Sunday, May 29, 2016

Join me on another ride

Since I enjoyed putting together the other video so folks could ride vicariously with me here in Lancaster County, I put together another using som footage I took last week. The awful wind noise has been removed and gentle music is playing in the background instead. 

I hope you enjoy the video. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Come ride with me!

No alarm sounded this morning, but the late May sun shone invitingly through the bedroom window. Recollection came in the form of a smart phone calendar reminder that today was the monthly meeting of the "Glory Road Riders" chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association, based out of eastern Lancaster County.

Since I was awake, I figured I'd go to the meeting and see what was what. When I got there, the chapter's chaplain was just starting a brief message, so I took a seat. It was the first time I'd ever heard anyone compare the body of Christ, the Church, to a club sandwich. Sure, the analogy made sense, but it was...well, different. He had a good point in that those who believe in Jesus Christ are all different but each are part of the same Church. The Apostle Paul wrote about teachings that are like milk or meat, and at which stages of spiritual development each is appropriate. In this case, the message was very well suited to a younger believer, though a more mature Christ follower could chuckle at the imagery.

After the message, they went through their meeting and afterward I asked about membership and was told they would get a DVD packet to me. To be honest, I'm not much of a joiner. I don't tend to join groups because there's always that one bad apple that makes the whole group look bad, whether it's due to drama or just comportment. The folks in the Glory Road chapter all seem to be pretty stand-up folks, but you never know what could happen. There's also the matter of having enough time to be involved with the various activities and rides. Right now, I have one day out of the week available for whatever, and that's not enough to devote to a club.

Since there was no group ride planned after the meeting, I went back home the long way, then my wife and I went shopping for the group home where I work. She was tired after that so she took a nap and I went for a ride. I've put together a video of my adventure, with narration which can be found below.

As noted in the video, my new Cheeky Seats seat cover held up very well and has drastically improved the seat from a less than 30 minute seat to a 3 hour + seat. It's well worth mentioning that this is a 500% increase in ride comfort. That's just astounding.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Get cheeky with me!

It's getting toward summer, meaning longer rides are in the cards. The Honda PCX is mechanically up to the task of traveling long distances, but the seat, as with many stock seats, is less than perfect for providing rider comfort over such a distance. Other seats are available, but not here in the U.S.. To be fair, the seat on my Kymco People 150 was dubious after half an hour or more, but that never kept me from racking up the miles, though I often pined after a better seat.

Now, for those who live in Thailand or Japan there are over a dozen choices for Honda PCX replacement seats, and even a few retailers to choose from. Of course, one could still purchase from those places on the web, but there's the time imvolved and the cost of shipping. To order a seat from one Thai distributor in particular would run over $120 for airmail delivery to the U.S.. Regular shipping would be closer to $80, but waiting up to three months means continued discomfort.

Enter: Cheeky Seats. A U.S. company based right here in Pennsylvania, Cheeky Seats advertises quality, custom made, hand stitched seat covers for scooters of many makes and models. Knowing how advertising can be, I was skeptical, but I needed something since riding the PCX with that hump on the seat was becoming unbearable. I'd hesitated long enough, so it was time to take the plunge on something.

While browsing scooter forums on Sunday night, I saw an add for Cheeky Seats. While I had heard of them before and had even done a presentation about them for class, I'd never seriously considered just getting a seat cover, but considering my options, it seemed like the only real choice left. Looking at their site, they had several patterns to choose from and even offered custom tailoring, thread colors and so on. I chose the padded seat for the Honda PCX with white stitching to match my eventual color scheme.

I was surprised the next morning to find in my inbox a legible and well crafted e-mail confirming my order and while I am sure they used a template, the message was so perfectly tailored to me that I could tell someone had taken the time to actually read my order and respond to it. The email promised the seat cover would arrive by Thursday (today) and it actually arrived yesterday.

The first thing I was impressed with was the fabrication quality. Having lived so many years using products made in sweatshops around the developing world that are manufactured to such poor standards and quality, seeing an American made product that has been obviously constructed with quality and craftsmanship is beyond refreshing. The stitching is flawless, the material is obviously good quality, and it fits the dimensions of my seat perfectly. This is what a good product looks like.

I put it on the Purple Haze this morning during a break at school. After removing the "rump hump" from the seat, installation was very simple using a drawstring and cord lock. After slipping it on the seat and pulling the cord to where I thought it was pretty good, I took it for a spin around the building. It seemed nice and cushy, but I found that the cord lock on the pull string was getting caught in the seat's hinge. I made a brief mention of this on the Modern Vespa forums and by my next break had an email from Suzy (co-founder of the company), with some advice on how to make it work. After tightening the drawstring a bit more and knotting the cord, it  seems much better, though i might suggest it go about a half inch further out from the hinge.

