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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blog like it's the end of the world.

Lately I've been adding a lot of posts to my humble blog.   Now I have a challenge to all the motorcycle and scooter bloggers out there.

June 13, 2012 is the end of the world.   The cause is Zombies.  Your mission, blog about the end of the world and involve your bike.  It's fictional, it's fun and it's been going on for some years now (since 2008) and at various times have involved aliens, virus outbreaks, and nuclear strikes.  All those years ago my blog at the time got a bit of attention because I barricade myself in my attic with only one way in or out of it.   Zombies below me....and no weapons.

Personally I think the Zombie thing has been done to death...but not my rules.

So, the glove has been thrown down.  You in?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Looking forward to the rain.

This may sound a little odd, but I was looking forward to riding in the rain last night.  I need the experience, I need to learn how to handle the bike safely in the rain.  Sure You Tube helps and countless articles about what to do and not to do help...but nothing beats saddle time.

Tropical storm Beryl was supposed to drop at least some rain on us the other day.  So far, not much has fallen.  When I left for work in the afternoon there was a 50% chance of me getting wet.  When I rode home, the roads were bone dry and the chance of rain had fallen to 10%.

I know....don't ask for trouble.  Still though I was looking forward to the rain.


Well I asked for trouble.  I was about to head into work and it's raining.  That's not a bad thing...the bad thing is the lighting storms that are expected throughout the rest of the day.  So I'm taking the car in to be safe.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Random thoughts and images.

June 1st is the official start to the Rainy Season in Florida.  We need the rain badly, as the lakes are below their normal levels and countless turtles take their lives in their own hands to find a patch of mud on the other side of the blacktop.  As much as we need the rain, as much as I want my veggie garden to thrive...I am weary of the rain as well.

I ride to work every day and if I didn't have my paper route to do two days out of the week I get the feeling that my car would sit for weeks without moving.  I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing.  I am planning on replacing one of my two cars eventually and using the bike full time anyhow.   The problem is that my experience riding in rain is limited.  Over the past two years or so that I've been riding some sort of scooter I can count the number of times I've ridden in the rain on one hand.  One of the first things I bought when I got the Burgie was a good rain suit.  It sits under the seat in it's pack...waiting.  I have a 50% chance of getting wet tonight, a 70% chance tomorrow.

June 18, 2012 is also National Ride to Work Day.  I'm always amazed that there are 3 or 4 other motorcycles at work, that I know of, and yet my old Scooter is always parked there.  I do understand that there may be reasons why someone can not ride to work.  I also understand that their are other alternatives - for example when I lived in Pittsburgh I rode the bus every day despite that fact that I could have driven in and parked for free.  It was just easier to ride the bus.  A girl at work owns a Prius and a Harley, yet the Prius gets better gas mileage than the yea, I get it.  However it seems to me that if you own a bike, you should ride it.  Not just on the weekends or from Tavern to Tavern but to work and to school and to the grocery store.

For example, the other day I was in Tampa on business and driving past an ancient woman riding a Peace scooter.  Her toothless smile was so wide that you could get lost in it.  She had a look of pure, simple, childish joy on her face.  I could not help it and yelled out "YOU GO GRANDMA!" and got the biker wave in return.  Some images you have burned into your brain and have to acknowledge them.   I know that years from now I'll be riding somewhere with that same grin and sense of childlike wonder, I only hope that someone see's me and that I impress them as much as she did me.

That is one of the reasons I write.  To share these impressions and images with others.  One of the other reasons I write is to hopefully teach someone else something...anything really.  What not to do, what to do.  To just get them to think about something differently for a moment or two.  One blog that does a fantastic job of that is "How to ride your scooter safely."   If your riding any sort of two wheeled vehicle this is required reading.  

Finally, if your not familiar with a site called Fuelly, you should be.  It's designed to give you hard figures on your fuel consumption as well as tips on how to increase it.  It's not hard to use and it should be interesting to see how my car's and bike compares to others over time.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Addendum.....Honda got a motorcycle that blurs the lines again!

Thanks to
If you weren't paying attention to my little rant about the future of motorcycling belong to the maxi-scooters.  Then you need to read this review of the the 2012 Honda Integra NC 700 ABS.  It's not really a scooter, it's not really a motorcycle but a combination of the two...a maxi scooter.  It's a fair review I think and written towards the market that may buy it.

I'm not sure if it will be available in the states or what they will call it (the Integra car is not to be confused with the bike of course).  Either way it's just another example of meeting a lot of different needs in the future by thinking ahead.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's next?

