how to prepare for a cross-country scooter road trip
we'll start with a few guiding principles
number one: if you're in a hurry, don't take a scooter
honest. scooters don’t go very fast. the manufacturer might claim 65+, but they’re prob’ly about 10 mph toward the optimistic end of the scale. plan accordingly. the longest run i’ve ever made on a scooter was almost a thousand miles (in just over 24 hours). but it wasn’t fun. i enjoy my trip more if i take my time.
plan your route
it’s great to take a trip when you don’t need to go anywhere in particular, or need to be done at a certain time. it’s a kind of freedom that life doesn’t often afford… so there’s a good chance you’ve got a limited amount of time to make your trip. make an itinerary. you prob’ly won’t stick to it, but it’ll give you direction and focus.
Google Maps is a great resource for planning your route. you can choose a start and end point, then tell it to keep you off the freeways. you can also drag midpoints around to customize your route.
if you’re using Google Maps to estimate travel time, remember that your top speed isn’t always as high as the speed limit. also keep in mind that you’re going to have to stop for gas every 150 miles or so. it will take longer than Google says. i usually add 30% to their estimation and it comes out pretty close.
remember to plan for gas stops
you have less range than a car, so it is more important to watch for sections of your trip with huge distances between gas stops. plan accordingly.
break it up into reasonable chunks
some people are crazy enough to ride a thousand miles in one day. but it’s not very fun. i would plan to ride six hours or less per day. this will keep you sane, and you’ll be able to walk better when you dismount for the night.
you don’t really need most of your stuff. a change or two of clothes, a sleeping bag and a toothbrush should get you through the first couple of days. if you underpack, there will always be somewhere you can buy a couple things to pick up the slack.
keep things balanced. use racks to tie down your gear. use webbing instead of bungie cords—bungie cords stretch. if you work things right, you can lay a duffel bag or backpack across the seat behind you, which will give you something to lean against. you’ll thank me later.
prepare your scooter
check for any issues before you take off on a long trip. make sure the oil has been changed recently. make sure all the cables and nuts are tight. make sure it’s running well. you don’t want to do repairs once you’re on the road. i’d suggest taking your scooter to a good mechanic and telling them how far you plan to ride. they can tell you whether they think you (and your scooter) can make it. if you’re in Utah, i recommend stopping by the Scooter Lounge.
make any mods well in advance. it’s not fun to break in a new piston and cylinder while you’re on the road. that’s how i started my trip last summer, and it was no good.
decide whether your scooter is going to make it. if it’s questionable, you might want to look into performance modifications to help it produce more power.
note: most modifications void your warranty. do them at your own risk.
you should probably take a practice road trip. you will learn a lot about your scooter and about yourself. for example, how does your backside feel after an hour or two in the seat? i guarantee that it won’t feel any better after six hours…
when i was preparing for my summer long road trip, i rode from Provo to St. George, Utah, for a cinco de mustache party. this mini road trip convinced me to beef up my engine just a bit.
some essentials you'll want to take along
a good tool kit
my stella came with a basic toolkit: screwdriver, a couple of small wrenches, and everything i need to change a spark plug or flat tire. i supplemented this with a few other essential tools that i always carry with me:
- a small crescent wrench: bigger isn't necessarily better. i've never needed a wrench bigger than a 6".
- two angled screwdrivers: know your scooter. in my case, there are two screws that don't like to come off by normal means. so i carry the exact tools needed to take them off.
- the longest brake cable you can buy from a bike shop. you don't need the housing, since you'll use this to pull a new clutch, speedo, or throttle cable housing through your scooter if the old one gets messed up.
- a del monte juice can. trust me on this one.
nothing is worse than getting stuck where there isn’t a ready supply of replacement parts for your scooter. if it might break, take it along. some of the important ones:
- a couple of extra spark plugs.
- a full set of replacement bulbs. i had to make a run at night with my tail out, and it wasn't the least bit fun. don't count on being able to find lights for your scoot when you need them.
- same thing goes for oil: if you ride a two-stroke, you'll need more. and some towns just don't carry two-stroke oil. so take a bit more than you think you need.
- a spare tube (or tire)
- spare cables (clutch, shift, throttle, brake). i usually carry one extra housing and a handful of cables. in a pinch, i can use a throttle cable housing instead of a brake cable housing or vice versa.
- pinch bolts for your cables. sure you can reuse the one that's on there. but they have a tendency to disappear when you take 'em off, and that's not something you can do without.
- spare jets: especially on a longer trip, jets are essential. if the weather or altitude changes, your scooter can go from good to bad pretty quick.
some extra gas
i’ve got two MSR fuel bottles in my glovebox, and a red one gallon plastic gas can i hang from my bag hook for long trips. three extra cans of gas might seem a bit excessive, but i’ve pushed my scooter to a gas station far too many times. i’m done with that now.
stuff for you (not the scooter)
- a light colored, long-sleeved shirt
- gold bond powder
- appropriate safety gear (helmet, gloves, jacket, etc)
you get to go on a road trip on your scooter! that’s really cool. enjoy it. make the most of your trip.
and be sure to let me know how it goes :-)