from Cheeky Seats in May of this year. My padded seat cover came in the mail, in a much smaller package than I expected.

The cover unfolded into a larger shape and slipped right into place on the existing seat, after the nefarious "rump hump" was removed. After a bit of touch and go with the pullstring and some advice from Suzy at Cheeky seats, the lanyard was pulled tight and locked into place and has stayed put.

Prior to installing the Cheeky Seats cover, riding the PCX longer than about 30 minutes left my rear-end numb. I still rode of course, but that rump hump made the ride less than optimal. Removing it did little to solve the problem since the plastic mounts for it were still in place with no padding. If anything, this made it worse. With the Cheeky Seats cover in place, I can still feel the mounting posts from the hump, but it's not nearly as uncomfortable.

My daily commute is 63 miles and change, round trip. That's a lot for a little scooter. This is broken up into 30 miles to school, 25 miles to work, and seven miles home. The first two legs of the trip take well over half an hour and I still feel relaxed when I arrive at each destination.

I've taken several long distance rides now with the seat cover in place. One of these trips took nearly four hours, and the seat was still comfortable most of the way. I didn't begin to feel saddle-sore until over three hours into the ride.

The seat cover does get warm in the sun, but it's vinyl, so that's to be expected. Even so, it does not become blisteringly hot. It also shows absolutely no signs of wear and tear, and with me using it nearly every day and it sitting in the sun all day when I'm at school, the fact that the stitching is still completely intact is proof of the good workmanship.

After using their product for more than a month, I can say without any reservation that I wholeheartedly recommend Cheeky Seats as an American made alternative to a replacement seat from some other source.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The joy of noise

There's something about making noise that seems to be synonymous with male-ness. Loud noises seem to be produced by many of the activities we participate in. Everything from firearms, to vehicles, to various tools makes some sort of raucous sound that might reasonably wake the dead were it just a touch louder.

So it is with the vehicle exhaust. I'm not by nature a person who wants to cause anyone else discomfort or annoyance though those who've known me long enough will readily tell you that I've been rather noisy my entire life, but as a man, I've found that I like a loud exhaust. My Jaguar S-Type has a nice throaty exhaust with a barritone character to it, and running along through the hills with it, the sound provides some feeling that the V-6 under the hood is more powerful than reality proves it to be, so I do appreciate a nice exhaust note.

On the other hand, I've never really had much use for a loud motorcycle exhaust. The "loud pipes save lives" crowd has never impressed me with the logic of their claims, since I found no logic in them. What I have discovered is the reality of what this group is all about. "Loud pipes save lives" is a cover. It's really about being juvenile and making noise while using the saving of lives as an excuse to validate the activity.

My question is; why do we need an excuse. We are men. We make noise. We like it! Deal! 

My epiphany was the purchase of my new Leo Vince Corsa Exhaust. When it arrived one week ago, I put it on the Honda PCX-150 and left the baffle out. I won't lie, it sounded good. I rode to work with it open like that, and found it was a bit much for my ears that first time out, so I stuck the baffle in when I got to work. Unfortunately, over the next few days I discovered something about having the baffle in. While it was still an interesting sound being produced, it was not nearly as fun.

See, the first day I rode the scoot to work with the baffle out, I realized about a mile down the road that I'd forgotten to fasten my chin strap, so I pulled to the side of the road with the scooter puttering beneath me and this groundhog was just sitting there looking at me from about ten feet behind the scoot. After my helmet was fastened, I blipped the throttle just a bit, and you should have seen that groundhog run. 

I have discovered that, like most other men, I like making noise. It is truly a blast and the little Leo Vince pipe makes it that much more fun since I can now "play music" while buzzing along. That's right, I took out the baffle and the exhaust is once again at full song. It is funny to see the reactions of people who look up to see what kind of motorcycle is making all the racket. The expressions of surprise and bemusement are priceless.

So, if you're a man, make a little noise, have a little fun, and live life all the fuller for it.

This is in no way intended as encouragement to break noise ordinances. If you modify your vehicle to make more noise or do anything else that gets you into any sort of trouble with the authorities, that's on you. (insert grin emoji here).

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Zox Primo Com Helmet - Review

As my regular readers will know, I had a bit of a wreck in December. Since my HJC helmet smacked into the ground fairly solidly, I had to replace it. Since I had the opportunity to upgrade a bit, I went with a Zox Primo Com Bluetooth helmet. I've had this helmet since the beginning of January, so I've used it for a little while and feel that I can give a good overview of the product at this point.

