Friday, May 31, 2013

Project report: Installing a Stebel Nautilus Compact air horn

The stock horn on the Vespa GTS 300 i.e. emits a very polite "meep" when you press the button. Press it twice, and you get "meep-meep".

Until our recent trip to Italy, I couldn't understand why you would ever want to go "meep-meep" when you're in heavy downtown traffic doing 60 km/h and the oblivious cabby next to you suddenly moves to obliterate you. It's even more of a mystery when you consider that the Vespa GTS can cruise all day long on the autoroute at 118 km/h.

Italy changed my opinion of the engineers at Piaggio.

In Italy, the stock horn fits right in. In Italy you use the horn politely on blind corners; or just before cutting another vehicle off with brio; or when you coast down a street in Sorrento (here we call them sidewalks) and want to announce your arrival politely to your friends seated at tables in the street enjoying pizza and drinking Chianti; or when you want to join ten or fifteen other drivers who are honking to 'help' clear congested traffic. Those uses account for 99.99% of all Italian horn use. And "meep-meep" or sometimes "meeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!", is just the right tone. You see, in Italy the people in the cars KNOW they are sharing the road with motorbikes, and expect to be cut off with brio.

That won't do here. Here when you need your horn, you have to get the attention of Cadillac Escalades in the hands of well-meaning, well-heeled, but distracted, assassins. You want to press the button and go "BBBLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!".

Fortunately the Italians invented just the thing for North American needs. It's name is the Stebel Compact Nautilus, and it's an air horn for motorbikes. It goes "BBBLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!".

The trick nowadays is finding one of these gems. The manufacturer seems to have discontinued them (likely too little demand in Italy; too few buyers here). Fortunately I have one.

I extracted it from my Vespa LX 150 and here's how you install it in a Vespa GTS.

This is not especially difficult.

First find a Stebel Compact Nautilus on Ebay and snatch it up.

Once you have it, the bit that's tricky, is getting the right kind of juice to the horn.

The stock horn gets all the power it needs straight from the horn button. The Stebel horn is a serious horn. It needs power straight from the battery. When in operation it draws close to 20 amps. It needs its own fuse (I use a 25A fuse).

Here's wiring diagram that I made for the installation. If you click on it you'll get a larger more user-friendly image.

The first thing you need to do to get the installation going is to open up the bike.

First remove the Piaggio badge.
Next remove the single screw that secures the horncast.

Slide the horncast up, and off the bike. Next remove the two kneepad panels.

That exposes the screws retaining the legshield and glove box. There are two screws under the horncast, two screws at the base of each side of the legshield on the rider's side side, two screws behind each of the kneepads. Finally, there is another screw inside the glovebox. Once all the screws are removed, and once you remove the cap from the radiator fill tube,  it's possible to wiggle the legshield free. Here's a link to an excellent video produced by Mic Bergsma that will make this all crystal clear.
Now disconnect and remove the stock Vespa horn. The wires that are connected to the stock horn are then reconnected to the 85 and 86 terminals of the automotive relay. The automotive relay can be zip tied to the horn assembly.

Now run the negative lead from the terminal strip to the negative Stebel horn terminal located on the base of the horn. Run the positive 25A fused lead from the terminal strip to the 30 terminal of the relay. Now run a positive lead from the 87 terminal of the relay to the positive terminal of the Stebel horn.

Here's video that shows what the terminal strip I made looks like. It's handy because it makes it easy to install more circuits (like heated grips, eventually).

Working from the rider side of the legshield, wiggle the horn into position so that the horn is essentially vertical with the mouth of the trumpet aligned with the horncast opening. The fit is extremely snug. I was not able to use a zip tie on it. Once the legshield is buttoned back up, the horn will be stuck there and will not move.

Here are some photos showing the horn installed and that relay zip tied in place.
Before buttoning the Vespa back up, it's best to test the installation to make sure that the horn is working well. Here's a video that follows the negative and positive electrical leads from the battery, up through the interior of the legshield, over to the terminal strip, and then shows that horn test.

Now that the horn has passed its test, and the ringing is subsiding in your ear, it's time to put the bike back together.

There's a trick. You knew that there had to be a trick, right?

It took me some cursing and Googling, and I'll spare you the pain.