I have been trying to help a co-worker decide on which motorcycle he should buy.  This will be his first motorcycle and he has never ridden before.  Luckily he has got a bit of a brain in his head and is getting endorsed first, buying the proper gear and is listening to those of us that do ride nearly every day.  He's already changed his mind about getting a huge cc monster although I can't talk him out of his desire for a street bike.

In my thinking a 250cc or 400cc motorbike or scooter is all he needs for a year or two.  Your going to go down at least once while learning and a old beater would serve his needs.  Burgman's are relativity cheap and plentiful for example and would provide him experience in handling a two wheeled vehicle.  Now don't misunderstand me, I love my Burgie and really don't have any complaints about it but I am a realist as well - he needs to learn and the Burgman is a good bike to do that on.  His heart however, is with a sport bike.

My first ride was the Zuma 125, it met all my needs at the time and was a fun little bike, it will always have a place in my heart, but his quest got me thinking.   What's next for me?

Aprilia Mana 850 ABS
I've always been attracted to the odd and unusual and I can't see paying an extra 10K just for a brand name.  Plus, they are a dime of dozen, so Harley's are pretty much out of the picture.  I do like the Mana 850 by Aprilia  They also created a 850cc scooter with pretty much the same body, or at least it appears that way to my untrained eye.  I fell in love with the style of their bikes, all smooth refined lines and Italian sophistication.  I've only seen one or two on the streets and that appeals to me.

BMW new Urban Mobility Vehicles also appeal to me just due to their style.  The fact that they are BMW's - which generally means good engineering that is built to last.  The reviews I've read are generally good  and frankly, this is probably the only BMW I will ever be able to own other than a matchbox car.  Both of the current models are being geared towards city dwellers, answering their concerns about  the crowded roads and diminishing resources of city living.  It's a gamble and interesting marketing but could pay off huge for BMW in the future.

When I first started looking at buying a "real bike" and not a scooter various friends of ours tried to steer me to the Triumph Bonneville's.  I have to admit that I'm drawn to not only the fine lines of this classic bike but also the history of them.  It's a damn sexy machine.  The only reason I'm not riding a Bonneville today is that they were, at the time, a little to powerful for me.  I could however see myself on one of these very easily.

Piaggio MP3 500cc
Susan, my long time girlfriend, and I have discussed the possibility of getting a trike or a trike conversion kit to allow her to ride with me.  While I do love the idea of her putting her arms around me as we go through the twisty's I'm not really sold on the idea of a trike.  I would eventually like to travel with her to parts unknown, and some trikes are built exactly for that comfort and ease of travel.    I have seen some models out there that appear to be little more than cars missing the roof and steering wheel and that to me seems to be defeating the purpose.  I am not a fan of Can-Am, although that has more to do with the style of the bike than anything else.  I've not seen many on the road which does make it "unique", nor have I really looked at the bike up close.  Does it have lots of storage?  How does it handle?  Frankly I don't know and need to learn more about them.

Piaggio has the MP3 series of bikes. These are three wheeled scooters and have lots of interesting advantages, such as being able to stop and not put your foot down. They are still rare on the roads and is a much smaller profile than the Can-Am's.  Both of these bikes offer stability and safety.  The MP3 is a smaller bike (maxing out at a little under 500cc as compared to the 900cc of the Can-Am) and would get gas mileage similar to what I'm getting now.

Ural Patrol model
A motorcycle sidecar seems to be more honest to me.  Ural Motorcycles used to make motorcycles for the Soviet Military.  Did I mention my enjoyment of odd and unusual?  My love of history?  The idea of traveling here and there with a sidecar has a romantic element to it as well.  Ural prides itself on its ability to take to take what ever you through at it.  Sidecars however are also inherently dangerous and many people dislike the idea of riding mere inches above the road surface. The concept appeals to me, the reality might not, again...more research and test drives are required.

I'm not in the market for a new bike though.  I am very happy with my 07 Burgman and I'm not ready for a new bike - even if I could afford it - and frankly who knows what will be out there when I am ready?  I am however keeping my eyes open, something may fall into my lap one day, for now however...I'm a Burgman rider.  Another Burgman could be in the future.  You never know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Highways, bridges and soccer.....a punishing night on the Burgie

I've been wanting to ride the Burgie down into St Petersburg for some time.  After all I would be able to get some glorious shots of my ride against the ocean, the yacht club and other interesting things.  This past Saturday night the local soccer team, called the Rowdies were playing, and I could not think of a better reason to ride down.

As it so happened though life through me a couple of twisties before I could even start to plan to go to the game. My camera went boom, meaning that any picture I took with it was a fuzzy mess. My wallet was either lost or stolen, and since my bank is up north it would take several days to get my bank cards straightened out.  My license reissued, etc.  I questioned if I should even bother going down but as a nearly perfect Saturday dawned I had my answer.  I would ride the sixty miles down to the game, enjoy it and spend some time exploring the city.  So I jumped on the Burgie and went.

