2016 Scooter Cannonball on a 30 year old Helix

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by MondayDad, Jun 15, 2016.

  1. MondayDad

    MondayDad Adventurer

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    Well, it’s time to just do it. I’ve followed others making the biennial cross-country Scooter Cannonball trip for the last several years, wondering when I, along with one or more of my sons, could participate in this adventure. I came to the realization earlier this year that I’m at a significantly different point in my life than they are, or that they will be anytime soon. I had the scooter, the funds, the vacation time, the desire, the independence and about 350,000 IHG (Holiday Inn Express) hotel points to exchange for free hotel nights, so enough wishing and waiting… it’s time to “Just Do It!”

    For those not familiar with Scooter Cannonball, check the web site and forums at:

    http://www.scootercannonball.com/forum/index.php

    If you’re not into self-study, my version is as follows. The ride always goes from one ocean to another, whether west-to-east or east-to-west. The 2014 ride was from Hyder, Alaska to New Orleans. This year’s ride goes from Fernandina Beach, FL (north of Jacksonville on Amelia Island) to Everett Washington, so not only ocean to ocean, but diagonally for good measure! The ride begins on Tuesday July 5th and ends, if all goes well, 11 days and 3500 miles later on July 15th. While there is some organization to the ride, and there will be others on it, I’m told that it will consist of 11 long days of riding pretty much by myself, occasionally either passing or getting passed by another rider. Days average about 350 miles to accommodate the reality of scooters with lower top speeds and the probability of evening repairs. Folks apparently don’t ride together because, while it is repeatedly defined as “not a race”, the desire to get across the country faster than others encourages what I will just call “independence”.

    Each rider is assigned a “factor” based on the average of the age of their chassis and motor along with the displacement (maximum of 250cc). The factor of 100 is based on the performance of a 1979 Vespa P200E, so it’s not hard to exceed that with any modern scooter of medium displacement. A route is determined and published while it is still cold outside by a wizard behind a curtain somewhere, and an average speed (at a factor of 100) is assigned to the route. If the average speed is set at 50mph, and your factor is 110, then you’re going to have to average 55mph to reach the four checkpoints per day on or before time for no penalty. 1 minute late = 1 point penalty, so don’t stop (for lunch, fuel, or nature) or get lost! So now you get the idea.

    Over the years of following other rides, I’ve expected to use an ’87 Honda Elite 150 (CH150) making 11hp and a top speed of 60mph. I got it to use as a pit bike when performing race administration duties at various karting venues. I have 2 of them, actually, one in like-new (4000 miles) condition, while the other one has fallen over in my trailer and on the track more than once and has 10,000 miles on it. I kept both scooters in anticipation of one of my sons joining me for the adventure. Riding it for ½ day identifies that the seat is way too hard, and way too small, to expect my rear to survive 11 8-hour days. I ran across an ’86 Honda Helix (CN250) earlier this year, and the tissue next to my wallet said, “BUY IT!”

    The Helix was the first of the modern scooters with enough power (19hp), speed (75mph) and reliability to actually get somewhere on it. They were virtually unchanged from the 1986 models until the end of the run in 2006, sharing the market segment with the Honda PCX in later years. The one I found had spent most of its life in the back of a dealership, liberated by a grandson who thought that his 80-year-old recently widowed grandfather might like riding with him. Grandpa, probably wisely, decided that taking up this hobby at his age was unwise, so after putting only 15 miles on it in 1 year, the Helix was put on CraigsList. It had 2600 miles on it, which for a 30 year old scoot, tends to make me fear the worst. It ran good from the beginning, though, the gas tank was clean, and the only age-related issues were cracked tires and gummy brake fluid, easily remedied.

    Since I bought it in February, I’ve inspected/replaced other stuff and added some endurance items such as an auxiliary fuel tank to extend the 150 mile gas tank range to about 400 miles and carb brace to keep the carb, which is suspended only by its rubber-and-aluminum intake manifold, from flopping around as the rear wheel moves on its limited-travel suspension. Remember that on many scooters, including the Helix, the engine/drivetrain is one solid unit. Surprisingly, the ride is quite good since the wheelbase is about 65” and the seat is a GIANT foam saddle that would make a cruiser proud.

