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, December 31, 2009

Dec 31, 2009 Plodding along with the Uni-Go hitch project

Oh, and of course it’s New Years Eve day today so I should at least extend my best wishes to everyone, I hope 2010 finds all of you well and having fun with your scooters! It’s early afternoon and I’ve just put the Eggplant Parmesan into the oven for the second bake segment, one to go after that and it’s done. Guess what we’re having for our New Years Eve repast?

Meanwhile I’ll see about catching up on the latest on the Uni-Go trailer project. The hitch took the better part of two days to design and fabricate as we went slowly and given the weather was cold as the dickens we limited our time correspondingly. When I say we what I mean is Ron did the designing and fabrication while I stood around shooting pictures and generally getting in the way a lot.

I took this shot of Bandon Fabrication during a lull in the high winds and driving rain. It reminds me of the Fairbanks Yamaha dealer’s place, nearly as cold and wet. Of course yesterday it had been sunny and mild out but not  this day. Brrr…….

Red Dog didn’t seem to mind the cold but I didn’t like it and I doubt Ron liked it either. Part of the deal if you’re going to work the metal trades I guess.

Before proceeding it was necessary to remove all of Red Dog’s rear fairings. This is the stuff owners refer to as “Tupperware” and it’s nasty to get off and put back on without breaking things.

Once Ron started the design process it was interesting to watch his progress. Since this was a total custom order nothing had been put down on paper, I just showed up with the scooter and a bunch of photos of other hitches I’d downloaded from the Internet plus a few emails from the west coast Uni-Go distributor.
I'd explained to Ron what I wanted to do and he took it from there using only the most basic information about the hitch itself and how it was to function. Dimensions provided by the trailer people were pretty rudimentary; we only knew what the weight factors would be and the optimum height of the hitch receiver.


We’d decided a 5-point support system would be sufficient so Ron welded two heavy steel tabs onto the forward upper frame member and two onto the rear frame member. A fifth tab was welded onto the lowest point of the center of the rear member for additional vertical support. Corresponding hitch frame members are bolted to the tabs using case hardened bolts. It's looking very strong for both weight support and lateral twisting.

Ron positioned the heavy steel tabs, and then using a high-speed deburring tool removed the paint from the area to be welded.
Welds were accomplished with a wire-feed high-amperage electric welding outfit. Penetration was good but it was a difficult job to reach the areas in back. Nimble-fingers Ron managed though and they turned out great.

Eventually all five steel tabs were on and Ron was ready for a well deserved break so we called it a day.

 When I arrived on Wednesday Ron had nearly finished the hitch. His work is so nice I hated to have to cover it up with primer but our salt air would nail it in less than a week if left bare.
This is the completed hitch with its first coat of primer. Ron’s part of the project is finished so now it’s time to head home where the rest is up to me.
 I’d recently picked up a folding aluminum ramp to replace the 2 x 8 planks I’d used for loading in the past. Riding Red Dog up the ramp felt a bit hairy the first time but I’d seen the dealer do it so I figured I could too. Like most things if you take your time and pay attention it’s no big deal. At home unloading was simple, I left the front end locked, released the park brake and standing on the left side walked her down the ramp. It was so easy I could have set the brake and taken a picture of her on the ramp. I only had to think about how bloody stupid I’d feel if the follow-up photo showed her lying on her side on the ramp so I passed.
So that’s it, I’m all up to date with the latest news of the hitch project. The paint’s in the house where it will remain warm and if tomorrow isn’t freezing I’ll have a go at painting the hitch. After that it’s on to the wiring part which may be awhile as I haven’t received the isolation relay yet. Right now it’s time to be thinking about New Years Eve! The Eggplant Parmesan’s finished and out of the oven, the Pinot Grigio is cold, the wind and rain outside are howling and it couldn’t be much better than this.

Happy New Year everybody!


  1. Larry,

    I impressed with your trailer hitch but I don't weld myself, and I just bought a used 2008 Mp3 500, red also, and I'm interested in touring accessories, ie. trailer hitch, wiring harness, cruise control, cb radio and radio that accepts pandora radio from my cell phone. I'm having no luck finding anything except a radio from shark electronics. Can you send me any specifics for any of these items?

    John Morales, Columbus, Ohio

  2. Hello John,

    Sorry but I've no specs to pass along on those items. I pretty well covered what I did with the hitch which was custom made for my UniGo. When I received my trailer I contacted a local metal fab shop and showed them the hitch receiver; then we just sketched out how we thought it should look using the specs provided by UniGo. It was easy but required welding a couple of tabs onto the MP3's frame.

    Wiring-wise I just located a point where I could tap into the harness to power the trailer lights, nothing special there. Most connecting plugs will have simple diagrams showing typical hook-ups. If you're not comfortable doing it yourself there are shops everywhere that should be able to wire your scooter for trailer lights.

    Regarding radios, I haven't done much with them although I do have a blue tooth system I run through a Garmin 550 Zumo GPS to a Uclear Force receiver in one of my helmets. It works OK so maybe you should Google those items for info on how they work. None of them are cheap so be ready for that if you care. The positive thing about the system is you can easily move it from one bike to another if you've got more than one or just buy a new one.

    Cruise controls are all over the place but the one in this blog worked well enough and cost around $25. Most of the manufacturers have a CYA statement advising against using them with heated grips so be aware of that.