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Scooter tweaks for winter riding (part 1)

Although with a new job I’ve lost my wonderful commute to downtown Detroit, I still enjoy a daily ride. Whether it’s to pick up some shopping, deliver dry cleaning, heading out for some Chinese, Thai or Indian food for the family. I love riding, even if it’s for a five-minute trip. I also enjoy riding in less-that-optimal weather, and Michigan is perfect for that. I ride in the rain and convince myself that it’s perfectly acceptable to do so. I compare myself to the Mods in 1960’s London, as if they didn’t ride in the rain, then they would have hardly ridden at all! I also enjoy the challenge of winter riding, hitting the snow and ice-free streets of Detroit at low temps of 15 degrees these past few years. Under 15, it’s almost impossible to keep one’s visor from icing up (on the inside), so I try to avoid that.

Here's the Winter Warrior in all it's glory. Bring on the cold weather!
Here's the Winter Warrior in all it's glory. Bring on the cold weather!Detroit Scooter Examiner
The Winter Warrior, ready to ride!
The Winter Warrior, ready to ride!Detroit Scooter Examiner

When done the right way, a scooter ride in chilly to cold weather is a blast. People, cold even in their cars, look and shake their heads in amazement. It’s really a treat. The challenge is making it as comfortable as possible. When you are comfortable, you ride safer. Riding in cold weather shouldn’t be a penalty. I set out this year to make one scooter into my winter ride. The “Winter Warrior.”

The Scoot -
I picked my 2007 Aprilia SR 50 as the winter scooter. I had good luck in starting and running this fantastic small, 50cc scoot last winter. Since I no longer commute to downtown Detroit, my scooter use has changed. I run errands, go shopping and take a few medium length fun rides now and that’s about it. Although I still have the Genuine Blur, the Aprilia SR 50 runs quick for a 50cc, is very light, and handles and brakes like a dream. I don't need the speed of the Blur for shorter winter runs. The fact that the Aprilia is water cooled also appealed to me and I hope to find a way to harvest the heat from the radiator to make the ride even better. I picked a nice warm afternoon in October to start the transformation.

Small Mods -
Heated grips are a must for the Michigan winter rider and an easy upgrade for the scooter owner. I had already fitted the wiring (from the switch to the battery and handlebars) for Oxford Hot Hands to the Aprilia last year, so I began the Winter Warrior transformation by reinstalling the grip covers. Recall that the Oxford Hot Hands simply wrap around the grip and use a grip-strip type of closure and a foam rubber backing to grab the grip. The wires that I had run last year were in place, so after simply plugging them into each grip, I flipped the switch (that I left affixed to the center of the headset) and the heat began at once. The Hot Hands have no thermostat, so I have to turn it on and off, which is good because since I wired the grips directly to the battery, they will work with the scooter off (and drain the battery) quickly. Having hot hands is a reminder to turn the grips off a bit of a distance from your destination in order to allow a little charging to go on before you shut it down.

A perfect companion to the heated grips are my eBay Tucano Urbano muffs. As used last year on the Honda Reflex, they not only do a great job at holding the warmth from the grips, but provide easy access to controls and stay open when you need to open or close a visor or make a kindly gesture to your fellow-road sharer. One problem - the Aprilia didn’t have the bar ends that the Honda did (and the version of the muffs that I bought had.)

Bar ends are the metal extensions found at the end of the handlebar. Mostly found on larger scoots and bikes they serve to cancel out a specific harmonic vibration and the result is a better, more stable feel through the bars at certain speeds. I ordered a set of fairly lightweight bar ends for the Aprilia from an Asian vendor on eBay, and sure enough, 25 days later they arrived. That day, I headed out to the garage and quickly mounted them up. They fit perfectly and provided a little sparkle on the ends of the grips. I quickly stuck the muffs over them and verified that they fit well.

To finish up the small tweaks, I put a small amount of additional rake on my second hand Puig “sport” windscreen on the Aprilia. Wind is the enemy during winter riding, but since this scoot is not a highway cruiser, there isn’t a need to go with a barn door-sized windscreen.

There was one more thing that I could do to improve not only the safety of riding in the winter, but for the comfort and confidence of the rider as well. And that’s next.

What’s next: A must for a Winter Warrior scooter