Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thoughts on my windshield

I installed the Cuppini tall windscreen just as the winter ended and the 2011 riding season started.

It made a BIG difference riding in low temperatures (10C to -5C).

Now that the weather is summer-ish, it's also making a BIG difference: it's too hot!

Here, in no particular order, are my observations on the tall windscreen:
  • Riding with the tall windscreen means my visor was always up.  Not a bad thing really.
  • The wind comes from behind me with the windscreen.  The windscreen creates a trailing vacuum.  When it's cold, I get a cold draft on my back.  When it's raining, the back of my rain jacket looks like the back window of an SUV, all covered in dirt and road grime.
  • Riding in the rain and seeing though both a rain-speckled windshield and a rain-speckled visor is distracting at best.  At night it's a bad recipe.
  • Heading into late afternoon sun, the windshield seems to make it much more difficult to see what's going on with side streets.  The too high contrast combined with glare make it difficult to see cars and pedestrians on those street corners.
  • The windscreen keeps some rain off my body, but not as much as I expected, particularly in the city driving I do.  It doesn't make any difference because I wear rain gear.  But if you're thinking that a tall windshield will help you stay dry, think again.
  • My Vespa sounds completely different with the windscreen on.  I hear all types of rattles and mechanical sounds with the screen on, particularly, I think, a kind of whine from the transmission.  I know what you're thinking, but no, there's nothing wrong with the transmission, it's just been thoroughly inspected and cleaned when my drive belt was changed last week.
  • The Cuppini mounting hardware could stand improvement.  Unlike the Vespa OEM mounts, the Cuppini mounts are all metal.  When I removed the windscreen on Saturday, the left mount came out easily once I loosened the bolt, but the right one was a whole other story.  I had to disassemble the headset and remove the right turn indicator so I could get a pair of vice-grips to lock onto the longish split sleeve piece and wrench it out.  I'm in the market for some Vespa mounts.
  • Cleaning the windscreen certainly isn't a chore, but it's one more thing to do before I can hop on my bike and go.
  • I can REALLY hear my turn indicator beeper.  Even traveling on an expressway at 95 km/h I can hear the beeper quite well.  It's only faintly audible without the windscreen at those speeds.
  • I got the tall windscreen because it's the only one that extends in front of the hand grips.  That cover for the hands makes commuting in cold weather MUCH more comfortable.  My hands still get a little cold with Corazzo winter gauntlets on, but not thoroughly chilled like they used to.
  • On my commute last Friday, a bird flew into scooter hitting the front near or just below the headlight and partially on the windshield.  It didn't hit very hard, fluttered there for a second struggling to break free from the air forcing it onto the bike, slid off the windshield, and continued on its way, flying up into the trees on the opposite side of the road.  I don't know whether the windshield helped me or not, helped the bird or not, or even disoriented the bird causing the strike.  I mention it only because it relates in some fashion to the windscreen. 
After riding with the windscreen for April and May, and after giving it a lot of thought, I've decided to cut the windscreen down to mid-height. Many members on Modern Vespa seem to prefer the mid-height screen and that counts for a lot.

Based on my personal experience to date, the advantages of not having to look through the screen in the rain and at night, plus perhaps the opportunity to direct more air to my helmet where I can control air flow with the visor and helmet vents, are benefits that are important to me.

The potential disadvantage is that I won't like the way the air will flow once the screen is cut down.

The risk is that I won't be happy with the result and I will have wasted a $95 windshield.  I can live with that.

There are detailed instructions on the Modern Vespa forum for cutting down windscreens.  If I didn't have access to a qualified expert, I'd tackle the job myself.

I'm lucky though because the local glass and mirror shop is recommended by the local motorsports dealer and has plenty of experience cutting down motorcycle windscreens.  I pulled into their parking lot on Saturday, and I had barely stepped into the shop when the person at the cash asked if I wanted my windscreen cut down.  Now that's experience.

They will do the job for $35. So that seals it.

If I bring it in next Saturday morning, they'll have the job done by noon. Last Sunday before taking the windscreen off I set up a tripod in the garage and took these pictures with masking tape at three different heights showing where the screen might be cut down to:
I decided to cut it down to the lowest of the three positions.  Before coming to that conclusion, I taped a large piece of parchment paper (the type you use to line baking sheets) across the windshield to make it easier to picture what I could see without looking through the windscreen.

I look forward to riding the bike with the mid-height screen.  I'll only post this when I've tried the screen after it's cut.

Getting the windshield mounts off my Vespa once I removed the windshield turned out to be a challenge and more of a chore than I would have liked.

When I loosened the compression nuts, the left side mount came off without a fuss.

The right side mount got loose, but wouldn't come out of the receiver for love or money.

In the end I had to dismantle the headset, loosen the right turn indicator, get all that plastic out of the way to expose the mount, and then wrestle the mount out of the receiver with a pair of vice grips.

I had read on the Modern Vespa forum that the Cuppini mounts could get stuck that way and that the Vespa mounts were better, with the compression sleeve or the expansion nut piece being made of vinyl instead of metal.

So I took one of the mounts to the Vespa dealer thinking I'd order a pair of Vespa OEM mounts.

After a chat with the mechanics there, they said they had a strong preference for the type of mount I already have. They say that the Vespa mounts can sometimes become loose and dislodge. They have seen this happen often enough that they prefer to use, and they recommend, the metal mounts.

They acknowledge however that the metal mounts sometimes become jammed because loosening the compression nuts on the expansion sleeve won't allow the sleeve to back off the expansion bolt at the far end of the mount, which is what happened to one of my mounts.

