Scooter Racing Returns to the Midwest

Just a couple months ago, I complained that there didn’t seem to be much racing going on, and people keep making me eat my words (happily, for once). The latest league of fast gentlemen, Mid-West Scooter Racing, has recently cropped up in 2SB’s ancestral homelands, Southwest Ohio, and is organized by one of our favorite guys, Seth Hershey, from one of our favorite shops, who we won’t name because they’d prefer Seth not highside and miss work. Seth tells us:

The one time I raced I sucked, but I still had such a fulfilling time I just have to do some more.

That’s our Seth. He’s certainly not the aggro intense speed-demon type, but we love incongruity here at 2strokebuzz. Classes and race prep look suitably laid-back and inclusive, so we’re betting he’ll put on some great events.

It’s Official: PCX 125 to U.S.

01Also via the Scoop: As we expected last September, Honda has added the new Thailand-made PCX 125 to their USA lineup. The US model is unlikely to feature the innovative (and probably overrated) gas-saving feature that stops and restarts the engine at lights. It looks like a great bike, but will customers be willing to pay a premium price for a 125cc scooter in a country where there’s no 125cc licensing restriction for beginners, especially when some great 150cc and even 200cc scooters with similar features are available?

Motor-Scooter International Land-Speed Federation

Gentlemen, tune your engines: “With no recognized sanctioning organization willing to accept motor-scooters into the fold, we decided to create our own organization, appoint ourselves as the sanctioning organization of motor-scooter land-speed records, and get about the business of hosting the First Annual Motor-scooter Land-Speed Record Trials on November 21st 2010 at El Mirage Dry Lake, California.” The MSILSF is also working towards the creation of scooter classes at Bonneville in 2011.

Colorado’s new “Low-Power Scooter” Laws

Colorado has cleared up their rules regarding 50cc scooters. “Threar” on Modern Buddy sums up the changes nicely in this post. While the rules still differ from most states, and the terminology is a little weird, the rules seem to give 50cc scooter riders more freedom than most states (no special license needed, very cheap registration) while closing some loopholes exploited by scofflaws and fly-by-night scooter shops. The new law also requires liability insurance, which is only fair (and by most accounts, well under $100 a year.)

The one major complaint is that 50cc scooters are limited to 40mph speed, which is under the capability of many 50cc scooters. That’s a bit of a drag, but it makes sense. That’s an arguably-reasonable speed limit for someone without a motorcycle license, and it makes it easier to weed out people cheating the system. At Amerivespa in Denver a few years ago, I remember seeing more than one Vespa GT 250 with the “2” snapped off, and many other bigger-displacement scooters with homemade “50cc” stickers. I can’t imagine police would issue citations to anyone with a motorcycle license on an insured 50cc scooter riding responsibly, unless they were REALLY speeding.

Finger on the Pulse of 2008?

From the Sunday Chicago Tribune: “Experts fear scooter boom will result in more rider deaths.” The premise of the story is that there’s a huge scooter craze going on right now, so the whole thing has a “2008” vibe to it, and there are a few factual errors, but we couldn’t agree more that riders should treat scooters with the same respect as a motorcycle, get training, and wear proper gear. And at least there’s no mention of Audrey Hepburn

Pep Boys fined $5m

Looks like Pep Boys and their scooter supplier, Baja Inc. are finally being penalized for their questionable scooters in the largest Clean Air Act case ever. The complaint alleges that Pep Boys sold over 241,000 illegal vehicles and engines (45 models!). Hopefully this publicity will spark an NHTSA investigation (the Clean Air Act action ignores the safety and road-worthiness of these vehicles.) Baja (not to be confused with Bajaj) was apparently in dire financial straits already, their fine was reduced.

I live near a Pep Boys and always marveled that they sold fifth-rate “off-road-use” vehicles in the middle of the City of Chicago. I see grownups AND little kids riding those scooters and minibikes on city streets and sidewalks all the time… no helmets, no license, no training, no lights (let alone turn signals), on bikes spewing blue smoke, wondering “How does a huge national chain like Pep Boys get away with selling those things?” I guess now we know.

#21: Parts is Parts

Today’s question for Dr. Buzz (his “panel of experts” has become more trouble than it’s worth) comes from Joe W. in Philly:

Does anybody there know how to contact ******** or whatever their corporate identity is this month? Their website lists a “dealer” in Westchester PA who had never sold one, never worked on one. I took my scooter there and unfortunately it needs parts. The dealer is unable to get anybody to sell him parts. The phone number is a secret so nobody can call, I get a grumpy response from some of the other dealers on their list – maybe it’s the same situation…

(updated 5/14 with more details)
Continue reading “#21: Parts is Parts”

Schwinn, the Bicycle

This weekend I stopped by my favorite local bicycle shop and it got me thinking. So let me spew some Andy Rooney nonsense on you:

