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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nov 12, 2009 Foot Pegs & Brackets

 My major and perhaps most singular complaint about Red Dog is the seating position. Part of this is due to the limited room you have for resting your feet and part is the saddle configuration. Read that last as not enough room to scoot my fat butt back, the solution for which will be covered in a future report. For now I’ll address the issue of where to put my feet when it’s time to stretch.

One of the guys on the scooter forum I frequent has entered into the manufacturing game by introduction of his foot peg brackets. Made of heavy stainless steel, they’re stronger than the scooter base you mount them on. Point in fact Jeff, the company owner cautions against standing or pushing on them to reposition your feet as the underlying material might break. Probably good advice.

I ordered a set and they arrived before he’d even cashed my check which Just goes to illustrate how some guys are of a trusting nature. They turned out to be every bit as nice as I’d expected and the installation was simple.

As furnished the brackets are well made but not buffed or polished and it was my desire to improve on their appearance. At first I was smitten with the idea of having them “engine turned” or what we used to have done to our firewalls and rifle bolts back when such things were in vogue. It’s a sort of swirly looking pattern that’s engraved into the metal surface and it’s cool looking as all get out. Not being of artistic bent I took the brackets to our local fabrication outfit for their opinion on such matters where it was suggested I have a go at it myself. Thanks a lot guys.

After having a look at what there was available at our local hardware store I decided to do with what I had on hand, namely my Moto tool outfit. I attacked the backside of one of the brackets with a flourish, but it soon became evident that my limited skills would not produce the masterpiece I wanted and I settled for a mediocre polishing job that eliminated most of the fabricator’s marks. So be it.

At the same time as I’d placed my order for the mounting brackets I’d ordered a set of pivoting foot pegs from an on-line purveyor of motorcycle farkles. As it turned out there was a 1-day lag between receiving the mounting brackets and the foot pegs which gave me time to do the install in two easy steps. Like two screws… how hard is that?

After that it was simple enough to hang the foot pegs from Drag Specialties and the job was done. They fold up easily enough and when in the down position they provide a nice place for resting my feet.

I just don’t know if I can stand all this excitement….

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nov 08, 2009 Brookings Bikers Breakfast

Good grief, what is this darkness thing anyway? I got up fairly early for my monthly run down to Brookings to attend a Bikers Breakfast and it was still pitch dark. I guess old man winter must be on the way as all I could see was the moon. The weather people had predicted cloudy/sunny with a low of 45 degrees to get things started and later on maybe 59 degrees. They didn't mention a word about darkness...

I was pretty much ready to ride other than not having a full tank of gas but figured I could make it to Port Orford. Sunday mornings usually means nothing will be open much before 7:00am and that proved to be right; the Chevron station had just been open a few minutes when I pulled in. I tanked up and headed south as daylight continued its spread across the choppy Pacific Ocean. It’s around 80 miles from our place to Brookings via the twisty coastal highway and I always enjoy the ride. This morning was no exception, no nasty cross winds and no rain, just a bit of fog blowing in off the surf.

The guys & gals who attend the Bikers Breakfast are an eclectic bunch who ride all sorts of gear that includes cruisers, sport bikes, trikes, side cars, adventure bikes, and now even a scooter. Red Dog drew considerable attention from everyone as few had ever seen one of Piaggio's products and nearly all were curious. Most questions were centered around the mysterious front end configuration and how well it handled, etc. After the usual polite inquiries it always got around to "Uh, if you don't mind, uh, I know it's kind of personal" to which I would respond "9". I knew they wanted to know the price for one and I'm not offended by their asking, they're friends and besides anyone can find out what they cost by calling a dealer.

After breakfast I headed north towards Bandon, pausing for a brief photo op next to one of the bears currently guarding Brookings. The town was sporting a couple dozen of the critters, apparently part of a traveling show. Or maybe they're beginning to weird-out a little?

Nearing home the fuel reserve light came on and after a few miles I noticed a new display that hadn’t been there before. Evidently when you go onto reserve the computer begins recording how many miles you’ve traveled, sort of an extra visual reminder you’d better fill up. I like that whole idea as running out of gas is not my idea of entertainment. I’d traveled 15 miles on reserve when I pulled into the Bandon Chevron and I was anxious to see what sort of mileage I was getting. I pumped 2.83 gallons into the tank and if memory serves me right it holds a little over 3 gallons so I must have been nearly empty. That’s when I did a really dumb thing; I hit the reset button on the trip odometer before recording the mileage. Duh… Oh well what the heck, next time I’ll check it first.