They then showed me the foolproof, if somewhat counter-intuitive, solution: whack the mount in further with a mallet.

The reason this always works is that there is a collar on the expansion sleeve that rests against the receiver on the handlebar and prevents the expansion sleeve from going in any further once it's properly seated.

Whacking the mount forces the mount to slide further in, but the collar holds the sleeve in place, which, of course, forces the expansion bolt, which is screwed onto the end of the mount, out of the compression sleeve and, presto, the mount slides free. You mustn't whack too hard, so as not to damage any surrounding tender bits.

If I had thought about this some more, I might have remembered how to adjust bicycle handle bars which requires a similar procedure: loosen the bolt, then whack it with a mallet. Same problem, same solution.

The dealer's mechanics also recommend i) greasing the expansion sleeve when you install the mount (unfortunately, I hadn't), and ii) not over tightening the compression nuts (thankfully, I hadn't).

It's amazing what you learn chatting with the pros.

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I dropped off the windshield at Vitrerie Lanthier on St-Charles boulevard yesterday morning and picked it up a few hours later, minus some height.

I now have a custom windshield for my Vespa.  I mounted it yesterday.  To minimize later removal issues, I greased the metal mounts, then applied teflon plumber's tape to the part that slips into the receiver and took care not to over-tighten the compression nuts.  Hopefully that will do the trick.
Here is a three-sixty-five view of the cut-down windshield.

I like the way the bike looks with the lower screen, of that there's no doubt whatever.

I am anxious to test it out, but the weather is not really cooperating.

Once I give it a go, particularly on the expressway, I'll write up my impressions here and then publish this post.

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I took the Vespa for a spin on Sunday.  Beaconsfield boulevard west and then Lakeshore Road to Ste-Anne de Bellevue.  It's a nice scenic ride, about 15 minutes in each direction.

The cut-down windscreen makes a difference indeed.  I can see over the windshield and that's really nice, I get the airflow to my face, and I also get more air to my upper body, while my hands stay protected.  It's all good... except... the noise I get from the air hitting my helmet is substantial.

I may have cut the screen too short, and I may need earplugs to cope with the noise.

It's still premature to conclude on this experiment.  I need to get a few commutes done with the cut down windscreen.  Once I've done that, I'll come back and edit this post to add a conclusion of sorts.

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 Coming to this post a little later: my conclusions on the windscreen adventure.

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I've been riding all summer with that cut down windshield and it's time to wrap this post up.

With all the heat we've been having I removed the windshield this past Saturday (July 23rd, 2011) and have gotten in a mix of riding on local roads, highways, and expressways.

The difference is night and day.  I've summarized my impressions in a table below. The formatting is a little awkward, but I think it's a good way to set out my impressions.

Mid-height windshield No
View Some glare and

Noticeably difficult in the rain.
See over the
Virtually no air
flow to the front.

Air pocket causes a reverse breeze

to the back, sucks road dirt

onto the rider's back

Air is directed to the top half

of the rider's head.

The airflow is turbulent,

increasing noise substantially.

Even airflow to the

Upper body.
speed (0-25 mph - 0-40 km/h)
Feel insulated from

Turbulent air to the
helmet is

felt, increasing noise in the

Just plain scooter
speed ( 25-45 mph - 40-72 km/h)
No air. Period.

Still feel insulated from the

Nice airflow to the
upper body and head

 but little to the hands.

Great for cooler temps.

Turbulent air causes substantial noise

in the helmet.
Significant airflow
to the upper body

and face, ride with visor half to 3/4 closed.
(> 45 mph - 72 km/h)
Bike sounds

Turn signal beeper clearly

heard at high speed.

No significant wind, ride

with visor fully up.

No windblast to the

body or head.

Ride with visor half


No strain on the upper body.

Need earplugs for the noise.

Little airflow to the hands.
Heavy windblast to

upper body and head.

Neck muscles strain against

the wind pressure to the helmet.

Ride with visor cracked open.

Ample airflow to the hands, very cold

 in spring and fall.
Handling Difficult to take
the scooter off the

center-stand without hitting

the windshield.

Inability to lean over the headset

reduces leverage when manoeuvering

without the motor (parking).

Marginal increase in top speed.
No low-speed
handling issues.

At high speed, increased stability

and marginal increase in top

Less stability at
high speed, mainly

due to the wind blast forces

on the upper body.


SonjaM said...

This is a pretty cool idea cutting down the windshield. I am a fly screen fan myself, but my better half prefers the half high screen.
Hope it works out for you.

Dar said...

I like the look of it! I rode for months without a windscreen and finally found a mid height one that I liked. It took a bit of getting used too and I found it noisier too, but it's better when it rains now. I think my scooter actually goes faster with it on. I almost bought the yamaha one, but it was too big and made think if Forest Gump had a scooter it would look like my vino with the massive windshield on it. It was too expensive as well $200 and then if I had it cut down it would have been another $80. The one I bought was $80 total.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed David Masse's post. I live in Salt Lake City and prefer to ride my Vespa 250 Super when the weather is nice. Have a top-box and decided to add the full-sized windscreen last June, mainly for protection from rocks, etc. that hit hard on the freeway, especially when trucks go by at high speed. However, a warning on the Vespa windscreen says to never exceed 60 mph (100 kph) or risk loss of stability. I also don't like the extra glare, loss of air-flow from the front, and having a larger surface to clean. I have been thinking of removing it but now I will consider a cut-down. Also my Prima scooter cover, in spite of a zippered pocket for it, no longer has a good fit. But since I usually don't ride when it's below 50F or a good chance of rain, and rarely take it on the freeway, I think I'll just remove it.

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