Red Dog and Me

This is an on-going dialog between me and a certain motor scooter, namely a 2009 Piaggio MP3 500 that came to live with me in October of 2009. I've named the scooter Red Dog and as yet have not determined its gender. In the past when I've named boats, bikes, and other like characters I've thought of them as feminine due to their behavior characteristics. Red Dog I'm not so sure about...we'll see. Update: OK, Red Dog's a girl...with an attitude

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oct 29, 2009 The Infernal Top Case Lights Project

Last summer I went through the process of installing a GIVI top case on El Nino (my Ninja 650R), including wiring up the stop light kit that controls a row of 4 little lights on the case. Then as luck would have it I didn’t use it but as further luck would have it it seemed perfect for Red Dog. All I needed was the mounting plate for the top case and the wiring loom for the stop lights. With that in mind I ordered the parts from the GIVI dealer figuring it would be a piece of cake. Not to be.

First of all the top plate fits perfect but it wasn’t equipped with the knock out or even a template for mounting the stop light quick disconnect hardware. As part of the stop light wiring kit there’s a smallish electrical ‘button’ with two contacts that mounts on the top plate. The purpose of this device is that when you remove the top case (at the local motel, etc.) you don’t have anything to unplug and the same goes when you put the top case back on the bike; it automatically engages the stoplight connection and you’re in business.

I could have contacted the dealer and requested the correct top plate with the proper knock-out or at least obtained a template for locating the hole needed for the contact button but instead I decided to forge ahead on my own. Luckily I had the top plate on the Ninja to use for a reference and with that I was able to create a reasonable template for locating the mounting hole. Auguring out the hole was another matter as my drills only went about 75% of the way needed and the rest was accomplished by hand filing. I worked slowly with patience and eventually accomplished what I set out to do; the contact button snapped into place and the top case engaged it exactly as it should.

Then it was on to the wiring job. I’d mentioned to an acquaintance this would be the easy part of the project and in fact it would have been if I could just get to the feed wires. Piaggio likes to conceal things and in order to locate the wires it was necessary to remove the entire right side body work, not a simple task. Besides dealing with endless hidden screws there were a number of tabs molded in as part of the body work which correlate to slots, all of which are also carefully concealed. The tricky part of the tabs is they’re not very strong and will easily break off if coaxed in the wrong direction. Being patient counts and by taking my time I soon had the panels removed, exposing the wiring I wanted. From there on it was as I’d said, easy and when I fired up the system and it worked I was a happy camper.

Finally I was faced with the dreaded task of reinstalling the paneling which I fully expected would take longer than the process of removing it. Strangely enough everything went back on without so much as a hitch and when it was finished I stood there for a moment wondering what I’d forgotten. Turns out I’d made all the right moves and without snapping off any of the tabs to boot.

Sometimes I wonder about things like that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oct 28, 2009 Stylin! Top Case & Windshield

OK, so Red Dog may not qualify for style points but he/she/it still stands out in a crowd. The box of stuff I’d ordered from RL Motorcycles in Georgia arrived yesterday afternoon and I was anxious to get going with it. Included was the mounting plate for attaching the GIVI Monokey top case to the rear of Red Dog plus a big fat windshield. Last summer I’d bought the top case for El Nino, my Kawasaki Ninja but it had proven to be top heavy and I wasn’t able to use it. It was an easy install and I was able to accomplish it last night before it got too nippy in the garage to work. The fit for Red Dog is perfect; I think it’s going to work out just fine.
Installing the windshield was a different matter and I arose early this morning to tackle it. There were lots of panels to remove, brackets to install & adjust, all while trying to comprehend the strange instruction sheet that GIVI deems adequate for the task. Fortunately I’ve had some experience with their stuff and was able to muddle through the process in a reasonable amount of time.
After I finished it was time for the acid test and I headed into Coos Bay to meet a couple of other riders for coffee. Both guys knew about the new scoot but neither had seen it yet. We had our caffeine fix, told stories, and after an hour or so headed out to our respective homes. The dark cloudy sky had been threatening to rain all afternoon but luck was with us and it never materialized. As I rode home I reflected on how well the windshield worked, I was as comfortable as could be even though the temperature was crisp.

