Sunday, March 20, 2011

First ride of the season

I headed over to the Beaconsfield mall yesterday morning for a sorely needed haircut.

Minus three celsius at 7:50 a.m. 27F.

Brisk? Actually, it was more like decent skiing weather, if you ask me.

Backing out of the garage for the first time this year, the initial riding task was crossing fresh snow that had fallen during the night and drifted off the garage roof in a two-foot band right across the driveway. The pavement beyond that band of snow was mercifully bare and dry.

Standing water from the previous day's snow melt lay in shallow puddles that were frozen solid.  The ice on the road was in isolated patches that were fairly easy to avoid.

I was running a little late for my eight o'clock appointment.  Gearing up for the first time had been less efficient than it could have been.  I was anxious to see how my new gear would perform in the cold.  I had my new Corazzo Underhoody beneath my 5.0 armored jacket with the balaclava style hood pulled over my head so that it lined my helmet and effectively sealed my neck from drafts.

The Corazzo winter gauntlets on my hands prevented any possible drafts from entering at the cuffs.

I started out towards the back streets rather than the main road on my way to the Beaconsfield mall. After a winter hiatus from riding, the scooter felt unfamiliar, and with icy patches to deal with, I was all the more apprehensive.

My first riding impression came courtesy of the Cuppini windscreen. What a nice luxury.  I had expected that I would find it too tall, and thus awkward and confining.

Not one bit! Surprisingly, there was a good amount of air circulating behind the windscreen and it was not at all as claustrophobia-inducing as I had thought it would be.  So much so that the idea of cutting the screen down to mid-height receded rapidly from my plans.

The Corazzo Underhoody, though lightweight, performed well, keeping me warm and blocking the wind effectively. The only part of me that really felt the cold were my legs. I wasn't wearing my new Tourmaster Caliber pants. You'll have to wait for my impression on that item of new gear.

The only disappointment for me, as I expected, were the winter gauntlets. While I sized the gloves based on the Corazzo sizing chart, the medium glove was just too snug on my hand. The result was a little clumsiness on the controls due to the stiffness, and, with insufficient air left to circulate, cold hands. Not a good recipe.

I parked on the sidewalk outside the mall so that I could admire my scoot from my perch on the salon chair.
After my hair appointment was done, at 9:00 a.m., I headed west.  I stopped on City Lane to snap these pictures.

Continuing west, I passed my house and then rode along old Lakeshore road to the Beaconsfield city limit.

The sun was higher but the temperature hadn't budged. The road had a lot of ice on it and I had to limit my speed to 15 miles an hour.

On the way, I rode down a boat ramp and put the Vespa up on the centre stand to take the photo you'll see below.

Lake Saint-Louis is still cloaked in a thick sheet of ice, as far as the eye can see. Three foot tall snow banks stand along the retaining wall.
This is really much more winter weather than spring weather.

As I headed back up to the road I thought of Steve Williams. Steve is used to riding in these conditions.  Never did I think that I would have a similar experience.

It's a great feeling, I must admit.  If you're dressed for it, it seems to enhance something about the joy of riding my Vespa.   It was a really good experience because it helped me to understand more about the riding experience.

It's essentially the same experience I had last summer when I rode for the first time in heavy rain.

The common denominator for those very different experiences is the challenge they present.  There is something about the challenge of riding that makes it pleasurable.

For many people, myself included, driving a car is second nature.

Most of the interesting driving lessons were learned a lifetime ago. It's been a long time since driving was truly enjoyable as an experience.

It's just not that special. Most of the time it's just too tame. There is very little about it that's challenging.   And that's here in Montreal where winter conditions make you learn one heck of a lot more about limited traction and forces acting on the vehicle that are unrelated to the purely linear motion of the wheels on dry pavement.

The only adrenaline rush I've had recently behind the wheel was when I got a little frisky on the expressway on the way to pick up some take-out ribs after spending my Saturday doing chores. The rush came when the blue and red LEDs flooded my rear view mirror on the exit ramp.  Yup, apparently 140 km/h was a tad too frisky for the QPP cruiser to pass up.

What I take away from yesterday's ride that is really worth sharing here, is that the deep pleasure that often comes from riding a powered two-wheeler stems, at least in some measure, from the challenge the rider faces.

That's certainly not all that goes into the recipe, but it's certainly one of the more important ingredients.  At least so it goes for me.

Follow me as I explore a second season of life on two wheels.

PS: just a side note to mention that all the photos for this post were made with my Iphone 4, including the first rather arty one taken near the boat ramp by the lake, the result of some kind of freaky malfunction that turned out to be really interesting in conveying the snowy, dreamy theme.  If you look closely you can see my image reflected in the Vespa's cowl.

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The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.