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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Bikes......Scooters........Why I Love the Step Through CVT's

I blame it all on my parents.....my affinity towards scooters that is. It's all their fault, and I'd like to thank them, because in hindsight they probably saved my life.

I've had a motorcycle licence since I was 16 years old. The year was 1985, and I lusted after the latest and greatest sport bikes. The Honda Interceptor 500 was what I dreamed about. It was state of the art at the time, and was a two-wheeled weapon for the road. By todays standards it's pretty meek and mild, but back in the day it was all I could dream about.

My dreams of being like Fast Freddie Spencer however were dashed when I ended up with a Honda Elite 125 instead. If the Interceptor 500 was a weapon for the road, the Elite was a spoon from the cutlery drawer.

Don't get me wrong, compared to my friends armed with bicycles, and a bus pass, I was loving the 125cc of scooterness. I was free to fly, and it was my first taste of independence. Much like my daughter Maggie is experiencing now with her Honda Giorno.

I rode the piss out of that thing, still pretending I was Fast Freddie on the Interceptor. The fact that my parents would not allow a real motorcycle into the house most likely saved my life. At 16 years old, you're pretty much an idiot. Some of us never outgrow that. I'd like to think I have now, at the age of 47, but let's be real, I still have my moments. Being a testosterone fuelled 16 year old with visions of being a MotoGP racer on sport bike probably would not have ended too well for me. Luckily the Elite accelerated at the speed of smell, and would reach a top speed of 100kph, downhill with a tailwind. It took the entire length of the Harbour Arterial to get it to warp speed.

I became aware of our mortality at a young age, when a BMX riding buddy of mine, who was also a talented motocross racer died on my dream bike the Honda Interceptor 500.

McDonald Drive in St. John's, NF is pretty straight road through a residential area in the east end of the city. It begins at the T- intersection of Logy Bay Rd. Oliver's Store used to be there. I bought a lot of Hubba Bubba and Fun Dip there.

My friend Robbie Cook was headed south on Logy Bay Rd, turned onto McDonald Drive by Oliver's Store headed westbound. The speed limit is 50km/hr.

Motorcycles have an insane power to weight ratio, and can accelerate to triple digit speeds in a heartbeat. Even a 1984 Honda Interceptor was fast.

Robbie took the turn at Oliver's and pinned it, cresting a blind hill at more than double the speed limit. At the same time an elderly woman in a car was further down McDonald Drive headed in the opposite direction, and was making a left turn onto one of the side streets on her way home. There was almost no way she could have seen Robbie. She would never, in a thousand years, thought a motorcycle would be coming up that road at that rate of speed.

He hit the back quarter of the car as she was part way through the left turn. The force of the impact spun the car almost 360 degrees. Robbie was thrown from the bike and hit a telephone pole and mailbox. He survived the initial crash, but sadly succumb to his internal injuries a week later.

A foolhardy mistake robbed a family of their child, we lost a friend, and an elderly woman was traumatized for life. Robbie was the first person that was my age to die. It was a big deal, and it rocked all of us.

It was then I realized that my parents were looking out for me by not allowing a big bike into the house, because that easily could have been me doing that stupid shit.

Don't get me wrong, I know I could, and can be easily smucked by a dumbass inattentive driver at an intersection, but life is a risk, and when it's your time........it's your time. However doing stupid shit that speeds up our departure from this life is something we can control.

So, I have an affinity to the scooter because of this. If I was allowed to buy that Interceptor 500, I most likely would have never, ever given a scooter a second, or even any glance at all.

My early years on that Honda Elite are some of my fondest memories. I loved that thing.
I think my reason for liking scooters so much now is it brings me back to the past, and the good times I had, making me feel younger again.

The other day I was giggling in my helmet while riding the Ruckus around. I'm wearing Vans sneakers like the ones I had in high school, and I once again have braces on my teeth. Well, now they are called Invisalign, and I'm ripping around town on scooter like it was 1985 again, and I'm still listening to Stiff Little Fingers and The Clash. The only way it could be any better was if Rick Mercer was sitting on the back of the scooter and we were headed to Geoff Brown's place to partake in some smoking of the Mary Jane.

