Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ride Report: Feed a Bear Scooter Rally, Kelowna, BC

Due to high gas prices it seems that everyone is talking about fuel economy and Miles/Gallon (MPG). I bought my scooter for the enjoyment of riding, but I must say that good MPG’s are a welcomed bonus. Like a lot of you I used to ride Motorcycles for many years (actually since the mid ‘60s). I have had large bikes and have for many years kept a motorcycle in the background. Even when I got into scooters a few years ago. I believed that each machine, whether scooter or motorcycle had its intended purpose, but as time when on it was the scooter that got most of the use.
I am trying to scale back on my insurance expenses and decided that perhaps a maxi-scoot would fill the bill. So I ordered my Kymco Xciting 500Ri last January, and finally received delivery around mid May, 2008 . It was a much heavier machine than my Bet&Win 250 (BW250). It is harder to roll around the garage/carport, but surprisingly it feels more agile while under its own power. The weight is low and it balances easily. There was a short learning curve to control it on slow speed maneuvers - you had to be more aware of weight shifting and counter steering. Initially, I was a little intimidated with its weight, but I have now gotten used to it and it feels perfect. I feel that it is the perfect combination of power, size and economy.
My original intention was to see if the X500Ri would be able to replace my motorcycle (Suzuki SV650nK4), thus I would be able to reduce my stable with one less bike (and Insurance expense). With this in mind I decided that I would take each of these machines away for a weekend and form an opinion.
Last weekend I took my X500Ri to Kelowna for the Feed a Bear Rally. I rode a combination of highways and secondary roads and can also make a comparison between my BW250 (which I took to Kelowna last year). I originally thought that I should have kept my BW250 (for city and urban use), and use the SV650n for out of town and highway travel. Hope I am not confusing the issue between these 3 bikes, but I thought you would like to have my opinion on the BW250 as a general commuter and sometimes highway vehicle.

Kymco Bet&Win 250:
I purchased this new last March, 2007. It was my commuter vehicle. I found that I could travel on most highways without problem. It was nimble in city traffic and had the power for the occasional highway spurts. There were no problems in using the BW250 around the lower mainland area of Vancouver, BC and even short bursts to White Rock and Langley using major highways and cruising at speeds around 60-65 mpg (~100-115 kph) . Due to its small size and weight I just never felt comfortable enduring these speeds on the highway for more than an hour or so. The engine was buzzing at high RPMs , I am sure over 7k rpms. On long flat stretches I could get it up to 125 kph indicated on the speedo, but I did not have a GPS back then so do not know the true speed, but I would guess that it was at least 10% optimistic.
Then last year I went to Bellingham to attend the Hamster Run 2 rally. On our return to Vancouver that night we took I-5 to the border, then Hwy 99 back to Vancouver. All the while we were travelling at 115 kms indicated. Sure it would go a little more but we were already doing over 7K rpms and the engine felt buzzy. While there was a “little” more throttle left the engine would make a pulsing sound as you tried to go faster. In retrospect it probably needed a valve adjustment/inspection, which my dealer did not do on my initial inspections.
Then last year I rode the BW250 to Kelowna for the scooter rally. We took Hwy 1 to Hope, then Hwy 3 to Princeton, Hwy 5A to the Coquihalla connector, and followed Hwy 97c eventually into Kelowna. From Hwy 1 to Hope we were travelling around 115 kms (all speeds are as indicated on the speedometer- not GPS corrected). It felt as if the scooter was running at capacity with not much more power in reserve. The highway was more or less flat with slight gradiants so you could easily maintain your speeds. It was different past Hope, BC as Hwy 3 is more mountainous. The BW250 just struggled on the hills. 115 kms quickly reduced to 95 and the engine felt very labour intensive. As the BW250 is carbureted gas mileage suffered badly. As you decrease your speeds on these long hills you tend to hold the throttle wide open as if to coax the engine to gain more speed on its uphill climb, all the while as you are slowing down. My riding partner was on a Vespa GTS250ie, which was fuel injected. The two machines are very comparable as to power but the difference was in the gas usage. At every gas stop (while through the mountains) the GTS just sipped fuel while the BW250 was spilling excess unburnt gas out the exhaust. These numbers that I am giving you will give you the idea of what I am trying to convey. We both filled up our tanks at Hope, BC and travelled in each others footsteps. At Princeton, BC , the GST took approx 5+ liters of fuel, while the BW250 used over 7+ liters. It was the same at every gas stop along the way. Every time the GTS required less gas and the BW250 consumed more. We took Hwy 5a to the Coquihalla connector (Hwy 97C) and continued Eastward over the mountains. The Coquihalla highway is a mountain highway. Steep and long grades. All the hills are killer hills and just don’t stop. You seem to be climbing for hours. Our speeds for most of the uphill portions were around 95 km, you just could not maintain anything faster, the engine was just struggling just to maintain momentum. Also remember that these are indicated, actual would probably be under 90 kms due to speedo error. The Coquihalla has a posted speed of 110 kms so all the traffic approach very fast from behind so it is a very stressful hour and a half before we can descent into Westbank and into the Okanagan Valley for a more leisurely ride into Kelowna. I decided on that trip last year that while any 250cc scooter would be fine for urban use, but not for highway or mountain travel, at least not for long distances. Perhaps on the flatlands of the Prairies, Arizona or Montana, but not in the mountains of British Columbia.

