Friday, February 22, 2013

Cheap Scooter!

I have, many are surprised to learn, a cheap Chinese motor scooter, purchased online.  Mine is apparently one of the brands that is considered among the worst, quality and support-wise.  Discussions have been conducted in online forums and live conversations about this thing, and I thought that lessons learned would be valuable here, since I know some scooter riders read this thing.  The scoot is a "different" design, a three-wheel model in a "reverse trike" design, with two wheels in front, and one in the rear, and is a "leaner"; it leans into turns much as a regular two-wheeler.  More about that later.
The scoot I have is sold by an importer under a trade name, but is manufactured by a mainland Chinese manufacturer, the Ningbo Dongfang Lingyun Vehicle Made Co., Ltd.  It was ordered online and shipped to me, partially assembled, in a crate.  Unfortunately, there was minimal assembly instruction included, and what was there appeared to be in "Engrish", IOW a poor translation, though I gathered that the assembly was to be taken quite seriously, as i was warned in the instructions that "Amusing and horse play are forbidden!".  Fortunately, on YouTube was a three-part instruction video, produced by one of the importers, demonstrating the assembly of this very model!  The documentation also included an "owner's manual" which was to the depth of what would be called, in the computer software biz, a "quick start guide". 
With notes made from the YouTube video, the assembly went very well.  The frame seems solid, well made, and the A-arms for the front end etc fit very well.  The engine and CVT driveline are apparently from Lifan, which is a fairly respected name.  The body panels, while thin and apparently low-cost, were well molded and painted, and fit well.  Those things being said, there are downsides.
Before I even rode this thing, there was substantial money and time to be spent.  The fluids supplied with the scoot, engine oil, brake fluid, etc did not even look or smell like normal fluids do, so they were all replaced before it was even started.  The "outside supplier" parts on the scoot are mostly rubbish.  The tires were pretty much unusable; the rear was badly out-of round, and one of the fronts was separating on one side of the tread, nearly all the way around the tire, so tires were up for immediate replacement; I prefer Continental, but your mileage may vary.  Two of the light bulbs were dead out of the box, with more to follow.  The whole thing had to be "wrenched", as there were poorly tightened fasteners everywhere, and lay in a supply of Loc-Tite.  The brake pads, while still there, are also rubbish. 
I repacked the front wheel bearings before assembly, but the hubs almost immediately started to loosen, and the bearings began to sound like rolling buckets of rocks, so replacement was up for them as well.
The front end, having two wheels, requires aligning to track properly, and out of the box, mine was badly maladjusted.  There was no documentation for this either, but I have done shadetree car work through the years, so it was fairly easy to figure out.  There is no adjustment for caster or camber, but simply for toe-in, and it has adjustable tie-rods, so no sweat.  The geometry is unusual, and the toe-in can actually vary with flexing of the suspension, so adjust the pre-load on the front shocks to max to minimize the flexing, and use someone of about your own weight to sit on the scooter while you are adjusting.  This will make the ride a bit abrupt, but will minimize the change in tow-in while riding.  Speaking of the shock/spring units, they squeak like crazy while flexing, so be prepared to use a small spring compressor to get access to the ends of the springs, and lube them up with lithium grease to minimize that, front and rear.
Now, rideability. Once properly aligned, the handling is very good. The thing leans more than a two-wheeler for a given turn, and that takes some getting used to, but once you have a feel for it, the unit handles well.  To be overweight (nearly 400 pounds) and underpowered (8 hp) it does well on level ground, but has some difficulty with hills. It is an efficient around-town scoot, and averages about 70 mpg.
It is not an entry-level scooter.
Re the scooters:  I have been rideless since just before Christmas, a combo of cold weather intolerance and fake foot issues. [I have prosthetic lower legs]  Sandy describes me as having PMS - Parked Motorscooter Syndrome.
The scooters are on IV with the battery maintainers, and calling my name pitifully. I am being fitted for a new pair of leggies now, and they should be ready and tuned up in about three-four weeks, so I look forward to being back on fewer than four wheels soon.
OTOH, I am driving my truck more often, so its battery is staying better charged...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mystified again...