Piaggio has a fiendish streak in their industrial design, usually involving things that lock, like the glovebox, for instance.

It turns out that wiggling the glovebox into place and making sure that the mechanical link that unlocks the glovebox when you push on the ignition switch assembly, is impossible, unless you get an elastic band, hook it on the base of the dogleg lever that actuates the glovebox lock release, pass the elastic to the front of the legshield and hook it onto something (anything will do), all to make sure that the blasted little free-floating, four-flushing, dog-leg lever stays put in the retracted position.

Now you can go ahead and wiggle the legshield back into position, and button everything back up.

Simple (OK I cursed a little). But now I have my loud horn back. Yesssssss! Feeling safer already, and it's already saved my bacon on a couple of occasions.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Farkle, meaning

Main Entry: far·kle
Pronunciation: \ˈfär-kəl\
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): far·kled; far·kling \-k(ə-)liŋ\
Etymology: Moto English, conflation of function and sparkle
Date: 20th century
transitive verb, to add after-market functionality to a powered two-wheeler, especially chrome-plated accessories
synonyms: splurge
— far·kly \-k(ə-)lē\ adjective
noun, a device extending the function of a powered two wheeler
Vespas may be the ultimate urban vehicle.  They are compact, comfortable, nimble, powerful, rolling works of automotive art.

Vespas are also wonderful beasts of burden.  A stock Vespa offers spacious underseat storage and a glove box in the legshield, both of which lock securely, and a bag hook on the legshield.  There is also the passenger seat. With a few straps, bungees or cords you can carry some surprising stuff on the passenger seat.

Most Vespa owners augment this already impressive capacity by adding a rear rack, a topcase and sometimes a front rack.

It's the carrying capacity of scooters, and Vespas in particular, that makes them superbly suited as a commuting vehicle.

But can the ultimate commuter bike also tour?

The Vespa's achilles heel as far as touring is concerned has nothing to do with its small wheels, and  everything to do with its small fuel tank.

It's a more or less open secret that I'm gearing up for a major touring challenge.  It will be a significant challenge for me.  On the other hand, I have every reason to believe that my Vespa GTS 300 i.e. Super is more than capable of carrying me there, and back.

The trick to touring on a Vespa is to use other Vespa strengths to compensate for the Vespa's main weakness.

Today I received a long awaited farkle from Didge at Classic Racks in the UK.  Didge is legendary among Vespa cognoscenti as the inventor, manufacturer and purveyor of the versatile footrack.
No, a footrack is not a rack you wear on your foot, nor is it a rack on which to rest, or store your foot.

It's a sturdy metal rack that turns the Vespa's footwell into a superb place to carry gear that would be challenging to carry elsewhere.  It's also the perfect place to carry a small jerry can of gasoline.
True to Vespa form, Didge's footrack serves its utilitarian purpose, and does it in style.  Installing the rack took a screwdriver and all of fifteen minutes.
Next step: go to Canadian Tire and pick up a suitable gasoline container.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Project report: Installing an Admore Lighting auxiliary brake and turn indicator unit

Riding a motor scooter or motorcycle is always more risky than driving a car.  It's important to take reasonable steps to be seen by the other riders and drivers.

Vespas are not especially visible.  For that matter, neither are most motorcycles, when they roll off the dealer's lot.

Fortunately there are steps you can take to make yourself more visible.

For people approaching your bike from the rear, one solution is to install auxiliary brake and turn signals.

The additional lights can double the odds that motorists will see you and be informed of your braking and turning intentions.

There is an excellent product on the market made by Calgary's aptly named Admore Lighting.  When I found the company and their products I knew instantly that I needed one of their all-in-one LED auxiliary brake and turn indicator units.

I originally installed it on my Vespa LX 150.  Over a weekend not long ago I removed it from the LX 150 and installed it on my GTS 300.

Here's how it's done.

First I have to thank Jim Crowther for the excellent instructions he posted on the Modern Vespa forum.  Jim installed a different Admore solution but the key for me was the way Jim tapped into the GTS wiring loom.  The approach he took was much easier than what I put myself through when I installed it on my LX.

