Scooters in the Local News

If you live in the Greater Philadelphia area, you probably heard about the “scooter controversy” in Center City this past week. Apparently the PPA (Philadelphia Parking Authority), made famous from the reality show “Parking Wars” decided to start ticketing scooters parked on sidewalks.

The laws appear to not be clearly written and to make a long story short, there was an uprising of sorts among the scooter community in the city.

Read the philly.com article here.

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40 degrees on a scooter

It’s a Sunday afternoon in early January and the weather is warm enough to go for a long scooter ride at dusk.

After riding the back-country roads of Chester County for 40 minutes or so, I pulled over here for a break:

While every other scooterist has added Sta-bil to their fuel tank and tucked away their two wheels until April, I continue to ride through the barren fields.

The sun sets on the winter landscape, although I finally noticed the days are slowly getting noticeably longer.

The scooter will remain on the road as long as the temperatures don’t dip below 35 degrees. The Kymco doesn’t do ice. Mornings have been in the 20’s or teens so commuting by cage has been the only option as of late.

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140 Mile Ride on the 125

People think I’m crazy when I tell them I take day-long rides on my scooter during the summer months. You really ride 100 miles on that thing? Yes, yes I do. The blank dumbfounded stares continue. I realize most people wouldn’t want to ride a small 125cc scooter any further than around town, but I get a kick out of longer adventures on the Kymco. One of my favorite rides has become a day trip from my home in Chester County, Pennsylvania to York, Pennsylvania. The ride is close to 70 miles each way and features a combination of in-town/urban riding, along with rural two-lane roads. There is plenty of scenic farmlands and rolling countryside along the way.

One of my favorite stretches of road on the route is through the Amish farmlands on Route 340. The speeds are between 35-50 mph, which my Agility can keep up with and the views are spectacular. The road goes through towns such as Bird-In-Hand and Intercourse. The later has a major problem with theft of any sign in the area with the town’s name on it. Somehow nobody has figured out that every missing sign can be found in college frat houses around the country.

One of the most photographed signs by tourists in the entire state of Pennsylvania.

The Amish ride scooters as well, just a different version.

To my surprise several scooter rental shops have opened along  Route 340 in this area.

The landscape quickly changes as I ride west into Downtown Lancaster. I turn onto Route 462 and navigate the congested streets of Lancaster City. Eventually, I cross the Susquehanna River into Wrightsville.

This is the view from high above the Susquehanna River on the Wrightsville side. It’s a phenomenal view. After taking in the surroundings I drive down to the river’s edge.

Here is the road and waterfront right next to the Susquehanna.

Fortunately, there is plenty of parking and public boating ramps in the area. It goes without saying, but these areas are packed on the weekends.

I continue on to York to visit relatives. Fast-forward to the early evening, I am back home with over 140 miles completed.

Call me crazy, but it’s a fun adventure.

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PA Motorcycle License Skills Test

When I bought my Kymco, I knew I would have to get a motorcycle license since it has a 125cc engine. In Pennsylvania, where I reside, anyone operating a motorcycle 50cc or above is required to have a motorcycle license. When I used to ride the Yamaha Zuma, I never had to worry about the test because it was only 49cc. A Pennsylvania motorcycle permit is obtained by taken a knowledge test on the computer at the local DMV. Once you get at least 16/20 questions correct, you are issued a permit that allows you to ride a motorcycle. Permit restrictions  include no night time riding, no passengers and  a helmet requirement.

In mid April, I took the permit test and have used that whenever riding the scooter around. However, I wanted to follow through and get the full motorcycle license. Today, I did just that. I arrived at the DMV around 3:45 PM. As luck would have it, the temperatures were the hottest they have been all year. The air temperature was over 90 degrees on the black top of the testing area.

The tester met with me and checked all of my paperwork including the registration, proof of insurance (original copy), and learner’s permit. I also had to verify the vehicle identification number on the scooter as proof I had the correct cycle and insurance. On a Kymco Agility, the VIN is located behind a panel near the floorboard. I had trouble removing the panel and ended up having to get a screwdriver out of the kit under the seat in order to pop it off. After that, it was on to the test itself.

In order to get the motorcycle license, I had to do the following:

1. Demostrate use of all of the signals and controls without looking down at the buttons.

2. Navigate through a serpentine course of four cones in a straight line. After weaving between each of them, I had to make a u-turn and return to the start.

3. Finally, I had to do three consecutive figure 8’s within a lined box area.

Fortunately, everything went as planned and I passed without any problems. In general, if you put your feet on the ground during any part of the test, you do not pass.