Finding myself without a serviceable helmet, I went down to Lancaster Honda. I wanted something with Bluetooth capability, but didn't have a huge budget, so I was willing to go with another plain old HJC. Then I noticed the Zox.

It's a bit nifty looking with some pointy bits and pewter colored accents, and it has Bluetooth capability. Yes, I like that. I can listen to music, talk on the phone or whatever. It is DOT approved, including the EU DOT equivalent, but not Snell rated due to the odd ridges around the top and back, those same things that give it visual character.

After using the helmet for several months I have some observations:

The positives

  • It looks cool
  • It's comfortable
  • Speaker volume is good enough, so long as you don't have a loud tailpipe (oops)
  • The shell seems solid enough as does the padding
  • Inside padding seems to hold up well over time.
  • Easy to talk over the phone

The negatives

  • Somewhat obtuse button controls
  • Microphone pickup started getting dodgy after about three months
  • Stopped charging at all after about four months
  • The visor pops off easily when open all the way

That's right, the electrical components failed after only a few short months, but a huge positive was their replacement policy. With absolutely no questions asked, they replaced the helmet with a completely new one. I was impressed by the level of service. This one seems a bit better on the fit and finish front, so I'm hoping the last one was simply a lemon. What with their replacement policy though, I think I made. Fairly smart purchase.
So to recap, the helmet is fairly solid, and when the Bluetooth components work, it is fantastic. When the electronics failed, they replaced it. That right there impresses me please by itself. I inspected the electronics and the wires seem more firmly attached where the charging cord comes out. On the original helmet, the two thin wires inside the heat shrink were visible where they connected to the bluetooth unit. This is not so with the new helmet.

If I had it to do over again, I may have purchased something a bit more expensive, but the replacement helmet seems to have been better put together than the original, so I'm thinking I just got a lemon. If this one goes bad, I'll report, but as I said, it doesn't appear to have the same flaws as the previous one. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Spring in my step (NCY Shock absorbers)

It seems the stock shocks on my Honda PCX-150 have worn themselves out. In the last few weeks, I've discovered that they no longer kept the scoot from bottoming out over bumps, even a few I would consider minor. The back end was also starting to feel a bit less secure in the corners.

So I have replaced the stock shock absorbers with NCY shocks that fit the PCX. The folks at Scooterworks were helpful in verifying that they would work on my scooter. I was hesitant because of the price, but what choice did I have, the stock shocks were pretty well dead and well, the PCX is my primary transportation at the moment since I don't want to drive up the miles on the Piaggio before I sell it.

They came in a cool looking box, with no tools and no instructions, but this was not a problem. If you want to see the install process, there's not much to see. I did a video overview, which covers the highlights, but doesn't show any actual wrenching since I didn't have a camera man.

The install process was simple and only required the removal of the under-seat storage bucket. This didn't take very long at all but was hindered a bit by the way I have the LED auxilliary lights wired. I did have to remove the rear rack and wing as well as the seat to get the bucket out. A matter of about a dozen or so bolts all together. Once the bucket was detached from the frame, getting the old shocks off and the new ones on in their place was a quick job.

They do look nice, and adjusting them was easy. The pre-load for the spring is adjusted with the upper collar. There is also a damper adjuster, though I didn't mess with that, and a knob at the bottom to adjust rebound. I started out with the middle setting, and after arriving at work decided that just a notch softer might be good. This seems to have hit the sweet spot for me.

The new shocks look good and they don't bottom out like the stock parts. We'll see how they hold up. They are NCY's so I'm expecting quality. There was a bit of a snaffoo with the delivery. They were supposed to arrive Friday, but UPS delivered them to the Amazon building in Lewisbury. The folks at Scooterworks were very pleasant and put the screws to the UPS folks and got my shocks back to where they were supposed to be. I'm not happy with UPS, but I'm very likely to patronize Scooterworks again.

Having only just installed these shocks today, I'm going to withhold a final judgement on them until I've had some time to get used to them and break them in a bit.

If you'd like to watch the video, you may find it below.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ram Mounts, X-Grip IV Follow-up

With the various devices and accessories that I've reviewed in the past, it seems a good idea to come back to them after I've used them for a while, to give an idea of how well they have held up to use and abuse. Today we shall start with the Ram Mounts X-Grip IV cell phone mount.

