Sunday, September 03, 2006

Scooter input please?

Thus is the destiny of an instructor's bike. Doomed to spend weekends parked just out of reach of the action. Wishing, but not going anywhere. At least I parked Sophie nearest the shed and farther away from the dumpster. Last year I taught 33 classes. Not to mention the updates and instructor training weekends. That's a lot of time for a bike to sit patiently waiting on a weekend when it could be out carving twisties. Well, at least a commuter's bike gets action during the week!

I taught a beginner's class last weekend. As in most beginner programs we supply training bikes. If a student wants to use their own bike they are welcome to. The restriction is that it must be mechanically safe and be under 300 cc's. Last weekend one of my students took the class on a borrowed scooter. She has a scooter of her own. Being a Honda Silverwing 600, it's too large for our class. Besides, she had recently crashed it in a parking lot. Makes it kind of tough to ride with crash damage, you know. Somehow she talked her daughter-in-law into letting her use the small scooter for the class.

The scooter was a TNG Milano model with a displacement of 150 cc. Very pretty yellow color and whisper quiet. The thing surprised me with its sophistication. As an example, the headlight could be switched to a position where it would not illuminate until a certain rpm was reached. I was glad to see that in a class because a lot of idling with a lit headlight can drain a battery fairly quickly. Four way flashers were included. I wish some of my bikes had that feature!

You have to hand it to the student. After crashing her Silverwing she was ready to jump back into riding. This time she decided to get a little better start and take some training. I don't get many scooters in classes but the trend is growing. If a student's going to ride a scooter it's better to take training on what they're going to ride. We have a class where students can use their own bikes and not be restricted to the 300 cc limit.

Having scooters in a class presents more of a challenge to an instructor. The majority of us are motorcycle riders and have limited experience with scooters. Most of the principles apply either way. Scooters, however, have their own unique responses and characteristics. In addition, some exercises, like shifting, don't apply directly. I try to find other things for the scooter rider to work on during these exercises. Things like head turns and being smooth. Lack of smoothness seems to be one of the most common traits of new riders whatever they ride. The exercise may not apply directly, but they get seat time.

What I'm asking you all to share with me are tips on how a scooter rider can be more successful in slow speed manuevers. For example, we have an offset cone weave and a sharp 90 degree corner that we run. My student was having difficulties with the throttle. At low speeds there's more torque so the throttle is more like an "on/off" function. She'd end up with too much speed. There also seems to be more of a problem getting a small scooter to roll on its axis. The small diameter tires don't help much, either.

Normally I would coach a student to slip the clutch and use the "friction zone" to control the speed. By using the clutch a rider can keep steady throttle. In some cases I will tell a student to sort of ride the rear brake as a rudder. I coached my scooter rider to ride the rear brake which was on the left handlebar. She still needed to be able to control speed with the throttle as there is no clutch. I also told her to start her turns earlier. I'm not sure if it was my coaching or her lack of ability but my rider really struggled.

Care to share tips on low speed control and making these kinds of turns? Especially those required for the offset cone weave? For your information, the cones are about twenty feet apart and offset from each other about three feet. It's a fairly tight pattern. I appreciate the feedback. As we see more scooters I'd like to be more effective in my instructional skills!

Miles and smiles,



Anonymous said...

1. Rev the motor just enough to keep the clutch engaged. Mine comes on board at about 2300 RPM.
2. Do not allow the revs to drop, or the clutch will disengage, giving a "lurch" when you apply throttle again.
3. Use the rear brake to control speed and impart some stability. Doesn't matter if the brakes are linked or not, still works great. 3. COUNTERSTEER, big-time!

A good way to practice is to put out two cones, pretty far from each-other, and do figure-8's until you master it, occasionally moving the cones closer together. Dan, I would strongly suggest you find a scooter you can borrow to practice on so you know first-hand what you are dealing with. I have been on motorcycles 30 years and last year decided to try a maxi-scooter. I can tell you, it's a totally different experience!

irondad said...

Since you didn't leave your name I will call you Scooter Guru!

Thanks for the input. You're absolutely right in that I should find one to practice with. That way I would know first hand. I realize there's a big difference in a scooter in certain situations.

I'm also going to work on training other instructors in the unique art of scootering!


Steve Williams said...

Dan: I agree with the Scooter Guru. Low speed scooter handling is trickier because of the lack of a friction zone you have with a manual transmission and clutch. When I started riding I noticed how unstable the scooter felt at slow speeds, especially turning.

I practiced very slow figure eights and also I practiced slow forward motion---almost trying to balance at a near stop and ever so slightly moving forward. Slow race stuff. Once I found I was comfortable balancing the scooter and gained a soft touch on the throttle so that I could engage the drive belt without racing away everything got easy at slow speeds.

Balance and a soft touch on the throttle would be a good thing to have your scooter riders practice while everyone else is learning how to use the clutch.