    I’m being joined on the ride by a long-time (40 year?) friend and union electrician who recently retired from his local. He has always loved being on some kind of road trip, wearing out a bunch of Fiats in his younger years (not a hard task) and several better cars as he and I aged. We’ll carry the scooter to-and-from the oceans on a motorcycle rail behind a Ford Escape, with the interim duties of keeping my spare parts, tools, laptop and clothes relatively close and dry in between. I’ll be pleased if the Helix and I make it for 3500 miles, and I just didn’t have the additional time or risk profile to add the pre/post distance on it. I looked into the cost of shipping to Florida and parting with the Helix at a fire-sale price in Seattle to fly home and decided that it was actually cheaper for Duane, who volunteered, to join me.

    The Helix is finally ready with confirmation via a 375 mile shakedown trip at the end of May. I’m about as anxious as I can now be to get on the road to Florida. One of my sons is giving me some tips about pictures and ride reports, so I hope to be able sustain that excitement and share my adventure with those who want to follow along, possibly with your thought of making a Scooter Cannonball trip in the future.

    LET’S DO IT!


    Bob
    #1
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  2. cdwise

    cdwise Long timer

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    It will be interesting to see if the scooter cannonball lives up to Bob's preconceived ideas. I look forward to meeting him and the other folks who weren't in Hyder and I haven't met at other events. For many getting to the starting line is the first real hurdle in doing the scooter cannonball. FWIW, as Bob said "it is not a race" but rather the official line is "timed endurance event" since sub 250cc scooters are generally not thought of as something you ride 3,606 over 11 days. Days range from 272 to 375 miles and elevation peaks at nearly 10,000' which for the vintage riders - can mean lots of carb tinkering along the way. A bit about the cannonball:

    oldest scooter is a 1951 Moto Guzzi Galletto
    There are 6 pre-1980 scooters, 11 scooters under 175cc.
    16 of the 42 registered are Vespas from 1974 Rally to 2015 Sprint
    half of the scooters are Piaggio/Vespa/Aprilia models, Honda is second with 9 scooters
    Vespa GT most popular model followed by Honda Helix
    There are 43 riders registered but typically 40% don't make it to the start (based on previous cannonball) and fewer finish.

    Some riders are riding both ways, including 3 of the Helix riders and me.
    #2
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  3. LM15

    LM15 Adventurer

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    Best of luck on the Helix! I was the oldest rider on the 2014 run on a Piaggio BV250 and was able to finish with very little problems thanks to good preparation and not running flat out all the time. I did crack my windscreen on the first dirt road section in Canada. I, and several others, rode the scooters from Prince George to Hyder and then on to the finish in New Orleans. From there I rode the BV back to Fort Lauderdale. The 2014 run was super, well, I did freeze going over the mountains up cdwise's way. I would do it again... I have a scheduling conflict with this year's run, but looking forward to 2018.
    #3
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  4. MondayDad

    MondayDad Adventurer

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    How high is the bar to be "oldest rider"? Do they also track youngest rider? I hope I'm not the former, and am sure I'm not the latter. Scooter is ready, though not as many stickers on it as some I've seen! The first sticker on it was for DaRk Metal Art. I'll mount the auxiliary gas tank when I've arrived.


    20160624_114637sm.jpg


    Bob
    #4
  5. cdwise

    cdwise Long timer

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    Looks good but every other Helix I know of that has participated in the cannonball has been red. The only not read was Hank's "nekid" one last cannonball.

    My prep is yet to be completed since when we went to swap tires on Saturday it was discovered that the rear brake pads are almost toast. Of course nobody has the correct size in stock so the replacements are due to arrive tomorrow. Departure for Florida scheduled for Thurs.
    #5
  6. drbike

    drbike Been here awhile

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    This is going to be fun.
    #6
  7. cdwise

    cdwise Long timer

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    #7
  8. LM15

    LM15 Adventurer

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    MondayDad, I was oldest rider in the 2014 CBR as I turned seven zero upon arrival at NOLA. This year, I don't know who the oldest is.
    #8
  9. MondayDad

    MondayDad Adventurer

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    All loaded, ready to leave the family and meet up with my support driver, Duane, in Jacksonville. Loading gave me an appreciation for those riding long distances with NO support other than what they can pack, some motorcycle shops (assuming traveling in populated areas) and a few inmates who are following them on their adventure. I know I've got more stuff than I need, but I have the room so why not? Maybe one of the other riders will need something, especially those who are supporting themselves alone.

