Monthly Archives: April 2010

Folding Bicycles, Part I

The other day I was given a folding bicycle. I have wanted one for some time, because it seemed like it might be a good way to take a bike on buses and light rail trains. When I put my bicycle on the rack at the front of the bus, I always worry that the driver will drive off before I can get it off. OCTA even has a 1-800 number for claiming lost bicycles. On the subway, of course, you walk your bike right onto the train. At rush-hour, though, you get a lot of glares from people who want to stand where your bike is.

Now that I have the folder, I am a little dubious that the bus drivers will let me carry it on. Even folded, it is still sort of a bulky package. For the train, though, I can see that (even unfolded) a 16” wheel bike is going to take up a lot less real estate than my 700cc road bike.

My folder is a vintage Dahon, which was bought new by a pilot acquaintance of mine. (Plane+folding bike, how’s that for a car free mode?). It has a steel frame and weighs about half again what my road bike does, so it will probably be no fun to hump up the stairs on the subway.

After I cleaned it up, I rode it for about 4 miles on the Whittier Greenway. The short cranks are going to take some getting used to, and the brakes are certainly not as strong as I am used to. That being said, I was surprised how fast I could cover ground.

The next step is to take the bike into the city and see how it does. Stay tuned for my conclusions.


Scooter Review: 2009 Kymco People 150

Back at the beginning of this year, I bought a new scooter. Needless to say, I formed some pretty strong opinions about the new machine within the first couple of weeks. I restrained myself from writing a review right away, though. I though it would mean more after I put a thousand miles or so on it. This morning I looked down at my odometer and saw 1749 km, which works out to about 1050 miles.

I chose a 150cc scooter because it is big enough to go 60 mph on arterial streets, but small enough to be fuel efficient and easy to park. There are hundreds of models of 150cc scooters on the market. I chose a Kymco because they have a reputation as a reputable company, with offices in the US and a 2 year warranty. Kymco makes a lot of the fact that they use ISO 9001 quality control. I thought that a Kymco would be reliable “out of the box”.

If I had it to do over, I would still buy a 150cc scooter, but probably not a Kymco.

First, the good:

The scooter handles great. It points well, and the front-back balance is as good as any motor bike I’ve owned. The wheels are big (16″), which helps a lot on the crappy blacktop we have here in Los Angeles. Kymco seems to use a better grade of hoses and lines than most of the mainland scooters. The carburetor and other parts are made by vendors whose names I actually recognized.

The luggage rack, which looks like it would be small and useless, is surprisingly handy. I do wish, though, that they had made it out of metal. The paint is already wearing off of the plastic. Then again, I haul a lot more cargo with my scooter than most American’s, because I do not own a car.

Now the bad:

From the beginning, the scooter has had an annoying and dangerous habit of stalling unexpectantly in traffic. Initially, I tried to get it fixed under warranty. The clueless dealer called Kymco and was told that I, the owner, had probably over-filled the gas tank and swamped the evaporative emissions canister. Kymco send out a new canister, which did not fix the problem. the mechanic mentioned that KymcoUSA is “sort of hard to deal with”.

Apparently many California-model Kymcos have fuel system issues because of the after-thought nature of the emissions system. It occurs to me that if the gas-tank vent line were to vibrate off the check valve, then the problem would go away with no noticeable decrease in performance… Get it? Got it? Good.

My own problem had nothing to do with the fuel system, however. Once I gave up on the dealership and the warranty process, I eventually tracked it to a defective CDI module that was overheating. So much for ISO 9001 quality control. I put on a $25 generic module that seems to have fixed the problem. All in all, my new scooter was unreliable and dangerous for about four months while I spent hours working on it.

Next time, I will just get one of the cheap no-name scooters. I’ll probably still need to spend a few weeks fixing the bugs, but it will cost about 1/3 the price. I paid a lot of extra money for a scooter that I thought I would not have trouble with, and that money was wasted.

That being said, the scooter is working out for me now. I’ll probably keep it for at least a couple of years before I trade it off.