Friday, September 15, 2006

Scooter Chronicles, #4

Wherein the shrinking gas prices are harshing my smug


Hey, I should probably review the scooter! So far, had the 300km checkup two weeks ago, passed the motorcycle road test, I'm commuting regularly, and should be back for the 1000km checkup next week.

Here's a note I made after the first ride home (30 miles from downtown Atlanta to the suburbs):
Thought it handled very well, nice response and acceleration. Felt good in traffic. I did notice that I tended to swing wide making left and right turns; but a couple evenings practicing with cones and spinning circles in a parking lot should help with that. Once I get used to it, it'll be a lot of fun.

Quickly got over the "swinging wide." That was mostly an issue of getting accustomed to the physics of the machine. It's quite nimble and my cornering is much sharper. Probably not taking curves as hard as I could, but I'm not slow, either.

I've read that scooters handle differently from a motorcycle because more of the weight is in the back; and due to the 16-inch wheels, the Kymco handling is often compared to a bicycle. Never been on a motorcycle, but I'd agree with the bicycle comment. While I can't quite throw the scooter around the road like I can my road bike, it is very responsive requiring little more than a shift of the hips to swerve or hang in a curve. I guess if you're not familiar with a bike, it might seem "shifty," though I finding it very stable and I'm working on my track stops for short stops.

Accelerates nicely from a dead stop, definitely faster than the Honda Civic. Most of my commute is over giant suburban arteries: four lanes, either divided or with a turning lane. Speed limit is 45mph, but 50-55 is typical for normal traffic flow. The Kymco 150 easily runs with the traffic and I've even passed a few cars. On steep hills I do lose some power, though it's nothing critical. Any speeds given are approximate. Most forums I've come across say to expect a 10% margin of error with a scooter speedometer. I've experienced a variance of 5-10 mph. With The Wife trailing me in the car, when my gauge read 35mph, I was going 25mph; at 45, I was doing 35-40mph; and at 55mph, I was doing 45mph. I haven't tested this recently and think it might have leveled out. To ensure I'm doing 45mph I usually run at 55-60mph and based on traffic I'd say I'm now skewing on the high side and riding closer to 55mph than 45-50mph. Definitely due for another test. I haven't pushed it full out, though based on how it runs at 60mph, I'm thinking 70-75 is probable on flat roads -- for a "real" speed in the mid to high 60s. It's not likely that I'll need freeway speeds, but nice to know it's there. It is freeway legal, so if I ever needed to I could.

Gas mileage is still developing. I've filled up four times and so far I'm averaging 74 miles per gallon. I think if I was able to stay in the 35-45 mph range I could keep the mileage up around the 80s; however, since I'm frequently running it near the max, I'm fine with the 70s. While the gas mileage is a definite plus, the small tank has me stopping more often than the car. The tank holds 1.8 gallons, so planning on 70mpg gives me a range of 126 miles, or 200 kilometers. That's 4 days of commuting. It isn't a lot of range, then again I pass about 10 gas stations during the 15 miles between home and office. If I ever do any longer rides I'll have to be careful. I've also read that motorcycle and scooter gas gauges read "funny" because of the irregular shape of the tank. The gauge will read full for a long time, then start dropping fast. That seems to be the case. The gauge is also reading dead empty when I still around an 1/8 of a tank. Checking my notes, I'm refueling around every 170km.

Notice how I keep using kilometers? That's because the odometer is metric. I've made up a little conversion chart as a reminder, but it's easy to remember that 100km equals 63 miles and that my 30 mile round-trip commute is roughly 50km. Just requires a couple extra steps to determine my gas mileage.

My one real complaint is the mirrors are pretty much worthless. I'm still playing with the positioning, but I can barely seen anyone on either side of me and can't see a damn thing directly behind me. I need them higher and wider. It feels like I'm sitting too close to them. Checked with the shop and they didn't have anything that would be much of an improvement and they suggested I try a motorcycle shop.

A minor complaint was that the Georgia license plate didn't fit in the screw slots in the fender. The license plate is too big and I had to drill an extra hole in it. Would've been nice if the dealer had warned me about this. Or even better, provided a license plate holder.

Overall, on a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a 8.5. Great ride with a couple nitpicky complaints. I'd highly recommend it. Plan is to commute on average four days a week. Basically, if it isn't raining or icy, I'm riding. I added a large Givi box, so small runs to the grocery store are doable. Stopped at the bagel store one morning and picked up 2 dozen bagels; the grocery bag fit comfortably next to bike messenger bag I use to haul miscellaneous crap.

New: Chilly ride this morning. I will need to acquire winter gloves, or at least some covers, very soon.

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