Sunday: Chicagoland Toys for Tots

Don’t forget this Sunday, December 3th [sic] is the Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade. The parade starts in Dan Ryan Woods, but despite the best intentions of the organizers, it’s entirely impossible to cope with the freezing mess of twenty thousand or more Harley riders at the starting point, so local scooterists have decided to meet at the cozy Water Hole Lounge at 1400 S. Western Ave, and join the ride around 9:30am. Bring a new, boxed toy (no stuffed animals). The weather doesn’t look too promising, but it’s not a long ride… especially since we’re blowing off about half the distance and the cold wait in the park.

Goodbye, Vespaway

Blogger Crystal Waters retired from Vespaway today, pretty much bringing an end to the “official” Vespa blog project that started in May 2005. Waters left Vespaquest, her original official Vespa blog, to join Neil Barton at Vespaway in March, after their blogging partners lost interest. Barton has posted only seven entries since April, (vs. 500+ posts on 2strokebuzz, brag brag), so Waters’ departure — and her frank admission that Vespa and their marketing firm, CooperKatz have lost interest in the blogs — seems to spell the end of Vespaway. Like many Piaggio marketing initiatives, the blogs seemed woefully ignored by Piaggio after a bright start, and the bloggers’ frustration even snuck to the surface a few times. Luckily, Waters’ better personal blog will continue, and I would link it up, if she hadn’t snubbed the world’s first and best scooter blog (that would be us) in her list of other resources. OK, I won’t be petty, ha, it’s Best of luck, Crystal, ride on.

Kinetic outlines new plans with SYM, Italjet

More talk from Kinetic, as reported in the Business Standard:

  • The Italjet-designed Kinetic Blaze has been a sucess in Japan, prompting even more Kinetic interest in other export markets, specifically America and Europe.
  • Kinetic has signed a deal with SYM of Taiwan and the companies will introduce a automatic 100 or 150cc scooter in 2007, and two more collaborations in 2008.
  • Of about 170,000 vehicles expected to be produced at Kinetic’s Pithampur plant in 2007, 40,000 are expected to be exported, including 12,000 Blaze scooters.
  • Interestingly, with Italjet’s surprise return to the market, the language of the Italjet/Kinetic deal seems to be changing weekly. Rather than talking about making seven Italjet models, the arrangement now sounds more collaborative. Company officials now say they “may” produce discontinued Italjet models, possibly even selling them in Europe as Italjet scooters, adding that they also may be involved in new Italjet projects as third-party suppliers.

Rome bans “Euro 0” scooters

The city of Rome will begin enforcement of a ban on “Euro 0”-rated scooters and motorcycles within a large area of the city on January 1, 2007. Most pre-1999 scooters, likely 120,000 vehicles, will not be permitted within the “anello ferrovario” area of Rome. Residents of the area may continue to ride Euro 0 bikes in the zone until November, 2007. Roman officials cite research that finds one Euro 0 vehicle can emit the same quantity of pollutants into the atmosphere as 63 uncatalyzed cars. Collectors can register vintage machines for an exemption from the ban. Reimbursements and rebates are also available to encourage riders to upgrade or scrap their older vehicles.

Bajaj blocks Chinese clone, announces plans for Chinese plant

Along the lines of the recent Yamaha/Yamoto “copycat� suit, Bajaj has blocked a Sri Lankan company from importing Chinese Bajaj Pulsar copies. Gulsar? Come on, you could at least try, China. A few hundred more small victories like this, and Chinese manufacturers might give up on knockoffs. Not likely a coincidence: on November 21, Bajaj announced plans to locate an assembly plant in China. While Bajaj already has plants in Nigeria and Indonesia that serve those markets exclusively, the Chinese plant would manufacture bikes for China as well as the international market.

Piaggio redesigns design process

Powersports Business reports that Piaggio has selected a new product development system designed by Product Development Company of Needham, Mass. The system is currently used by 1400 vehicle and parts manufacturers. Piaggio will implement the PDS for all its brands (Piaggio, Vespa, Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, and Derbi) at all facilities in Italy, Spain, India, and China. The system is expected to promote the use of components across product lines and facilitate collaboration among Piaggio’s 700 engineers worldwide, thus reducing development costs and bringing new products to market more quickly.

Scooter sales slow down

After a reported 20% increase in U.S. scooter sales in the first half of 2006 (compared to the first half of 2005), the Motorcycle Industry Council now reports a 1.5% decline in sales in the first three quarters of 2006 (compared to the same period in 2005). September 2006 scooter sales (vs. September 2005) fell an astounding 60.1%, although last September was unusually sucessful and the drop was somewhat expected. Market saturation, EPA/DOT regulation, and decreasing gas prices have destroyed the cyclical U.S. scooter market several times in the past, hopefully the current players have a good long-term plan.