Yesterday when I arrived at the YTI-MTC campus, my odometer rolled over to 8,000 miles. This is since August of last year. I purchased the RAM mount shortly after purchasing the scooter, so a fair portion of those miles have been accompanied by my HTC One M8 firmly ensconced in its perch above the handlebar.

Firmly indeed. I use the X-Grip almost every time I ride as my phone serves many purposes, from GPS, to music player, to camera. It has never slipped, not once. The rubber fingers on the spring loaded grip seem to bond with the rubber otter-box case, which means my phone doesn't budge.

The only small issue I've had is with the u-bolt slipping slightly at times, despite being as tight as I can reasonably fasten it for fear of crushing the handlebar or breaking the plastic bumper inside the U-bolt.

So, this is very short and to the point as my blog posts go, but if you need a sturdy option for mounting your phone to your scooter or motorcycle, the Ram Mounts X-Grip does the job and does it well. Certainly, there are other phone mounting solutions out there, but this is the only one that seems truly universal and with nearly as many miles of use as the PCX itself, it's never let me down.

The original review can be found here:

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The fart can and you! (Leo Vince Corsa Exhaust)

Anyone who reads this blog will know that as a rider, I try to make myself noticeable. I often wear bright clothing while riding, have LED lighting on my scooter, and even wear a goofy muppet helmet cover, but in all this, something has been missing. Certainly, being visible is good, but what about being audible? This is something I have tried to remedy.

Enter the dragon. Ok, it's not a dragon, it's a Leo Vince exhaust. It was delivered on Wednesday and I installed it Thursday. I tried to do an install video, but due to some logistics, it didn't work out. I also tried to do some tunnel blasting to get a good sampling of the sound, but that didn't work out either because my phone picks up too much wind noise.

Just the same, the exhaust was successfully installed on my Honda PCX. It came with all the necessary parts, including a new exhaust gasket and a removable baffle/decibel reducer. Following the installation instructions was rather simple and once the bolts were torqued (not quite to full torque just to be safe), it was time to try it out.

I'd go over the list of good and bad with it, but I've already done so in my little YouTube video. Feel free to watch it below:one thing I will add, and I'm sorry for not mentioning this when I first posted this blog entry, the  fuel economy has improved just a hair, which is probably due more to the difference in weight from stock to aftermarket. The stock exhaust is a beast.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A tired old subject

It seems that every time you think you've done all you need to for vehicle maintenance for a while, something else comes up. Last week, I happened to look at the front tire on the Honda and noted an interesting tread wear pattern. 

For those who are unaware, this is called "cupping" or "scalloping." For more information on this phenomenon, there is a good discussion of it here. For those who do not at this very moment wish to follow the link, cupping occurs due to the force of the tread against the road surface, which pulls the edge of the tread surfaces up or otherwise forces the tread to be moved around. The close-up below shows this in better detail on my old Dunlop. 

Cupping on the front is generally caused by the stresses of braking, particularly heavy braking, while on the rear it would be caused by the stresses of acceleration. This can be worsened by improper inflation, though in my case, I've kept the air pressures fairly consistent, checking them at least once a week. The most frustrating thing about this is that the tire still had less than 7,000 miles on it when I noticed the cupping. 

So I bought another Michelin to replace the Dunlop. I have to say, I like my city grips. Even before the resin wore off the new front tire, the difference in grip and lean-ability of the scoot was evident. Just replacing the rear last month made a difference, but with the front changed now as well, the scoot feels noticeably different.

Tire condition and quality doesn't seem to be the focus of many motorists. Most people only get new tires when they absolutely have to. For a motorcyclist or scooterist, we have such a small contact patch on our tires "where the rubber meets the road" that overlooking tire condition can be life threatening. This is important, especially on the front where the rubber patch is generally the smallest and the braking force is the greatest. 

So, it's safe to say I'm sold on Michelin City Grips. They seem to be a very good tire. Dunlop, not so much.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A day at the Museum

Going back to school at 40 to become a motorcycle mechanic wasn't something I'd have believed I'd be doing even five years ago, but now I'm 41 and in the home stretch. The last day of classes is July 19th and it's starting to become a little too real. I get up around 6:00 am, ride to school, do whatever I have to do there until 1:20, then ride to work. I try to get to work as close to 2:00 pm as possible, work until 10:00 pm, then go home. By the time I drift off to sleep it's usually midnight or later. The next day, I repeat the same routine. Weekends have never been such a welcome relief.

So today was a nice break from the norm. Instead of normal classes, we met at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing for a field trip. There weren't a ton of motorcycle related exhibits, but the history of motorsports in Central Pennsylvania was beyond cool.