After signing several forms and having the “M” class added to my license, I was on my way home by about 4:30. It is a good feeling to know I passed and I no longer have restrictions to ride, not that I really do any night scooting anyhow.

If you live in Pennsylvania, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. You need to read the Motorcycle Manual Booklet before taking the knowledge test. You don’t want to just wing it, beside it does provide good information, especially in the areas of safety and proper riding.

2. PA, like many other states, gives you the option of taking the test at the DMV like I did, or you can take a state-sponsored motorcycle safety course. The safety course is generally four sessions with classroom instruction and practice on the course. In my state, the course is free and 250cc motorcycles are available for all participants to use. Upon successful completion of the course, an “M” license is issued. Although I didn’t take this route to get my license, I still plan on taking a safety course. Many insurance companies also offer a discount for successful completion of a motorcycle course.

3. The motorcycle test at the DMV is adjusted based on the size bike you use for the test. For example, since I ride a 125cc, the cones on the serpentine course were placed closer together. Also, for the figure 8’s I was given a smaller box to ride in since I have a smaller cycle.

4. Don’t be nervous. It’s easier said than done, but like most other things, if you are relaxed, you will have better success with the skills test.

Hopefully this post provided good information about the motorcycle skills test. I was stunned when I looked online prior to today and didn’t see much information of value about this test. Most forum postings just said, “Figure 8’s and right/left turns”.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below. As always: Ride safe. Wear a helmet.

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On the scooter after the rain

The Philadelphia area experienced rain each day this past week. That didn’t leave any opportunities for fair-weather riding. For this reason, I was excited when the storms cleared late this afternoon. I managed to get out on the Kymco for a quick ride before sunset.

This is one of the roads I traveled this evening before dusk. The camera had condensation on it due to the humidity in the air. I have a full face helmet and the visor started to fog up as well. The usual Friday night flow of traffic was non-existent.

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Purchasing my scooter

In April, I purchased a 2009 Kymco Agility 125. I previously had a Zuma 50 “loaner” from my father. The Zuma series scooters are reliable and well-built, while being backed up by one of the top manufacturers, Yamaha. So why did I make a switch?

1. First, I wanted to purchase a scooter I could have as my own, without having to borrow from a relative when I wanted to ride.

2. I live in a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. This particular region has a large network of back-country roads where speeds average 40-50 mph. On a 50cc scooter, I simply could not maintain a high enough speed to remain safe. As many of you know, a posted speed limit of 34 mph can translate to 55+ for many drivers. On the Zuma, I could reach 42-44 mph on a level surface without a headwind. On any type of incline, 30-33 mph was my maximum rate of travel.

3. I wanted to be able to use the scooter to commute to and from work.

This necessitated the need for not only a new scooter, but one with a larger engine that would provide more power.

Mission: Bigger Scooter at a Reasonable Price

Price was a huge factor for me when researching scooters.I have limited funds for “extras” in my budget. Because of this, the big names (Honda, Yamaha, Vespa) would have put too much of a financial burden on me, as I was not willing to finance this purchase. The Honda models were upwards of $3700 before additional fees. At the time I was looking, I couldn’t locate a Yamaha Zuma 125 for a price or in close enough proximity to me that made sense.  Vespas are great but the price is also just too high.

This brought me to Kymco. The price point was just right. Ironically, the prices just got even better with the 2012 models announced last week. The Agility 125 ended up being the logical choice for my situation. It has the power I need. It’s also light-weight, sporty and comfortable. I wouldn’t want to be on it for five hours straight, but it is ideal for the trips I make. Kymcos also come with a two-year warranty, covering more than most major brands.

The main obstacle I haven’t mentioned yet in this process was inventory. Even with high gas prices, scooters are not a popular item in my region. Outside of center city Philadelphia, they are few and far between.  Most dealers around me sell scooters as a “side item”. Dealers will stock two or three at a time and only receive more once the existing inventory has been sold. The explanation give by dealers I’ve spoken to is they can only order from the manufacturers once a year. This severely limits customers options.

The Purchase

So, I ended up purchasing a new, leftover 2009 Agility from a dealer 90 minutes from my house. This particular place was the closest dealer that had an Agility for sale. Since it was a leftover, I received a substantial reduction in price. to the point where the dealer took a several hundred dollar loss on the transaction. However, they needed to clear inventory, so it was a good deal for both of us.

A month into owning the scooter, I am very satisfied. I will continue to update the blog as I reach the first maintenance cycle and beyond.

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