So, how does it feel? Wonderful. I normally get a bit of butt-burn riding motorcycles and scooters, but this was very much like the feel of the seat on the Beverly. The cushion was enough to take the edge off and make the ride so much more enjoyable. So far I've only got about thirty miles on it, but from that brief experience, it was obvious that just that little cushion made a huge difference. Strangely, I found myself feeling much more secure in corners because I wasn't dealing with an uncomfortable seat.

Then there's the customer service. Suzy and Rafa obviously care about their customers. Not only was their correspondence respectful and obviously tailored specifically to me, receiving an email about something I'd posted on a forum was above and beyond what I would expect, and it wasn't even a big deal. Such customer care is rare in these days of exported customer call centers where call volume is more important than customer satisfaction.

If I were to give star ratings, Cheeky Seats would get five. Five big shining gold stars...with smiley faces. This is one time when the expectations built up by advertising really do meet up to reality. The value for money is undeniable.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Re-tired (Michellin City Grip tires)

Tires wear out. It's an unfortunate reality of vehicle ownership. For those of us on two wheels, it is important to know that motorcycle tires wear out faster than automobile or truck tires. This is due primarily to the way motorcycle tires sit on the road. They have a much smaller contact area with the road surface than do automotive tires. The composition of the rubber will also affect longevity of the tire. To add insult to injury, the rear tire on a motorcycle or scooter wears out even faster than the front due to weight distribution and the simple fact that the rear tire is the one delivering power to the road.

The stock Dunlop on the rear of my Honda had been showing signs of wear for a while and last week, the rubber finally got down to the wear indicators. For those who aren't aware, many motorcycle tires will have a bit of raised rubber inside the tread (toward the middle of the tire generally) that is used to indicate when the tires should be replaced. When the tire is worn to the point that the wear indicator is even with the surface of the tire, it's time for a new one and so it was for me. The PCX had 6,070 miles on it when the tire was changed.

I did a bit of research prior to making a purchase and it seems that many other Honda PCX owners have been happy with the Michelin City Grip, and since it was more in line with my budget than an $80 Pirelli, it got the nod. Lancaster Honda ordered the tire for me and I picked it up last Friday. Getting the tire to school proved to be less complicated than I had originally presumed it would be. I was able to simply strap it to my backpack and ride in on the Honda with a spare on my back.

Installing the tire was a bit of a struggle. The physical proportions of most scooter wheels make them difficult to work with. They tend to be thin and small in diameter and in the case of the PCX wheel, I had to get the bead breaker in just the right place, at just the right angle to get the old tire free of the rim and the fit of both the new and old tires was decidedly tight, which can be attributed to the dinky size of the wheel rim.

Once the new tire was on the rim, it was a simple matter to get it back on the scoot, and time to take it  out for a spin. Something to keep in mind when riding a new tire, the compound can be very slippery until it has been scuffed in a bit. With this solidly in my mind, I was cautious around the first few corners but soon realized that the Michelin's name was not amiss. That skinny little tire gripped on the corners better than the previous Dunlop ever had. The PCX feels much more sure footed and I'm able to get a slightly better lean angle without feeling Like the scoot is going to slip out from underneath me.

The real test of the new tire would be rain. How would it hold up in the wet? Despite my distaste for wet weather riding, the only way to know how the tire would perform is to test it in real world conditions. So today I rode the Honda to school with full knowledge that thunderstorms were on their way. I'd prayed for a dry ride home without really expecting such, but it just so happened that the massive belt of thunderstorms finished its assault on York just as I was putting my rain gear on. When I went outside, the sun was glistening off the wet pavement.

At the suggestion of my instructor and a classmate, I took a new route to work through the hills. I tried to take a video, but only got a short snippet. The larger video did not save. Oh well, such is life. I can say though that the Michelin City Grip tire stuck to the road like glue. Even when I stopped at an intersection and nearly fell over since my boots had no grip, the scoot didn't skitter at all taking off from a stop. Cornering in the rain was very good without any hint of slip and if you look at the map I've included below, you'll see that there are quite a few twists and turns on the route.

So, I'd say the Michelin City Grip lives up to its reputation as a grippy scooter tire. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Misery loves company

It's the first Sunday of the month, so despite the rain I left the house around 8:30 and took off in the general direction of Ephrata. It wasn't exactly raining, though the PCX shed droplets as I lifted the seat to deposit my iPad within its cavernous depths.

The roads were wet, and the misty drizzle that seemed to hang in the cold spring air formed larger droplets on my visor, effectively dissolving the thin layer of insect remains. Still, the PCX clung to the roads like a nuthatch to a tree branch, seemingly in its element.

Upon arrival at the park, there were two other bikes parked outside the American Legion. It seems more were willing to brave the cold the last few months, but few wish to become sodden and shivering.

A few folks were finishing up breakfast. There were more people in the dining room than bikes in the parking lot since some of the folks had decided to drive their cars instead of braving the elements. I can't say I blame them.

After breakfast, I made my way home, stripped off my wet jeans and went back to bed. It's a lot warmer here and I have a little companion making it even more toasty.