Battle Damage

17 November, 2005 Temperature: 8 degrees F

I’ve got to take a moment here to tell you that I am really impressed with this Baron 150SX scooter. That little motor pushes us along at an honest 60 mph whenever asked, and it starts right up every time. Yesterday, when I went to leave work, I found that the battery had expired while sitting out in the cold all day. This was no surprise, because it wasn’t designed for these conditions. This also let me test the kickstart and magneto to see if they would get the job done in an emergency. Three kicks later, that little motor was purring like a kitten. I turned on the lights, and they worked at their usual intensity. Letting it run for a couple minutes while I put on the rest of my gear, I turned on the vest while watching the lights and there was no change in brightness. We had an uneventful ride home, on roads that were mostly clear of snow and ice.

Viewing the weather report on the news this morning, I thought, “Hah! Finally some weather I can sink my chattering teeth into.” It gets down into the single digits quite often during a Minnesota winter, so this is where the test truly begins.

I had plugged the Battery Tender into the Aerostich wiring harness, and it charged the battery overnight. The Baron started right up on electric, and this time settled into a steady idle. I added the white silk scarf to my wardrobe this morning, to seal my neck against the cold wind. Takeoff time: 0625 hrs

The roads this morning were clear and dry. The scoot was running flawlessly, my riding gear was keeping me warm, and I was really enjoying myself. On the 50 mph portion of Shephard Road, I tucked in behind a huge car-hauler semi truck, and settled into his draft up the long hill. Oh you silly, happy boy…

I was looking at a Mercury Marauder sitting on the back of the truck when, BANG!!! -we hit the Big Bump. I thought at first that we had blown a tire. But the scooter remained stable and smooth. Then I reached behind me and felt for the trunk. Nothing there. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw that somebody had set up a yard sale in the middle of Shephard Road. Oh no. That was my stuff scattering in the wind and traffic. Lots of loose papers, all of my notes and worksheets from a semester of school were rapidly dispersing into the chaotic darkness.

So I took the next turn-around and headed back to the scene. Parking the scooter on the median strip, I stopped to survey the damage. The plastic trunk had shattered from the impact of that harsh jolt over the bump. Cars were whizzing by just a few feet away on both sides. During a small gap in traffic, I ran out into the road and retrieved the bigger pieces of the shattered trunk, my school textbook, a few other pieces of paper, a quart of oil, some spare gloves, and a bungee cord. Then the next group of cars were upon us and I had to jump back up on the median. The remainder of my papers were quickly blowing out of reach, so I plugged the vest back in and continued my journey to work.

Failure Analysis…

The rest of the ride went smoothly, but I kept thinking how stupid I had been to load so much stuff into that trunk. Part of my job at Banner Engineering is to know the properties of plastics. That trunk is rigidly mounted to the luggage rack on the scooter, and is made of a stiff, rather brittle plastic. The design looks plenty adequate for a lifetime of use in a moderate climate. But it wasn’t designed to take an impact under heavy load at single digit temperatures.

The other mistake I made was having too much fun. My concentration lapsed for a few moments as I looked at the back of that truck, instead of watching the road surface in front of me. I know that bump, I have steered around it many times. But this time I wasn’t paying attention.

I have spoken to Lev, and he says he can get me another trunk. Before he does, however, I am going to design and build a shock mount for it. This is NOT going to happen again.

So now I wonder what I am going to tell my instructor at school. Will he believe this improbable tale? It sure beats the old “dog ate my homework” story.

10 Responses to “Battle Damage”

  1. BC Don Says:

    Ah yes, the “it was so cold it . . . ” excuse. I’m assuming that you park your scoot in a garage. I konw that with my attached garage it doesn’t get much below freezing (well it drops a bit when it is -40 out there). But, what I find interesting is when we get the -30 to -40 weather and the vehicle is parked overnight outside is “square tires”. I’ve never tried to ride a scoot of any size in that weather but I know that a parked cage will have the rubber tires go pretty well solid and the tires retain their shape for a few miles which results in a real bumpy ride (and the shocks aren’t working for awhile either cause they are frozen up).

  2. Dan Says:

    Carrying stuff is alwaws a challenge on scooters. I mounted a milk crate to my Riva’s accessory luggage rack with a sturdy plywood base cut to fit. Inside that,I have a backpack with lots of zipper pockets, which is quite waterproof. I can carry two bags of groceries in there, and a 12 pack fits perfectly.I have used this arrangement for several years and haven’t lost a thing yet. I inspect it from time to time for cracks or loose mounts. Go steal a milk crate from the local grocer, they are tough and take anything you can fit in them. I use a padlock to make sure stuff is still there when I get out of work. Try to keep warm! Dan

  3. mnscooter Says:

    Hello Don,

    I’m not sure what to make of this. I wasn’t making any excuses, just noting the conditions I was riding in versus the parameters in which these scooters are designed to operate. Of course, had it been a vintage, all-metal scooter, this probably wouldn’t have happened. But that is one of the reasons I am doing this, to find out where the edges of the envelope are with these modern machines.

