Sunday, November 27, 2011

Making friends with Alessandro Volta, James Watt, and André-Marie Ampère

If I were an engineer, or a particle physicist, I would be qualified to tackle the laws of the universe.

As some of you may know, I am a lawyer.  That means that I am only licensed to handle man-made laws.  That's why I'm pretty sure there's no law that says I can't dabble in the laws of physics.

That is all the more true if the experiment I contemplate involves the more or less inconsequential, microscopic, minuscule corner of the universe in the dark, tiny places inside my Vespa.  Unless I manage to do something with the Vespa's electrical system that causes a black hole to form, or that creates a teensy bit of anti-matter, life as you and I know it will probably snake on into the future pretty much as we expect.

This puzzle-post is the first tentative dip of my right big toe into the most complex yet of my Vespa LX 150 modifications.

There will be more posts as I venture down into this rabbit hole, and be forewarned, I may yet decide to stop in my tracks and head off in the direction of trading up to a Vespa GTS of one variety or another.  Only time and this blog will tell.

For now, you will find below the bits and pieces of the puzzle as they lie helter skelter in my lawyer's brain, ill-equipped as it is for this journey [Ed.: when you see entries like this, it's me, making a snarky comment]:
+ = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
Oxford grips draw up to 4 amps (source: Oxford web site, user manual).

The pair of heated grips draws an average 3.6 amps when in operation.  Each grip can draw up to a maximum of 2 amps, so that means 4 amps of total draw at the maximum heat setting, of 28 to 30 watts. (source: Oxford web site, user manual) [Ed.: that's a math or physics mistake on Oxford's part.  In a 12 volt system, 3.6 amps is 43.2 watts and 4 amps is 48 watts.]

The Oxford electronic control automatically shuts off the grips to protect the battery from excessive discharge.  The shutoff point is 11.5 volts (source: Oxford web site, user manual).
  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"The battery capacity that battery manufacturers print on a battery is usually the product of 20 hours multiplied by the maximum constant current that a new battery can supply for 20 hours at  68 F° (20 C°), down to a predetermined terminal voltage per cell. A battery rated at 100 A·h will deliver 5 A over a 20 hour period at room temperature." (source: Wikipedia)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"There are only a few amps of excess alternator capacity on an LX150 to charge the battery above what is necessary to power the stock lighting. One 35-watt driving light uses 3 amps. You do         the math." (source: - "12 lamps on 1 LX"  - comment posted by SilverStreak on the thread posted by another MV member, Sunday, October 17, 2010)

  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"You cannot convert watts to amps, since watts are power and amps are coulombs per second (like converting gallons to miles). HOWEVER, if you have at least least two of the following three: amps, volts and watts then the missing one can be calculated. Since watts are amps multiplied by volts, there is a simple relationship between them.

However, In some engineering disciplines the volts are more or less fixed, for example in house wiring, automotive wiring, or telephone wiring. In these limited fields technicians often have charts that relate amps to watts and this has caused some confusion. What these charts should be titled is "conversion of amps to watts at a fixed voltage of 110 volts" or "conversion of watts to amps at 13.8 volts," etc."


"The Following Equations can be used to convert between amps, volts, and watts.
  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"Re: Heated grips?

pdxvespa wrote:

Has anyone installed heated grips? More to the point, can the electrical systems of the ET/LX/GT handle the extra load?  And if so, what does the installation involve.....?

phr3d answered:

1) Nope

2) Do you have specs on one?

I can do the math to verify. The regulated output at 3000 RPM is 7.5 A <----- Haynes is wrong here. I can't find it in my Workshop manual, so guessing 7.5 since it is fused at that. The Typhoon 125 puts out 8.5 A, so should be close.

Stock Battery is 9 a-H

Full Load:
Side Lamps   5 W
Brake      21 W
Turn      2 X 10 W (we'll assume you won't indicate both directions, but still 2 for front and rear)
Plates      5 W
Inst/Warn   1.2 W
Headlight   35 W

87.2 Watts /12 V = 7.27

Normal Running Load:
Side Lamps   5 W
Plates      5 W
Inst/Warn   1.2 W
Headlight   35 W

46.2 Watts /12 V = 3.85
So at 7.5 Amp out put at 2000 rpm (guessing this, see above). We have 0.23 Amps to spare under close to full load, and 3.65 under "normal". Hope I didn't miss anything.