 Honda is releasing a new scoot later this year. If it actually makes it to Canada is another question. However this new scooter is as close to a cross between an ADV bike and scooter as you can get. It's based on the engine in NC750X. So yes it is big and relatively powerful.

It's the new City ADV. I mean it looks like an Africa Twin step through, kinda. I love the damn thing. That...... right there, will be enough for me to give up the Guzzi and go full on scooter. Assuming of course, Honda Canada imports it for sale, and it's not just relegated to the European market. The Euros get all the cool bikes and cars. Bastards.

The above are concept versions of the scoot, however Honda has confirmed it's going into production, and even released a teaser video. I have my fingers, toes and and anything else I cross, crossed hoping it shows up on a dealers floor near me.

I know I'll be ridiculed and made fun of for riding a scooter, but I don't care. I'm 47 years old, I don't give a shit about what people think anymore. 

Come on Honda........bring it to Canada, I promise I'll buy one.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

A Rucking Good Time

The past couple of weeks I've been getting to know the mighty Ruckus. It's limitations, there are many, and what it does well. Not so many. We have just over 300km on the little beast so far, and everyone in the family is loving it so far.

My oldest daughter Maggie spent the day riding it on her scooter training course at Motorcycle Safety Quest. This week she passed all her written tests, did the road test and is now a fully licensed scooter girl. I am a very proud and worrying father now. She has since ditched the Ruckus for her Honda Giorno.

My youngest, Katie, who can't even get her licence for another two years is using the Ruckus as a minibike. She's tearing up laps around the yard, and on the green space across the street.

The big reason I bought the Ruckus over a Yamaha BWS50 was the low seat height, so it was easier for the girls to ride, and I think it is much cooler looking.

I've been using it mostly for running around town, where it has proved to be quite a good little commuter, getting 170km on 4l of gas. Not too shabby.

The huge limiting factor is the 49cc engine, it's anemic, but I guess, what can you expect with 4hp, and a CVT. Steep hills really slow it down. I rode some that are 7-12%, and the little GET engine struggles, but will grind it's way up, slowing from 50kph to 30kph. This would be an amazing scoot with a 125cc engine. Which is an option available.

Even though the little Ruckus doesn't have enough power to get out of it's own way, it's a total hoot to ride, and puts a huge smile on my face. It just takes a little attitude adjustment after coming off the big bike. It's not about speed. It's about fun. The big tires also make it pretty capable off road, as long as you go slow, it's no KTM, or even an XT250. The suspension is meek at best, the big tires soak up the worst of the bumps. But if you're willing to putt along at a snails pace the Ruck will more than get you there. Gravel roads are where the Ruck likes it best. Like FAR A Routes.

The other downside to the Ruckus is the lack of storage. Most conventional scoots have underseat storage. The Ruckus kinda does, the seat opens up, but it is really only good for storing a backpack. It's all open underneath. I have my old Wolfman tank bag in there right now and it does the trick. I did order a storage kit, that encloses the area underneath the seat. The nice thing is that it still leaves some open storage area toward the back for strapping down a dry bag.

I thing the Ruck would make a good little kite surf exploration vehicle. Kitesurfing requires little gear, kite folds up small and the board is not that big. Plus you can ride it right up the beach. Big tires, big fun.

The other benefit to the Ruckus is if I decide to take a surf/windsurf trip to say PEI or the Magdalen Islands, it gets loaded in the truck with the rest of the gear, and I have some cheap, fun transportation while I'm there. No wind or surf, explore time on the scoot.

Next update.......thoughts on going full on scooter, and ditching the Guzzi. 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Life in the Slow Lane

The throttle is pinned and I am rocketing uphill at a blistering 30kph. The 49cc of fury underneath my arse cannot do anymore to propel me up the increasingly steep hill. It's a good thing this is a rural road with little traffic. Truth be told, except for going downhill, or coming to a stop, my right hand has been cranked for the whole ride. Such is life aboard a Honda Ruckus.