    I don’t have the luxury of an attached garage. My garage is detached, so the temperature in there gets down to whatever the ambient temperature is outside. Your point about tires is valid, but the place where the Big Bump lives is about 4 miles from my home. This means that the tires had gotten up to whatever temperature they would operate at for the duration of my ride. The adjustable suspension on my Baron is set full soft, because of the added stiffness in cold weather.

    Part of what this project is about is product development and validation. I am not trying to prove anything regarding my particular talent or prowess. That was established long ago, and I do know my own limitations. I am simply trying to find out what works, and what doesn’t, so that other riders can extend their riding season beyond their current personal limits by using the technology available.

    My sponsors understand this, and I’d like to think they are thankful that I am out there gathering data to help them make their products better.

    Thanks for writing, and…

    Ride well,

  4. gust jenson Says:

    Hi Gary: First ye be a better man than me. I generally put on 4-5000 miles November thru March, here in invigorating Wisconsin, but so far my lower limit has been +5 f and only after streets are plowed. Also on 3 wheels (a sidecar rig), I can’t fall down slipping and sliding about on lakes keeps one young, or is it juvenile .

    We have the same ‘lectric vest and w/o a thermostat I found myself, as you did, switching it off and on. Same with Velcro on heated hand grips from “Stitch”. My solution was the solid state thermostat and a “Y” connection (all from Riders Warehouse), too so can have vest and grips on at same time and control heat. Works for me. Also to take care of my, not so inconsiderable posterior (said sadly) I sit on sheep skin/fleece.

    Have thought about getting a “lap robe” which is frequently used by some motorcycle patrolmen, but have not found a good source yet. A neighbor of ours, one Sheldon Aubot (Houlton, WI) has a pattern and one of these days I may borrow it and make an attempt to make one. Of course, that may be something Andy might wish to add to his wares (Hint, hint.). Sheldon does not need such protection as with Eskimo linage he rides in a t-shirt in ridiculous temperatures. Have pictures of us playing with his 2wd Ural in deep snow, he dressed for summer, me bundled, head to toe.

    Any way have a blast and I will be looking forward to reading of your experiences as well as additional winter riding ideas and tips from the experience you acquire.

    Gust, in invigorating Wisconsin

    Never met a person I couldn’t learn from.

    83, 920 Virago,Hackd’, Friendship 2

    95, 750 Virago,Hackd’, CR

    95, 1100 Virago,Hackd’ Motorvation Formula

  5. Marty Laplant Says:

    I left you a reply on your first page about snow tires.

  6. nate Says:

    The big bump- It’s a lot Bigger going in the opposite direction on Shepard. I have yet to determine if falling into that crater at 50 mph (and leaving your stomach in your throat ) is scarily life threatening, or incredibly enjoyable. You usually don’t have much time to think about it, because you hit the upside of that depression a split second later (and return your stomach to where it was originally.)

  7. mnscooter Says:

    Ahhh, I think you are talking about the Big Dip. Heh heh…

    The BB is farther west from the BD. It is a right proper frost heave that they didn’t repair correctly, and when I hit it at 50 on the Baron, we got airborne.

    That road does need some serious work, but I would hate to see them close it for any length of time. Hey Nate, check your email. We should get together Sunday for that GPS thing.


  8. dhuett Says:

    Keep up the updates, good job. I ride 40+ miles one way each day to work. 24 deg. yesterday morn, 22 deg. this morning in the Arkansas Ozarks. Diff. is I ride a Wing. Keep the rubber down! Thanks

  9. mnscooter Says:

    Wow, the Wing is a heavy beast, with a lot of inertia when traction is sketchy. Do you have a lot of ice to deal with on the roads there?


  10. mnscooter Says:

    This message is for Dan, who suggested the milk crate idea. You were right on the money, Dan! The new trunk that Baron provided me has cracked, despite my meticulously designed shock mounts. It was 5 degrees F this morning, and I went for a 10-mile ride around the neighborhood, just for fun. Crossing the railroad tracks down near the stockyards in South St. Paul, I heard a CRACK! -and immediately knew what it was. The trunk was empty, but mounted way out back there, it bounces around like kids on the back of a school bus. So I took it off, and will use bungee cords until I can obtain a milk crate for carrying stuff.

    This will make more room for “Winter Scooter Commuter Project” signage, anyway. Thanks for the idea, Dan.

    Ride well,

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