3) I would take it to the battery, inline fuse it for whatever the Grip warmer is rated at. Relay it some something that only turns on when the engine is running.

Edit: Forgot it should be 2 x 10 W for turn signals because of front and back. Seems close to being in a drain situations."

(source: - "Re: heated grips" - posted by phr3d on November 13, 2005)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
Vespa OEM battery specifications:
  • 12 Volts
  • 9 Amp Hour @10 hr rate
  • 0.9 Ah Charge Current
  • 130 CCA
(source: - Vespa LX150)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"Charging rate
Charging rates for a trickle charge are very low. For example, if the normal capacity of a battery is C (ampere-hours), the battery may be designed to be discharged at a rate of C/8 or an 8-hour rate. The recharge rate may be at the C/8 rate or as fast as C/2 for some types of battery. A float or trickle charge might be as low as C/300 (a 300-hour discharge rate) to overcome the self-discharge. Allowable trickle charging rates must conform to the battery manufacturer's recommendations.
For a 12 V 60 Ah battery a C/300 rate would mean 60 A / 300 = 0,20 A = 200 mA"
(source: Wikipedia - Trickle charging)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To sleep, perchance to dream

Well, the consolation prizes are:
  • The wonder that the first snowfall of the winter season always inspires.
  • Christmas morning is in sight.
  • I managed to keep the scoot commute rolling to within two commutes of winter's onslaught.
  • Once winter gets going, each day brings the 2012 scoot commute one day closer.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

T'is the season to be modding...

With the 2011 riding season all but in the history books, what's left for a dedicated scooter commuter to do?

I think you know the answer!

Yup! It's nearly open season on Vespa modding!!

So here's my wish list (in no particular order) for this season of plotting, hunting, thinking, wrenching, browsing, drooling, ordering, waiting, thinking, planning, installing, testing, and project reporting:
  • Purchase a new Cuppini windshield (to be cut down just barely below eye level
  • Sew my 2010 ModernVespa patch on my BMW Airflow jacket
  • Purchase and install heated grips at last,  either Oxford or Hot Grips. If they work on Keith's Symba, they should do just fine on my Vespa, as long as I install an electronic control unit to manage the electrical consumption
  • Install some nice shiny bar ends to go with the heated grips (I'm hoping it's an option with the Vespa LX handlebars)
  • Purchase a GoPro HD video camera
  • Replace all the Velcro on my Corazzo 5.0 riding jacket
As I think of other cool winter projects I'll add to the list!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nibbles for the kaffee klatsch

Sorry, no fresh pictures with this post, for a couple of reasons.

First off, things are crazy hectic at this time of year in the office and every minute is counted, including extra minutes during my commute.  Secondly, fighting the cold at this time of year means two pairs of gloves, which is my tactic this year.  A thin pair of merino wool glove liners and a pair of Icon gauntlets.  So stopping to shoot pictures requires a minute or so more, and it's sad to say, but it really is a minute I don't have.

It was cold enough on Friday morning (-1C / 30F) that I had no choice other than to stop to pull on my rain jacket after a few miles to add a wind proof layer. I have enough cold weather riding experience now to know how much exposure to the cold is going to be too much.

It was my turn to pick up nibbles for the Friday morning office kaffee klatsch. My fingers were tingling with cold when I stopped at Banette, a French bakery franchise on Sherbrooke Street in NDG.  The real borough name is a mouthful, so English-speaking Montrealers eons ago shortened Notre Dame de Grace to "NDG".  We are fond of that here.  We used to live in TMR (Town of Mount-Royal) and my brother in law used to live in DDO (Dollard Des Ormeaux).  In the east end of the Island there is RDP (Rivière des Prairies).  There are probably other examples of this inclination of ours to truncate the places we live, but I've already digressed enough.

16 miles, half of that at 60mph, had taken its toll by the time I got to NDG. And yet everything else was nice and warm, just cold tingly fingers. Not too shabby.  As any rider will tell you, it's all about the gear.

