30 January 2010

Insuring scooters in Ireland

Insurance. In the scootering world, insurance is such a bad word that if you post up a topic on an online forum asking about it, you’re destined to get at least 2-3 pages worth of replies. The replies would be polite and sympathetic to you but with all the angst in the galaxy (comparable to Emperor Palpatine's) directed to the insurance companies/brokers.

Once, I asked about how it was possible that my CAR insurance increased by such an enormous amount when there was no apparent reason to cause such an increase. Almost immediately, two pages of replies followed containing rants and abuse about different people’s experiences with their SCOOTER insurance. Die you Rebel scum!!!

Only one nice fella vaguely answered my question.

So, if you’re like myself and looking to make some sense about this whole scooter insurance lark, DON’T. It’s just not worth it. Who’s the cheapest? Who’s the best? Just DON’T. Scooter insurance defies logic. It's as if quotes are picked out of thin air.

In my handful of years being (properly) insured on my Vespa, I’ve been with 3 different insurers (OK, insurance brokers, if you’re being picky). That’s quite bad really considering there are only 4 scooter/motorcycle insurers in the whole of the Republic of Ireland. Oh, and the only reason I didn’t go with the fourth one was because they didn’t insure riders on provisional licences (your lost Adelaide!).

I started out with AON Bikecare and because I was so desperate to legally get on my Vespa, I paid the extortionately whopping amount of €1,250 or so (comprehensive cover). Of course, I soon discovered what a Muppet I was to hand over such a large dollop of cash.

On renewal, I started looking and eventually settled on Quinn Direct who more than halved my premium but, I was left with TPFT (Third Party, Fire and Theft) only cover. I didn’t mind. The money I saved on the renewal premium from AON would have bought me another PX anyway in the off-chance anything bad might have happened.

Unlike the other 3 insurers, Quinn don’t actually specialise in scooter/motorcycle cover so, depending on who you get on the phone, you might need some extra explaining to do when you’re in touch with them.

A year passed by and the dreaded renewal notice eventually found its way into my humble abode. I was pleasantly surprised by the decrease (around €200) but was sure I could get a better deal. So, I went online. AON’s online quote system wasn’t working so I parked that crowd aside and tried Carole Nash. The quote came at almost €150 cheaper than Quinn’s. I was delighted with myself so, I thought I’d give AON another chance.

I was brought back down to Earth with a loud thud. AON quoted me €200 more than Quinn. So, not surprisingly, I signed-up to Carole Nash. The thing is, I was glad to recommend Carole Nash to friends but then, I bumped into a scooterist who had been screwed by Carole Nash and saved the same amount I did by going with Quinn instead! Hmmm...

I suppose, the morale of the story is, unlike car and home insurance, you don’t have a gazillion different insurers to choose from (and thereby safe from that annoying fat bloke singing opera on UK TV). You certainly don’t have to get half-blind looking at mountainous piles of quotes from those insurers in the middle of the night. There’s only three (and if you’re lucky four).

So, get off whatever it is you’re sitting on and pick up the phone or go online to get quotes. The most it’ll take you would be half an hour. Then if you’re really up to it, give all of them another call and pit them against each other like the scavenging hyenas that they are.

You might not save that much for your efforts but at least the money would be going towards the pair of Bitubos you’ve always wanted rather than to some fat cat insurance bloke.

28 January 2010

Bo's Egg Run 2010

It looks like the date for Dublin's traditional opener for the scootering season has been confirmed. I hope I can make this one this time around.

Errr...click on the poster above for a larger image of the poster/flyer thingy.

Thanks to Baggie at the Vespa Club of Ireland for the heads-up. It's in my diary and the wife has been duly notified!

Now, to sort out my ride and bring it up to a decent stage...

27 January 2010

The future of scooters

While there’s all this talk about LML’s new 4 stroke PX clone being the FUTURE for geared scooters, I would kindly disagree. Forget the LML, in a perfect future (assuming that it would have some gears), this would be my ride!

The JetScooter

I'd probably change the colour on it a bit and throw in a Sito Plus to give it that bit more ummpphh at the lights but other than that it's perfectly fine.

On the other hand, imagine the cost of servicing one of these suckers. Conversations with the local scooter mechanic would sound oddly familiar...

I checked the engines. The warp drive, that’s a hopeless pile of junk! And, if you push those impulse engines too hard in the condition they’re in then they’ll blow apart.

Blow-outs? Yeah, pinching the tube between your rims would be the least of your worries.

Thanks to peanuts23 for the amazing sneak preview into the future!

24 January 2010

We're back in business...

