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="">

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Rainy days...

We've had a lot of rainy days here in Pennsylvania. We've missed the flooding that has taken lives in Texas. I'd like to say we're blessed, but it's difficult to say such a thing when others are suffering physically and emotionally.

Yesterday we were supposed to be rained on fairly heavily, but the wife and I went to the northern tip of the Chesapeake bay, where the fresh waters of the Susquehanna River and the briny waters of the bay mingle and mix. Since my journey into Maryland several weeks back, I'd wanted to take Shelly to Havre De Grace since it looked so pretty from across the bay. We left the house around 11:30 (by car mind you), and so it was that we ended up in this quaint little town that wasn't at all what we expected.

We spent some time wandering around the shops in town and then ended up in an antique mall where there were too many neat things to count, including some old police motorcycle helmets. The floors in the old cannery that housed the mall were see-through in places and creaked and groaned with every step I took.  By the time we had perused the contents of half the upper story, I was nearly full on into a panic attack and quite ready to leave the building. So it was that we found ourselves in a lovely little used bookstore on Washington Street with a room filled to the ceiling with comic books as well as sci-fi and high fantasy novels.

The bay was lovely and we walked along the Promenade looking out at the boats cruising the dark waters. I would be remiss to not make mention of the Promenade Grille. The food was good enough, though my fish was a tad overdone and the ice-cream was slightly crystalized, but the French fries, oh my, those were fantastic. The adjoining pavilion provided a welcome escape from the sun while we ate our dinner and watched the boats on the bay and in the marina.

Today started out rainy, well, more of a mist really, but since it is the first Sunday of the month, I hopped on the Piaggio (which I am still trying to sell), and buzzed up the road to Ephrata where there were a number of folks and bikes already present, though the lot was not nearly full. Despite the mist clearing and the rain holding off until late afternoon, attendance was light. Perhaps fifty to sixty bikes and a few scooters came and went while I was there. A pair of Honda Reflexes can be seen in the photo above.

A gentleman rode up an a home-built trike-truck that I've seen there many times before. He talked with me about it for a while and from what he said, it seems he'd cobbled together parts of a Kawasaki cruiser with an engine from a 1970's Subaru. It was a bit rough, but all his. That's one of the things that makes the motorsports world so fascinating; you can have a bike bone stock if you're happy with that, or you can put together something that's completely your own one-of-a-kind creation.

I spent some time with the Christian Motorcycle Association folks who tend to be at the ride-ins. Their chaplain gave a little message that was largely about being thankful for veterans. I was disappointed that he really didn't get into any deep biblical teaching, but Bible College graduates weren't really his target audience.

After that short meeting I gawked a bit at a nearly pristine 1982 Yamaha XT250 dual sport, which was for sale. If I weren't tied down to the Piaggio, I might have had a bit more interest.

It seemed today was "Ride your Vintage Beemer Day" Several came and went while I was there, and I only got photos of a few of them. They were mostly in great condition though one looked like it had seen many miles in all sorts of weather. The other photos can be found below.

The weather held off long enough that I was able to tinker some more with the wiring of the LED's on the Honda, and now I sit at my kitchen table, watching the rain pelt down outside. I am thankful that it is coming now that the more pleasant pursuits of the weekend are past.