The above pictured bike was actually raced by one of the instructors at YTI-MTC in an endurance competition. It was interesting to hear him tell about it and see the actual bike in person. There were a few other bikes, but most of the museum was dedicated to auto racing and the development of the sprint car.

There were a few early NASCAR racers and a good bit of memorobilia, but the most anticipated bit for me was the dirt flat-track on the grounds.

While we were looking at the exhibits, the tour guide spoke about the track and even suggested we could go around it if we wanted, so long as we didn't damage the fences. This was what I'd been hoping to hear, and as soon as the tour was over, I and a few other students went down to the track to try it out.

I discovered something about dirt tracks and scooters today that I suspected but had never tested; they don't mix well, at least not with street tires, and especially not after a recent rain. Heading out onto the track, all seemed well, but despite a moderate speed, the rear wheel went out on me and the scoot fishtailed around like a mad trout. I made it about a third of the way around before the rear wheel just wouldn't cooperate and I had to go back to the gate on the grass. I was extremely entertained just the same. I wish I'd remembered to mount my phone for some video, but wish in one hand...

Of course, our fun was cut short by a volunteer who hadn't received the memo from the tour guide that we were allowed to take a run around the track, and lit into one of the other students.

After leaving the museum and fair grounds, I and two of the other students stopped in for lunch at a Sheetz about ten miles away and discovered we had quite a bit of mud on our plastics. One of the bikes, a Honda CBR, had mud all up in the engine and a fair amount in the fairings.

After work tonight, I stopped to get my wife an anniversary gift,  The sky was so lovely I had to take a photo. Today was a good day. Maybe once I've gotten my feet back under me, I can set up a dirt track bike and go back to that track in York Springs. One little dream I have, and one I don't know if I'll ever fulfill, is to race a motorcycle, just once in a real race. At least for now I can say I was on a track, and chuckle to myself at the results.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fun on the dyno.

It's been over seven months and the third term at motorcycle tech school is halfway done. I've been enjoying my experience at YTI-MTC, and this current set of classes have been as interesting as the last. This week we've started working with the dynamometer.

It's an interesting feeling being on a sportbike that's tied down and feels like it wants to run away beneath you. I may never use a dyno again after finishing here, but having the opportunity has been eye opening.

I've even gotten to see a Kawasaki ZZR spit flames.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Just around the corner

As many of you know, I wiped out on my Honda PCX150 last December. I'm obviously back on two wheels, but a fellow motorcyclist asked if I'd been back around the corner since the crash. In all honesty, I'd never thought of it.

So I made some time and went back to the scene of the accident. Ironically, I nearly was wiped out by a dude in a pickup truck at the intersection of Colebrook and Mt. Joy roads. I had a green light and was following an antique Mercedes SL drop-top across the road when this truck came blasting toward the intersection slamming on his brakes at the last second. He barely missed me, and wouldn't make eye contact me as I gave him a bit of a glare. At least he didn't wave dismissively like the guy who tried to wipe me out a few weeks ago. 

So anyway, I followed the Mercedes a little further, then stopped for a bit to catch my breath since I wasn't quite over the scare of the near collision. After a few deep breaths, I got back on the road, following another motorcyclist up to Mount Gretna. It was a pretty ride and the near-miss was soon forgotten in the twists and turns of a familiar road. 

So it was that I eventually ended up back in Manheim. Heading south through town, I steeled myself to the task ahead, stopped on the hill to set my camera, then went around the corner. 

As you can see from the video, it wasn't an issue. I apologize for the wind noise. I haven't acquired a recording option that reduces wind noise. 

So, after getting around the corner, I feel no different, but at least I no longer have to worry about whether I can get around it. To top it off, I survived another close call, so win-win.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The light has shined: Vololights addendum.

After two days and some tinkering, I got the Vololights to work pretty reliably on the PCX. They now work as advertised. Here's what I found, after some trial and error and input from others who have the product. To calibrate the accelerometer correctly, not only should the bike or scooter be off its side stand or center stand, it also should have someone on the seat. In my case, I found a kid at school from the current second term class who was about my weight to sit on it for me.

This got the scoot properly balanced and put the suspension right where it normally would be when I ride. After re-calibrating and resetting to touring mode, I asked him to drive the scoot down the parking lot, engine brake at a certain point, then continue and do some normal braking. On came the lights as soon as he let off the throttle completely.