Traffic was not this bad on Saturday.
Frankly there are lots of ways to get into St. Pete but generally speaking the easiest and quickest is to cross one of the three bridges that connect Tampa to St. Pete.  The Howard Frankland being the one I choose.  This is also a major highway (I-275) and a very long bridge which is open to the water on both sides (remember this, it's important for later).  At various times I've seen dolphins leaping from the water, sea birds hunting from fish and several species of fish break the waterline for whatever reason.  All while traveling at a nice clip of 70 miles per hour.  The ride down into St Pete was uneventful, I don't care for driving on highways but felt pretty secure and sure of myself on the way in.

Photo courtesy of Jay Anthony
Once into St Pete I drove past the famed Dali museum, the Pier with its upside down pyramid (which has since closed and is being rebuilt.  For pictures of the old pier please use this link), around the lovely yacht club with the boats flying their multicolored flags. The real fun started when you get to the game.  I'm a member of Ralph's Mob, where your expected to stand, sing, clap and generally yell yourself hoarse for the entire 90 minutes of a soccer game.   It was a pretty good game, with the Rowdies dominating it for the most part - but their is an old saying in soccer.  "Football is a lot like life sometimes despite the effort, it's disappointing in the end."  The Rowdies lost 2 - 1 in a game that they should have won.  The reasons for that loss is for another blog.  So I considered my options and decided that after the game instead of enjoying a soft drink or two at the after-game party, I would head home; after all I lived 60+ minutes away.

Courtesy of Jay Anthony (find the author as well)
St Pete's offers a lot of motorcycle/scooter parking which is nice, I found a spot 2 blocks from the stadium earlier that eveing and started home.  I pulled out and the wind off the water hit me like a ton of bricks.  It got worse as I entered the highway...hitting me from both the side and the front of bike.  My speed dropped as I turned the throttle up, but if I turned it to much I didn't feel safe from the side winds that seemed to want to drive me into the next lane over.   I moved over to the right as far as I could, feeling the bike be pushed, fishtailing a bit, the wind relentlessly pushing me over to the left.  The bridge went on and on, I leaned forward and into the wind never feeling that I would lose control but feeling I was on the edge.  Again and again I was buffeted.  It seemed to take forever to cross that three mile span.

I got off the bridge safely and I'll be honest, feeling a bit lucky but decided to cut through town to avoid the rest of the highway as the wind was still playing havoc on the bike.   What I didn't think about was the part of town I would be riding through.  I was riding through an area of town so rough that even the cockroaches were packing guns.  I never feared for my safety, I actually thought I was safer on the city streets then on the highway at the time and besides...I was on a scooter.

The last 15+ miles of ride was into a strong headwind but this I could manage.  So eventually I made it home, safe and sound and with some knowledge under my belt about how to drive in unpredictable gusts of winds.  I would have to work on that.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The future is the Maxi - Scooter.

"Hey Rob!"
"Yea, what's up?"  I leaned back in my chair and rubbed my eyes as the, the problem, I was working on my work computer had somehow determined it was going to be unsolvable.  
"How difficult is it to get a motorcycle license?"

I get these questions from time to time.  I also get questions about how fast my bike can go "I've had it to 90 MPH but I don't feel safe at that speed." I tell them (which is more of a comment on my ability as a rider than the bike).  Questions like "Is that highway legal?", "What's your fuel economy?", "How much to fill up the tank?"  In general I don't mind answering them.  After all most people are curious, but its a rare few that actually continue to look into things.

Later that same day, I saw him checking out bikes on various websites.  He wanted a used sport bike, but wasn't happy with the horsepower on a lot of them.  "Really, I don't need to go 120 mph" he said.
Special thanks to Genevieve Schmitt.
Motorcycle sales have been falling over the last couple of years, on that everyone can agree, but the reasons vary.  I, personally, think one of the reasons was the failure of the industry to recognize a changing market.  Scooters continue to grow in popularity and I think it's because most Americans want convenience and simplicity; not the complexity of the traditional motorcycle gearing.  Raising gas prices are actually hurting the industry.  A average motorcycle gets roughly 35 - 40 mpg, which sounds great but now with hybrids and flex fuel cars the consumer has a safer option that might get 50 mpg.  Woman riders are also the fastest growing segment of the motorcycle market and this is going to sound sexist but the motorcycle world has a lot of models geared towards men.  The bikes are heavy, loud and fast.  Woman are generally more practical and really don't need a 1200cc powerhouses if they are looking for a commuter bike.