Ah, Liverpool FC. The club is a lot of things to a lot of people around the world. But to me, especially in more recent times, it's sort of like a cheap and classic 80's Hindi flick. The type that gets re-runs on Malaysian TV on lazy Sunday afternoons, back then.

Now, before you go on and lynch me for saying such a blasphemous thing against the beloved Liverpool FC, give me a chance to explain. You see, in these movies, there's always a hero. The proper hero type. Not this sort of reluctant, fancy shmansy anti-hero types you find in Hollywood movies these days. Like I said, proper hero.

I mean he'd have a 'tache to rival Tom Selleck (circa Magnum PI) and would be built like a tank. Oh, and he'd have the innocence of Forrest Gump coupled with a voice like Engelbert Humperdinck (naturally, all the mak ciks love him). Now, hero of course has sexual needs. So, he goes out and looks for a girl. Unfortunately, the girl he likes is always either:

1. Daughter of the village baddie who drives an old Merc and thinks he's the bee's knees
2. On the verge of getting engaged to a big-time, town baddie who her uncle and auntie (she's an orphan you see) think is some sort of plant manager for the local Bajaj Chetak assembly line

3. From a rival family/clan/tribe/neighbourhood that absolutely loathes hero and his family/clan/tribe/neighbourhood.

Basically, hero has his work cut out for him to get the girl (and some lovin'). In the process, he helps girl's daddy/uncle/auntie/family when they get into trouble with some of the main baddie's minions. In revenge (and with some red-eyed close-ups along with shaky camera work), big baddie enters the fray and brings with him 20 bouncer-sized minions.

Hero, strong as he may be, doesn't stand a chance and gets beaten to a pulp-all in glorious slow motion. And then, just as you think it's all over, the background music changes and the hero turns into the Incredible Hulk. Bouncer-minions fly all over the screen while big baddie makes a cowardly getaway (crashing into some fruit stalls in the process).

Hero is united with girl. Cue music, meaningless rolling on grassy hills and hiding behind palm trees in the rain. Total bliss!

Yes, if you haven't noticed, Liverpool FC adheres to the same Hindi movie script. We just love doing it the hard way. None of this nonsense of making it easy on ourselves. Let's get beaten to a pulp first. It's only fair you know. It's only being fair to the rest of those smaller clubs. Oh, and while we're at it, let's try slumming it this year with those lower beings in the Europa League.

Fortunately, very much like Hindi hero (and Ultraman Taro), Liverpool FC can also turn into this magnificent Red beast when the chips are well down, obliterating the opposition to dust. The transforming agent?

The fans. Fans of of no other club have such a symbiotic relationship with their club particularly, the players and the manager. If you're looking for a moment to rival that of at the Ataturk nearly 5 years ago, the one below would rank a close second. No. Joint-first.

Well done lads. YNWA.

19 January 2010

Buses bad. Scooter good.

Back on the scooter this week and it's been brilliant! What used to be a 3-hour daily commute on the bus to and back from work is now cut short to just under an hour. That's an extra 2 hours of my life saved a day. Or around 20 days a year. Or just about my whole annual leave allocation.

Elsewhere in the scootering world, I couldn't help but notice that this is the second time this month that the guys over at ScootRS have gone on about the treatment they're receiving from certain quarters in the UK and USA. It started earlier this month with what can only be described as the most one-sided Q and A session with Martin "Sticky" Round which was then followed by a reply to allegations made by Casa USA on an online forum less than a week ago.

What sort of reply does Randall and his crew expect from Sticky and Casa USA anyway? Ooh, let's all hold hands and sing We are the World?

Seriously, I like ScootRS. I've bought loads of stuff off them (well, maybe not lately with this bleeding recession) and think they're doing a great service to scooterists all around the world but no matter how many forum posts, blogs, emails, etc. Randall sticks up, he'll never change the minds and opinions of certain people.

Maybe some sort of TÜV, Snell, DOT or SIRIM certification might be helpful. Would definitely win over those on-the-fence scooterists and translate into sales.

15 January 2010

One newbie's guide on how to survive wet days on Vespas

I know the BBC aren't actually Irish but hey, nobody's perfect...

So, the worst of the snow looks like it's all over. Everything should return to normal pretty soon, we're told. Unfortunately, in this part of the world, normal means welcoming back those dark, cloudy and rainy days.

And, with that comes mocking laughter from idiotic pedestrians, tighter looking lycra on cyclists and strange looks from the hairy/greasy motorcyclist variety (nice people, seriously).

Nice ride mate. I have one of those too-in the shed! Look, they're great in the summer but in this weather...

Looks up in the sky and speeds off as the lights barely turn green. No s**t, Sherlock?

The motorcyclist is right though. Having come off the Vespa at least 3 times, 2 of which were wet riding related (none of which were my fault, really), I have developed some ideas on how to avoid coming off a Vespa on a wet day. The Vespa after all, was never designed to withstand monsoon-type conditions.

