I think that part of my orientation with my new position at WMS is weather-related. The day that I arrived it was in the 20’s, and the day after was a “balmy” 50 degree day. Next day was snow, followed by a cold, windy day that showed the thermometer at 6° with a -20 wind chill. Next day was a good foot of snow, demonstrating how traffic can get insanely snarled up. It repeats until today, where it’s -5° and the wind is howling so much that I don’t really care what the wind chill factor is. My moustache froze 15 seconds after I left my front door.
I had a great drive from Los Angeles to Chicago last week. Took 3 1/2 days and I ended up at a friend’s house overnight, moving into my apartment in Roger’s Park the next day. Up until that point I was extremely disappointed that I didn’t ride my Ducati ST2 out. Sure, I would have had less stuff, but I would have taken only what I needed and just lived with a smaller footprint until I went back home for Christmas on the evening of the 23rd. I could pack a suitcase and bring more stuff out on the return trip, and I would have the bike when the streets were clear. Continue reading First Week in Chicago — Looks Like Riding Season is Over
This is the fourth in a series of posts dedicated to living with the Vespa GTV 250 i.e. The third article is here.
Takin’ the long way on the GTV250.
I made two trips to Santa Barbara on my daily commute to my (now former) job there. I decided that the 160 mile round trip daily ride would put the scooter to many tests. Top speed, endurance, mileage, handling over different pavements and conditions, scootering in Santa Barbara, and finally the attitudes of the people that I have coffee with in Ventura, lunch with in Santa Barbara, and a cup of tea with in either place on the way home.
Top speed and freeway driving.
Those 14 inch tires just disappear underneath the Vespa. I didn’t know what to think about them. Even standing at idle on the bike, there is no way, without contortion, that you can see the rear wheel. I didn’t expect much with respect to riding on the freeway, but I’ve seen lesser rides on the road with me, and the 250cc engine is freeway legal.
As I accelerated down the onramp from Reseda Blvd to the 118 freeway west, I was shocked how fast the GTV got from zero to “I’m not going to be killed doing this” speed. By the time I hit the end of the relatively short onramp, I was speeding past 60 and on my way. Signals and visibility are without question awesome, and I safely maneuvered into traffic, still accelerating even though I was going slightly uphill. I topped out at an indicated 84mph, which, translated through an Italian Speedo, is either about 75mph, or, if you’re used to them like I am, that would be “fast”.
The first obstacle in the path between Northridge and Ventura’s salt breezes is the Susanna Pass road, which is quite steep uphill. The Piaggio 250 that I had tested previously made it up this hill with very little drop in top speed, so I wanted to see what the Vespa, with slightly smaller tires, much more frontal area and a little more weight would do.
Not bad, about what I had expected actually. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was running about 71 indicated, 62 or so actual (italian translation: medium fast). As soon as it flattened out, there was no doubt that the scoot would go back to top speed. The engine, even with 5000 miles on it, just ran like it was new. A rev-limiter is attached to the engine that limits top speed to an indicated 87 or so. I was able to bump up against this limiter on the flats, so the bike is geared just about perfectly, the CVT works as advertised, and if you are skeptical, spend a week with one and you’ll be hooked.
The trip to work and back, taken twice, took about 15 minutes longer than it would have on my bigger motorcycles. Two things stick out though. I found myself taking side roads more often, enjoying the view, smells and textures of my surroundings, and generally relaxing along my ride. I had come to accept the lower speed potential of the scoot, and found some very nice ways to entertain myself and enjoy my ride, especially on the way home. Continue reading Vespa GTV250 i.e. – Day 4 – Testing the Limits
This is the third in a series of posts dedicated to living with the Vespa GTV 250 i.e. The second article is here.
Is it possible to combine old and new?
The GTV250 is about as close to clothing as one can get and still have wheels, a motor and a gas tank. Riding down the road at 65+ mph, one of my first impressions was the fact that you actually can’t see the scooter you’re riding on, any part of it at all, except for the mirrors. It’s like you’re seated on some kind of invisible machine that is propelling you down the road — you can feel the handlebars, throttle, brakes, etc., yet you can’t see them. It is a very strange feeling from riding a motorcycle or a maxi scooter, as you can definitely see more of your conveyance. Continue reading Vespa GTV250 i.e. – Day 3 – New Retro or Old Retro?