Kymco Xciting 500Ri:
I’ve had this for nearly 4K kms so now I have formed an opinion as to its performance and gas usage. While it is primarily my commuter vehicle going to and from work is 50 kms/day. Plus I use it most of the time while my car remains parked. Remember that these are real world numbers and Vancouver has NO infrastructure for moving traffic. All freeways and highways stop at the city limit. In an effort to reduce speed, or as they call it “traffic calming” there are signal lights every few blocks (it seems), and none of these lights are “synchronized” . It is a deliberate plan to make you wait at every light and idle your precious gas away and encourage you to take public transit. Stop and Go city driving usually nets 20 km/liter, which works out to around 47 mpg US (or 57 mpg Cdn Gallon).
As previously mentioned I took the X500Ri to Kelowna this past weekend. I logged over 1,100 kms over 3 days on a variety of mixed roads, which included 150 km of slow 20 km speeds on a group scooter ride with 49cc Piaggio Flys which certainly reduced the MPG. Also not to mention that while refueling at an unfamiliar brand name gas station I was not paying attention and the fuel shut off did not work and I spilled a “pool” of gas on the ground (so I left there in a hurry before they saw that it was me). The nozzle was in the fuel filler neck and spilling a torrent of gas out the “overflow” (onto the ground).

From my records, here are the numbers:

Total distance travelled: 1,125 kms
Liters used: 47.05
Total cost (Cdn $$) $68.16
Ave kms/liter 23.898

All of this computes to:
MPG, US gallon (3.785 ltrs) 56.535
MPG, Cdn gallon (4.54 ltrs) 67.812

We had a group of 6 scooters travel the slower route on the way to Kelowna, which included a Vespa GT200. It was decided to by-pass the Coquihalla Highway in order to maintain a slower speed with less stress (with shorter hills). The X500Ri got the best MPG on this section (of 60 MPG, US gal) as we rarely went over 90 kms, perhaps except on the downhill stretches where we gained a little more momentum.
On the return I decided to take the Coquihalla Highway so as to get back to Vancouver on the most direct/faster route. It is nearly 100 kms longer to go the slow way. Remember that you have to climb never ending hills on the way “up the mountain”. Unlike the BW250 from last year, the X500Ri could easily maintain the 110 km/h speed limit and could actually accelerate up the steepest slopes. For those who have never travelled on this Highway it is a limited access speedway. It is fenced all the way with few exits/entrances, and NO services, basically through wilderness with fast changing weather conditions. It could be sunny one moment and hailing the next and last week was no exception, high wind gusts. Imagine, just a short 3 or so weeks ago they had a major snowfall and it’s July ! I wanted to see what the X500Ri could do so I twisted the throttle a bit and that accounted for higher fuel consumption on this return leg of the trip. I think with relative flat roads, at constant speed with gradual acceleration, this maxi-scoot should be able to maintain around 60 mpg (US gal)
As a comparison, on my BW250 last year on this same highway I got the worst gas mileage. I only got approx 18.5 km/liter with the BW250 (approx 44 mpg, US gal). Did I say it was just struggling to maintain 95 km/h. Needless to say that the X500Ri got a much better fuel mileage than the BW250 under the same conditions at a much safer speed. Was around 22 km/ltr (~ 52 mpg, US gal). The larger engine wins, more fuel efficient at highway speeds through the mountains. The X500Ri feels very stable at higher speeds due to heavier weight. The wind turbulence from other vehicles (trucks) do not affect is as much. I am also sure that the larger diameter wheels also contributed to a safer ride. The engine is very quiet, hardly any noise at all, only the sound of the wind. All in all I like the X500Ri very much. It does the job effortlessly.

Ride Report, in pictures:

We left Vancouver about mid morning, refueled in Hope, BC then continued on our way. Not far from Hope on Hwy 3, at the top of the hill you arrive at the Hope Slide viewpoint.
Imagine one rainy night a long time ago half the mountain collapsed and buried the valley with rock and debris at places up to 200 ft deep. The highway had to be diverted to the west side of the lake.

Eventually we arrive at the Manning Park Lodge . We decided that if the weather co-operated, then we would drive the 8km up the switchbacks to enjoy the views at the Cascade Lookout:


Looking downward you can see the Manning Park Lodge and their facilities.
It's a good place to stop for a washroom/refreshment break and have a meal at the restaurant if you are hungry.


Kelowna is in the middle of our Wine Country, and there are many vineyards with excellent views of Okanagan Lake.

Would you just love to have a home here:

Westside Road is a popular destination for local bikers. Lots of twisties and excellent views of the Lake.

On the way back I took the Coquihalla Highway to Merritt, BC. As a measure to attract more tourists into the area the city of Merritt hosts the: Merritt Mountain Festival and part of the beautification plan was to commission artists to paint the images of famous country artists on the walls of buildings.



Last year there was a special ceremony to unveil this likeness of Elvis. It was attended by the Premier of British Columbia, Hon Gordon Campbell
It is the only likeness of Elvis, authorized by EPE (Elvis Presley Enterprises), in another country outside of the USA.

Hope you enjoyed tagging along

1 comment:

  1. Bob,

    I seem to have found your comparison of the B&W 250 and X500Ri, it is very insightful. Thank you for writing it up.