Test results

Monday, 15th June 2009; 6:45 pm - Location:

The excursion to Southwest Michigan’s Harbor Country was intended as a learning experience in addition to just being an experience, so here’s a review of how it went from a technical perspective.

packbuddyThe packing of my steed worked well. I’d originally thought I’d need a topcase to go on my rear rack, but I did fine without one. I put my clothes in the pet carrier under the seat; strapped my sleeping bag, tent, etc. on the rack; and carried my rain gear, camera, emergency fuel, and assorted stuff in an over-the-shoulder Tactical Bailout Bag which I let rest on the seat behind me. I might still get a case, but then I’d have to shift the camping gear to the seat behind me.

I was concerned about there being too much wind on the rear rack, especially for the waterproof cover (designed for a backpack) that I put over the camping gear. I secured it with a bungee cord, and it didn’t appear to be catching too much wind, so I think that’ll be OK.

Because of the imminent threat of rain, I tried on my Frogg Toggs® over my riding jacket before I left, and they fit well.

I had no trouble with finding my way, but this wasn’t really a great test for that, because the route was so easy. I checked Google Maps several times to confirm whether I was getting close to an upcoming city, and that sort of thing. The only real navigation assistance I used was when I was running low on gas: Mike’s GPS told me there was a station about a mile ahead, and gave me a couple other options within a few miles as well.

The iPhone worked pretty well. There were some places where I couldn’t get a signal, or it was too weak to stay on the internet, but most of the times I checked Google Maps or tried to post a blog entry, it worked. The darn thing even alerted me a couple times of some new spam that had landed in my inbox. Coverage up north will probably be more spotty, however. The 12V outlet on the Buddy worked well enough. Even though the outlet is “live” when the engine’s turned off, it doesn’t charge the iPhone very effectively in that state. I left it sitting like that for 15 minutes but the phone still wouldn’t power up. So I started the scooter, connected the charger (didn’t want to risk a power spike during start-up), put the phone in my pocket, and rode that way. An hour or so of that – with a gas-fired generator behind it – did the trick.

The scooter itself performed fine. It reaches and maintains 40mph without any difficulty… unless there’s a strong headwind, or I’m climbing a hill. Even then, my slowest top speed was 25-30mph, which is OK for short distances (and should be good enough for the slow lane going over the hump on the Bridge). I had a headwind much of the way home, which was annoying but only cut my sustained speed to 35mph. There were times when I had a car or two on my tail, waiting to pass me, and I didn’t really like that, but it is what it is. The only “solution” would be a faster scooter, which would result in me continually riding at 60mph to stay ahead of those cars… and I simply don’t want to go that fast. I actually liked the four-lane stretches of highway better than the two-lane, because I didn’t have any cars getting stuck behind me.

(The only really unpleasant experience I had with vehicles passing me was when there was a truck and then a motorcycle behind me: the truck pushed past me kind of close, and was immediately followed by the racing motorcycle, going wide-open and passing both of us with a deafening roar as soon as he saw an opening he could squeeze through on the left. The latter moron deserves to smear himself across the pavement, but no such luck.)

I found that the center stand for the bike doesn’t work so well on wet ground. Fortunately all it did was sink into the dirt, so the rear wheel was back on the ground but the scoot was still standing. I just need to be careful, because one leg of the center stand has a smaller footprint than the other, so it might sink more quickly.

The camp gear all works, just like on my backpacking expeditions. The only issue was that the tent’s rain fly was covered with dew on the underside in the morning, and I had to put it away wet.

Wet clothes were a bigger problem. My late-night expedition to the beach and back left me rather sweaty, so I took a shower before going to bed, and that left me with damp clothes and a damp towel. When backpacking, I’d just hang the wet stuff on the outside of my pack and let the sun dry it. I can’t do that as easily on a bike going 40mph.

So, some minor issues but no major problems: a successful test!

2 Responses to “Test results”

  1. Don says:

    I’ve been following this since you posted a link over on MB, my parents and brother live in GR so this has added interest. Quick suggestion for the center stand, get an old car license plate to put under the feet. It should fit in the pet carrier, and is also good when parking on paved surfaces when it’s hot, because they can sink in that too.

  2. Todd says:

    That’s a clever solution. I have an old plate around here somewhere, so I’ll give that a try.