This is the second a series of posts dedicated to living with the Vespa GTV 250 i.e. The first article is here.
Some of the really nice features and details of the GTV 250 i.e.
I took some time to look over the features and details of the Vespa GTV 250. Even Before I picked it up, Dave Meyer of 1000 Oaks Vespa had told me that these 250cc Vespas were “Masterpieces”. I had also talked with some of the hard core Vespa restorers; they all pined for px200s with the 250 engine, and “PLEASE leave the shift in”…
personal rant —
I believe that if CVT could handle the amount of horsepower and torque put out by Formula One Cars, they would adopt them immediately, since 10ths of a second count. If the current semi-automatics can shift in 3/100ths of a second and a human can shift in 1/10 of a second, then the human-powered shift will have no power to the ground 70% longer than the automatic. With a CVT, this pause is non-existent.
The Vespa CVT puts the power to the ground NOW. Zero to 25 in — NOW. Damned thing gets to 60 fast enough to give an old 1500cc Triumph Spitfire a run, that’s for sure. Top speed is an estimated 75-ish. The Vespa has a typical Italian speedometer that, although it has numbers, is best thought of as “slow-medium-fast” as far as accuracy goes.
This is the first a series of posts dedicated to living with the Vespa GTV 250 i.e.
I’m so glad that I had a “separation” between riding big bore motorcycles for weeks, then going through a very nice maxi-scooter, before picking up the Vespa GTV 250 i.e. for an all-too-short week of riding and evaluating. I was able to learn more about myself and why I rode before riding off on this Vespa, and believe me this scoot is a BIG jump from a Cruiser like a Moto Guzzi California Vintage. The Piaggio I had tested previously is a “bridge” scooter — some very nice scooter characteristics and some very nice motorcycle characteristics. The Vespa GTV 250 is all scooter.
This is the sixth and last in a series of posts dedicated to living with the 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer. The previous article is here.
You should be never too conceited to go “small”
Scooters are shorter in wheelbase, have smaller tires, less power than most bikes, and have a completely different riding position. They serve a very different purpose than a traditional motorcycle of any type. Scooters are meant to be city-dwellers, errand-runners, mate-catchers and general, casual, “just get me where I want to go with a dash of fun” conveyances.
What I didn’t expect to happen during the time with my Piaggio BV250 Tourer, was, well, uh, I didn’t expect to learn anything about riding, or why I ride.
What I learned about riding:
Scooters normally operate at city-level. They must be comfortable riding up and down small, narrow places with tight turns. You should be able to U-turn in a phone booth. You need to accelerate to street speed quickly. You need to have visibility because you’re small and there are some really big dinosaurs out there that will step on you and not realize it or care. Continue reading Piaggio BV250 Tourer – Day 6 – Scootering has made me a better rider.
This is the fifth in a series of posts dedicated to living with the 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer. The previous article is here.
Overview of the Piaggio BV250 Tourer
The Piaggio BV250 Tourer occupies a very nice space among two-wheeled transport. The BV is not a small urban scooter, but also not a big, long-distance mega-cc Maxi Scooter as well. It doesn’t try to be a motorcycle, yet has many motorcycle-like characteristics. It’s definitely a scooter for the modern, sprawling United States City, more so than the smaller-tired, smaller engined and more compact traditional scooter. For someone looking for storage, light weight, comfortable seating and weather protection that scooters provide, but freeway power and distance-eating capability, it is a viable, almost obvious choice over smaller scooters and the small-displacement motorcycle: Continue reading 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer – Day 5 – Likes and Dislikes
This is the fourth in a series of posts dedicated to living with the 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer. The previous article is here.
