The second ride – returning in the dark
Redmond Overlake area to Duvall; 13 miles;
A: 2.5 miles & 372 ft. down to 49 ft. (2% grade)
B: 5.5 miles & 49 ft. up to 600 ft. (2% grade)
C: 1.2 miles & 600 ft. down to 47 ft. (9% grade)
D: 3.5 miles & 47 ft. to 97 ft. (0.3% grade)
E: 0.8 mile & 97 ft. to 421 ft. (8% grade)
Buoyed by the successful trip to my workplace from home, I looked forward to completing the trial run. Having a fully recharged battery helped, even though the outbound leg only used 36%. Talking with my wife about the return trip arrangements, we agreed that she should lead me home to cut through the evening fog with the LEAF’s very bright LED headlamps. This turned out to be quite a prudent decision.
To spare you some of the boring bits that you’ve already read about, I’ve divided the route into fewer segments.
Segment A: 2.5 miles & 372 ft. down to 49 ft. (2% grade)
Emerging from the warmly lit garage into the November evening chill, I followed my wife to the stoplight guarding the SR-520 eastbound on-ramp. Because the on-ramp descends to the highway from an overpass, and because the eastbound direction is a downhill slope anyway, accelerating to 55 mph was no problem at all, although I had to switch from LO power to HI power mode in order to break past 45 mph.
Traffic was light at 5:30pm, but only because it was a weekend. During weeknight rush hour, I can count on it to back up all the way to the 40th Street on-ramp and beyond, keeping freeway speeds achievable and more economical than WOT. In exchange, I have to be extra alert for lane jockeys and their slalom tactics.
The highway is lit, so there isn’t much trouble seeing the roadway. That said, it’s still baffling to see how many people neglect to turn on their headlamps at night. And then it struck me – I wasn’t seeing very much of my own headlamp reflecting off the road ahead. The pool of light reminded me of a double C cell flashlight at 10 paces. This might be adequate for a bicyclist riding at a brisk 30 mph, but worrisome for a motorcyclist approaching 60 mph.
What was contributing to this was the brightness of the backlit LCD digital dashboard, showing the speedometer with a white background. Under direct sunlight, this screen can be a little challenging to read, but at night…you might be aware that one of the more popular basic smartphone apps is a “flashlight” app which can be little more than a solid white rectangle that fills the screen. Some of the more sophisticated ones turn on the camera flash LED instead. Flashlight apps are great for stumbling your way to the bathroom in the dark, but only when they’re facing away from you. When they’re illuminating your chin like a buttercup, they ruin your night vision, reducing how far ahead you can see important details like street signs, the edge of the road, potholes, gravel, and small animals in the road.
Segment B: 5.5 miles & 49 ft. up to 600 ft. (2% grade)
This is where Avondale Road’s lights are left behind to climb Novelty Hill. This road has an occasional streetlamp, but it also has fresh blacktop that had been rained on for two straight days: black, unmarked, and reluctant to reflect light back towards drivers. Fortunately, there were reflective construction barrels marking the edges of the pavement, and a LEAF with bright headlamps and taillights ahead of me, but I found myself leaning forward or tilting my head back and looking down past my nose to eclipse the dashboard to recover some night vision.
Segment C: 1.2 miles & 600 ft. down to 47 ft. (9% grade)
The summit of Novelty Hill road is well lit because it is flanked by a retirement community and a convenient shopping mall anchored by a supermarket, gas station, Starbucks, and McDonald’s.
Leaving this oasis of light behind and the road quickly plunges into starless, moonless darkness. This is the forest canopy area that even scares the LEAF into activating its headlights during the day.
And we’re accelerating, accelerating, accelerating, pulled down the hill past sharper and sharper turns, past automated Your Speed Is SLOW DOWN, SLOW DOWN, SLOW DOWN signage that jumps out you like the big bad wolf at every turn.
Did I mention that this is the forest canopy road that has freshly and darkly patched pavement?
And that it descends into a foggy valley?
Maybe I can ask Santa for a brighter headlamp bulb. In the meantime, I will try riding with my high beam turned on at night.
Segment D: 3.5 miles & 47 ft. to 97 ft. (0.3% grade)
At the bottom of the hill is the valley crossing. Foggy, with a chance of glare from oncoming headlamps. As alluded to in the spoilers from my previous post, the nimbus created by the fog and the dashboard light seems to be bright enough to make the road harder to see in the low illumination cast by the headlamps. I was very glad that my wife was driving the LEAF ahead of me through the fog, which was so thick that we couldn’t see the streetlamps at the roundabout on the east side of the valley until we were about a quarter mile away.
Segment E: 0.8 mile & 97 ft. to 421 ft. (8% grade)
After a short stretch at 50 mph towards Duvall city limits, we finally return to Duvall and turn off of SR-203 to climb the last hill. To increase the challenge, we take a road that is steeper than the first ride. Unlike that earlier ride, there are two stop signs on an incline. Rather than braking, it is less wasteful to just roll off the throttle. Slowing, I roll on the throttle to pick up speed before losing my balance at the stop line. The incline does give the scooter some struggle, but in the HI power setting, WOT does help it reach the speed limit of 25 mph with power to spare and without making traffic behind me impatient.
- PASS! The Current Motor Super Scooter’s battery and motor are capable of getting me to work and back with power to spare, despite the hills. This was by far my biggest concern overall. Failing this test would have made the scooter nearly useless because I live far from many interesting destinations, and because I live on a hill that the scooter might not have been able to climb.
A couple of things that would improve the rider’s safety:
- The headlights should be brighter. I’m not going so far as to recommend fog lamps, but I do work late and come home in the dark, more so in winter but sometimes during the summer, too. I would rather not give up using the scooter just because I am unable to see as far ahead as is necessary for the speed limits in effect on the roads I travel. To overcome this problem before the scooter arrived, I put a light bar on my gasoline motorcycle, making the road and faraway signs easy to see. It occurs to me that I could be spoiled by the extra light provided by the light bar, such that anything less seems inadequate. However, my wife did mention that the headlights of the vehicles behind me were brighter than my own, and I was much closer to her on the way home. If nothing else, a brighter headlight makes a rider more visible to other motorists.
- The dashboard LED should not be so bright as to diminish the rider’s night vision. If you can look past the melodrama of Segment C, I hope you’ll notice the legitimate concern about how a bright light close to the face makes it difficult to properly see into the distance, especially on unlit roads or in fog.
A couple of things that should improve the scooter’s safety:
- A foot brake or hand brake should be provided to prevent the vehicle from sliding on a slope or rolling off of its side stand when accidentally bumped. This also allows the rider to do something with both hands while at a complete stop on a hill.
- The side stand should be redesigned to prevent itself from being retracted so easily if the scooter rolls forward slightly. Maybe allow the side stand to deploy further and allow the scooter to lean over it more, so that the scooter’s own weight makes it difficult for the side stand to retract itself. As a workaround, I will feel better deploying the center stand.
So there you have it – a little after the fact and a little wordy, but I hope this helps you share in the joy of exploring the range, power, and some of the features of an electric two-wheeled vehicle.
More to come, I’m sure, as I ride more, learn more, and have a dialogue with Current Motor to give them ideas for improving their already wonderful Super Scooter!
Thanks for reading!