    I'm planning to get on the road before some thunderstorms roll in early tomorrow morning. Google says it's a 13 hour drive but there's a lot of construction no matter which way I go.

    The Helix is making the trip to Fernandina Beach FL on a motorcycle rail on the back of my Escape. It says on it that it will handle a 600# bike, but that seems pretty optimistic to me! I had my "DaRk Metal Art" son, David, weld some angle iron onto the tie downs to strengthen them, and the Helix still moves around more than I like. I'm planning to keep the Interstate speeds down until I'm confident that weight transfer is OK since the Escape has a pretty short wheelbase for something that heavy on the back.

    20160702_203350sm.jpg


    There's a riders meeting at the hotel at 3pm Monday, so we'll see how many of the 41 (?) who registered will show up at the starting line. Some have dropped out already for various reasons. BTW, there are lots of side-bets going on, like how many WILL actually show up, when "so-and-so" will break down, or what day someone will hit a bear (my favorite bet: "Day 8, 'cause he was hiding about there 2 years ago.."). The 2-stroke gearbox guys have their own "yellow jersey" award for the daily leader of the 2-stroke entries consisting of a special sticker, many of which are pretty interesting and likely coveted by the 4-stroke guys. Check them out on the ScooterCannonball.com forums.

    Bob
    #9
  10. Kyron

    Kyron Oncler Inds

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    sounds fun enough!
    #10
  11. cdwise

    cdwise Long timer

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    Here's my scoot packed for the ride. Other than a spare tire I've shipped to FedEx for pick up Day 3 I'm carrying everything on the scoot though my support team has torque wench and other tools if I need to use the spare parts I'm carrying. [​IMG]

    I've arrived at the start hotel and will be making a few more adjustments to the scoot after the 1,000 mile shakedown to get here.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #11
  12. gasandasphalt

    gasandasphalt Been here awhile

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    Was hoping for a pic of scoot and rider, any chance ??
    Glad you arrived safe. Good luck.
    #12
  13. milkman67204

    milkman67204 Been here awhile

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    This looks like a ton of fun!
    #13
  14. cdwise

    cdwise Long timer

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    Here's the Helix brigade [​IMG]


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #14
  15. cdwise

    cdwise Long timer

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    Oh and 29 registered riders showed up and the SOD Scooters of Destiny Zuma riders showed up with two extras hoping to buy entries of riders who didn't make it to the start. That brings the total for tomorrow's 7 am start to 31


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    #15
  16. MondayDad

    MondayDad Adventurer

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    Notice the patriotic red, white and blue color scheme for our posed picture above? Ok, I know that they are Japanese scooters, but im sure that Japan wanted you to have a fun-filled Independence Day celebration.

    Day 1 of SCR is just about over, awaiting a few more participants to arrive and check in their times at the hotel. I'm typing this on a tablet while I await my support vehicle with my laptop. THEN I can add some pictures and details that take too much effort to type on a tablet!

    The day's results will be posted somewhere, possibly on the scootercannonball.com site or maybe followride.com. More later this evening.

    Bob
    #16
  17. ghulst

    ghulst Been here awhile

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    Just came across this. That seems like an awesome ride. Have fun!
    #17
  18. MondayDad

    MondayDad Adventurer

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    Day 1 of the 2-16 Scooter Cannonball started with a group shot of the riders including a drone fly-over for some video footage. Watch for that on the SCR site (not posted as of the end of Day 1). It will look something like this:

    20160705_070718sm.jpg

    After that, we were free to take a picture of the hotel from the parking lot (date/time/lat/long required) and begin our ride. So I took my picture of the hotel and headed for the stoplight.

    20160705_070953sm.jpg

    THAT could have been better timed, as the light stayed RED for a l-o-n-g time, and my points were just accumulating as I sat there. BTW, notice the aux gas tank, having been liberated from a friend's boat. All 9 gallons of it! I had about 6 gallons of fuel in it, which make the Helix kind of squirrely since there are no baffles in the tank. While I'm on the topic, I did use nearly all of that plus about 2 gallons that were in the Helix factory tank. Yeah, running wide open for 350 miles will do that.