Rain had started a few miles before arriving in Bandon and it was my first opportunity to ride Red Dog in the wet. As was expected good manners were exhibited and I felt very secure with the handling. This ride also provided an opportunity to fully test the new heated grips. They not only worked well, I had to turn the temperature down as my hands were getting too hot. Now that's a problem I can deal with!

More stuff to follow on the heated vest and the Air Hawk seat pad, stay tuned.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Nov 6, 2009 The Electric Vest Controller Arrives

Around 1:30pm this afternoon I told Linda I was going to have a lie-down aka power nap until the FedEx gal arrived. The digital controller for my electric vest was due to arrive today sometime and until then there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to Red Dog. At precisely the moment I made that statement both dogs started raising heck which is their way of announcing the arrival of someone at our gate.
The FedEx gal is a really nice lady but she has this thing about our collie Chance and prefers to not enter our place. I admit he raises cane and his bark is super loud plus he gets all puffed up and scary looking. The other delivery people seem to be able to deal with him or at least they try but she’s afraid of him and maybe I don’t blame her. In any event I didn’t get my lie-down as the shipment had arrived and I was happy to see it.

I expected the installation to go smoothly as I’ve done them before and it wasn’t new territory for me. The biggest issue was where and how to locate the controller and the plug-in the vest uses to attach its cable to. In the past I’ve located the plug-in on the right side of the bike just below my leg so there was a natural fall towards it. The plug-in itself just sort of dangled out of the side frame which was convenient to use and if I forgot to unplug when I dismounted it would just pull free without breaking anything.
Red Dog’s makers have got this thing about covering every possible wiring route up with plastic fairing and getting a control wire from the front of the scooter to the back by my leg was going to be a pain in the butt so I tried to come up with an alternate location that would be both convenient and easy to install. I finally decided it would be a simple matter to mount the controller on the handlebars using Ram Mounts that I already had on hand in my junk box. This turned out to work just fine and I was able to route the plug-in so that it hung out of the center of the handlebar housing. This will ensure an easy connect/disconnect without any damage issues should I forget to unplug.
I finished the job a little after dark and since I’ve never ridden Red Dog at night I rode down to the mail box, then up 101 to the Game Park which is about ¼ mile up the road and back. The heated grips were a welcome luxury and if I had worn the vest it would have been also. At the same time I was able to get a feel for the lighting and it seems more than adequate, especially the low beams. The bright beams are two little spotlight things and they also perform nicely.

Busy, busy....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nov 4, 2009 HotGrips for freezing fingers

OK so when it comes to cold I’m a bit of a wuss but I don’t care, cold is not my deal. HotGrips are the thing to have in my book, they help stave off cold stiff fingers and that’s a safety issue on a bike. I’ve already installed them on 3 other rides and love the darn things so I ordered up a set for Red Dog. They arrived promptly and this morning I set out on what I figured would be a simple install.

Right from the get-go I ran into a snag, the Allen screws holding the bar end weights on and ultimately the original rubber grips were refusing to budge. Fearing the worst I called the dealer in California and his tech confirmed it, they’d been installed with some sort of Locktite product thereby guaranteeing they weren’t going to come off easily, if ever.

He had several suggestions ranging from heating things up with a butane torch to cutting the grips off so I could more easily access the screw threads. None of his suggestions sounded good to me as nearly all of them might result in damage to the underlying plastic throttle sleeve. I posted a problem inquiry on the Piaggio users’ forum and decided while waiting for responses I’d ride into town and see if an auto mechanic I know could get them off.

This turned out to be a good idea as he dug into his bottomless kit of exotic tools and came up with a set of Torx screw extractors, one of which worked perfectly. He had both screws backed out in less than 2 minutes and I was on my way home.
At home again I set about removing the original rubber grips. Evidently there’s a consistency at the Piaggio factory; they’d used plenty of what appeared to be contact cement holding them on so it was out with the pointy knife and off they came. Once done I followed the instructions for preparing the handlebars by sandpapering the surface. This makes for a better glue bonding and things finally started to go smoothly. The grips went on and have been left to set up overnight.

In the mean time I located the variable heat controller up high on the dash where hopefully it will be out of harm’s way from the front suspension action. I’d been cautioned by several forum members to keep that in mind as they’d learned the hard way by losing switches they’d installed too low.

The wiring is already in place and ready for final hookup tomorrow after the glue for the new grips has cured. Following the paths of others I’d located a relay with a switched power source of more than adequate supply and tapped into it.

Ain't this fun?

Nov 5, 2009 Postscript

This morning I finished the wiring and the HotGrips work great. I also took a run to town and found new metric Allens in the correct length for the bar end weights so that's resolved.

Now I'm ready for the next project, the electric vest controller. It's scheduled to arrive tomorrow and should be a fairly straight forward install (where have you heard that one before?)

Film at eleven....