Yes folks my new steed is the Ruckus, one of Honda's most popular, much loved and modded scooters. I've been in love with the fat tyred, bugged eyed, dual headlamped, step through since I first laid eyes on it. The damn thing just looks cool, as cool as a scooter can look, at least with a grown adult on it.

What started as a trip to the local Honda dealer to get my daughter a cute little scooter, quickly turned into the purchase of two scooters. My wife under a moment of weakness and some gentle prodding from her husband suggested we get two scooters. So we walked out the door with a slightly poorer bank account, but richer in two wheeled motorized bikes, a Honda Giorno, and Ruckus.
Like I've said you cannot have two many bikes in the garage.

You can tell by the smiles that the girls love them. Katie has another 2 years before she can get her licence, but has already wore a dirt path around the yard on the Ruckus.

So now we have an Italian (the Guzzi) a wannabe Italian (Honda Giorno) and a bug eyed freak of scooter that will soon be masquerading as an ADV bike. Who says you need a 1200GS to have an adventure. Just ask Mike, who put on 40000 miles on his Ruckus.

This morning I took the Ruckus out for a good little spin, time to see what this beast could do, or could not do. Now coming off a motorcycle, you have to readjust the way you approach riding. Nothing, I mean nothing happens fast. It doesn't accelerate fast, get up to speed (60kph) fast, and oddly enough doesn't slow down fast. (drum brakes). 

The suspension is not all that great, bumps taken at speed tend to unsettle the scoot, but not to the point of being out of control. At speeds over 50kph it's noticeable that the wheels need balancing, there seems to be some wobbling going on. Mind you it's only brief forays when the speedo needle moves north of 50 anyway. Add that to the character of the scoot.

The brakes........well it is 2016  I believe and I'm not sure why any manufacturer would put drum brakes on anything with two wheels. I mean my $1400 bicycle has disc brakes. To put it bluntly the drum brakes suck.

For being only a 49cc scoot, it is quite comfortable for my 6'1" frame. The handlebar is quite tall and wide, almost like a dirt bike or dual sport bike. The seat is wide and comfortable, and at no time did I feel cramped. Instrumentation is bare bones basic, a speedo, with ODO, and high engine temp light. Next to it is a single turn signal light. A low fuel light (comes on when 1L of the 5L tank remains) and high beam light are below. Really what more do you need?

There is no storage on the scoot, nadda, none. However there is space for storage, if that makes sense. The seat lifts up, and my old Wolfman tank bag fits inside perfectly, and didn't even have to be strapped down. So now I have a place to store extra gloves, rain gear, paperwork, etc.

I think my old Gears saddlebags that I just used on the Guzzi will fit as well.

Scoot also comes with a kickstarter for back up. 

What are my plans? Basically turning this already great scoot into a mini ADV bike. First test will be the Fundy Adventure Rally. I plan on riding it up, and doing the single day, solo 250km self guided tour/scavenger hunt. Might turn into a 10-12hr day, but that will be the adventure part. I'm guessing I'll be solo too, since no ADV bike rider will want to putt along at 30-50kph for the whole day, unless I can find another Ruck minded person out there to join me.

Then of course there is next years Mad Bastard, which will be the highlight of 2017. 

There are a few mods needed, a windscreen would be nice, and a set of handguards, and for both rallies I'll need to carry extra fuel, which I can strap to the floor between my feet. 

Overall I love the damn thing, flaws and all. I'm at a point in my life when I no longer need or want to go fast, and revel in the simpler things in life. I'm already dreaming of some crazy, fun adventure trips on the thing. Multi day trips to explore different areas. Backroads tour around New Brunswick, the TLH again once Quebec finishes the ATV path from Natashquan to Blanc Sablon. The possibilities are endless.