scooterlife - photog's blog

Motorcycles. Scooters. Wheelchairs. Tape. Whatever rolls.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Saturday ride

Another visit to the local Vespa dealer. The GM was quite enthusiastic, but they still can't tell the differences between the LX and PX series ("The LX doesn't have removable cowls" was the explanation I got). The GM was willing to cut me a good deal on a PX but wasn't sure exactly what the numbers would be. I suspect I wouldn't get out of there for less than $4K for a PX.

So we went and got a hotdog.

I've posted a question to the Stella gurus on Stellaspeedto find out what Stella owners think about the PX series. The biggest issue for me--next to price--is that the LML-built Stella has the 5-port (okay, bridged 3 port) motor and reed induction, with about a 1.5-2hp gain over the Vespa. For the $1200 or so price difference between the two, I could have a Stella with lots of chrome. Another thing I like about the Stella is the Bitubo gas shocks. Nice touch.

It's really looking like the Stella is going to get the nod. As much as I'd like to buy from a local dealer, the price difference is too great, given the performance issues, and I'm not getting that feeling that the dealership is going to be a nice hangout for scooter owners.

In a bit of irony, the little Zip...the test mule for our scooterlife experiment...has grown on me to the point where I almost don't want to get rid of it. It has performed admirably.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Gas prices up again

Regular just went up to $2.35 here at one station in Raleigh, around the $2.20 range near home.

One friend of mine theorized that noone will change their driving habits until it goes well over $3/gal, maybe closer to $5/gal. While that may be true for his friends that share the same tax bracket, I think the folks who are closer to the low end of the pay scale are going to feel the pinch and it's going to leave a nasty bruise. Gas, groceries, day care...the necessities are always a struggle for some families. Those that may just cut back on a few $8.50 movie tickets are in better shape than the ones that have to trade meds for gas, or groceries for day care, when they can't afford both.

While I'd love to tout scooters as the answer, I don't think tighter-budgeted families can just drop $1500-$2100 for a new scooter or even $700 for a workable used one. The money for a new Zuma would buy a servicable used car that could get kids to daycare, dad to work, mom to the grocery store. Even if they could get a scoot, not everyone is the situation where work, home, and groceries are in a 5 mile radius accessed by <45mph roads.

And while I've got no problem jumping on a public transit bus, I don't think it's within the mindset of most folks who haven't had to use a bus since they rode a big yellow one in junior high.

So as gas prices rise, one group won't feel the pinch as much but has the money for alternative transportation...and another group will feel the burn yet will have to rely on public transportation (if it's accessible) or simply cut out more of an already stressed budget.

Long-term, I think one of our biggest issues is how we've grown into a nation of commuters, dependent upon high-speed roadways to get anywhere, versus living in communities where work, play, groceries, and other necessities are within walking/biking/scootering distance. I haven't researched how planners are looking at this from a long-term perspective driven by oil prices--I've only heard it discussed from a holistic approach to create more compact communities and as such are less dependent on automobiles for families to function well.

It was only two bucks to fill up the scoot tank tonight, and I'm thankful that it cost about 30 cents to run to the post office, insurance company, DMV, and grocery store.

About the only thing I can do besides take care of my household is model behavior that might make alternative transportation attractive to others. The fuel I save is a drop in the bucket; it's negated by any one of the cars and trucks in our row of homes. But if one person--just one--decides that a scoot or a Prius or a bicycle might be the better tool for the job than their Escalade, then something might take hold.

OPEC hasn't sent me an e-mail asking me to come back to the fold and put the Trooper back on the road and the Zip in the storage shed. Oil's still pumping out of the middle east, SUV's are selling like crazy, and there's no letup in traffic on the Raleigh beltline.

It's gonna take more than a full-scale attack on our wallets via gas prices to get people to rethink transportation, because in doing so, they have to rethink the way their lives are structured--everything from how and where and why they work to how they live. That sort of change doesn't happen from external prodding--it's one of those things that happens from a decision made at a gut level, an evolution, a major shift in how a generation looks at a roadmap that details what a house looks like, what success looks like, that you trade in a car at 35K miles, that you live in the suburbs and commute to the technology center via the superslab. Anything more extreme than buying a Prius or Civic is akin to deciding to live "off the grid", with the grid being the Matrix of status quo. Personally, after doing it for years, I don't think I could go back to devoting 2 or more hours of my life every day to commuting--sitting in stop-and-go traffic on I40. But to avoid giving 10 or more unpaid hours each week to someone other than family, it takes are huge restructuring of almost everything in your life; like dominoes, changing one element will change others.

The revolution will not have a CVT.

Not for most, anyway.

So far, it's working fine for me, though. I wonder how many others there are out there like me.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

While on the subject of crass generalizations...

Someone on ADVrider asked "what's up with scooters?"

My answer:
Hard to explain.

From what I can tell, scooterists fall into one or more of these categories

1. Econowonks. These are people who abhor vehicles only slightly less than they abhor paying money for anything. They ride scooters because they get good gas mileage, didn't cost much, and get free parking. They couldn't care less about performance or for that matter, comfort. For them, life is a sufferfest made better by pocket protectors and OMB circulars. If someone put a 1-cylinder Onan diesel engine on a Big Wheel and sold it for $399, they'd be on it.

