Scooter in Moncton

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The 2006 models of the Yamaha BW's cost $2849, plus tax, new. This, apparently, includes a $50 helmet. That's too much for the budget, I figured. So what about a used one?

I bought some local bargain hunting flyers to see what was out there in that price range. I found a couple to look at over the next coming weeks.

The first one I called about was being sold for $1200. Scarce on details, I went to the guy's house to have a look. It looked old. Not just by the model, but by its appearance. There was a big scratch on the front fender, and it just looked generally dirty, the way an old piece of equipment looks as it ages. He offered me a test drive. How could I refuse? This would be my first time on a scooter. We had to use the kick starter, because the battery wouldn't hold a charge. My guess, as was his, is that the battery froze in the shed over the winter. While we let it warm up, having to hold the throttle open a little to prevent it from stalling (also a bad sign), we talked. He bought it two years ago for flitting around a camp ground, and that's all it had done in the last two years. He also mentioned that he hadn't filled it up in those two years. He admitted that it would be the same gasoline in it for those two years. Nice touch. Anyway, I took it out for a ride. He said he could get it up to 75 km/h (with him weighing in at about 250 or more, that should be good for me, some 70 pounds lighter). I noticed that this scoot didn't have the under-seat storage compartment I had been expecting. Apparently before 2003, the engine was mounted vertically, and that storage compartment wasn't there.

It was an easy ride. There are things to get used to. For example, I'm a cyclist, and the rear brake is on the right. The scooter, however, has the rear brake on the left. Either way, with no gears to think about, it was pretty simple. This particular bike wouldn't break 55 km/h on a downslope. Disappointing, indeed, since I've been reading that 70 km/h is normal on these things. Also, on the turns, there was a very uncomfortable shimmy in the front wheel. I decided, after feeling like I almost wiped out on my last turn, this would not be the one I would buy, if any. After returning to his house, I noticed the last sticker on the license plate was from 1997. So I had just driven an unregistered vehicle on the road. I wonder if he had insurance on it...

I walked away from this one, slightly disappointed, but certain I was doing the right thing.

Then I saw another one in next week's paper...

Friday, June 23, 2006

So I decided I'd think a little more seriously. To do that, I had to decide which scooters I thought I might want to consider.

I took stock of what brands were out there, and ignored a few, such as Piaggio, CPI and Vespa. Between looks, local dealer support, and product reputation, I figured Honda and Yamaha were the best around here. The models that looked like "retro" scooters were out, just based on appearance. So that left us with the Honda Ruckus (4-stroke 50cc) and te Yamaha BW's (2-stroke 50cc).

The Yamaha, being a 2-stroke, would have better low-end torque, I figured, and that would be a good thing. Also, the Yamaha's under-seat storage is enclosed, rather than the frame-only Ruckus. The Ruckus was also said to do a top speed of 60km/h, and I wanted a little more, if possible. The Yamaha BW's was therefore the model I'd most serious consider.

Now to start looking at the market ot determine how much one of these costs...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A couple of years ago, I woke up after having a dream of owning a motorbike, and thought, "That's cool!" I told my wife about it. I wasn't expecting a good reaction. Afterall, I had told her dreams in the past about owning various vehicles such as an ultralight aeroplane, a gyrocopter, and so on. All of these were met with answers such as, "Sure, as soon as the divorce is finalized," or, "Over my dead body." I didn't expect it to go well.

But not this one. She said simply, "Hm. That's cool." The wheels of the bike began to turn.

Over time, I though about which bike to buy. I began to scour the want ads looking for a cheap set of wheels. The more I thought about it, the more my personality came into my mind. I have an addictive personality, and I'm a bit compulsive, too. Now it has been years (about 25) since I last rode a two-wheeled, powered vehicle and that was a Honda XR80 in a cottage area. I'm heavily involved in mountain biking, and fairly frequently ride my bicycle to do errands, so I'm accustomed to riding in traffic, but the motorbikes are a fair bit heavier, and they go faster. And I know that if I bought something that could do 200km/h or faster, I'd eventually, if not right away, push to see how fast I could go. Given my lack of experience, that's just setting myself up to get killed.

The dream came and went. And came again, and went again. Then I saw one of these Yamaha BW's scooters in a local hardware store's parking lot. I laughed. I always laugh when I see one of these. But curiousity got to me, and I had to look at it. While looking it over, an older gentleman came out of the store with a helmet. I realized it was his scooter I was looking at, so I felt caught. I had to talk with him about it out of courtesy, I figured. The more I talked to him, and seeing the grin on his face, the more it inspired me. Cheap to buy, very cheap to run, and he also talked about what he called the "grin factor".

I thought about it off and on since then. Last year, I actually though seriously about it, but couldn't bring myself to do it. What would the people at work think? I'm in a testosterone-filled environment, and like it that way. But a scooter? Get a real bike, for frig's sake.

But a motorbike requires a motorbike license, and therefore testing, and all that stuff. But in New Brunswick, a scooter with an engine smaller than 50cc is good to go with a regular driver's license. Buy it, insure it, and ride. Also, the automatic transmission means no clutch, no gears.

And then I realized a couple of other things. What better set of training wheels? Get used to something that is underpowered, that can't go fast, and learn how to ride a motorbike on that. Then, as I get more comfortable and develop some discipline, maybe riding a bike would be safer in the end. And it would also let me decide if I even want to keep the dream of a motorbike. And my kids like looking at motorbikes. If they ever get into them, it would be good for me to have some experience to draw from to help them survive, wouldn't it? And in NB, a 14 year old kid can get a limited license to ride a scooter, too. It almost seems to be making sense. I thought some more. And decided, if the right deal came along, I'd seriously consider it.

More on the story to follow in future posts.