Monday, March 16, 2009

Red Light Changer. 0 for 1...

Have you ever sat at a traffic light on your bike waiting for your turn, and it never comes? Well it happens to me every time I pull up to the traffic light leading into my neighborhood. My neighbor hood has only one road leading into it so I do have two ways of getting home, I can approach from the west and make a Right turn which is my normal method (I will often go several miles out of my way in order to do this), or I can approach from the east and take my chances that a car is already sitting in the left turn lane at the light. The Left turn light will only activate if it senses a vehicle in the turn lane. If I get there first and a car comes up behind me the light still will not change as the sensors are rather short. I have no doubt that at some point in the future that the local Law enforcement will be present when I do my red light run. So what's a lazy guy to do? I really don't want to spend the Time, Energy or Money to prove my case to the Law enforcement officer or the traffic court Judge.

This Lazy guy purchased the Red Light Changer for $20. It comes in a small plastic box with a colorful cardboard inner box, just like every other item from china. First thing you will notice if there is more than one box on display is that they are lightly stuck together. If you pry one apart and take a moment to read the labeling you will find it's not safe to handle if you have a pacemaker (you have been forewarned). When you get the plastic open you will find a small metal can, open the can and there is a instruction sheet and 2 alcohol prep-pads. Remove a piece of Styrofoam and there sits a small brown unassuming lump. It turns out that the lump is quite comfortable in it's can and doesn't really want to come out. The forty pounds of magnetic pull quickly grabs on to the side of the can when you try to remove it. The instruction state that you should not remove the magnet from its home until you are ready to install it, but I'm sure most everybody will want to play just a little. Do be careful as it is strong enough that it could negatively effect electronics, credit cards etc.

The instructions tell you that the magnet should be installed on the bottom of the motorcycle, towards the front, facing down and stuck to a ferromagnetic part of the frame or cross brace. It should NOT be installed on or to close to the engine, exhaust or electronics. If the magnet is exposed to temperatures greater than 175 degrees it will start to loose it's magnetic strength. This is a problem for me as the bottom of my motorcycle is all engine and exhaust. The only bits of frame on my bike are on top of the engine where the electronic brain is, and no where near the road. I thought the center stand would be the best location. After closer inspection I have to find a different location as my center stand is surrounded by the exhaust when in the up position and it actually touches it slightly on the left side. In the end I placed it on the torque arm, it is ferromagnetic, not to close to the hot parts and somewhat close to the ground. Only time will tell if that was the correct location.

Just so you know it doesn't Really change the light from red to green, instead it lets the traffic light know that you are there and that you would appreciate a green light in the near future. Unfortunately for me the magnet did not do it's job in the one and only occasion I have found myself at the traffic light.

0 for 1

Judgment is reserved pending more testing.

See you on the road.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Scooter Part 2. The 1/4 liter, is it enough?

In my earlier post I came to the conclusion that not only do the Big Boy's (400cc and up) cost more than I would like to spend they don't get the kind of gas mileage I would like to see. So that leaves me with one avenue left to explore, The 1/4 liter bikes.

The 250cc range of scooters covers a very broad spectrum, every thing from the suspiciously cheap to the extraordinarily expensive, little wheels to big wheels.

First things first. I really don't care for the large wheel scooters such as the Piaggio BV, Kymco People, and others of that style. There are a couple of reasons; 1. Visually they don't appeal to me, I know it's a bit shallow but that's how it is. 2. Because of the bigger tires and wheels there is less leg room. Basically you are in the same riding position as on a standard motorcycle, but without a tank to grip. I'm already able to do that.

That still leaves a large variety of 250cc scoots to consider.

