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.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AreYou Satisfied?

It wasn't that long ago (or was it) that 55mph was a national speed limit.  One that's been increasing since before I was a rider.  I can't tell you if this is a good or bad thing.  The few minutes shaved by "allowing" travellers to kick it up a notch really doesn't seem all that advantageous.  Maybe it's just me.

It takes a little disipline to leave early.  To get there before you need to be there.  It even takes a little discipline to just get there on time. 

Now here's the weird thing.  At least to me anyway.

When we had slower vehicles and lower speed limits, we didn't blame the NHTSA.  We just left for the destination earlier.  I'm pretty sure our wanting more powerful cars and two wheelers had nothing to do with getting there on time.  It was always more about style and having the available horsies under the hood or below the tank as insurance you could blast off when you wanted to show off a little. 

Beating someone else seems an inherent characteristic of the human condition.  People are always beating me in my 14 year old Camry.  Even when I'm trying not to be beaten.  So badly.

For a while I was into trying to race cars off the line on my LX.  Well I got taken pretty well a few times so that cured that.  Eleven horsepower.  Eleven

Overall the bike satisfies me.  There are some niggles, like a struggle to get up medium to large hills.  I kind of have to adjust my riding to accomodate what the bike can and can't do.  Sixty mph on the back roads might be the norm for a while yet or it may not. 

For me it would have to be increasing torque.  That would solve much for me.  But can I live with it as it is? 



Monday, August 13, 2012

The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes

And the Roads which Take You Around Them.

  You can try to predict how a riding season here in the north woods might go, but you really can't be sure.    The nation suffered an incredible stretch of heat this summer.  The kind of heat I won't ride in anymore.  But for some evening rides, I had to wait until the heat broke.  

I got to thinking about where I've been riding.  And where I've been meaning to ride.

There's an area I've been meaning to explore.  A motorcycle store is in a town right off the expressway.  You can see the building from the freeway.  The place sells Triumphs and BMWs among other brands.  They also carry a good selection of gear.

So I decided to take the back roads and wend my way to this motorcycle store.  Only I wasn't real attentive to the time.  Apparently I was having too much fun to notice I wasn't getting all that much closer for all the riding I was doing.  I arrived ten minutes after they closed.  And I wasn't the only one.  A few others rolled into the lot during my stretch-and-drink.  I chatted with one fellow restoring his father's KZ650 who'd done pretty much the same thing I had; got lost in the spirit of the ride.  On the way home, I stretched that ride even longer. Once or twice I was completely disoriented as clouds blotted away the sun.  At one point I rode better than two miles on a dirt road.  The lushest, densest, greenest overgrowth on a country lane I can remember.  If anyone saw me they had to know I was lost.  And they could probably tell I didn't care that I was lost either.

These roads around the lakes.  They're the slow way to get somewhere.  Only the locals and other riders seem to enjoy them.  They almost seem like a natural barrier to folks in a hurry.  Which is fine, because they're fantastic to ride at legal speeds.  And it isn't just these roads.  A curve can surprise you with an incredible view.  A lake with sailboats and fisherman for example.  Rolling hills of wheat and tassled corn.  tracts of woods such a dark shade of green they actually appear blue. 

It's a slightly different heading on the compass.  A new angle on the ride, so to speak (sorry-couldn't resist).

To the roads around the lakes.