scooterlife - photog's blog

Motorcycles. Scooters. Wheelchairs. Tape. Whatever rolls.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Email to a friend

A buddy of mine with FAR more scootering experience asked me a good question--will I be happy with the Stella, or is this nostalgic thinking taking over?

Both of us had experienced having acquired the same bike we had in our youth, only to find that what we remembered as sparkling performance had been enhanced by our inexperienced brains. Flexible frames and inadequate brakes did not feel quaint--they felt like inadequate brakes and flexible frames. And after decades spent on state of the art motorcycles, sometimes the older bikes just don't do much other than look nice.

So, he mused, would I feel the same way about a Stella?

Here's my reply:

Mine is running well, but I sense it could use a larger gulp of air to really unleash it. I've had to rely on it far too much this last week to try tweaking it, so perhaps next week I'll do some plug chops. My next move will be to combine jetting with adding a UNI filter. Overall, though, I'm thrilled. Aside from that damned seat being a torture device, anyway. But it is without a doubt the most willing, enthusiastic, personality-filled ride I've ever owned.

In my last blog post I noted that the Stella isn't for everyone. I think that came after the realization that it is a 20 year old design that--at that point--was drawing on experience from the 50's and 60's. It's really a relic and I think that speaks to your question. It may, at first blush, be attractive to anyone, but whether it's a long-term relationship worth investing in, is another matter.

I am quite nostalgic about some of the bikes I've had, and have had a chance to ride them again and found that some of them were pleasant, but could never be my only bike again--as they were when I had them. The sparkle wasn't quite there as I remembered it to be, especially when I didn't quite feel the same performance I remembered.

So how does the Stella fit in? I think you'll enjoy it. I think you'll enjoy it a LOT. It's easy to tinker with, and is STILL very much the right tool for a quick commute. The past few days I have had to run a lot of crazy cross-town errands where the GS would've been clumsy and the 50 too underpowered to do the job quickly. The Stella, even with the not-quite-right-jetting, made easy work of it, and there's no denying the nostalgic response I've gotten from others.

As far as performance goes, it's not the outright powerhouse of even a moderately competent Chinese 150cc automatic, but it goes about its task with all the elan that we want...and I think that is where the satisfaction lies. It works its heart out, and it does so with a lusty approach. The JL/SIP pipe is suitably boisterous, and the wickedly-quick steering allows for some entertaining heroics even on the 10" tires. It slices up traffic despite itself, if that makes sense. I haven't found a turn yet that'll challenge it.

I suppose if it were a larger roadbike, I would eventually tire of it not being quite up to par with even a entry-level bike like my Suzuki GS500 which, for all its simplicity, would easily spank any of my 350/400/550 Hondas from the 70's.

But as a scooter, it really does stand its ground and does not show its age...unless the rider is expecting an "easy" ride, like on a Honda Helix.

I can no longer look at the automatics in the same way. Yes, they are probably better all around, but after spending this past week getting to know every noise this one makes--wondering if it's fouling, listening to it break in, learning the shift points, exploring the limits of tire adhesion--the experience is much more intimate and as such I fully understand why people become slaves to these machines. They are alive and flawed and worthwhile, just like us.

I don't think everyone would be as pleased, but I think you would.

I'd continue your search. It's a fresh, new platform to work on all the mods you envisioned, and is probably just the first of a few more scoots in a your future. More than the bike itself, I think you will find all kinds of joy in the entire experience, just as you are hoping to find.