scooter

Riding Safely in the Early Spring in Portsmouth, NH

As far as New England winters go, this one hasn't been the worst for anybody - generally milder temperatures in the early season, with only a couple good dumps of snow so far means we may not be too far from some enjoyable early spring ridin time.  Add a couple days with temps in the 50's, and I know we'll have a whole slew of eager scooter beavers just itching to get out for a ride.  As you're layering up and preppin to get out on the road, here are some considerations specific to riding in Portsmouth, NH - including some particularly tricky moped-spots - that you might want to keep in mind.

The Bartlett Street Railroad Overpass

The Bartlett Street Railroad Overpass presents some unique hazards in the late winter/early spring.

The Bartlett Street Railroad Overpass presents some unique hazards in the late winter/early spring.

This little bend on Bartlett Street in Portsmouth's West End is deceptively tricky.  For one, its located just off the corner of Islington and Bartlett, so you can expect moderate to heavy traffic most times of day.  Beyond that, the railroad overpass presents some unique hazards.  The railroad trestle provides shade over a pretty significant curve in the road.  Add the drippage and melt coming from the banks and trestle, and you have a wet portion of road that gets very little sun.  This means you can find ice here, when other parts of the road are dry, or just water.  Before you bank into this turn, look ahead to check for water - there's a good chance its actually black ice.  Tight turn + black ice = high probability of eating pavement.  Finally, travel in either direction can stop short pretty quickly - the bend and overpass can make for a blind spot, so take it slow and make sure you've got plenty of space between you and the next car.

The Islington Street Corridor 

Islington Street is a central roadway in Portsmouth, always plenty of traffic - and potholes.

Islington Street is a central roadway in Portsmouth, always plenty of traffic - and potholes.

Islington Street is a main vein of travel and commerce in Portsmouth's West End.  Home to a variety of automotive service shops, auto parts stores, industrial supply houses, breweries, cafes, banks, and more, you can expect this street to be busy most times of the year.  This time of year, the potholes are terrible!  I bottomed the front forks out on this Maxi hitting a pretty good one - at the very least this can be jarring and distracting, at worst it bungs up your front end, you lose control, and pull a Superman over your bars.  Best bet is to leave plenty of space between you and the next car, so you can see these potholes and avoid them far ahead of time.  Beyond that there can be a good amount of construction on this street, which means lots of loose sand and gravel.  Look at all that junk the trolley is kicking up!  That'll get in your eyes which is uncomfortable at least, and a safety hazard no doubt.

Market Square and Downtown Portsmouth Proper

Our lovely little historic Market Square, Portsmouth. Pedestrians are all over the place, and they're not all as sharp as you are - so stay alert!

Our lovely little historic Market Square, Portsmouth. Pedestrians are all over the place, and they're not all as sharp as you are - so stay alert!

Ah, the beautiful downtown Portsmouth.  Yes, this little city is build for mopeds and scooters for sure.  Easy parking, narrow roads, lovely sights.  Absolutely do not hesitate to go for a ride through town, but do know this can be just as dangerous as anywhere, despite slow moving traffic.  Your biggest threat:  human beings.  Tourists and locals alike (ok mostly the tourists) will take their life into their hands (without even knowing it) by pushing the limits of their rights as pedestrians.  Particularly, the folks who aren't familiar with the downtown layout will hop into a crosswalk with little notice.  Worse, some pedestrians like to cross where there isnt a crosswalk at all!  It only takes a split second for a pedestrian to pop out from between some parked cars and BAM they're in the middle of the road.  What do to?  Drive slow and stay constantly alert.  These wackos will pull bipedal maneuvers you've never even heard of, so you've got to be ready to react accordingly.  On a moped, with a wider stance from the pedals, I'll get up into the "jockey" position so I can see further ahead down the road, and make myself more visible.

Other than that, here are some general tips for riding in the late winter/early spring

General Tips

  • Gear up, layer up - it might feel warm on a 50* day in the sun, but once you get moving it may be colder than you expect. A good jacket, gloves, and eye protection are critical to keep your control hands operating nicely, and keeping your eyes tear-free.

  • Look out for ice, snow, and water - with all the melting going on, there's going to be more slick-road hazards then in the summer. Stay alert and take turns slowly.

  • Pre-ride- Start that scooter up and give it a few minutes to warm up. With cooler overnight temperatures, your engine oil will thicken up a bit so it may take that much longer to get the oil to proper viscosity to lubricate your engine effectively.

  • Post-ride After your ride, keep a hose or spray-bottle handy to rinse the salt and grit and grime of your scooter - this stuff is caustic and not only does it look nasty, but it will corrode components on your bike, causing premature wear.

  • The biker wave - You're riding down Islington and see another motorbike coming towards you in the opposing lane. You’re on a bike in February. He's on a bike in February. You're killin it. He's killin it. What better to commemorate this moment of awesomeness by extending the biker wave? Lowering your left hand, open to the oncoming rider, to the left lower side of your machine. As cool as this can be, extending a biker-only greeting to an exclusive group of motorized badasses, it can be distracting and potentially unsafe. As a rule, I tend to keep both my hands on the bars at all times, unless I'm signaling. This move, if made quickly or unexpectedly, an draw your hands away from your controls, leaving you unprepared for a sudden "Oh crap" moment. If a biker extends this greeting to you, and you wish not to diss them, try an overexaggerated head nod, perhaps in conjunction with a frowny-face nose-flared badass face (see below). Your gesture will be well received, while maintaining complete control over your ride. Hell yea.

Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead demonstrates the frowny-face, nose-flared, badass look (aka the stink face or rock out face).

Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead demonstrates the frowny-face, nose-flared, badass look (aka the stink face or rock out face).

Why Honda nailed it, yet again, with the Ruckus

Honda runs the game.  End of story.  Whether you're talking motorcycles, powersports, lawn equipment, or cars, Honda has established itself as the front-runner in reliability, performance, and quality throughout the industries.  Since its humble beginnings in the late 1940s, Honda has become the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer, and a leader in manufacture of engines and automobiles worldwide.  The success of this company is owed not only to the brilliant engineering and superior quality of its products, but also its understanding of the market and the impact this has on product design and advertising.

Take, for example, the Honda C70 Passport.  This 70cc, 3 speed semi-automatic machine broke ground in the states in the early 60s.  Honda exported these bikes on a huge scale worldwide, and accompanied the machines with the marketing campaign "You meet the nicest people on a Honda"

 

These friendly little machines appealed to a new demographic of potential motorcyclists.  At the time, your stereotypical "biker" was thought of a crusty, macho-man in a black leather jacket, raising hell while riding from bar to bar on a Harley Davidson or Indian motorcycle.  While that sounds like some kinda good time to me, the stigma associated with bikers kept potential young and casual riders away from purchasing a motorcycle.  The Passport featured an easily operated semi-automatic transmission, a full leg shield to protect riders from debris, and a number of covers and fairings that hid just about every mechanical part or system from the rider.  These novice-friendly features, along with an incredibly effective marketing campaign, and the best-in-industry reliability and performance, made the Passport an incredibly popular vehicle domestically and worldwide - ultimately becoming the best-selling motorcycle of all time.  Honda produced its 60-millionth "Super Cub" in 2008.

Whats this got to do with the Ruckus?  Well, Honda pulled a similar feat with the release of the Ruckus scooter in 2003 - a new addition to join the Metropolitan in Honda's modern 49cc scooter offerings.  While their marketing approach may have been less pronounced, the design and styling of the Ruckus went a long way to grow the popularity of that machine.  In the early 2000s, mopeds and scooters still carried, quite strongly, a stigma associated with being marginalized, diminutive, and even "girly".  This leftover sentiment from the 80s and 90s is all too familiar to a modern scooterist - having insults and perhaps even frozen beverages hurled at them from passing traffic, just for scooting around on the road.  

In the US, the Honda Ruckus entered the market and changed the way the public looked at scooters.  The Ruckus looked like no other scooter before it - it lacked the fairings common on many scooters, giving it an edgy, more mechanical aesthetic.  The scooter-sized tires feature knobby, deep tread that look more aggressive, and allow riders for short runs in rough terrain.  The dual headlights and protective wire mesh go even further to solidify the "cool factor" of the Ruckus.  All of these features made it so that anybody - frat bros, retired dads, high school kiddos, and the rest - not only felt comfortable having their friends see them on the scooter, but actually felt cool!  In our little seacoast town of Portsmouth, NH, we've seen an incredible boost in the amount of Ruckuses on the road, and coming through the shop for service, and we have a feeling they'll be continuing with solid sales success for years to come.

Why so much talk about a scooter that we don't even carry?  I guess we're just huge fans of Honda motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters.  You can take it from me - if you've got the budget, there is no better option for your modern scooterist than a Honda machine.  Port City Mopeds does carry a wide variety of new and use scooters - from used Honda Ruckuses and Metropolitans, to restored Tomos Sprint mopeds, to no-name brand Chinese scooters.  We love em all and they all have their place in today's moped/scooter market.  Check out our stock at www.portsmouthmopeds.com/shop

Tomos Comeback?

The Tomos Sprint - favored for its classic moped styling - was Tomos USA's base model and standard offering until imports ceased in 2013

The Tomos Sprint - favored for its classic moped styling - was Tomos USA's base model and standard offering until imports ceased in 2013

New Tomos mopeds have been all but exctinct in the USA in the 2010s.  Tomos, a Slovenian moped manufacturer, had been producing its industry standard moped line at its original facility in Koper, Slovenia, since the 1950s until 2013.  In 2013 Tomos USA, the American importer of Tomos mopeds, informed its dealers that Tomos Slovenia would be moving its production facility to Turkey - only months later to announce it had reversed this move and would be moving production back to Slovenia!  The decision to change production facilities - likely an effort to reduce production costs to remain competitive with cheaper Chinese scooters - was a controversial and potentially fatal blow to the US's supply of Tomos mopeds.  The "hiccup" in production during this transitional phase likely caused Tomos Slovenia to halt exports to the US - a relatively small market compared to Europe and Asia - until it had a chance to regroup and return to full production.  In the meantime, American dealers and consumers have been anxiously waiting for the return of their favored moped brand.

 Port City Mopeds - Portsmouth, New Hampshire's dealer for Tomos USA - is pleased to announce it will be working to release a limited edition production run of modern Tomos mopeds in the Spring of 2016.  Port City Mopeds, a dedicated repair and service center for vintage and contemporary mopeds, is making efforts to work with the Tomos mopeds to have input on styling, standard equipment, and pricing.  The latest plans have had a focus on compatibility with aftermarket and performance parts, along with powdercoated components with vibrant color options.  

Port City Mopeds anticipates the production run will consist of less than 10 mopeds, and plans to have them available for sale by Spring 2016.  Pricing is expected to be "on par" with MSRP rates of the latest 2013 imports.  Keep an eye on the Moped Times, and Port City Mopeds' sales page for more information on this exciting release.

The Tomos Standard XL 25 is part of Tomos Slovenia's diverse product line, and still available for sale in Europe

The Tomos Standard XL 25 is part of Tomos Slovenia's diverse product line, and still available for sale in Europe