The saddle remains as the main comfort item that will need to be addressed but it’s an expensive bit and I may have to wait awhile.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oct 25 2009 Riding the southern Oregon coast

The weather people called for showers today but after the morning drizzle things had cleared up and I decided it might be a good time to visit some friends who had not met Red Dog. Kenn & Betty were hosting the Humbug Mountain State Park south of Port Orford and a ride down the coast highway beckoned. I made good time, Red was running smooth as could be and except for the seating position not being quite what I like it was a nice ride. I didn’t stay long as the sky was beginning to look ominous and I didn’t want to get caught out in the rain so after a brief visit I headed north on 101.

Reaching Port Orford I couldn’t resist a short side trip to the port docks to look at the water and admire the fishing boats. As there is no launching ramp the port operates a huge crane that lowers boats down to the water. I’ve never done that as Bandon is closer to home and has two ramps; one in the main harbor and the other in Bullard’s Beach State Park a couple of miles away. A friend once told me a scary tale about being dropped by the crane when his boat slipped out of the sling and he ended up in the water under his boat, not my idea of a good time. Fortunately he escaped and swam to the surface without further mishap but his boat didn’t fare as well and ended up being totaled.

Once I’d done the tour of the dock and shot a few pictures I chatted with a couple who were intrigued with Red Dog. They'd never seen a scooter quite like it and were really curious about the 2-wheel front end. After answering their questions as well as I could I headed for home, barely beating the afternoon sprinkles.

I think I'm going to like this scooter!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oct 14 2009 Red Dog arrives home

Fast forward to Oct 7th and I’d located a dealer in northern CA who had a red 500 in stock and was willing to deliver part way. We agreed to meet in Roseburg, OR at the branch office of my bank on the following Wednesday, Oct 14th at high noon.

Naturally it rained like the dickens and after the paper signing and trading my check for the title we unloaded Red Dog (new name for the beast) from his truck and onto my utility trailer. A brief check-out covering the basics and we shook hands and went our separate ways.

Heading home to Bandon the further west I drove the nicer the weather became. By the time I reached home it had stopped raining altogether and it was time to figure out how to unload her by myself. This proved simple enough, I nailed two sheets of plywood on top of the 2x8 ramps and with the front-end in the locked mode I was able to back her down using the hand brake to limit travel.

Then it was time for my first ride, but as it was late in the day I decided to wait until the next day and satisfied  myself with a few runs up and down the driveway. Getting the hang of how the front end works didn’t take long and I was soon comfortable with it. The automatic transmission seemed a bit strange at first but like the front end issue, it also became easy to deal with.

Oct 01 2009 Red Dog – The Beginning

To begin with this dialog between me and a new 2009 Piaggio MP3 500 scooter started at an earlier date than this blog. I’d recently sold my 1978 BMW to a friend in Las Vegas and having a small slot in the garage available I thought I might look around for a replacement. I’ve had some experience at long distance riding on 2-wheelers, even 3-wheelers if you count the sidecar slumbering in the garage. Now I wanted to put together a rig that at the same time was both comfortable for touring and a bit different from the rest of the crowd.

It was during a visit to one of the local bike shops that I discovered a consignment Piaggio MP3 250 scooter and it was love at first sight. Well maybe not love exactly, say it was more like the same attraction one gets for something out of the norm. The Piaggio MP3 series is a strange beast indeed, it’s basically a motor scooter but with two wheels on the front instead of the usual single unit. They’re mounted close together, around 17” center to center and their parallelogram suspension design allows both wheels to tilt in unison. This results in extremely stable motorcycle-like handling while under way yet it can be locked in place during stops, thereby eliminating the need for side stands, etc.

Returning home I began surfing the Internet to learn more about this strange new creature and before long I was hooked. Piaggio makes 3 versions of the scooter, the MP3 250, 400, and 500 with the numbers referring mainly to engine displacement. There is one major difference though, and that has to do with the 500 and its overall appearance. Whereas the 250 and 400 share an attractive scooter look closer to what one might expect and not likely to cause more than a 2nd glance the 500 travels a path all its own, one that is likely to illicit startled looks and comments like “What the hell is that?” My kind of ride, I had to have one!