It's nice to have the device properly calibrated to my scooter, though in order to get it to respond to engine braking, one can't gently roll off the throttle, it has to be a sudden change, which is still ok.

With everything working properly, it was time to do a bit of surgery to the PCX. I borrowed a pneumatic cutting tool from the tool room at school and nipped off the bottom of the fender. It's pretty clean job and appears almost as if it was intended to look like that.

So do I recommend the Vololights product? Yes I do, but I'd recommend that if you are not mechanically inclined, you get some help with the installation and calibration process. Let's go over the details:
  • Installation is simple enough, but you may need to grind off the edges of your plate to make it fit. This is not a fault with the product, just something to be aware of.
  • To wire the device into an existing wiring harness, you will need to do some splicing or cutting away of existing components. Additionally, you may want to use more durable connectors instead of the supplied option.
  • Calibration is tricky.
  • Once calibrated and set to the correct sensitivity for your bike or scooter, the device works as advertised and provides an extra element of safety.
  • The LED's are bright enough to be seen from a decent distance. I could still see them very well when the PCX was about 100 yards away. 
So long as you're aware of what you need to do to install and set up the device properly, you'll be fine. I feel, from my own perspective, that the Vololights plate frame is a solid safety accessory for any motorcycle or scooter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Vololights, Advanced Braking Indicator plate frame review.

Rarely are there products that grab my attention to the point that I feel I must have them. When it comes to safety on two wheels though, anything that improves my visibility to the average distracted cager piques my interest.

For a while now, I've been looking at ways to perform an attractive looking nip and tuck for the PCX's rear fender, but none of the plate frames I could find seemed the right shape, nor would they sufficiently replace the rear reflector. By chance, I ran into the Vololight product on Revzilla and it seemed exactly the right shape for my purposes and offered an alternative to the rear reflector so a fender reduction can be performed.

The first impression of the Vololights plate frame is simplicity. Opening the box revealed the frame with a pair of wires coming out of it, an cartoon style instruction sheet, and a tiny ziplock bag with a minuscule rectangular magnet inside.

Per the instruction booklet, the screws on the The wires are capped with screw on connectors, which you can connect directly to wires on your bike or scooter. The connectors seemed flimsy to me, so I snipped them off in favor of a more durable and weather resistant bullet style connector.

The frame has a plate illumination light built in, so it was unnecessary to keep the stock light. I gutted the stock housing and snipped off the stock bulb, using the plate light wires to power the frame. After connecting the frame and plate light wires, they were tucked up into the old plate light housing, out of the way of the rear tire. The wires from the plate frame threaded easily through a small opening in the old plate light housing. The connection looks fairly clean, and was quickly completed in about 15 minutes or so.

Following the instructions in the box, the frame was easily calibrated and ready to go. It should be noted that this may have been a "blind squirrel" moment for me. Allow me to explain. To calibrate the device, or to change the sensitivity or blink/no blink, one is required to touch the small magnet (mentioned above), to a specific spot on the lower LED strip. The calibration part really isn't that hard, you just pull the magnet away after the first blink. Setting sensitivity or blink modes was a bit more of a catch-if-catch-can scenario as I had to place the magnet exactly in the right place or it just re-calibrated. This was a little frustrating, especially since even on the most sensitive setting, the lights would only work when the brakes were applied.

On the other hand, I found that for actual braking the Vololight works very well, but the engine braking on the PCX isn't very abrupt, so it doesn't set off the sensor reliably. Just the same, I'll take it. It basically gives me a brake modulator and allows for fender reduction, which will probably happen this weekend.

As briefly mentioned, the lights can be set to either flash, or light up steadily when activated. This makes sense for areas where law enforcement might take issue with brake light modulation and a steady braking alert would be preferred.

So, for the money, If you want something that senses engine braking and you ride a PCX, you'll be disappointed, but from what I can tell, it would work fine on just about any other motorbike or scooter and others who have reviewed it have had high praise for the product. For braking urgency and letting the cager behind you know that you're making a quick stop, I think this is a good product.

UPDATE: I sent a comment to the Vololights folks on their website asking for verification as to whether their system was sensitive enough for engine braking on the PCX. I got a reply by this morning from a Faizal Ali, explaining that the engine braking on the PCX is indeed not abrupt enough to set off the accelerometer in the frame. The most sensitive mode detects deceleration at 1M/s^2. So that explains that. still, an extra indicator for regular and panic braking is still worthwhile.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: See newer blogpost for addendum and fender reduction photo! <---link nbsp="" p="">