Green bike shorts

“Green” bikes and scooters have been showing up more than usualy in the news, probably with Vectrix making a splash in Milan, everyone else thought they better get their PR in motion. Here are a few we noticed:

  • BusinessWeek reports on the ENV fuel-cell prototype. It’s handsome and full of neat ideas, but a quick read of the comments will show you what the makers of fuel-cell vehicles are up against (mainly, an ignorant public, and the expense of fuel-cell technology).
  • Pasadena, CA e-bike and Go-Ped retailer has announced their offices are now “carbon-neutral,” which sounds nice even though they seem to be selling mostly Chinese electric scooters and some 2-stroke Go-Peds. I guess even a nominal commitment to the environment sets them apart from the other thousand online retailers of electric bikes, the site seems more professional and organized than most online stores selling similar products.
  • ShinyShiny reports on the new eGo Helio electric bike. Through a long, strange set of coincidences, we acquired a prototype of eGo’s first model at my day job a few years ago. It’s pretty well-made, but after riding a scooter, it’s not very exhilarating to crawl along with caliper brakes and no suspension. Every time I’ve ridden it, I’ve though a regular bicycle would be faster and more useful (and about 100 lbs lighter). That said, the newer model is prettier and more powerful, and might be worth checking out.

Electric vehicles, while technically emissions-free, generally use power generated by fossil fuels, but until better technology become affordable, the Vectrix seems to be rising above most alternate-fuel vehicles, at least in media attention. Whether that’s the result of a good PR team or a good product will be clear when they go on sale, allegedly soon. Other manufacturers’ experiments with fuel cell, electric, CNG, biodiesel, and hybrid vehicles are a good sign there’s a market and a future for green bikes, but Vectrix looks to be the first large-scale test of their commercial viability.

Cold Weather Challenge 2007

Ryetronic’s Cold Weather Challenge is back! The full rules are here, but to summarize, it’s a contest for scooters (no motorcycles, sidecars, or three-wheelers) to determine who can ride 10 miles or more (distance is used only as a tiebreaker) in the coldest weather before February 28, 2007. Last years’ winner was Kent Messer of Ithaca, NY, who rode in -6.5° on December 14 2005. If you live in a sunnier climate, fear not, runners-up are grouped by state. The Cold Weather Challenge is sponsored by Crafty Planet, who reminds you to knit responsibly this holiday season.

Lloyd I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken

Here’s a moddy pop masterpiece from Camera Obscura with a great video to match. It’s the Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, Style Council, and Kirsty MacColl all wrapped into one and dropped into a world of IKEA lamps and Repro Depot fabrics (Not a terriblly manly song, no). “Don’t You Dare Cheer Up Tracyanne” (from the comments) should be their next single.

PM Tuning’s L-series photos

PM Tuning (Lambretta Innovation) has a series of photos of the L-series “new Lambretta,” showing various stages of assembly, and more photos from the EICMA show (Thanks, Stephen and Chad) The engine is, in fact, the Piaggio QUASAR 250ie motor found in the Vespa GTS, Piaggio MP3, and several other Piaggio Group scooters. The bike is being evaluated by Piaggio for engine approval and another Italian company is preparing drawings and production plans. Several years in the making, the new Lambretta is getting tantalizingly closer, but there are still a few hurdles ahead.

Back from the dead: CMSI “L”ambretta?

Steve at The Scooter Scoop reports that CMSI (parent company of TNG scooters) had a prototype “Lambretta” on display in Milan. Not big news if it was the same Lambretta prototype they’ve been showing off for years, but it looks to be a new prototype (comments appreciated). You may remember that CMSI, losing a major investor and finding themselves unable to use the Lambretta name, but teaming up with PM Tuning and looking at a more global market, abandoned the name Lambretta USA and were marketing the scooter as “Scomadi” for a while, but the Scomadi site now features an “L-Series” logo and “coming soon.” Hope springs eternal…

Follow-up: Looking at the photos from the 2005 debut of the Lambretta prototype, the scooter in Milan is pretty vastly different. It appears to be more orange than red, (or poorly color-balanced) and the speedometer, rear turn signals, and glovebox, among other details, would indicate that this is either an entirely new prototype, or the old one was heavily modified. Any engine nerds want to take a stab at what’s inside?