1. Only the brave
Or the demented. First of all, gauge for yourself whether it's worth the risk. Whether or not you have enough skills and experience to control your Vespa in wet weather. If you hear that little voice in your head that says IT'S NOT SAFE then, it most probably isn't. Leave the Vespa at home for another drier day.

2. The weatherman tells porky pies
Check the weather around where you live first by simply looking out the window or walking out a few steps from your front door. It might say no snow or ice on the telly but there might still be ice on the streets of your estate. The council might have used some low-grade grit around your area which make driving conditions more treachorous. If you're not sure, revert to #1 above and go from there.

3. Try the Power Ranger look instead
You might think that the open-face helmet and the over-sized parka completes your Mod look on the Vespa but think again. An open-face helmet is an open invitation for the pouring rain to hit you in the face like bullets, temporarily blinding you (not a good idea while in city traffic) while that parka (or similarly unsuitable jacket) might get drenched and add weight unnecessarily. Equally dangerous is a full-face helmet that fogs up quickly. Make sure your visors are properly cleaned and that you get properly ventilated helmets to avoid/reduce fogging. Also, a hi-viz vest/tabbard might not actually get you on the front cover of GQ but it does catch the eye of motorists especially ones driving with their elbows while talking on the mobile and trying to put on their mascara at the same time.

4. Check your brakes
You should probably do this every time you get on your Vespa (or any other road-going vehicle) but more so on a wet day. Vespas are one of the most reliable machines known to man but you never know who could have messed with your ride while it was parked in the shed/driveway/garage overnight or something as simple as a bolt somewhere coming loose. Worn out brakes don't help either so, get them replaced as soon as possible.

5. Pimp your brakes
The drum brakes on most older Vespas are useless at best. Ideally, one might want to upgrade to a state-of-the-art Grimeca disc set-up or add some bling with ScootRS' own brakes for the PX. Either option is going to cost you a fortune. Personally, until I get enough money to upgrade to a disc brake set-up, I'll survive with changing to all-weather type tyres instead like the Heidenau K58 or Schwalbe's Weatherman. The K58's I use have improved my Vespa's braking by a mile compared to so-called performance tyres like the Michelin S1 (probably the most overrated tyre in the history of scootering).

6. Stop that scooter
Having good brakes doesn't automatically stop your Vespa when needed. You'll need to learn how to use them properly as well. I've learnt the hard way. Some people say it should be 7:3 ratio (front:back) of pressure on the brakes. Some say it's 4:1, others says it's 6:4 or even 1:0. Whatever it is, when you need to brake, you won't have the time to go Hmmm am I doing 4:1 or is it 7:3? The key is to get comfortable with how your Vespa brakes. Too much pressure and you might swerve and get acquainted with wet tarmac or the kerb. Too little and you're a loud thud at the back of that white Transit van.

7. Slippery when wet
Wet leaves, diesel/oil spills and man-hole covers on the roads are like booby traps for Vespas or any of its two-wheeled cousins. Watch out for these things and try to avoid them as much as possible. Might also try to avoid those painted directional arrows on the road. Those things should be made illegal under some sort of EU directive or something. Could the powers-that-be not use some sort of matt paint instead?

8. Keep it straight
Don't make any sudden movements. Don't swerve if you don't have to. The straighter your Vespa is kept on the road the better chances you have of staying on it and reaching your destination. Roundabouts are a disaster when it's dry (especially those annoying little ones that no one is actually sure why they exist) so, it's even worse when it's wet. There must be some sort of proper method of negotiating these pesky roundabouts but my personal advice is to just go slow when you see one.

9. That Micra ahead of you knows better
OK, that car in front of you might have slowed down to two miles an hour and is driven by a half-blind granny. You're just itching to break loose, cut all the stalled/slowed-down cars and yell FREEDOM!!! Be patient though. Bad things happen in bad weather. A fallen tree. A car might have broken down in the middle of the road. Flooding. You might not see those things but granny certainly does. Just be extra cautious and keep your ego in check.

So, that's it. I tried to make it to 10 but damn it! I just ran out of ideas. Maybe someone out there has any other tips to share?

Ride safely.

12 January 2010

Boleh-Land, Always can!

It's always great to see the odd time a fellow Malaysian does well and is internationally recognised for their achievements. I was even pleasantly surprised when I read that Malaysia's Under-23 football team was in the final of the XXV SEA Games recently. The first thing that came to mind was, what happened to Thailand, Singapore or even Indonesia?

