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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Feb 3, 2010 Red Dog gets a make-over at Rich’s Custom Seats

Why the heck is it whenever I need to trailer Red Dog somewhere the skys open up and it rains? Oh well, on with the latest chapter in Red Dog's saga.

One of the things most MP3 owners like least about their scooters is the saddle and Red Dog's was no different, after 50 miles I was ready for a new butt.

If you visit the Modern Vespa forum -  and select MP3 Discussion you’ll find a number of threads addressing that issue. Piaggio, Red Dog’s maker, doesn’t seem to take into account there’s more than a few riders who have less than a 32” inseam or butts not made of cast iron. As a result shorter riders with regular butts find the stock saddle less than pleasant, not to mention being unable to reach the ground with their feet.

For some that last part isn’t a big issue as they’ve learned how to lock the front wheels in place when stopping for lights, etc. For others who have experience riding two-wheelers, particularly dirt bikes and dual-sport bikes they’ve adapted to being on tippy-toes when stopped and are able to deal with it. I sort of fall (no pun intended) into that category although I wouldn’t mind being able to stand flat-footed if possible.

My main issue with the stock saddle wasn't that so much as was the short distance it placed me relevant to the handlebars, way closer than what my ape-like arms are comfortable with. I’ve spent a lifetime riding bikes that allowed me to scoot back a ways and thus extend my arms to a relaxed position.

Red Dog’s design was such that I ended up feeling cramped and it had to be fixed; this meant restructuring the entire configuration of the saddle. At the same time I wanted a more comfortable choice of material – leather - plus I’d always lusted for a back rest and this seemed like the time to do it.

I chose Rich’s Custom Seats in Kingston, WA for the work as their reputation is impeccable and they’re experienced at redoing MP3s, something not a lot of shops can lay claim to. Located to the west of Seattle, they provide not only great service coupled with high quality workmanship but also have free RV parking for those who trailer their bikes in and for those who ride in a nicely outfitted apartment is available at the give-away price of $50 per night. What a bargain that is!

We arrived at his shop a day early so we hooked up the RV and settled in for the afternoon. Rich was on hand and hooked up the cable TV feed so we wouldn't have telly withdrawals. Man it's  hard having to rough it but we managed.

Hoping I don't drop the damn thing...

One of the things I really liked about the whole experience was being able to watch the entire process and photograph it.

We’ve all been to shops that post signs at the service entrance prohibiting customers from entering due to “insurance requirements”. Rich doesn’t adhere to that policy (I didn't in our shop either) and in truth, I’ve never seen an actual statement to that effect in any insurance policy.

Maybe it’s there if you buy el-cheapo matchbook cover insurance but mainstream companies leave it up to you how you want to play it.

Bottom line is at Rich’s you get to watch where your money is going and I couldn’t have been happier.

Besides getting to watch your bike's saddle being made you also get to ogle Rich's cool collection of bikes. Red Dog was in the midst of some lofty company.

I expect there will be some curiosity regarding prices so here's a photo of Rich's rates. There are some who will always feel his prices are high but in general those folks don't have a clear understanding of what he provides. This is no gypo outfit cranking out poor quality products, everyone employed there is talented and their work shows it.

Rich started things off by removing the saddle and unhooking the wiring that goes to the seat sensor switch. The idea of the switch is to prevent the bike from traveling if there's no one on board. Good idea I think.

Antonio did a lot of the work on Red Dog's seat. He's highly experienced and you can tell he really knows what he's doing. One thing I admired was his employment of safety equipment while he worked. I expect that has something to do with company policy too.

Nice sign, probably helps keep the place, uh, protected?
                           Once the factory cover is off it's time for the first fitting.

Lean waaay back and tell me what you think.... Man, we're gonna have to remove a lot of material. Maybe we could shorten up your arms a tad? Trim your butt while we're at it?
Lets see, start by taking off 25 or 30 lbs of material here, then we'll try it on him again...

Boss, you  want I should measure him? Lotta staples going in here...

I hope this guy appreciates what I'm doing for him.... He's getting one helluva saddle. Maybe he's one of the boss's buddies. Maybe he's Mafiaosa... Nah...

Wow. Look at that. Skill, eh?


OK, this is the spot he says feels like it's on fire so we have to put something soft and maybe shaped like a donut right here. personal favorite...mmmm....

Just like slicing raw cabbage...

Well...poor choice of words maybe.

Nice shades of pink...manly colors. Think he'll notice?

This looks like it will solve the ring of fire issue. Soft squishy orange stuff. Probably illegal.
Man this is like trying to grind Jello.

Time to cover up all the creative stuff with a nice layer of foam, sort of like a blanket. Should hold lots of water. Wow, this is cool. Is this your Sharpie or mine? I think mine's black so maybe this one is your's. Mine now, eh? That's Canadian, eh?
Mom told me to be a dentist. So much for my attention span. I love my job though, get to meet lots of old dudes. Like LarryLarrySeventyFive. How weird is that?

You ever wonder where that old shower curtain went after you were done with it? Now you know. Truth is everything. Sort of. Some times. Eh?
Hey Boss, can we go home soon? Like, the ferry leaves in 15 minutes and if I miss it I have to wait around for another hour. Maybe all night. Please?

Rich's employees have a 5:00pm quitting time and since they needed to catch the ferry over to Seattle they left shortly thereafter. Wotta nice boss. And my back rest was finished right on time too.
Time for the boss to step in. Notice he uses the wrong hand to operate the scissors with? They're right-handed scissors though. I wonder if OSHA knows about him? I'll bet he was one of those kids in school who wrote upside down.

Look! It's a saddle begining to emerge!

Look Mom, real Corinthian Lather...Man, this is the good stuff. Wonder if that old geezer will appreciate it?

What a fit, I could'a been a plastic surgeon, made a pile of money. What am I saying, I am making a pile of money!Hold real still, I'm almost done. Happy hour's almost done too. Dang. Time's a-wastin'
 Now for the coo-de-graw, cover up the big hole Antonio left in the bottom. Sorta like a secret compartment, nifty place to keep your spare change. Or a pint of Mad Dog maybe.

Man oh man, look at that sweet seat. Who'da ever guessed it would turn out this good?

Hey pardner you're not falling asleep on me are you? It's not that late you know, just slightly past my normal dinner time. But don't let that bother you.
See this little slot here? Never, never put your finger in it, OK? Not if you want to get it back. You remember those cute little Chinese finger puzzles they used to give out at the county fair? Same thing only this one's made out of steel.

So waddaya think old timer, feel good on your creaky old subframe? You wanted it heated? Too late now Dude, but maybe we could install shoulder harness tomorrow...
So here it is tomorrow already and Rich has one of his guys give Red Dog a bath in anticipation of a photo shoot.

What a slick dog, all dressed up to kill...Mmmm...mmmm!

Time to load up and head home, the rain's let up for the moment and we need to take advantage of it. We'll stop in Portland to see the kids and grandkids, then head south to Bandon.

You never know what the real price of something will be until you get where you're going. Confusion as to which road to take resulted in backing up during which time a minor distraction enabled me to jackknife the trailer. Duh... At least it was the quarter panel that had already been pranged. Still tasted like crap though.

Home at last and except for the mangy quarter panel all is well. Red Dog was a filthy pig due to the constant rain storm but she cleaned up well and looks fit for more photos. Her new saddle feels good on my toosh and I expect I'll enjoy rides a lot more with it.

Final approval from Chance, our collie. He seems satisfied with whatever Red Dog brought home on her tires... It's always good to be home.


  1. Practical....but not beutiful..

  2. Eww...not to everyone's taste for sure. Maybe that's why there are so many choices?