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Scooter tweaks for winter riding (part 2)

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This is part 2 of scooter tweaks for winter riding. In the first part, I picked a scooter and began to prep it for serious winter riding in Michigan.

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With the heated grips, neoprene muffs and slightly more wind protection, I was progressing towards building the perfect winter riding machine. There was one more thing that I could do to improve every aspect of riding the Aprilia in winter weather. I had never considered a winter scooter tire, but it became clear that that would be the last big step. I sourced a bargain set of spare wheels from eBay and a set of winter tires from Racing Planet USA. They were not cheap, but I did get a small discount through a winter tire sale. I justified this purchase with the additional safety that these tires will likely provide. They will most likely last several seasons, and will allow me to ride in the deep cold and sometimes slushy conditions that the "good days" will provide in SE Michigan this winter.

When the tires arrived from Europe, I scheduled a bargain fitting session at Blackbeard Powersports and the next day I had the wheels and tires mounted up. The tech appreciated my painters tape directional arrows on the wheels because like many scooter tires, these were directional. By now it was middle November and I had to hustle to get everything together.

One cold Saturday morning, I cleared a workspace in my freezing garage and swapped out the old wheels and tires for the new. A fairly straightforward procedure, I only ran into trouble in getting the rear wheel far enough off the ground so that it would clear the driveshaft. After that, and a quick sand and re-paint of the stub end of the LeoVince exhaust (to remove rust and bubbling clear coat), I proceeded to the front. Again, I had to use creative techniques to get the front wheel high off the ground, but my old tool box (with a protective towel) got the wheel in the air. I had cleaned and lightly greased the mounting surfaces (driveshaft and front axle) and made good use of anti-seize paste where it was called for. The new wheels went on quickly and I replaced the brake calipers over the discs and the exhaust with a hastily repaired gasket. It was finally all together, and I gave everything a final torque check and fired the scooter up on the stand. The brakes worked and the wheels and tires looked fantastic. I checked and slightly lowered the tire pressure to spec and off I went.

Immediately after the new tire and wheel installation, I hit the street. I put over 40 miles on the new tires that day, and by now I’m close to the 100 mile mark where the new tires are worn enough to offer maximum traction. The Heidenau tires provide massive grip compared to the old (2006, Sava, to be replaced) stock tires, especially in the cold, wet conditions that we’ve been experiencing. They are also very round, as they were fine even though my dealer can’t balance scooter wheels with such a small diameter center hole. Even unbalanced, the quality of the Heidenaus is apparent. They track smoothly and although I have the bar ends, seem to feel softer and “squishier.” This is due, I’d imagine, to the unique softer high silica-content mix used in the premium winter tires. They do slow down the handling a bit, but for questionable riding conditions, that's OK.

I won’t be riding in the snow or ice, as tires can only do so much, but the “Snowtex” Heidenau tires should see me through this winter scooting as much as possible. Here’s a fun fact - in Germany since 2010, both cars and PTWs (powered two-wheelers) MUST have winter tires fitted to them from October until May. It poses a financial challenge for sure, but offers an exceeding value in winter weather scooting performance and safety. All I know is that they feel great, and the black wheels that I got from eBay really seem to set off the huge-looking Heidenaus.

I also added a bottle of Ride-On Tire Protection System fluid, that should help balance the tires and provide some protection against punctures. The already high quality and smooth ride of the tires seemed slightly improved with the addition of the Ride-On. Installation was a snap, as I got the Motorscooter and Mopeds kind of Ride-On that is specified for vehicles that have a cruising speed of less than 60 miles per hour. The Aprilia, as fun and quick as it is, will never see 60, and that’s OK with me. The fluid flowed very smoothly into the tires once I had removed the Schrader values (with the supplied tool.) The bottle has graduations that read both right-side up and upside down, which is a fantastic idea.

So I had installed Oxford Hot Hands, the Tucano Urbano muffs (requiring some bar ends to be installed) and tweaked the angle of my windscreen. Then came the tires, wheels and Rideo-On and I was almost set.

When you are riding in cold temperatures, any weakness in your gear will be readily apparent as an icy jet of air hits your skin directly, or will show you where your gear has a single layer or opening to the outside. The final touch for the Winter Warrior was transferring my Alaska Leather “Buttpad” over to the Aprilia. Now, not only will my hands be warm, but the other end will be warmer, at least when compared to jumping on a below freezing seat in a cold garage in the middle of winter.

I’ll soon be heading out to challenge our early winter weather on the Winter Warrior.

What’s next: The frenzy of ending the riding season

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