Sunday, August 1, 2010

Looking at Wheels

Yesterday I looked at wheels of various sorts. Last weekend RuthAnne and I took the Basic Rider Course from Training Wheels in Plympton and passed the exam to get our motorcycle licenses. I've wanted to know how to ride - and be able to do so legally - since my long trip to India in 2007, when it became clear that a 2-wheeler would have been the ideal way for me to get around. More recently, my daily commute to Burlington by bus has been getting me down; it takes an extra hour out of my day to go by bus than by car, yet I don't want to do all that driving, so I've been thinking a high-MPG 2-wheeler would be a good choice.

So - I stopped first at Boston Motor Sports in Arlington and looked at scooters. They carry scooters from (among others) Kymco and Suzuki. I was especially interested in the new Kymco Downtown 300i, but it's unfortunately not going to be available until the fall. It looks like a sweet vehicle; 60MPG, top speed of about 80MPH, large wheels (for a scooter), lightweight, FUN. While there, I looked at the Kymco People S 250, a similar scooter; it looked pretty good. I also checked out a used 2008 Aprilia 250 with 3000 miles, for $3200, including rear box.

I unfortunately couldn't ride anything; Boston Motor Sports (not unreasonably) requires a full license for test drives, not just a permit, and I'm still waiting for mine to come in the mail. After leering at metal for a while, I wandered upstairs to their gear department and checked out, helmets, gloves, jackets and such. One of the sales guys was particularly helpful, and I tried on a lot of stuff.

A helmet is a completely indispensible piece of safety gear, and I tried on helmets from Shoei and Arai. The Arai Vector medium fit me particularly well; it's about $450. I checked on the Internet (of course), and that's a very reasonably price for that helmet. I did price checks on everything I looked at at Boston Motor Sports, and they alway came in just a little over the best Internet prices. So I'll be buying locally!

For gloves, the Power Trip Grand National medium fit well and felt comfortable; $45/pair. For jackets, there were several that seemed pretty reasonable, costing between $250 and $450 for a complete system (outer shell with protective inserts, removable inner insulation layers). Chaps or other overpants seem like a wise idea, and boots wouldn't hurt, either. So I could be looking at about $1000 worth of protective gear before I even get a machine...

I left Arlington and went out to Framingham to look at a Sym Citycom 300 at Metrowest Scooters. They were a bit more laid back about the license requirement, and I got to take the citycom out for a spin. I was a bit disappointed with the acceleration; there's clearly a big performance difference between motorcycles and scooters with similar engine sizes. But the scoot handled bumps smoothly and was, of course, insanely easy to operate.

Finally, for something completely different, I stopped at Ace Wheelworks ( a few blocks from home) and took out a Trek Allant for a test ride. It was really fun being back on a bicycle, and this one is even pretty affordable. The 20" frame was right for me, and I had no trouble (aside from my terrible out-of-shapedness) gtting it up hills and stopped on the way down.

I'm sure I won't be making any purchase real soon, but it was fun to look.

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