Without further digresssion or avoidance, here are the steps from start to finish.  Some of the steps are identical to those I took for the LX: wiring the lightbar to a set of 5-pin Reese trailer plugs.  The trailer plugs make it possible to remove your top case in a jiffy should the need arise.

This project report shows all the steps I took to install the AdmoreLighting Mini Light Bar LED auxiliary modulating brake light and sequential turn indicator unit on the Vespa OEM topcase on my GTS 300 ie motor scooter.

You'll see that I'm documenting mistakes I made and clearly identifying them, so that others doing this project may not make the same mistakes. Not to worry though, there's always a way to get back on track.

  • A set of metric Allen keys
  • Electrician’s wire stripper, cutter and crimper
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Phillips screw driver
  • Soldering gun
  • Heat gun
  • Electric drill
  • 1/15 Drill bit
  • 9/32 Drill bit
  • Sharp craft knife, box cutter or scalpel
  • Voltage multi-meter
1.  I planned to mount the Admore unit to my topcase in the same way as I did on the LX.
 I wanted to be able to remove the topcase without having to cut wiring connections.  The Reese trailer harness provides a good weather proof connector for that purpose.

2.  All the wire you’ll need for the installation comes with the Admore unit.  What you need to do is separate the wire in two parts, use electrician’s pliers or a wire cutter to cut the wire about 6 or 7 inches from the Admore unit.  On my unit there was a label on the wire.  Assuming that the labels are in the same place on all units, cut the wire just on the far side of the label, as you see in the photo below.
 3.  Cut the insulation sheath back a few inches, then strip each of the six wires about 1/4”.

4.  Cut the wires leading from each of the Reese trailer plugs about 1 1/2” or 2” from each plug and strip each of the five wires about 1/4”.
5.  Take the long section of wire you removed from the Admore Unit and, beginning at the end where you cut the wire, cut the insulation sheath back a few inches, then strip each of the six wires about 1/4”.

6.  As instructed in the Admore installation instructions that come from the unit, twist the blue wire and the red wire together.

7.  Cut five 1 1/2" lengths of 1/8 inch black heat shrink wrap and fit one on each of the wires you stripped in the preceding step.  Since the red and blue wires are twisted together, you only need five pieces for the six wires. 

This is where I made the first mistake. I forgot to slip heat shrink wrap onto the yellow wire before soldering it.  I unsoldered it, but the solder on the two ends of the wire prevented me from making a new solder joint.  So I shifted gears and used a solderless butt joint crimp connecter on the yellow wire.  Problem solved.   Hopefully by putting the heat shrink on all the wires before you start soldering, you’ll avoid my mistake.

8.  Notice that the two trailer plugs are not identical.  They are mirror images of one another.  One has five female connectors and one male connector, and other has the reverse.  On the assumption that one day you’ll want to travel without the topcase, select the plug that has the five female connectors as the one to solder to the long wire.

9.  Solder the wires to the trailer plug, matching the colors shown in the following diagram.
Click on the diagram to get a full size view.  You should probably also print the diagram out now, because you’ll be needing it later at the Vespa end of things.  When I installed the Admore unit on my GTS I found that I somehow reversed the left and right turn indicator leads.  It's not a big deal.  I just ignore the "top" etched into the Admore unit and install it upside down.  There's no difference since it's symmetrical.  I'm also colour-blind, and the Vespa wires are dirty, so I must confess that it took two tries to get the right wires tapped into the Vespa wire loom.

Take care not heat the shrink wrap when you're soldering the wires.  In my case, I did cause a small bit of the shrink wrap to contract.  I used the box cutter (in my case, my scalpel [don’t ask, I’m a lawyer, not a doctor]) to cut away that small bit to allow the tubing to slide over the joint.
10.  Slide the heat shrink tubing over each solder joint so that each joint is insulated.

11.  Use the heat gun to shrink the tubing.

12. Starting from the other end of the long wire, slide an 8” or 9” piece of 3/8” heat shrink onto the wire and run it all the way to where the trailer plug is soldered on.  Bend the wires at the plug to bring them as close as possible to the plug, and slide the tubing as close as possible to the plug.  In my case, my new GTS scooter is black, whereas the LX 150 was Dragon Red, so I used red shrink tubing originally.  For the GTS I put a new piece of black shrink wrap over the red to match the colour of the new bike.  Since this piece of the wire will run from the scooter body to the topcase in plain sight, matching the body colour helps it look less obvious.  Just esthetics.