However, unlike Detroit in the 1970's the motorcycle industry is actually paying attention to a changing world, thus the number of "Maxi-scooters" that are coming out in the next few years.  If you think about it it makes perfect sense.  A lot of the riders that purchased smaller scooters (the dreaded 50cc) are realizing that they are under powered.  For many that means selling off the scoot, but for a few that means an upgrade.  In a way it's nice to see companies like Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW and others create something that has the best of both worlds.  A scooter traditionally has the under seat storage, a pass through frame, smaller wheels and a front facing fairing with floorboards.  In other words the iconic Vespa.  The automatic transmission has also traditionally been linked with scooters.

Motorcycles on the other hand generally had bigger wheels, have a manual transmission and foot operated clutches and brakes, you threw your leg over the bike to mount it as well.  A larger engine was also a defining characteristic of a motorcycle.  Generally speaking "storage" on a cycle was saddlebags or a backpack.
The "Maxi-scooter" has blurred the lines.  You have a smaller engine (with ranges from 250cc to 800cc) but with enough power to drive safely on any road and in nearly any condition., lighter weight - the ave maxi scoot weighs about 300 pounds (136 Kilo), the ave motorcycle 500 pounds (227 Kilos).  The maxi scooter provides more storage, good fuel economy, automatic transmissions, the larger tires of a maxi-scooter provide more stability, etc. When I went looking for a bike what sold me on the Suzuki Burgman was a simple sentence in a review.  Even though I can't remember the phrase word for word one of the things the reviewer said was "This will replace your car."  I believe that the maxi-scooters will continue to grow in popularity as people realize their needs will be met with these small to mid-range motorcycles.  And lets be honest, the trend over the last few years has been to bigger and bigger power-plants.  There are simply no bikes that a beginning rider can buy that are in a reasonable cc range.

At the end of the day though, what really matters in perception.  Will the general American public accept the new style of motorcycle?  Will dealerships make an effort to sell a "scooter" or continue to push a more traditional motorcycle?    Will companies like Kymco become major players in a tough field because of their success with smaller scooters?

As someone interested in marketing it's going to be interesting to see how things go in the next few years, but I wouldn't be surprised with the "maxi-scooter" market takes off in the next few years.  I expect they will be marketed to the new riders too.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Riding and commuting

In August it will be one year since I bought the Burgie.  Since then I've managed to change out the back tire, change the oil (twice), have a semi-serious mechanical failure - which was not my fault - and put the bike  down, which was my fault. Somehow I've also managed to ride 10,000 miles.

I started with a little under 6,600 miles but rounded up to that nice round figure.  Today I hit 10,000 miles.   Not to bad for a commuter I think and only owning my bike for about nine months.  One of my goals in the coming year is to put more miles on the bike that are "just for fun" which means riding here and there just for the hell of it.

It also means, at least to me anyway, making some improvements to the bike.  I've talked before about how I want to install a new windshield or get a more comfortable seat, however that takes a little more money than what I have right I decided to invest in Malossi 21 g Variator roller weights.  On the Burgman the standard roller weight is 18 - 19 grams.  In theory this should lower the rpm's on my bike during my daily 70 mile round-trip commute and increase gas milage.  Currently, depending on conditions I'm in the high 50's to low 60's.  I hope that these new rollers will lower my fuel consumption by 10 miles per gallon, putting me into the high 60's and low 70's.  Since I will be at 20K soon, where it's recommend I replace my CVT belt, I've decided to order one of those as well but other needs like a new dishwasher, tires for the jeep and saving for a vacation are priority.  The lowest price I've found for a CVT belt is $129 dollars.  The highest - $200 dollars.  That is not including installation and labor costs.  The fact that I'm even considering doing this work myself shows my my confidence level is increasing with every mile I ride.  Six months ago I would never of thought about tearing the bike apart in this manner but thanks to the helpful folks at the BurgmanUSA forums and Mitch's Scooter blog I feel confident.  It helps that my neighbor is a retired mechanic as well.

I know longer have a fear of twisty's, in fact I seek them out now.  Where I rarely ever passed anyone on my previous Zuma 125, I do so with joy now.   I still feel a little weird at night when a car is speeding behind me, but I know longer feel a compulsion to pull over and let him pass.  Nor do I hug the right lane anymore, I feel confident in all lanes.  I do remind myself that the second leading cause of accidents however is "confidence."

At work, my heavy motorcycle jacket no longer gets odd looks when I come in and the fact that I ride in nearly every day has forced the three Harley Owners and a Shadow owner to join me, least they be teased that the "Scooter Guy" is more of a biker than they are.    Today I plan on taking the bike to Keel and Curley Winery for there Blueberry festival.  Sadly I will not have any pictures since my camera died, but I do promise to return with a nice Chardonnay or perhaps a sweet blackberry wine.