Saturday, August 18, 2012

Size Matters

When you ride a bigger bike, you might see smaller displacement bikes as only slight variations on each other.  You might say, for example, that not enough power is not enough power.  That it takes X to be truly satisfied.  And you'd be right.  From your perspective.

But if you came from the smallest of motorcycles and moved up through the displacement ranks to mid sized motorcycles, you might see each increase as sizeable.  And from that perspective, you would feel justified in your view.

So is one view more correct than the other?  I think it depends upon the individual.  Some people insist on the leading edge of performance based upon their pocketbooks.  They'll get the most they can afford and upgrade for improvements over stock.  No matter what level they start at, these folks enjoy getting the most out of a given design.  I can appreciate that.

Others will ride the next model up which offers stock performance comparable to the lower model with upgrades.  I would tend in that direction myself.  

The old saying, "There's no replacement for displacement" still rings true.  In cars, it's about the edge of performance.  In small displacement motorcycles and scooters, it seems to be an effort to create similar performance as larger machines at a much decreased overal cost.  The cost for the improvements sometimes seems too high to me.  You get the increase, but you also risk a less reliable engine.  I couldn't explain all the reasons why except to say that we can't have it all when it comes to upgrades.  You still lack the torque most of us really are after even though the horsepower has been increased.

I'm a back roads, country lanes kind of guy.  55mph is the usual speed limit and people often travel a bit past that.  So a 150cc Vespa, running on reformulated crud (ethanol) won't have as much juice as it could running on straight gasoline, but that's another story.  Still, it is just a 150cc.  In the greater scheme it probably means naught to most.  Unless you ride a machine on the edge of the place where that minute performance difference would actually make a hill of beans' difference.  Say, climbing some of these back roads hills where dropping ten miles per would become dropping just a few miles per hour on clean gasoline. 

See the problem?  Counting the small ways to get close to the solution doesn't mean I've achieved the solution.  And I've got a pretty good idea what the solution really is.  Even Vespa solved it.  It took them a complete redesign to their thinking and began a whole new line of machines which are still ever growing in displacement. 

Kit a 150cc and lose money (and reliability if I do it wrong) or save and buy a 200cc or greater large-frame modern Vespa.  The second choice is factory built to do exactly what I want it to be able to do.  It doesn't seem like much; a matter of 50 or so odd cubic centimeters of displacement.  But it is.  Size really does matter.


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