13.  Use the heat gun to shrink the tubing.

14.  Now carefully remove a few inches of the black sheath off the other end of the wire wire and carefully separate the six colored strands.  Use your knife to cut away the fabric strands.

15.  Time to test your electrical skills.  Connect the two trailer plugs, the one you just soldered to the long wire, and the one you’re about to solder to the Admore unit.  Using a volt meter, check each wire for continuity between the very end of the long admore unit wire, to the stripped wires of the second trailer plug, the male one, making sure that all the connections work.  Congratulations, you passed your amateur electrician’s test.

16.  Now that you’ve soldered five joints successfully, you can tackle soldering the other trailer plug.

17.  Select the remaining trailer plug that has the five male connectors as the one to solder to the short wire coming from the Admore unit.

18.  Slide a piece of 3/8” heat shrink onto the wire from the Admore unit and run it all the way to the unit.  Make sure that the tubing is about 2” shorter than the sheath on the Admore unit wire.

19.  As instructed in the Admore installation instructions that come from the unit, twist the blue wire and the red wire from the unit together.

20.  Cut five 1 1/2" lengths of 1/8 inch black heat shrink wrap and fit one on each of the wires that come from the unit.  Since the red and blue wires are twisted together, you only need five pieces for the six wires.

21.  Solder the wires to the trailer plug, matching the colors shown in the diagram above.  Take care not heat the shrink wrap.  In my case, unbelievably, I made exactly the same mistake with the yellow wire.  There must be something in my brain with yellow.

22.  Slide the heat shrink tubing over each solder joint so that each joint is insulated.

23.  Use the heat gun to shrink the five pieces of tubing.

24.  Bend the wires at the plug to bring them as close as possible to the plug, and slide the black tubing down from the Admore unit as close as possible to the plug.

25.  Use the heat gun to shrink the tubing.

26.  Finally, all the lab tinkering is done.  What you now have is the Admore unit, terminating at the five-pin male trailer plug, and the other half of the wiring harness, terminating at the five-pin female trailer plug.  In the following photo, you'll see that the way I was tapping into the Vespa wiring loom on the LX 150 required that I take the entire sheath off the long wire.  For the GTS you'll see that I used a much simpler way to tap into the loom.  I therefore added black shrink wrap to the entire length of the long wire.
Now it’s time to head out to the scooter.

27.  Park the scooter in the center of your work space.  Set up some good task lighting.  If, like me, you’re working in a cold garage, lay an old blanket down at the back of the scooter.

28.  Open the topcase, and remove the four screws that hold the top case to the rear rack.  Make sure that you have a container to hold the screws you remove.

29.  Open the seat and remove the pet carrier bucket. 

30.  Using an Allen key, remove the screws that secure the plastic cover that surrounds the gasoline (petrol, for my UK readers) filler tube.   You'll also need to remove the rubber gasket that surrounds the tube.  It's a little fiddly, but not that difficult.  You can make easier by just pulling off the plastic cover-shield thing because it will take the gasket with it.
31.  Remove the gas (petrol) cap and gently lift off the plastic cover.  Once removed, replace the cap on the filler tube so that you don’t have to breathe in the high octane as you work, unless you like that smell and grew up sniffing gas for kicks.  No, seriously, put the cap back on.

32.  Next, still using the Phillips screw driver, remove the single screw holding the right-hand turn indicator light, pull the housing out, and let the housing dangle from its wires.

33.  If, like me, you have OEM crash bars installed, by removing the screws retaining the shield around the fuel filler, you will have also released the top crash bar anchors.  Next, remove the screw and bolt securing the right hand crash bar to the bottom of the Vespa body.

34.  Next, remove the plastic body part at the bottom edge of the right-hand cowl.  The way to do this is to remove the single Phillips screw at the front end of the fairing.  Next you'll find a 10mm nut just inside the cowl right next to the right-hand turn signal housing.  Once you remove that nut, the fairing can be pried off the bike, starting at the rear and working to the front.  The fairing is retained by clips in rubber bushings and will snap off with little force.  Be gentle.  With a little wiggling and finagling, gently moving the crash bar aside, you can get the fairing off.
35.  With the right-hand cowl exposed in this way, feel just inside the lip of the metal edge of the cowl.  That's where you'll find the wire loom that goes to the rear tail, brake and turn indicator lights.  Gently pull it free.

