Category Archives: motorbikes

Scooter experience

I’ve ridden a 600/650cc motorcycle for around 4 or 5 years now, and have only ever used manual gears, even right from the start. I wondered if I was missing something by not having tried an automatic and was starting to consider buying something cheap as a second two-wheeler.

This of course was daft without having tried one, so I recently took the opportunity on holiday in Spain to hire a scooter. It was pretty hot so I wasn’t particularly keen on the All The Gear All The Time approach that I favoured in the UK so I decided to go for a 50cc so I wasn’t tempted to cane it. In the EU, I believe these must be limited to 45 kph, which is around 28 mph. You can reach that on a pushbike!

I’m pretty sure the scooter I hired was a Motobi Jump, which is some Chinese junk. Did the job for a tester though.


Compared to the motorbikes I’ve ridden, the scooter had much smaller wheels. This means bumps are much more easily felt, and there is less gyroscopic resistance to turning them when moving.
It also felt like the rake and consequently the trail were less, which felt much more unstable (but also more manoeuvrable). Getting on it for the first time, I wondered how I was ever going to stay on the thing! It got easier once I got moving though…

Automatic transmission

The scooter had CVT instead of manual gears, AKA twist-and-go. There is a centrifugal clutch that only engages once the revs get up a bit, and though I knew it would have one, it was a bit odd at first. I’m used to gentle throttle control on my bike, as wanging it wide open will just get you thrown off the back. With manual gears there is a much more direct response in terms of movement, but with CVT there seems to be a bit of lag.
Treating the scooter gently was pointless. The low-power engine meant there was no need to baby it, and you could literally use the throttle as an on-off switch. Once you were moving, the throttle was a little more useful, but the minimal engine braking did diminish the feeling of a connection between throttle position and acceleration. It made for a smooth but unengaging ride.
This low power also meant lugging my 13 stone frame up a hill was a bit of a struggle. One time I was actually overtaken by a child on a mountain bike!

Seating position

It was like sitting on a toilet. Admittedly, this particular scooter was probably too small for me, but being able to put my knees together and not having anything to brace myself against only added to the feeling of instability.


Contrary to a motorbike, on its own, the rear brake felt the more powerful of the two. Which was surprising as the front was a disc and the rear a drum. They were better used in combination though, probably as putting the rear brake on compressed the front suspension a bit.


Now this is where it shone. Under the seat there was enough room for the legal paperwork you need to carry in Spain, a helmet and probably some other stuff too, but I didn’t test that as it also had a small topbox attached. Made it great for going shopping, and wearing minimal gear meant I could just get the helmet out from underneath the seat and go.
For comparison, I would struggle to get a packed pencilcase under the seat on my Versys.

Fuel economy

Another astounding feature of this scooter was how it sipped fuel. You were supposed to return it with a full tank, so I went to top it off and only managed to get 1.08 worth of fuel in. This was definitely less than a litre of fuel, and realistically, I could have gotten away with not bothering. I got some very funny looks at the petrol station…


I would definitely not buy a 50cc anything. I might consider a 125cc or larger scooter, but only as an addition to a proper motorbike. I can see their value as commuting tools in an urban environment, but they are a means to an end. I would like to try one with a larger engine and longer wheelbase i.e. a maxi-scooter, but I suspect it will be more of the same, just more suited to longer distances and higher speeds.

Long trip on a 2007 Kawasaki Versys

I mostly use my current motorbike, a 2007 Kawasaki Versys, for commuting to and from work. This is only a few miles at 30mph, with lots of filtering so the Versys is somewhat overkill. Recently I had occasion to visit Leicester which gave me a good opportunity to assess its capabilities as a touring machine before I go and actually do any. Hopefully this won’t read too much as stream of consciousness.

The journey was about 300 miles spread over two days, mostly motorway, and I enjoyed the journey more than I would have done in a car. I’m not keen on driving since getting a bike as it feels cramped, visibility is worse, and you get stuck in traffic jams.

What worked

  • The Givi V35 hard panniers that were on the bike when I bought it were great. I don’t use them much as they hinder filtering, but they were ideal for this. Even though they were unevenly loaded (chain in one side), handling wasn’t affected but acceleration was a little reduced. No concerns about them coming off at speed either. The only water that got in (it rained on the way) was when I opened them. I bought the pannier-specific Givi V35 bags from eBay a while back as the side-opening aspect of the V35 panniers is a bit of a pain i.e. stuff falls out when you open them, but the bags made them much easier to use. As they are purpose-designed to fit the boxes, there’s barely room to fit anything around them if they are full, which is kind of the point, that they utilise the whole space. This meant that the bag in the side with the chain in was squashed. A centrally mounted bag would be best for the chain because of the weight, and as I already have a Kappa RA308 tanklock bag on the tank, a tailpack was the obvious solution. Upon my return, a QBag Dakar Rearbag was ordered from Sportsbikeshop.
  • Fuel consumption was spectacularly good. I’d always heard the Versys was capable of high mpg figures but to actually get near them was pleasing. My usual figure around town is approx. 37 mpg (Imperial). I filled up at the start of my journey and again before my return, putting the figures into my spreadsheet, which gave the spectacular 61 mpg for that leg. The return figure was 55mpg, though I didn’t fill up until after one commute. Bear in mind I was not riding particularly sedately, and had the luggage on which would likely increase drag.
  • The Held Air N Dry gloves kept my hands completely dry the whole trip. On the return journey when it was dry, I found them actually slightly too chilly when used in the vented configuration. Heated grips would have helped here, but see below…
  • I used earplugs and they reduced the fatigue from wind noise greatly. Thinking about it, when I used to drive the MX-5 with the top down on the motorway wearing them, they also helped then. Not just for bikes! I used foam rather than reusable as the stalks on the latter tend to catch on the helmet lining. I’m seriously considering buying a bike-specific pair with minimal stalks as they made that much of a difference.

What didn’t work so well

  • My heated grips are well past their best; they’ve worn down so much that the heating element is visible on one side and the rubber is leaving a residue on my glove. Consequently, I was wary of turning them on. A replacement set have been ordered.
    On the way back, I found the vibration of the bars was making my hand go numb, possibly from holding the throttle in the same position for so long, or too tightly. I’ve ordered the Gear Gremlin Cruise Control to use for long journeys in an attempt to alleviate this happening again. The Cruise Control is a clamp-on palm lever so you don’t need to grip the throttle for long distances, that generally receives rave reviews considering it only costs £6.
  • My navigational skills were not up to scratch. I tried to do it from memory, but ended up around 15 miles off course. I’m going to think about some kind of bike satnav or phone holder, but previous experience with helmet-based bluetooth satnav left a lot to be desired.
  • My Givi D405ST touring screen appears to direct wind straight onto my helmet, as ducking down reduces wind noise massively. Might be worthwhile playing with different heights to see if it makes any difference to the wind noise, or looking at alternative screens with a spoiler/lip to tip the airflow up.
  • My RST Slice textiles were adequate, but are definitely not 100% waterproof. They are also exceptionally sweaty! They were however surprisingly warm at motorway speeds without added insulation. Goretex replacements needed…
  • The Versys seat is OK for a while. It seems to be tilted forward so you slide off the cushioned part; you can wedge yourself back with your knees but it’s an unnatural position. Short of modifying or replacing the seat, there are mods mentioned on that I’m going to try.
  • Tutoro chain oiler was set too open, so it had dumped all the oil within the first twenty miles of the journey. Considering their automatic version so I don’t need to keep turning it on and off and risking getting the wrong setting.

Overall, I was very pleased with the bike for long journeys, and would certainly use it for a multi-day tour.