scooterlife - photog's blog

Motorcycles. Scooters. Wheelchairs. Tape. Whatever rolls.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Doesn't spill unless you're knee-dragging.

Threatened by 49cc's?

So I'm walking back to the Zip after picking up drill bits at Home Depot. Why Home Depot and not Lowes? Because I could snake my way to Home Depot on back roads. Funny how your shopping choices adjust slightly.

Anyway, the Zip is sitting there, my helmet and jacket locked on it, looking like a shrunken sport bike. Next to it is a Mazda RX-8, idling. I pull my jacket and helmet off, toss the drill bits under the seat, and start to gear up. A man steps out of the Mazda and asks, "Is that thing REALLY turbocharged?"

I look over at him. "No, it's marketing and graphics on a 49cc two-stroke. You're safe."

I'm not sure if he was relieved (he sorta had that "I have a faster car than you" vibe going) or offended.

Next time I'll say, "Why, yes. Yes it is!"

From what I can tell so far, it takes no longer to ride the Zip to do my errands than it does a car. The only time suck so far is unlocking it for the first trip of the day and locking it up again at night. Same for locking the jacket/helmet to the scoot.

At night, it slips between two of our cars, still leaving room to get into either one. Locked and covered, it's fairly stealthy. I've been using the same technique for motorcycles for years since I haven't had a garage since the late 80's.

Parking is definately a strong suit, based on the scoot's tiny, "you gotta love me" presence. I believe that I could practically ride the scooter up and down the aisles of any store. So far there has been no resistance to me parking it right at the door of practically any store I've been to. I've stuck to the parking lots for the most part, but this thing is so non-threatening that I don't think people put up barriers to it.

A little over a week, and while the fun-factor is still there, the scoot is taking on a bit more of a workhorse feel to it than just a novelty. It's still fun to ride and I'm pushing its limits in the corners and having a blast while doing so, and my confidence level has come up quite a bit in terms of using it for day-to-day use--it's willing to work for a living.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Week One wrapup

First week mileage was just shy of 100 miles. If I had more free time and/or could get past the guilt of sneaking away from work, I could've easily doubled that mileage just with joyriding. I was also a bit apprehensive about riding at first, not knowing what to expect or how reliable it is, so initial jaunts were within walking (or pushing) distance of home.

The oil reservoir leak around the oil level sensor is pretty common, from what I'm told. If I buy another 2-stroke scooter with a similar design, I'll probably remove the sensor and put RTV sealant around it as part of the initial prep process. It only takes about 10 minutes including removing all the stuff to get to the oil reservoir.

Aside from that, the bike has run flawlessly, revving furiously and eagerly. I can get an honest 42 mph out of it on the flats; I don't think 45 is out of the question once it breaks in a bit. At 30mph it's remarkably smooth, quiet, and feels relatively untaxed. It seems to be in its element when I'm either cruising at 30mph on a quiet suburban road, or (oddly enough) blasting flat-out from stoplight to stoplight in dense urban traffic, slingshotting from one city block to the next and slipping through holes in traffic.

So far it's getting roughly 80mpg--much higher than I expected.

Castrol synthetic premix is about $6.50 per bottle. Can't quite track that usage yet because of an oil reservoir leak.

I bought a few tools to leave in the scoot--a better set of screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench--to the tune of about $10.

RTV-type gasket sealant to fix the oil revervoir leak: about $5.00

Future upgrade: higher wattage headlight--about $10.

Figuring that I'm doing a ton of joyriding in addition to errands, I've spent about $3 a week for fuel and whatever the 2-stroke oil consumption cost are. Easily under $20 a month for all the errands and goofing off I'd like to do.

If you're absolutely shaving every penny you can off your household budget, figuring out how long it would take to recoup your initial scooter purchase price by saving on fuel and parking is an individual thing. However, I don't think that the fiscal bottom line is the single best argument for riding the scoot unless there's a long-term commitment (1 year minimum, at least 2 years to see returns). Personally, I think the best part is the enjoyment of riding something that's quiet efficient and a lot of fun. After all, if it's not fun, you're not going to stick with it.