    But back to the start... The 5 Helix riders headed out of Fernandina beach with 4 of them communicating via Sena devices (mostly 10C). I was the 5 rider, so silence for me. But that gave me time to think now that I was underway, and the first thing I thought of was.... I forgot to turn on my Google Maps routing! Dumb rookie mistake. So I just followed the other riders until I had to make a decision about whether I was going to go with the 3 slower riders, or stay with the faster guy. Opt for faster. But he went off the designated route! OK, I have to stop and turn on the GPS even if that meant that I was on my own from there, which I definitely was. I'd been heading the wrong direction, which Google Maps began correcting immediately at the next exit. I zig zagged all over the state of GA, but got to my first checkpoint only 4 minutes late. Take a snapshot.

    20160705_090130sm.jpg

    Back on the Helix, plug in the Sena to aux power for the video tagging, just in case, and set the next waypoint. Great. Google Maps won't launch because I'm in the middle of exactly Nowhere, GA. Another scooter screams by, doesn't even slow for the picture (nobody cares for the image, just the Exif data), so I see an opportunity to follow him to civilization! But he's faster than me, so I'm not catching up. Only his bright yellow jacket keeps me on the right track! Get in town, several are gassing up but I don't need that... just need to get Google Maps working! I did that and back on the road as quickly as possible.

    2nd checkpoint. There's so much wind noise that I almost miss it! it's just a nondescript road off of a 4-lane highway, and we're definitely running the speed limit. Screech to a stop so that am within the 1-mile acceptable distance and take a picture of the pavement with obligatory Exif data. Load the next checkpoint and GO GO GO!

    The 3rd checkpoint is the GA/SC border in the middle of a river. Got that shot on the "far side" of the river in a construction zone. Went to load the next waypoint and... No Google Maps again! I head on toward what I hope is civilization, but no other scooters in sight to save my bacon this time. I have printed route maps, but they use street names, not numbers. I've passed my turn by about 1/4 mile (that was fortunate that I stopped!) so went back and got on track. I can see that I have to go 3.3 miles (Helix odometer is less-than-accurate by about 20%) so I'm watching for the street name. Find it! YIKES: it's barely more than a path, and turns to rock quickly. I don't think so! While I went back to a prior road, several others apparently did take that path which was blocked by a locked gate at a gun club! The guy I talked to said that be kept going, and the road got worse and worse, eventually becoming a 2-lane track with grass almost as high as his scooter. It did come out on US/GA? 28, though, so worked out for him. My alternate track was better, getting to 28 quickly. As we got closer to Anderson SC, traffic and stoplights got more plentiful. Finally got to the hotel and snapped the last picture!

    Did the math on my photos:
    Checkpoint 1: 4 minutes late.
    Checkpoint 2: 2 minutes early, but that doesn't make up for being late at CP1.
    Checkpoint 3: 3 minutes early.
    Checkpoint 4: 19 minutes late! AGGH!

    The moral of the story: Be self-sufficient and don't get lost!

    We'll have to see how many others had difficulty with that CP3 to CP4 segment, as the track was included in the GPS download as well as the Google Maps track from the SCR website. It didn't get me because I I had only put in the waypoints (checkpoints), and let Maps determine the fastest route given traffic and other variables.

    At this point, I'm going to be stuck with Maps for the remainder of the trip, but I spent time in the hotel tonight making sure that I knew enough of the route to manage with Maps if I have to tomorrow! I will say that the miles went by a lot faster than I expected.

    Tomorrow is Anderson SC to Lebanon TN, which includes Tail of the Dragon if you want to go that way. Cherohala Skyway is an option, as there are no checkpoints from Stecoah Diner until after Tellico Plains.

    Bob
    #18
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  19. MondayDad

    MondayDad Adventurer

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    Someone requested a rider picture. This is as good as it gets at this point.

    20160704_161458sm.jpg



    Bob
    #19
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  20. Monday

    Monday Been here awhile

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    Do DMA proud (pop a wheelie).
    #20