I took a few minutes to warm my bands on the headlight before going into the shop.

10 minutes later and I was on my way with my treats, with nice warm fingers. You know you're OK if your fingers warm up and recover from the cold quickly.

I know, I know, you're counting the minutes wasted (putting on the rain jacket, warming my fingers, ten minutes in the shop...) and you're thinking that I could have snapped at least one picture!  You'd be right.  As I pulled back into traffic I remembered that I had forgotten to snap a picture of Banette which I was planning to do.  Banette is a special place because it's not a Canadian or US franchise.  It's a franchise from France, and it's the only Banette outlet outside of France.  How cool is that?

So to make up for my forgetfulness, here is a shot of a Banette outlet in Paris, in the Latin Quarter that I took in 2008.
Their Montreal location is short on charm (at least it doesn't hold a candle to that location in Paris), but the pastries and croissants are incredible.  If you're not from around here, and you find yourself in Montreal with time to kill, it's worth setting your sights on.  Here's a shot of the Montreal Banette I found on the web. It's either a spring or fall shot because their tables aren't out, and there are no leaves on the trees.
So where was I... Oh yes, cold weather commuting tips.

If you chill your core, good luck. I did that on my last commute of the 2010 season and it took a space heater under my desk blasting away on high until noon to get the chill out of my body.

No such problem on Friday morning.  Another minute or so warming my hands on the headlight (it just feels so good) and when I got up to my office I was just as comfortable as after a summer commute.

Easy peasy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Too many questions; not nearly enough answers

We have owned many cars, and driven even more. Some were just OK. Some were just plain terrible. Some were money pits at a time in our lives when money was hard to come by. Some were very useful. Some were pretty impractical. Some we were glad to be rid of. Some we still can't bear to part with.

And yet, after all those hundreds of thousands of miles, not one of those countless cars ever came close to giving me the pleasure I get from riding my Vespa.

What the heck is it? I'm still just going from A to B. It's just that on my Vespa it's much more like going from "Eh!" to "be". It's existential. And after more than 9,000 miles (closer to 9,300 miles) the ride still satisfies me to the core.

This morning was quite chilly. And yet the ride was still pure joy. Skiing is like that too. And riding a bike. Canoeing too.

So is it the skill required to travel this way that makes it so special?

Is it the freedom that riders often write and talk about? And just what is that freedom? How are you more free on two wheels than on four or more?

Is it the risk, and taking chances? Then why wear all the gear all the time?

Could it be the challenge and facing that challenge square on? Is it really that challenging?

Why are there so many motorcycle and scooter blogs? Maybe I'm seeing trees because I'm in the forest. Are car blogs similar to PTW blogs? I don't know. I do know that in all my years of owning cars I wasn't tempted even once to join a car discussion forum, or write a blog.

So many questions, so few answers.

All I know is that it's getting really cold. On the ride home I'm positive that there were occasional snow flakes streaking white arcs through my field of vision.

And yet I'm still in the saddle, occasionally grinning like a mad man, yet inscrutable behind my visor.

What the heck is it?

I'll just have to keep riding until I figure it out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

You know it's cold when...

Capturing a shot like this on a Friday morning commute to work makes cold weather riding such a deeply satisfying experience.

Last season I packed in the scoot commute after a ride just below the freezing point. I had to pull into a McDonalds half way to the office to warm up over a cup of coffee. I was wearing ski mitts, and it just wasn't enough to deal with the windchill. When I got to the office I was probably well on my way to hypothermia.

This season I'm much better equipped. The windscreen makes a huge difference by keeping the wind off my hands. The lined riding pants and the layers under my riding jacket keep my core nice and warm. So basically the only effect left is cold fingers. That's manageable.

When I get off the bike in the underground garage, I pull off my gloves and place my hands on the headlight, one after the other. The residual warmth is just the ticket. Not too hot, just nice and toasty. By the time I get into my office and sit down to work, a hot mug of coffee is all I need to banish the rest of the chill in my hands.

The remaining issue is the condition of the roads. If there is a chance of precipitation that could become ice or frost on the road, that will spell the end of the 2011 scooter commuting season.

Time will tell, but, by any measure, the end is near. Repent!!
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.