Monday, September 29, 2008

Scooter News

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Imperfect Stranger

A sunset makes everything better, eh?

So what is the deal with people -perfect strangers- compelled to inform me of the dangers of riding? I am not completely without empathy when a person approaches me unbid, drawn by the site of a helmet or a riding jacket, to relate a story about a friend or loved one that died on a motorcycle. However, I get less than a warm fuzzy when thirty seconds into my first conversation with someone ever, someone I will likely never see again, is about so-and-so who was too young when he or she died. I can't imagine sparking up a conversation on line at the supermarket with a guy buying a case of beer. "Like that beer, eh? Yeah. My uncle Lefty liked the beer, too. Became an alcoholic. Heart disease. He's gone now. Hey, enjoy your weekend." I guess my point is, I know there are inherent risks with this mode of transportation. And those risks, for various reasons, are greater than those involved with others modes. I accept it. I do what I can to minimize it. I don't think that I am doomed to being scraped off the pavement one day. If I did, I wouldn't ride. Believe me. That would have factored into my cost/benefit decision. I hesitated to even post this semi-rant, but in just over a month of riding, I have encountered this situation on more than one occasion. Anyone else have a similar experience?

Monday, September 22, 2008

deviantART / Fuel-Sipping Cage

Check out deviantART for some pretty cool scooter-based artwork. The art above is by deviantARTist loish.

And, on an unrelated note, check out Ford's new Fiesta, which gets 'scooter mileage,' but will only be sold in Europe. The linked article gives a lot of reasons why it can't be sold in the US, mostly due to American consumer's aversion to using diesel fuel.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

1,000 Miles and Counting

I was at Royal Oak Drive and Alton Parkway in Irvine, California when I hit the 1,000 mile mark earlier this week. Since taking delivery August 13, I've driven the truck exactly twice. The first time was to get to long term parking at John Wayne Airport (SNA), enroute to a business trip. The second was to drive home from long term parking from SNA. Other than that, it's been all scooter for the last month or so. I realized that meant I was already scooting (skooting?) at a 12,000 mile/year clip. That's quite a change from the 'strictly to work and back' driving I was doing in my truck. I wonder if I will be able to keep up the 'commitment' of making the scooter a daily driver. The fun factor is certainly there, as well as the gas savings. I haven't had to drive in anything more 'inclement' than morning mist just yet, so that should be the big tell for me. I am definitely fond of going where I want when I want without the cost/benefit decision of 'is it worth it?' that I contend with when driving a 15 mpg vehicle.
One thing that has me concerned is maintenance co$t$. Flipping through the warranty manual, noting how often the scooter needs to be serviced, well, you know. I've put this out there once before, without much response, but I am curious as to when people start wrenching their own rides. Do you generally wait until the warranty expires to do your own oil & filter related work? Or do you just document everything you do in the manual? I think eventually I will get a shop manual and learn to do the basics myself, if only to avoid the 80-90 dollar/hour labor costs at the local Vespa dealer. Another option would be to see if their are any independent, certified mechanics in the area that charge less.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Jeremy Slagle's Scootbot

I saw this over on The Scooter Scoop, and had to share. Pretty awesome work by Jeremy Slagle.
And it you like the Vespa Girls pasted onto my wallpaper at the right, you can get either of them on a t-shirt at PlexiPixel. Just click the link, select schwag, then select t-shirts.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Love

Space sharing. Another unadvertised benefit to riding.