36. Take the long set of wires for the Admore unit that terminates in the female plug and thread the wire through the leftmost grill opening of the plastic housing that surround the gas tank filler tube.  The leftmost grill opening allows the wire the easiest route to the inside of the engine compartment.  From there, run the wire to the right side of the engine compartment and down and out by the edge of the right hand cowl.   You will see in the second photo below that I neatly tucked the wire behind the top of the right hand shock absorber mount.  It turned out that there wasn't enough wire to allow for that so the wire ended up following the same route, minus the tuck behind the absorber.
37.  Get the five Posi-Tap wire tapping gizmos out of the Admore unit parts bag, and install them onto the wires leading from the Vespa light housings following the wiring diagram above.
But before buttoning the scooter back up it’s best to run a test.  Take the Admore unit and plug it in.  Make sure the kill switch is in the run position. Turn on the ignition.  The Admore unit should light up as a running light.  Now turn on the left, then right turn indicators.  The Admore sequential turn indicators should work.  Make sure the unit is right-side up so that the left indicator is on the left side.  Now apply one of the brakes.  The brake light should modulate, then stay on.  Release the brake and then re-apply it.  The brake light should come back on, but without modulating.

Assuming it passes the test, wrap up the electrical connections in electrician's tape and tuck the wiring loom back into position.

38.  In the comfort of your kitchen or workshop, turn the topcase upside down.  Take the Admore unit mounting bracket and figure out where you want to place it. The underside of the GTS OEM topcase is a kind of honeycomb.  Place the Admore bracket against the bottom of the topcase and note the location for the screws.

39.  Using your electric drill and a 9/32 bit, and drill out the two holes.  The topcase material drills nicely, I found that a low speed worked best.

40.  Using the screws provided with the Admore unit, mount the bracket to the topcase, and then mount the Admore unit to the bracket. Here's a photo that shows how I mounted the bracket and Admore unit on the bottom of my GTS topcase.
 41.  Now re-attach the topcase to the Vespa, and plug the male plug from the Admore unit into the female plug from the wiring harness you installed earlier.

42.  Push any excess wiring harness wire into the opening at the top of the scooter.

43.  Re-attach the crashbars, drop the pet carrier bucket back into place, close the seat, and, finally, this project is done.
44.  Take a moment to congratulate yourself, admire the wonderful light show at the back end of your Vespa, show off your handiwork to your significant other, and then go for a ride.

Pheww... that was more work than actually doing the project.  I hope you will find the project report useful.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Italian icons

Picture this. We are strolling back to the Hotel Rex on via Torino, after a truly great meal at Ristorante Life on via Della Vite to celebrate our last night in Rome, and our 37th wedding anniversary that will officially occur on the 23rd, we come across this iconic duo a block or so past the Trevi Fountain.

What a nice find to cap a magic evening enjoying each other, a delicious meal, a wonderful bottle of rosé, and snapping self-photos like a couple of teenagers at the fountain.

Possibly, just possibly, among the top ten evenings in our lives together.

Ah!  Truly a slice of la dolce vita.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What to do in Rome?

Now there's a question with many answers, if ever there was one.

Some of the answers we came up with were: walk to the Spanish Steps;  walk to the Trevi Fountain; walk to the Quattro Fontane; walk to the Piazza Navona.

That's not to say that all we are doing in Rome is walking. We also rode the hop-on-hop-off bus tour, and earlier today we toured the Vatican.  Quite a fancy home for such a down-to-earth pope.  I wish him well.  He seems to me to one pope more worthy of eventual sainthood than others.

Enough about the pope!

Are we shopping in Rome?

Of course we are shopping in Rome.  Among the finds, at Coin in the Termini station complex, a nice pair of Tucano Urbano summer mesh riding gloves, with leather in all the right places, and mesh in all the others.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Automotive news: Italian vehicle proximity sensor

They say not to rent a car when you visit Italy. They say that as a way to warn you that Italian drivers have all taken leave of their senses.