I am confused again.  That happens a lot, perhaps just because I am a simple boy and don't understand things well, but this is causing me to wonder.
Years ago, downtown Birmingham was Shopping Central.  All the big stores were there, from the discount stores (S.S. Kresge) to the the high-line fashion centers (Parisian, Blach's, etc) with a huge Sears & Roebuck prominent in the mix.  As urban sprawl took over, shopping downtown became inconvenient - it was a long distance downtown from the 'burbs, if one rode the streetcars [later busses] it was difficult to bring one's shopping home, if one drove to downtown, parking was insufficient and expensive, etc, etc.
Retailers responded with the Shopping Center out toward the 'burbs - strip centers offering free parking, stores in one area, and much convenience for suburban shoppers.  The strip centers were not perfect of course, one disadvantage being exposure to weather while moving from store to store.
The next development solved many problems - the Mall.  Malls had the free parking, large numbers of diverse stores in one place, including the big names from downtown, and offered a weather-protected, comfortable environment for shopping.  Most offered a food court with passable food items, and it was possible to transfer purchases to the car during the shopping runs.  Nice.
Change happens, of course, and these huge shopping venues must eventually relocate due to changing demographics.  Two of the "new" venues in my area are the Pinnacle and the Summit.  Disturbing to me, though, is that these flashy new structures are - strip centers.  The free parking is still there, but we are back to an open environment, with sidewalk access between the stores, unprotected from weather.  The food courts are now stand-alone restaurants scattered about the edges of the parking areas, requiring long walks in the heat, rain, etc to reach them.  Is this not taking a step backward?
Back in 1960, the first mall in Alabama, and the second enclosed shopping mall in the southeast, was Eastwood Mall in Birmingham, a revolutionary idea at the time, and a destination for shoppers from all over the state, and as far away as Atlanta and Chattanooga.  Changing demographics and mismanagement led to the closing of the mall in the late 1990s, and it was razed, and replaced with a Wal-Mart supercenter, with a large surrounding - strip center. [sigh]

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I am such a fossil... [sigh]

I was having a bout of what I call "terminal insomnia" last night (one of the ironies of congestive heart failure is that we are tired all the time, but have problems sleeping), and I was reflecting on what a Luddite I am these days.
My "cage" (motorscooter rider term) is a 1993 S-10 pickup with nearly 200k miles, but it is maintained, reliable, and suits my purposes just fine. I do need to drive it a bit more often, though, to keep it exercised (another motorscooter rider thing).
My watch is a water-resistant Timex that gives me the time on a clear dial.

My cellphone is a phone.  It makes and receives calls very well.  I don't text, I don't do Facebook checkins from wherever I am, I don't check my email while I am out and about.  I actually had an otherwise-intelligent lady ask me "You don't text?  How can I let you know when we decide on a time for the meeting?".  She was truly mystified, and when I told her "You dial the number, and when I answer, tell me the time for the meeting",  she looked confused.

I still carry a Palm PDA, the old type with the little black-and-white screen, and the flip cover.  Keeps me on time. The strange-looking ball point pen thing is a retractable stylus to carry in my shirt pocket, because my creaky hands, these days, have a rough time handling the tiny little stylus that came with the Palm. I also have the Palm folding portable keyboard for text entry.

I have always had fine motor control issues with my hands, made worse in recent years by my joint issues, and my handwriting has always sucked, so I am big on keyboards.  I developed my typing skills using two fingers, the index finger on my left hand and middle finger on the right , and still use that method.  I stick with it because it works, and through the years, from the point at which I adopted the typewriter as a mere kidlet, I have typed probably more than a million words in this manner. 
In the truck, just in case I get in a true bind for hard copy, I still carry a portable manual typewriter.

My daughter has a small tablet computer, and I have not yet gotten into that mode.  I do, however, have a tiny Dell netbook with a broken screen, and am thinking of possibly repairing that, and carrying it to give me wifi access when I go places.  It is compact enough (9" screen) that it is easily carry-able, even on the scooters, and has about a 5-hour battery life on a charge.  We will see.