Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scooter Tale

It's a cruel economy, and this pedestrian is in a pecuniary nose dive. My last car got hauled to recycling glory a couple years ago, and ever since, each day has been visited with dreams of transportation less depressing than a city bus. So I've been exploring some options of the two wheeled kind.

Sure it all looks easy, breezy and cute. A nice looking guy or gal zipping down Penn Avenue on a mod looking Vespa or Honda motor scooter. Looks like a charming little way to get around. Well, there's a grim subset of factors that may determine just how easy, just how breezy one of those motor vehicles truly is. I'm working on the problem, right now, having bought one of the very dirt cheapest imported bikes available by mail order.

" Why doesn't he join a support group and leave hard, greasy, hairy chested work to people who are playing with a full deck?" a burly biker might interject. That is how an experienced motorcycle personage may well respond. "Why should I care what a misguided novice learns from his own poor judgement?" some heartless, illiterate gear head might add. But for people who value the process more so than the outcome, my experience buying a motorscooter off the Internet has been a newsworthy farrago of steel parts and poor communications.

I know you will like hearing that it took over two months to assemble the 50cc scooter, and I could have done it in eight hours if the instructions had been written by someone both familiar with the bike and fluent in English. To further the insult, a sane engine mechanic can put the things together in one hour. If you're planning on doing something theraputic, don't get a cheap-o ride mail order.

Like trying to find your ass in the dark. Unless the project is a total failure, there is a moment of clarity when, like in Come Back Little Sheba, a big gluteus comes bounding over the horrizon. I got the scooter to work, but arrived at it worse for wear. It was mostly the abysmal instuctions. Here are some of the things that went terribly wrong.

I hadn't planned on breaking some dainty cuticles removing it from the package it came in. The thing weighs more than I do. It's jangling, greasy parts were bolted to a steel frame inside a cardboard box as thick, tough and cheerful as a brig in the Somolian Navy. While the thing was delivered nice enough by truck to my dystopian hovel, there was no way possible to get it up the two flights of concrete steps between it and the front door. Don't mind that it had been raining all day, so there was no good option of putting it together road side. The best kind of muscular pain was in the works, but first I had to chew through the box and unbolt a metal fixture. Once that ordeal, pain of a thousand stubby bolts, was complete, I had to drag the heavy parts up the steps, to the kitchen, which is the only room in the house that's suitable. Note that no one comes here for dinner. The heavy lifing act was well in the hernia/heart attack zone. Soon false hope arrived when I managed to get the front wheel on.

What happened next caused me to think that it's clutch lever was some sort of Flying Dutchman, or else someone in the Smiling Happy Communist Motorcycle Factory #6 forgot to put one in the package. It said in the instructions that it had one. It doesn't. The wispy motorcylcle was manuactured in China, and has no brand name. It's a generic imported bike. The political prisoner who wrote the instructions seemed to wish the thing had a clutch lever, or he hates Americans, and is laughing at the thought of guys like me taking it the hard way. It took over a week to acertain that it has some sort of hybrid clutch, not quite an automatic, but made for people with miminal riding skill. This was worse than The Manchurian Candidate for the way it disolved ordinary cognition.

The battery was scary because you have to pour a sinister plastic package, like a cross between a bladder implant and a part of the space shuttle, into six or eight matching holes, all eager as puppies for a nice drink of sulfuric acid. There was no way of knowing exaclty how to do it without getting third degree burns, suffice I got through that part, but then came the next thing someone in the imported bike biz should have known. It said in the instructions that the battery had an overflow tube. It didn't, so the time spent looking for it was both frustrating and pretty as meat packing. Motorcycles are called, on the street, a 'crotch rocket,' which caused worry about an explosion.

I won't continue to cry over everything that destroyed my nerves, but by the time I got the engine running and ajusted, it was nearer to the Second Coming than hoped. I haven't learned, yet, how to ride it, that will start in a week or so, when I fully recover from stress injuries and a nervous breakdown. Shouldn't be a problem. I'm a quick study.