Well, they may be right.

Susan and I rented a car in Sorrento. We planned to drive to Positano, then on to Amalfi, Ravello and back.

We were picked up near our hotel by the rental company (we stayed at the Hotel Astoria, which we highly recommend). I say near our hotel because the streets around the hotel are too narrow for anything larger than a scooter to negotiate. Certainly the Mercedes the rental company picked us up in would never fit, that is not without first taking a side trip through a car crusher.

We rented a recent model Peugeot something-or-other. It's a large-ish family hatchback by Italian standards. About the size of three or four original Fiat cinque centos.

When I did the walk-around with the rental agent I noticed that this poor Frenchman of a car had been in a few scrapes with neighborhood Italians. All in good fun I suppose. No worse for wear than the ancient Roman Empire-period Vespas I see buzzing around.

So we set off in our rental for our first stop: Positano.

The manual drive train in this car only had one truly useful gear: second. First was a torqueless wonder, and I rarely got to third, so in all fairness I can't write a review on that one.

The road to Positano is a visual feast of breathtaking beauty. It seems to have been specially designed as a two-lane autostrada for 50cc, two-cycle motorbikes.

The folly of this 'highway' is that cars use it. And tour buses too. And everyone does 50 km/h. At least everyone who doesn't want to be passed with a scowl tossed in for good measure that is.

After an hour or so of hairpin turns, negotiated at breakneck speeds, careening madly on this cliff-side ledge of a road, dodging buses and oncoming cars, pedestrians, cyclists, dogs and cats, and being passed on blind corners by knee-down sport bikers with their pillions clutching their boyfriends' backs for dear life, I lost my fear, and began to drive like an Italian.

The first rule is like riding a motorbike. Look calmly through the space, not at the other vehicles. Learn that ten inches on either side is oodles of room with lots of margin for error.

In the blind hairpins, on a right-hand curve, with an oncoming bus, and the unforgiving cliff wall to your right, it's best hit the accelerator hard, keep one eye out for pedestrians or pets around the bend, and the other eye on the instrument.

By instrument, I am referring of course to the Italian vehicle proximity sensor. All four-wheel vehicles in Italy seem to have them, so I imagine they are required by law.

The trick is to learn that if the proximity sensor isn't touching the cliff face, or smacking pedestrians, cyclists, or parked cars, it's all good!

Here is a photo of the one our Peugeot had.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mission... possible!

I work in a big, busy city.

The other day I needed to expedite something that is usually handled by my staff using couriers, and that takes days, sometimes weeks.

The goal was to hop over to one lawyer's office (he's a notary actually, but in Quebec notaries are more like lawyers than the notary public elsewhere in Canada and in the US), and then get some essential paperwork from the first lawyer to our lead outside counsel's office.

Taking a car wouldn't work because of parking issues in Old Montreal and at the stock exchange tower in the lower downtown core.  Cabbing it would certainly have worked, but would still have taken time to hail or order a cab, and would have been boring, and would have cost my employer money (probably $40 or more).

The situation made hopping on my Vespa for a mid-afternoon jaunt the obvious right answer.  Parking issues: zero; cost to my employer: zero; speed and efficiency: off the chart because I slipped past traffic; employee morale: high, and priceless!

Mission accomplished in record time with a huge smile on my face!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Project report: Installing dual 12 volt power outlets

If you save your Vespa for toodling around the neighborhood on sunny summer afternoons (which, by the way, is a perfectly good use for a Vespa), your Vespa is perfect when it rolls out of the showroom.

If, like me, you log more than 5,000 miles a year commuting to and from the office, there are some things you want to add to your Vespa before very long.

One of those things is a 12 volt power outlet.  Exactly the kind of outlet that comes with every car (and often more than one).

When I got my first Vespa I had installed a 12 volt outlet in the glove compartment before the first riding season even started.  Now that I have my GTS, adding the power outlet was also a top priority.

I learned a thing or two about making modifications to Vespas in the three years since I embarked on this most excellent adventure. One of the things I learned was that I should have installed a terminal strip in the legshield.  If this is Greek to you, it was Greek to me too when I first came across the suggestion.  The advantage of a terminal strip is that installing new circuits for accessories is much easier and keeps things tidier.

