Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pimping My Ride

I have just finished the biggest part of my Buddy's customization. I hadn't posted anything about it because....... uh, I don't know. I was wanting it to be secret, but I'm really not sure why. I guess I just wanted to be able to make a production out of the unveiling.

So, here's how it happened: I badly injured my Buddy a couple of months ago. I was changing variator weights (something which I've done a number of times in the past) and somehow managed to put the variator plate on a little crooked, or catawampus as we say back home. I tightened all the nuts and took off for a test drive. The plate seems to have straightened out. Probably when I hit a bump just right. This caused the formerly tight nut and variator plate, to be just a tiny bit loose, resulting in some wobbling, vibration and gawdawful noises coming from of the aforementioned variator plate.

I got the scooter shut down as soon as I could get off the road. Long story short, the variator plate welded itself (through the wonder of friction) to the crankshaft. I was unable to remove it, now were the fine folks at Scoot Over. So, through every fault of my own, I needed a new crankshaft and variator.

The crankshaft is not an expensive part, in itself, however (Ever notice how that word "however" frequently means that your bank account is about to be assaulted?) it takes a LOT of labor to get to it. The engine case must be split open, hence you spend one amount on the crankshaft and much more than that on labor.

Ron, the mechanic at Scoot Over, and I have discussed modifying my motor for more power and since the entire motor was about to have major vehicular surgery, we decided to do the modification and save me the cost of labor to open the engine case at another time.

Ron did a little research and presented me with several options:
  1. Upgrade to the 161cc motor. This is common for the 125cc scooters, but since I have a 150cc Buddy, it doesn't really give much increase for the money spent.
  2. Upgrade to the 171cc kit. This option is less common and for a bit more money for the kit, gives me a 21cc boost.
  3. Upgrade to the NCY 62mm cylinder kit. I had seen references made to this kit, but have never heard of anyone ever having installed it on their scooter. Hmmm, what might be a one-of-a-kind motor? I had to have it.

So began my journey. I had Ron order the kit. Additionally, I added the 61mm Big Valve Head and the new crank shaft.

After completing the Saddle Sore 1000, Iron Butt ride, we decided to start calling my Scooter "Iron Buddy." So, while Ron was rebuilding my scooter's power plant, I started thinking of how to make my scoot look Iron - esque. I have never liked the blue color of the St Tropez and early on had gotten some quotes to repaint it. A simple, one color paint job was about $400, but a two-tone metallic, mildly customized paint job was quoted to me at $3000! I can't afford custom paint work.

Shelby, at Scoot Over, referred me to Signs Now to look at a vinyl wrap. After looking a lot of images, my wife and I picked out a rusty, rivetted, steel plate graphic image. I had kind of a "Mad Max" meets "steam punk" in mind. After getting a sample printed out, I went to Scoot Over and held it up against the part of the Buddy that couldn't be wrapped. It didn't match at all, but Ron suggested that it would look good with the "Sunset Orange" Buddy body panels. It did.

"In for a penny, in for a pound" as the old saying goes, so I had Scoot Over order the new panels. Now the Buddy would have a "new" motor, new look panels on the front and rear and brand new panels in the middle.

There were some bumps in the road. The 183cc kit wouldn't just "bolt on." The cylinder had to be bored out to accommodate the new piston. That took a while. Sign Now had a printer go down and the other one run out of ink as well as a couple of high profile, high dollar jobs that put Iron Buddy on the back burner for a few days.

Finally, after a bit more than a month, all the parts were in place. Scoot Over was kind enough to let me keep Buddy in their garage and provided with the tools and expertise required to put Iron Buddy back together. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, this was going back together again!

It took about 10 hours, but I did it. Naturally, the first thing I did was to ride over the the GGR scooter club garage to show him off. Then I got the cameras and took some stills and some video. I didn't just want to post a couple of still pics on Modern Buddy and Facebook, so I made a little movie. It's only the second movie I've ever made, but I think it gets the point a cross:

Am I done? Of course not. The wheels are still blue. I think I will just paint them for now, but I am going to look for custom wheels. Ron and I are also looking at a new carburetor.

Ride on,


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Camera Mount Mayhem

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been working a lot the Riding SoAZ series on the Sky Island Riders site. One of the things I had wanted to do, in order to make it different for most travel blog entries, was to put short videos of some of the roads the I talk about.

For this, I purchased a cheap video camera from Big Lots. I didn't want to risk a expensive camera falling off the bike in the middle of a bumpy road. Found this inexpensive Polaroid. It was actually the second one I tried. The quality on the first was so appalling that I returned it and got this one.

Now the problem was how to attack the camera to this scooter:
In order to get the sensation of riding on the road, I wanted to attach to the front of the scooter. Stella has the front rack and it should be easy, right? Wrong!

First obstacle: How to attach the camera to the rack. I could simply tape the camera on, but that gets sticky residue all over everything. Plus, every time I needed to review what I had just filmed, it would be a pain in the butt to take the camera off, review, then re-tape it. I needed something else.