A Two-Wheeled Caste System
There are quite a few two-wheeled cultures and subcultures. From Dirt Bikes to the fastest, Moto-GP-with-turn-signals motorcycle, and from Scooters to Cruisers, there are lines drawn in the sand that must be crossed with care. Within these groups, there are sub groups that prefer new to old, Japanese to European to American, etc. Many of these cultures are brand and even brand/model specific. Groups are often exclusive of those that are “close but not quite the same”, or “so drastically different that there’s no connection whatsoever”.
I truly believe that as you age, you either become more tolerant of other people’s opinions, filtering out the stuff you don’t care about after listening to the argument, or you can become the “get off my lawn, you damned kids!” guy that just isn’t interested. I’m more of the former — I have friends that are the latter, and that’s fine, too. I just get to ride more and different iron.
I’m also not much of a “joiner”. I fit into the ranks of the Moto Guzzi club very well because they’ve never demanded that I join and I’ve never done it. Yet, they always welcome me to their events and I have many friends in the club. I think that if they took PayPal I’d probably join, but mailing a check in is just something that keeps getting deferred and finally forgotten about.
The nice thing about not being a joiner however, is that I keep my options and opinions wide open about what I should be riding, or what kind of rider I am. I’ve decided that I’m a rider of anything on two wheels (ok, three if you count the MP3), and I’ll give each bike under my butt a fair shot and try to understand what the engineers were trying to accomplish by creating it.
I’ll ride it like the engineers designed it, and explore the borderline conditions that “hopefully” they, too, had anticipated. Finally, I like to explore the culture and people around my rides. Motorcycling and Scootering are extremely social, more so than car clubs and almost any other daily activity, and it’s extremely important to understand the culture that you’re joining or signing up for when you mount your ride. In this case, I’ve been exploring the culture of the BV250 Tourer. Continue reading 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer – Day 4 – Scooter Culture
This is the third in a series of posts dedicated to living with the 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer. The second article is here.
The 160 mile commute
For a few more weeks I will be commuting from Northridge to Santa Barbara, California. I’ve been at this job since mid-April, and the 80-mile-each-way ride has acted as a “firewall” between my family life and my work. If I had to make this trip through the city streets and freeways of Los Angeles, it would definitely not be as much fun, but I get to ride Highway 118 through the farmlands of the Santa Paula Valley and then along the Ocean for about 30 miles on the 101 from Ventura to Santa Barbara. Only about 12 miles of “regular freeway rush hour” traffic is encountered around my house along the freeway section of the 118 over the Santa Susanna pass and Simi Valley.
This is the second in a series of posts dedicated to living with the 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer. The first article is here.
Beautiful looks and quality wrapped in a wiry, effortless package
“Haute couture (French for “high sewing” or “high dressmaking”; pronounced [oːt kuˈtyʁ]) refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted fashions … In modern France, haute couture is a “protected name” that can be used only by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. However, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing, whether it is produced in Paris or in other fashion capitals … Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.” — from Wikipedia
I never cease to be amazed at how well-built the Piaggio BV250 Tourer scooter is, how much fun it is to ride, and how easy it is to just get wherever you need to go. You get there fast, you get there looking good, and no matter what the traffic is like, you get there with no effort. It’s just easy to go places.
There are so many articles in the major motorcycle magazines addressing the “Ultimate Streetfighter”. These are bikes that have had all the fairings stripped off, very aggressive-looking and very powerful. They are evolved from the cafe racers that ran through the streets of London in the 1960s.
At the risk of being flamed by my riding friends, I’m going to go out on a limb here. What good is a stripped down, powerful and agressive-looking bike on the streets for actually getting places fast? Through my experiences, getting around fast means being seen enough to be avoided, but not incurring people’s ire by telling them to avoid you. It also means being wiry and quick, rather than big and fast.
Getting through realtraffic means getting through traffic. Ride thin, to pull between all the stopped cars at a light, and ride snappy, to get across an intersection when the light turns green. Getting to 90mph in seconds is totally fun, but getting to 45mph faster than the car you’re stopped inches away from at an intersection is priceless. Continue reading 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer-Day 2-Streetfighter in Couture