  • Schwinn (bicycle) dealers have had it hard since Schwinn’s 1990s 2001-era (see comments) decision to sell inferior bikes under the Schwinn name in big-box stores. You can argue all day that even top-end Schwinns are made in Asia now, and/or nothing compared to their former glory, but the general issue is that there is a marked difference between what’s sold at Schwinn dealerships, and what’s sold at Wal-Mart. Schwinn corporate maybe has a lot to answer for, but their dealers always seem totally right-on to me. They love the brand, they love cycling, and they know their stuff. Incidentally, that’s everything a good scooter shop should be.
  • So, it says a lot (and it’s probably a good thing) that very few Schwinn bicycle dealers sell Schwinn scooters. Maybe the scooters weren’t even offered to the bicycle dealerships, but it seems more likely that a Schwinn bicycle dealer is uniquely positioned to realize that Schwinn will slap their name on anything, AND that even in hard times, it’s best not to sell something you can’t support 100%. The two products have little in common, it’d be like a car dealership deciding to offer steam-powered tractors. They’re both vehicles, but the parts supply, technology, customers, and expertise do not overlap. At all.
  • Schwinn’s making some tentative steps into e-bikes. They’re playing it pretty conservative, but that’s probably smart. It’s interesting that some bicycle dealers have jumped on the e-bike (UM, E-Go, etc) bandwagon, and others avoid them like the plague. I’m really curious how that market develops.
  • Bicycles are, like scooters, a great example of “You get what you pay for.” Sure, certain brand names will artificially jack up a price, but when it comes down to nuts and bolts, you can see the differences in quality. Scooters or bicycles, the cheapest asian models are assembled and sold by unskilled retailers without any support or personal contact. They’re made of components that are often second-quality, and sometimes dangerous. They feature outdated technology, or superficial imitations of current technology.
  • Short term savings matter little when you can’t source a replacement part or constant niggling problems keep it off the road. A good bike or scooter costs more, but comes with long-term support, a personal relationship, and quality. Parts and accessories will be available for years. Vina bought a 40-year-old Austrian three-speed at a garage sale for $10. I have a 15-year-old Schwinn cruiser, our local bike shop can get us any replacement part we need. But every time we’re in there, someone wheels in a three-month-old Wal-Mart bike with a cracked weld or some goofy mechanism that can’t be repaired or replaced. Sound like any scooter shops you’ve been in lately?
  • The cries of elitism come into play in both markets, too. But looking at the bicycle world is a good way to distance yourself and see that in an underegulated market (oh, the laws are there, but not the enforcement!) you end up with bottom-of-the-barrel deathtraps competing with top-end luxury models, and you start to understand why insiders are frustrated with all the junk out there. Cheap bikes rob sales from knowledgeable dealers, threaten consumer safety, and turn potential fans away from the hobby before they even get started.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, spend any time in a respectable bike shop, and you’ll see folks strut in with a credit card and buy a $4000 racing bike because “I was thinking about trying a triathalon” This, too, happens in scooter shops, and usually ends with Mr. “I don’t need a helmet, I’ve been riding dirt bikes since I was a kid” dropping his new Vespa 300 before he makes it out of the parking lot. And in both markets, there’s always the “audiophile-quality” “better” parts available for upgrades. Again, common sense prevails, but few people have it. I like to think that when you buy a well-designed product, the engineers that designed it knew what they were doing, and if you find yourself needing to upgrade, you shoulda bought a better one in the first place.
  • Last note: You always see people asking “What’s a good scooter can I get for $500.” For $500 you’re just getting into the juicy part of the bicycle market. Who would want to be on the road on a motor vehicle that costs less than a bicycle? A lot of top-quality custom bicycles cost more than scooters! And you could use the exercise!

Taffspeed update, straight from Terry

We reported in January that venerable British shop Taffspeed was closing Founder Ian Frankland let us know that plans have changed and he’ll continue to run the Taffspeed website.

Taffspeed Limited is temporally stop trading due to my heart bypass surgery.

My former employes set up “Welsh Scooter Parts” & I had let them have use of my shop equipment & transfered the old Taffspeed phone number to them so that they would have the best start to their new venture.

It was agreed to trade out of my old Taffspeed premices for 12 months & pay a rental, however now after 2 months of using Taffspeed’s old premice they gave me a weeks notice of quiting & were out which left myself now having to pay the mortgage & other bills.

So now I am running TAFFSPEED via my Taffspeed web site.

If any persons purchases items other than from this web site there is no waranty or back up.
So Scooterists beware of what & where you purchase items as there are companies that are advertising & selling replicas of our exhausts which are made in the far east!

Piaggio MP3 400 LT Touring

If the Piaggio MP3 wasn’t already “the Gold Wing of Scooters*,” the new MP3 400 LT Touring with old-man windshield, giant top-box, and hard panniers should seal the deal. Rumor has it 2012 will bring a reverse gear and an 8-track player.

*Granted, The Suzuki Burgman is more commonly saddled with that title, and the Honda Silver Wing has the closest etymological connection.

2strokebuzz Zines: Past and Future?

A handful of you may remember that 2strokebuzz started life as a ‘zine. It would probably help if I kept the old issues linked up. There.*

I’ve been thinking for a while, with the advent of print-on-demand sites like MagCloud and Hulu that it’d be so much easier to print/distribute a zine these days. I focused most of my magazine energy into American Scooterist for the last several years, but that required months of work per issue and as great as it is, it doesn’t have that 2SB vibe. I’d thought about ‘2SB Greatest Hits’ compilations, or compiling the old issues, but I’d rather try something new, and something fast and collaborative and less open-ended.

Today I heard about the 48 Hour Magazine Project, and that’s inspired me to try something similar. I’ll look into it and figure out some details, but if you’re interested in helping out, drop us an email or comment!

*Someday hopefully someone will find a USB SyQuest drive so I can finish issue 4… and send Nikki a copy of the great long-lost cover photo.