After a bit more digging, it turned out that Thailand were actually knocked-out by Malaysia enroute to the final and surprise, surprise, Malaysia ended up winning the final (albeit via an own-goal). A gold medal nevertheless. An achievement.

When you look at the bigger picture though, things don't look so rosy. Malaysia ended-up winning a tournament that at its best, had FIFA's 105th ranked country (Thailand) as well as footballing giants such as Timor-Leste and Brunei Darussalam. Then again, achievements are all relative anyway and this one in particular is made even more amazing when you take into account that the Malaysian football team was almost extinct altogether.

This was a team that was reduced to playing matches against the Manchester United Reserves (yes, Reserves no matter what way the marketing people try to spin it) and a Westlife XI. Westlife for heaven's sake!

On the other hand, we have the likes of Anson Wong who has single-handedly put Malaysia on the world map although, for all the wrong reasons. Bryan Christy's report on Asia's Wildlife Trade was revealing and shocking but what made it worse was the stance taken by the government officials. It was a real, if you can't beat them, join them type of attitude.

There's a Malay saying, harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi. This is exactly the case with the Perhilitan officials involved with Anson Wong's activities. Hopefully, the more people know about this the better. Malaysia Boleh!

09 January 2010

The view from the top...

...of the bus! Due to the continued horrendous weather, I've had the pleasure this week of using Dublin's public transportation system. It's not that I don't like getting my oxygen supply via a complete stranger's armpit on the Maynooth line or being forced to listen to ABBA's SOS being hummed by the fat bloke sitting beside me on the 38c. I just miss the freedom I had on two-wheels!

Fortunately though, there are perks to getting on the bus. Seriously. For instance, I only noticed this week that the central footpath on O'Connell Street is actually a No Motorcycle Parking Zone. One wouldn't have noticed this standing at pedestrian/car/motorycycle level on O'Connell Street. Oh, and the fact that the street resembles Ho Chin Minh City with all sorts of two-wheeled contraptions parked where they're not supposed to, most of the time. Reminded me of Jangan Membuang Sampah signs back home in Malaysia. It's the first place rubbish would be piled-up, high enough at the bottom of the sign to the point where it actually covers up the sign. Why? I don't know.

What I do know now is that those lycra-wearing cyclists are not immune to the effects of this weather. To be honest, I was feeling a tad bit jealous seeing all those non-road tax paying, non-red light stopping cyclists whizzing past me while I made every effort to drag myself on foot to work. Jealousy turned into amazement as I wondered how it defied logic and the forces of Mother Nature that they stayed on two-wheels while I was forced to leave my Vespa behind. It simply was unfair.

Well, my faith in Mother Nature was restored a few days ago. I saw a cyclist fall on his face the other day while beating a red light. Of course I didn't help the poor fella up. I just smiled. He was fine. Ego was probably a bit bruised and he probably had a tear in his lycra pants but other than that, he'll live to annoy decent tax-paying motorists (and pedestrians)again. It's just nature's way of getting back at them. Thou shalt not cycle on ice.

Talking about defying nature, I came across this crowd that have come up with an ingenious modification to the humble scooter:

I'd consider buying one if they did one for my PX but I assume they're probably busy right now dealing with lawsuits for nicking that 70's porn flick soundtrack!

06 January 2010

Still snowing, still Ryan

Took the day off work today. There wasn't much to do anyway so, I'd better save myself from this horrid weather. I'd swear my ears were on the verge of falling off while waiting for the bus yesterday. I've been off the Vespa since Xmas and it's not fun. Public transport is a pain and the car's not much better either.

I had an inkling the weather would get worse. It definitely did. The pic below was taken at mid-day today. Looks like it'll be another while before I'm back on two wheels anyway.

Without sounding like an OAP, I haven't seen weather as bad as this for at least 10 years.

Elsewhere, it seems like Liverpool have rejected a GBP9m bid from Birmingham for the all-whining Ryan Babel. The reports suggest that it was Babel himself who rejected the move as he insists on  playing for a Champions League club. Great Ryan, try Unirea Urziceni instead.

05 January 2010

Snow and scooters...

It's the new year. 2010. It's still snowing. I realised that a few pics of my scooter in the snow would prove once and for all to the doubters (in this Malaysian online forum, at least) that I'm actually based overseas. Nothing says "overseas" more to the average Malay person than snow.

The wife disagrees. Why don't you just take pics of the scooter on a normal day at some road sign in English or better still, Irish?

Nah, won't work. It's just not the same with snow. No amount of bedak sejuk can make-up for the effect of snow. Road signs can be Photoshop'ed, no problem. But snow. No. Need pics and got them. Quiet African neighbour probably thinks that I'm a crazy Chinaman now. Don't really care. He doesn't have pics of a Vespa in snow. I do. Hah!
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