2. Squids. Kids who put a 70cc kit on a Yamaha Zuma and ride it to school for about a week before the cops catch them and confiscate it because they were wearing a skateboard helmet and doing a 65mph stoppie in a school zone while blatting out 163db of 2-stroke noise.

3. Adult Hooligans. These are people who justified it to themselves by combining both 1 and 2. "It'll get great gas mileage, dear," they tell their spouses, and "But it does a 1/4 mile in 12 seconds, d00d," they tell their skeptical motorcycle friends. The real reason they're riding is that it reminds them of the first time they snuck out onto a public road on their Z-50 when they were a kid, and it rails around a corner better than their R1. That, and commuting on it during the week enables them to afford to put gas in their Suburban on weekends so they can tow the boat.

4. Drunks. If the damn thing is only going 30 and the guy is giving everyone the finger, it's because it's restricted to 30mph to be classified as a moped so that the driver doesn't need tags or insurance. Which is good because the finger-waving driver can't get tags and insurance. These folks are easy to spot because they look really pissed that they are on a scooter and are weaving a bit as they struggle to tuck a 12-pack of PBR under their left arm while balancing a keg on the floorboard. See also, "Liquor-sickle"

5. Greenies. These folks ride 4 stroke scooters to save the whales from harmful emissions coming from those nasty 2T bikes and evil SUV's driven by uncaring capitalists. They are usually seen on Honda Metropolitans that, ironically, share the same motor as the fiesty Ruckus (typically ridden by groups 3 and 8). Note: if rider not wearing a Che T-shirt, you may have mis-id'd the rider. See category 7.

6. Dorks. Okay, I'm not gonna disparage anyone, but really--what else are you going to call someone in Members Only jacket, plaid shorts, white socks, and loafers, on a Silverwing? These folks run the gamut from 100 mile/year Snowbirds to the hardcore 40,000 mile Helix riders. They look like GL1200 riders, and as such, beware--they have iron butts in their wrinkly little hides.

7. Girliebikes. They're sooooo cute! They're, like, soooooo much cuter than motorcycles! Note: play your cards right, and you can get your wife on one of these scoots and it becomes a GATEWAY DRUG to bigger motorcycles. This is the first step to a 135-lb weight drop on your bike, transforming it back into the sport bike you once remembered. You can bear the Hibiscus Edition Metropolitan for this, especially if she starts getting excited about buying Bike Stuff on weekends. It's not a scooter, it's a strategy.

8. The Hardcore. This is group #3 that has evolved, transcending all rational thought and spending all their spare time ordering parts from Europe, dremeling ports to creamy smoothness. They can prounounce "Bajaj Cheetak" without sounding like they have a mouth full of novocaine, and are currently using their GS as a parts runabout for their scooter.

9. The college kids. I had to add this one and I apologize for the oversight. These are the kids that--glory be!--have decided it's senseless to crank up the car for a 2 mile run to campus. They throw on a backpack and ride the Zuma right up to the classroom building door, which earns them another 10 minutes of hitting the snooze button. Note to parents--send 'em to an MSF BRC class and they'll be much safer riders.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Stella it is

I cannot ignore the craving anymore.

Somewhere around 2am on Saturday morning I was cruising the scooter sites and lurking on Stellaspeed. Two new colors are coming out this summer--pink and blue.

So I emailed SCOMO at 2am and told them that I've given in to these desires and must own a Stella. Soon. Now. Like, as soon as the next client check comes in for some video I shot last week. Forget groceries, it's going towards the Stella.

Not more than 5 minutes goes by and Chris emails me a very nice detailed message back--yes, they're taking deposits on the blue Stellas.

With a chuckle I sent him a note of thanks, wondering what he was doing up so early in the morning.

I don't expect a dealership to be open 24/7, but I sure do appreciate the enthusiasm.

I'll most likely buy from SCOMO unless a used bike shows up locally. For some things the dealer support isn't a big thing, but since I'm buying a Stella out of the desire to own something more than just a scooter, having a home base that understands the scooter lifestyle and history is important to me. Just as experienced motorcyclists tire of the endless brand-bashing and posers, scooterists tire of being treated as second-class citizens at dealerships that have a few scoots stuffed into a corner somewhere.

See you soon, SCOMO.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


1955 Grumman US-2B Tracker
One of the restored warbirds of the Commemorative Air Force, this gorgeous bird is part of the Old Dominion Squadron. Rescued from the Boneyard, the Squadron members put tons of elbow grease and experience to work to bring it back to glory though it had earlier faced certain demise at the Boneyard.

I spotted the distinctive Grumman attributes--that massive tail with so much dihedral and the classic brooding brow--as I drove past and had to pull in to get a closer look. Nothing beats being able to actually lay hands on a piece of history like this--unless you could actually fly it. I wish I could've climbed aboard for a few minutes.

On the eve of Independence Day, this was a nice find at a quiet airfield in eastern Virginia. I couldn't help but wonder who had flown it, and what stories it could tell from its days as a sub tracker.

To find out more, visit The Old Dominion Squadron and please consider donating a few bucks to the Commemorative Air Force.