The fun part is pretty dependent up on the scooter's competency, however, as well as the ride gear that keeps you safe, visible, and comfortable. I've seen some bargain-basement scoots with shoddy construction and low-grade parts that probably would struggle to hit 25mph, and their braking is substandard even at those sluggish speeds. So perhaps if the aim is simply A-to-B, then a smallish, inexpensive scoot would suffice--with the caveat that build quality and brakes are a priority. If you want to get a kick out of the joyriding element, go for something that has a certain gut-level attraction, as well as the most mechanically competent scoot you can afford.

Also, since I ride motorcycles (at least 12K miles a year) I have plenty of great ride gear to choose from--armored jackets and pants, mesh jackets for summer wear, great gloves and boots, and so on. If you don't have those things, budget for them. If you shop around, good armored all-weather, all-season textile gear--a jacket and overpants--can be found for about $200. A decent DOT/Snell rated full face helmet starts at about $125.

Wrecking at 35mph on a scoot is the same as wrecking at 35mph on a full-size motorcycle. The choice for gear is up to the rider but I'd recommend an honest risk assessment. While part of the attraction to scoots is the "get on and go" simplicity, an extra moment spent pulling on a helmet, jacket, gloves, over-the-ankle footwear, and wearing jeans, is a cheap investment in safety.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

First mechanical issue - but still smiling

The first mechanical glitch reared its ugly head today. The oil reservoir sprang a leak. It's going to be a fairly straightforward fix, and I still have the Plan B of simply premixing my oil and bypassing the oil injection system. But I'm bummed--weekends are for joyriding the scoot and I already miss it.

Someone on another forum mentioned that I was hooked. I figured my reply was worth blogging:

The big bikes are easy--write a check, go really fast.

The little bikes take you right back to childhood. Any time you're out and about, you're looking behind every barn, next to every garage, looking for that little forgotten, unwanted machine that someone might part with for the wadded up bills you've got in your pocket. You're gonna spend an afternoon scrubbing the carb and then cheering when it fires for the first time and then practically peeing in your pants when it actually idles. Then there's the first ride--30mph never felt so good.

You've gone right back to that Z-50 you had as a kid, your first motorcycle.

How many big bikes do that? How many allow you to reconnect with one of the most pure moments of childhood? I think we tend to spend a lot of time and money trying to get back there with much more expensive playthings, when all it takes is simply...well, simplifying. Was the thrill being launched from 0-60 in 3 seconds? Nope. Was it having more titanium bits on it than the average F-15E? Nope. It was something sorta small, unintimidating, yet absolutely capable of propelling you anywhere at a speed that was just enough to let you know that you were experiencing the magic genie of the internal combustion engine, yet slow enough that the scenery going past wasn't a meaningless blur.

Bringing that into the present tense is pretty easy with a scooter.

The sportier 49cc 2-strokes are an absolute HOOT to ride. Once you get used to the miniscule power band, it's an obsession to rail that thing into a corner, timed just right so that the CVT hooks up mid-apex. Every corner becomes Laguna Seca. You don't need to break 40mph to have the time of your life. And they're totally unintimidating to people. Even if you've been acting the fool, folks will come up to you and ask where you got it, what kind of gas mileage it gets (always say "100 mpg"...when in truth it's closer to 70), if you like it, and so on. And then there's the fun of parking it in any spot you can find, most of the time w/o worrying about a ticket. They just look like they belong there.

And then there's the cheap factor: a 49cc rebuild/hop-up kit to 70cc (which can actually be quite a little slingshot of a bike) is about $150 and 2 hours worth of work.

I've gone from "aw, man, I'm on a small, slow bike" to "BWA HA HA HA HA! I am Rossi! I OWN these streets!" Once that transition hits, you're hooked.

I've been hit with bike lust so many times and so often that I had no idea that you could scratch that itch with an inexpensive scoot.