I decided that I needed to create some kind of cradle in which to put the camera. Then I could attached the cradle to the bike and remove the camera whenever I needed. So, I did what anyone else would do: I grabbed an empty cereal box (Apple Cinnamon Cheerios for the record.)
I cut out the front and folded it to the size of the camera then taped it together with packing tape. I wasn't thinking about it at the time, so I don't have pics of the phase of the build. I then cut out a hole for the lens and another hole, on the opposite side, for the controls. I didn't bother with a window in the box for the camera's screen, since I would be riding as I filmed and it wouldn't be safe to be trying to watch the screen.

I made my first attempt to attach my new "cradle" to Stella's rack. I ran in to two problems. First, the bars on the rack are horizontal. I had cut holes on either side of the cradle and inserted zip ties, but in that configuration, I could only attack to something vertical.
Second, I realized that if I did attach to the rack, anything done tight enough to hold the camera securely, would crush the cardboard as soon as I pulled out the camera. So, I kept thinking. I gathered more supplies:

Zip ties, duct tape (You didn't think I'd try any project without duct tape, did you?) bandage scissors, screwdriver and that corrugated plastic stuff. We had some left over from one of my wife's quilting projects.

I decided that I needed a rigid "cradle" to protect the first cradle from be crushed. Additionally, I needed a way to secure this new cradle to a horizontal bar. (Horizontal Bar - Is that a place people who are ALREADY drunk to go and party?) At any rate, I folded a couple of corrugated plastic strips around the bottom of the cardboard box and secured it with duct tape. ( Insert appropriate work grunt here.) Now it looks like this:

The pic on the left shows the back of the box and camera with the controls visible. The middle pic shows a profile view and the last pic is of the front of the whole setup. Now to attach to assembly to the rack. Where are those zip ties?
The pic above who two zip ties facing opposite directions. I wasn't sure how to place them until I got it on the bike. It mounted on pretty well, until I realized that, in my creative excitement, I had forgotten to think of a way to secure the top of the cradle as well as the bottom. Some more corrugated plastic, zip ties and duct tape later and voila':

I cut two short strips of plastic and taped them on either side of the back of the box, then fed the zip ties down through the corrugs (or whatever they call those tunnels in the cardboard.) Likewise I cut slits in the bottom pieces of plastic and fed another pair of zip ties through there. This allowed me to attach easily to the horizontal bars.

The final hurdle was aiming the camera. Lateral placement was a given. The camera is looking the same direction as the scooter. Vertical aiming was a slight problem. If you look at the two pics above, you can see the springs. The part of the rack I have attached to, is spring loaded and you pull it down and the spring helps you secure things you may be carrying. It neutral position is slightly more than 90 degrees. Wait! Let me get some more zip ties:
They we go! I used 3 zip ties to pull the rack forward a bit. I made several test runs down my street to check the aim and carefully adjusted the ties until the camera's view was what I wanted. The camera fits in the box pretty snugly (so it won't bounce out) so I put a hole in the bottom of the cradle and use the small screwdriver to push it up and out between shots.

How does it work? Here is one of my first attempts:

Ride on,


Monday, September 6, 2010

Busy, Busy

I am certain that the title for this entry "Busy, Busy" has been by many bloggers for a lame excuse on why they have written nothing in quite a while. I am no different. I do have an an excuse, so, please, allow me to tell you what it is. After all, if an excuse told in the woods, and there was no one there to here it, was there really an excuse at all?

As you may know, I also write the blog for our local Tucson scooter club, the Sky Island Riders. Much of the stuff on the website is club specific: photos, video and our forum/bulletin board, for example.

In my mind's eye however, I have also wanted the blog, and it's associated data, to become a resource for people who live in, or travel to, Southern Arizona. Not just for scooterists, either. Motorcyclists, bicyclists or even people who just want to enjoy our state. That is one reason I started the "Ride Maps" tab. It lists maps of various rides around Tucson, but also include routes to Phoenix which don't require the interstate.

Three months or so ago, I thought of another idea. I thought of writing a series of posts about riding/driving in Southern AZ, which I have entitled "Riding SoAZ." I first defined Southern AZ, then subdivided that region into smaller areas to write about. I had decided to make each post about 1000 words long and add photos and hot links to the various points of interest that have websites. Most of the photos are my own. (Which means the quality isn't that great.)

Part VII is posted now and part VIII is almost complete. If you haven't already checked it out, you can find Part I here:

I didn't quite finish writing about riding in Tucson, but felt like people who were reading to learn about outlying places might get bored, so I moved to the rural areas and I will return and finish Tucson later, probably after I finish the rural areas.

So, that is my excuse for not writing here lately. Is it a good one? I've written well over 10k words for Sky Island Riders, not to mention the time on the scooter to go out and get photos.

In other news, the editor of "Iron Butt" magazine had contacted me shortly after I completed the Saddle Sore 1000 and asked if he could publish my story. I thought long and hard about it (about 1 second) and said "Yes!" I have never been in a magazine before, so this sounded quite exciting.

Well, the day before yesterday, my copy finally arrived. He actually used my blog entry from this blog. I don't know what it says about my writing or his editing, but the magazine article is virtually unchanged from my original entry. So, without further adieu, here's the cover:

Naturally, I quickly flipped to the table of contents to find my piece.
There it is! Page 46! No picture here, but I flipped to page 46:
I am kind of flattered that it is called "Extreme Rides."

I really enjoyed the entire magazine. I have always enjoyed long hours in the saddle of my scooter. I don't put in the miles that the motorcyclists do, but I have put in some major hours.