I went to a local electronics store and picked up a terminal strip.  I promptly cut it into 2 six terminal strips and then tie-wrapped them back to back.  I then bridged one set of six terminals with red wire, and the other set of six terminals with black wire.

If my description leaves you numb and not understanding what it is I have done, here is a mercifully short video that may help:
The first terminal on the red terminal strip is connected to a wire connected to the positive battery terminal, and the first terminal on the black terminal strip is connected to a wire that goes to the negative battery terminal.

With that bit of electrical plumbing out of the way, I designed the circuit for some twelve volt outlets.
Adding a relay is the way to ensure that the outlets are only live when the Vespa's ignition is on.  It's a precaution to make sure that the Vespa's battery doesn't run down if something is left plugged into the outlet.

On the LX 150 I installed a single 12 volt outlet inside the glove compartment.  That was a good choice.  It kept the outlet out of sight, and was a minimally invasive change to the Vespa's leg shield.  The GTS has two "knee pads".  Who knows why they are called knee pads.  They don't offer any padding for your knees, that's for sure.  The nice thing about the knee pads is that they are cheap to replace and they are the natural place to install outlets, accessory switches, and the like.  If you need to restore the bike to stock, all you need to do is buy a new knee pad.

It turned out that one of the challenges for this modification was finding suitable 12 volt outlets.  When I did the 12 volt outlet on the LX 150, I got everything I needed at The Source (formerly Radio Shack).  This time around, I couldn't find a suitable outlet anywhere.

Following some advice from a Modern Vespa thread, I searched for "marine 12 volt outlet" on Ebay.  I found a great deal on two outlets that cost me under $15 including shipping.

I drilled out two symmetrical holes in the left knee pad and installed the outlets.  Getting the holes to the right size involved from free-hand dremelling, but it was a simple and relatively easy thing to do.
Following my circuit plan, I used crimp connectors so that if I needed to remove the knee pad in the future, I would be able to disconnect them easily.
The rest is easy.  Plug in the positive and negative leads, and re-install the knee pad.
And there you have it.  Now I have a place to plug in my Garmin Nuvi GPS, and my iPhone.  Or my iPhone, and my GoPro camera.  Or my GoPro and my Sena SMH10 Bluetooth headset... well, you get the drift.
Another successful modification, and one step closer to having the ultimate Vespa commuting (and touring) bike.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A good use for the Vespa GTS side stand

I am painfully aware of the pitiful reputation of the infamous GTS side stand.

My new-to-me GTS 300 (that I love, love, love, by the way) came with the OEM side stand.

I like the Vespa on the side stand from a purely esthetic point of view, but I DO NOT TRUST IT!!!

In fact, it betrayed the previous owner who wasn't aware of its treacherous ways; he left the bike on the side stand whilst opening his garage door.  His bike came off the stand in the minute or so it took him to lift the door.  Evidently his driveway was not yet paved, judging from the scratches on the left cowl that only gravel could cause.

With all those caveats out of the way, I have found a good use for the side stand.

I had installed a GTS-style bag hook on the leg shield of my LX 150. On the LX, with my overstuffed computer bag on the legshield hook, I could still mount the Vespa by squeezing my leg through what was left of the space between the saddle and the leg shield.

Not so with the GTS. The gap is tighter.

Getting on the bike is easy. I can most comfortably mount by putting my left foot on the floorboard and swinging my right leg over the saddle. I then rock the bike off the centre stand. Easy.

When I am not carrying anything bulky on the bag hook, I take the bike off the centre stand before mounting in the normal way, passing my right leg through the space between the leg shield and the saddle. When I take the bike off the centre stand in this way, I always apply the rear brake to ensure that the bike comes off the stand and stays firmly put.

Dismounting is another story. That's where the side stand is not only useful, I think I'd be facing quite a struggle without it.

I extend the side stand, make sure that the stand is fully extended, that the bike is resting firmly against it, and then I can easily dismount by swinging my right leg off the bike. The lean of the Vespa on the side stand is just enough to allow me to dismount comfortably that way without my boot scuffing the seat or the backrest on the top case.

Once off the bike, I waste little time getting it up on the centre stand.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.