I titled this post 'the love,' but it isn't about romance or anything. It is more about the love you get when you give up the cage and get on two wheels. I enjoy writing the blog, but sometimes I wonder if there is a purpose to it. There are better writers with more interesting content out there. I keep a list of scooter/cycle related blogs I like over there on the left. Looking over what I've posted to date, I guess the bandwidth I suck out of the cybersphere is devoted to sharing the experience. I know when I was researching the possibility of getting on a motorcycle or a scooter, I did a lot of Googling and found a lot of blogs. Most of what I read, nearly all of it really, convinced me I was on the right path. Maybe someone out there is reading this right now, still sitting on the fence. Go ahead. Do it. Get on two wheels.
There seems to be something out there for almost any budget. And as bad a rap as the average American gets for going into debt, I'd have to say that financing a scooter is a pretty sound investment. Depending upon the size of your current daily driver, driving style, and commute conditions - the scooter is going to pay for itself in gas savings. Right around the two year mark, I should break even. ...but think about it. It may take two years, or three or four, for you to break even money-wise, but there are other profits to be had past mere money.
It's just fun. There are safety issues, of course, with riding as opposed to driving - and not everyone is blessed to live in a place they can ride 12 months a year without the hassle of inclement weather, but once you're past that it is just fun. Something about turning the throttle, and having that direct a connection to your conveyance - well, it puts a smile on my face every time. Mr. Lucky describes is as the difference between Dr. Moto and Mr. Hyde, i.e. the happy quotient to his personality seems directly proportional to whether he has ridden that day or not. I'd have to agree. You may get a few people on the road that don't welcome your presence, but the overwhelming number of people, in my experience, support you - even if it is just vicariously. It is one of those few life experiences that is both solitary and communal at the same time.
You see more of your world. Not as much as you would see on a bicycle, and even less than you would see if you walked everywhere - but riding is a great compromise between timeliness and completeness. You get where you are going in a reasonable amount of time and you see the world because you are in the environment. One thing I didn't really get before I started riding was the term 'cage' to describe cars and trucks. I get it now. If I were a dog, it would be the difference between sitting in a kennel in the backyard and getting let off the leash to run free. Either way, you're outside - but off the leash is a lot more fun. Arf Arf, indeed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Service Visit

It says 'Free Please Take One,' but apparently they mean the Weekly Mags 
on the floor, NOT the vintage scooter. They were real adamant about that.

When I hit about 550 miles last week, I called Newport Beach Vespa to schedule a service appointment, which was due at 625 miles. Odd how you just want to give them your money when your 'baby' is brand new, eh? Sales Associate Lisa, or 'Pony' as her business card says, told me not to worry about it and just call when I rolled past 600. I did that yesterday, and was scheduled to come in today after work. By then I had 693 on the odometer. Anyway, for an oil change and a thorough check-up, I was set back $118 and change. Ouch, eh?I try not to pay more than $40 bucks for an oil change on my full-sized pickup. 
The good news was everything is running perfectly, with no problems. I sorta anticipated paying a premium for service when I bought it. I figure it will encourage me to get a shop manual and learn to do oil changes and other basic maintenance on my own. At least while she's under warranty, I guess I'll keep taking her to the dealer. Anyone out there have a different opinion about that? I know some out there in the blogosphere do their own maintenance, but how does it affect the warranty?
Another query for my fellow LX close to empty have you brought the 2.3 gallon tank? I've had the amber warning light blinking like I was on vapors, only to top off at 1.1 gallons, but today it only flickered once or twice and sucked down 1.662 gallons. 

Top Case Story at Modern Vespa

Check out The Curious Incident of the Top Case in the Night Time over at Modern Vespa. My quick review of the Vespa-brand top case had me wondering if the materials used in construction weren't a little insubstantial for the job. This may have been a case of foul play, however. In any, ahem, case, it is worth a look if you are comparison shopping for a top case. I still love mine, for the record, but, well, click the link above and read on...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Quick Review: LX150 Top Case

Garage Days. Mission Viejo, CA

So, I finally rationalized and argued the pros/cons in my head long enough to justify purchasing the top case. I'd have to agree with most of the comments I've read researching the product on the internet. On the positive side, it looks great.. It is designed specifically for the LX50 or LX150 and color-keyed to match any of the factory paint. It doesn't look aftermarket or cheap.
There are some well-documented downsides, however. For the cost, it does seem a little cheap, despite looking real swell. The included rear carrier rack is very sturdy, and also color-keyed, but the top case itself is completely plastic. Kind of odd when you buy a scooter as sturdy as the Vespa, that they would manufacture a component part with such insubstantial materials. Of course, being plastic rather than metal, it adds almost zero weight. I found myself glancing back from time to time to see if it was even there. And if you follow the recommended load restrictions of less than 12 lbs, I can't imagine the balance of the ride would be affected in the least.

Bottom line: It's beautiful and matches the LX perfectly, both color and shape, but it's a bit small for the price and I wish Piaggio would have found a way to use more substantial materials in the construction.

Some notes on installation: The instructions I received with my shipment were almost completely in Italian. There were a few pics, and an illustration or two, but not real user-friendly overall. For the record, you'll need a medium-sized Phillips Head Screwdriver, a 5/32" Hex Wrench and a socket wrench with a telescoping attachment. 10mm will loosen the corresponding bolts.