So lets start with a Google search, go to Google and type in 250cc scooter (or just click the link) and you will get over a million hits. If you follow the first 50 links you will find brand names like CF Moto, SunL, JCL, Roketa, Tank, Lance, Linhai, Vog and the list keeps going. Welcome to the Ch The first thing to catch your eye is the prices, anywhere from $1700 to $2500 for a brand new scooter. The prices of these scooters will cause a lot of people to stop looking and get the credit card out. I was a bit skeptical and kept digging (there is some truth in "you get what you pay for"). I'm sure someone will disagree with me on this, but there are only 2 differnt 250cc scooters in that long list of brands, mechaniclly speaking. First is the clone of a cloned Honda CN250, from the Honda Helix, often refered to as the CFMoto 250. The Second is the clone of a cloned Yamaha engine, otherwise known as the Linhai 257. Of all the differnt Chinese 250cc scoots the MC-54 seires seems to be the most popular, and if I was to buy a Chinese scooter it would be one of the MC-54 variants. The MC-54 looks like a Honda Reflex on the outside, but is a completely differnt beast on the inside. The MC-54-250 typically comes with the CFMoto 250 and the MC-54B-250 ussally has the Linhai 257, but if you purchase from a drop shipper you are taking a bit of a gamble on what you will have dropped in your driveway. On the outside these bikes appear to be a good deal for about $2000, but qulity control can vary greatly on bikes coming off the same production line, and once you pay for the scooter you are on your own for service and repairs. So fi you don't have the time and skills or don't wish to learn the skills to do your own wrenching you should think long and hard before buying a Chinese scooter (of any size). One place to get more information on living with a Chinese scooter is Scootdawg Forums. I believe I have the skillset to own a Chinese Scooter, but at this point in lmy life I just don't have the time, so I will pass.

What about a Real Honda or Yamaha? For a 250cc, used is the only way. Neither Honda or Yamaha seem to think we need a 250cc scooter in the States. There are plenty of Honda Reflex's on eBay and craigslist, including everything from salvaged titles (wrecked) to less than 500 miles (expensive). Yamaha's are harder to come buy as the Morphous is the only 250cc out there and they were not a big seller. I haven't seen one on my local craigslist, but there seems to be a couple on eBay most of the time. I have to admit the first time I saw the Morphous I just wasn't sure what to think, but as time has passed I have become attracted to them. I really like the 2008 model just as it came from the factory. With the black wheels it looks like it came out of the most recent trio of Star Wars films, it just seems to float above the ground. If only I could find the right combination of price, location and color...

Suzuki doesn't import a 250 at this time. The not for the U.S. Gemma (straight our of some manga story) might grow on me if it was available here.

The Italian brothers Piaggio and Vespa offer the MP3 250 and the GTS 250ie respectivlly. The MP3 being more of what I'm looking for, but as with the bigger MP3's you pay a preimum for the extra wheel and the engineering it took to add the extra wheel. I really like the look of the Vespa GTV, a special edition of the GTS with a fender mounted headlight, exposed handle bars and faux 2 piece saddle. The physical size of the vespa makes me thank twice when considering my commute.

Finally I have to look at Taiwan scooter manufactures SYM and Kymco. SYM offers the RV250 but it feels to snug for my height. Kymco offers the Grand Vista 250 which reminds em of the SYM, not much leg room. Last but not least is the Kymco Xciting 250Ri twin of the 500Ri but with half the diplacement and valves. The only differance between the 250 & 500 is that the 500 has a parking brake and optional ABS. I really like the look and feel of the Xciting 250 (photo above), it's pretty much at the top of my list of potinel buys.

I'm still not sure a 250 is right for me. I need a test ride to get a feel for the performace and handeling of the 1/4 liter bikes. I have been riding a bike for the last 13 years that came out of the factory with 70 horsepower and 60 ft/lbs of torque. I know that I won't get the same performance out of a scooter, that's not why I'm interested in a one.

I would like to give the following scooters a test ride:
Kymco Xciting 250Ri
Yamaha Morphous
Vespa GTS 250
Piaggio MP3 250

If I get a test ride on any of those scooters you will be the first to know.

See you on the road.