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...

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