Monday, July 30, 2012

Steve Canyon

Some part of me wonders whether Steve Canyon plays a role in my love of riding.

When I was five years old, my Dad returned from a business trip to Rochester New York.  He brought me a Steve Canyon helmet.

At the time, Steve Canyon was my favourite comic strip in the weekend paper.  We called them the "funnies".  In my young mind there was nothing funny about Steve Canyon.  He was right up there with the Lone Ranger as far as I was concerned.

How I loved that helmet.  I would have worn it day in and day out, if my mother had let me.

As quickly as the helmet came into my life, it left.  Its fate is one of those childhood mysteries that, with the passing of my mother, and my Dad's memory issues, is safely and forever locked away in the vault of time.

Over the years I thought about that helmet.  From time to time I rummaged through old boxes of toys searching in vain for it.  It was that cool.

Oddly, I never thought to Google it, until today.  I don't know what possessed me to do it.  I didn't expect to find any web references to something so old and obscure.

Hah! Shame on me for thinking so little of the power of Google.

Click these links to see what Steve Canyon and that helmet (more SC helmet images) were all about.

And, just so you know, my Nolan N-103 modular is way cooler than my missing Steve Canyon helmet ever was.

Here's a shot Sonja took.
 If you don't think I look way cooler than Steve Canyon in that shot, please don't burst my bubble.  There's a little kid inside me who still thinks that Steve Canyon was very, very cool.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More piece of mind

My friend Andrew got me a Griplock for my birthday.

My wife Susan bought me a helicopter tour of the city for my birthday.
So how are these gifts related?

This past Sunday we took the helicopter tour.  What a great experience that was, worth every penny.  The Raven 1 helicopter was a four-person chopper about the size of a 1964 Volkswagen beetle.  We got a tour of the Helicraft hangar, a briefing on the helicopter business (their bread-and-butter these days is the natural resources sector, flying personnel and doing airborne high-tech prospecting, not city tours).

The company also runs a flight school, and I noticed that they had a showcase with heli-swag, including a $5 keychain with a embroidered fabric tag with the Helicraft name and web address on one side, and an official looking "Remove before flight" warning on the other.  I had to have it.

Riding a scooter gives me a feeling of flight, and it's essential to remove the Griplock before taking off on the Vespa... so now you see how my mind quickly knitted these things together, I hope.

With a little trip to the hardware store, a little drilling and Dremelling and fiddling, and ta-dah!

I have a cool Griplock with a remove-before-flight aircraft-like warning permanently attached.  Here's a tour of the cockpit.

Right up my alley.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A glimpse of heaven


How do you pass up an opportunity to take a picture?

I pulled into a lakeshore park to snap this picture from the saddle with my iPhone using the Camera+ app.

I took a bunch of shots, varying the exposure because I couldn't tell if I managed to capture what my eyes were seeing so plainly.

I don't know about you, but sunbeams evoke heaven.  I'm not religious at all, so I think it's just a cliché that's been reinforced over time by countless cheesy images.

I don't think there are any serious artists living who waste time on sunbeams, are there?

Or photographers for that matter?  Well, maybe photographers.

And yet they are definitely worth stopping for.  A gift from nature, really.

So there you are, a glimpse of heaven.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Darlene's Foot Gear Challenge

Darlene, bless her heart, is encouraging bloggers to post pictures of their riding footwear, and favourite street shoes (on the assumption that for most folks that will be more than one pair of flip flops, and less than 75 pairs of pumps).

I'm not really that into shoes, but I like what I like, and then I tend to wear those until the miles poke holes in the soles.
When I'm riding (actually when I'm commuting), I opt for protection first and foremost.  I add "when I'm commuting" because that's what racks up all the miles (13K so far), so that's where the risk is most acute.

My current choice for riding foot gear is a pair of Icon Patrol boots.  They cover the ankle, they have really nice sturdy ankle support from a pair of ski-boot-like buckles, I rapid-lacing system, and good thick stiff protection all around.

A well-known, and well-loved Modern Vespa member came off his MP3 not long ago and posted a picture of the damage, including a pair of very similar, actually almost identical boots.  His were Joe Rockets, I think.

Anyway, when I saw that the twin buckles took the bulk of the pavement's abuse, and kept his ankle far from the punishment the buckles took, I was instantly sold on that design.

They are made in, where else, China.  They have a serious-ish design flaw in that the laces are threaded through fabric loops instead of eyelets or D-rings, with the result that the shoelace sawed through a few of those fabric loops in short order.

I solved the problem with some tiny McGizmo double carabiner clips that I installed on the fabric loops (if you look carefully, you'll see one in the photo.  Now the biners take all the abuse from the shoelace instead of the loops.  I had to do a little sewing for the couple of loops that were goners.  With that fix done, I love these boots. (Try to ignore all the papers on the office floor, my life is currently out of control nuts).

My current favourite pair of weekend street shoes are pale blue, washed-out looking, Timberland deck shoes.

I used to wear traditional Timberland deck shoes back in the 80's and loved the casual looks and the fact that they were indestructible.

They fell out of fashion favour (not that I'm a slave to fashion by any means).  Now they seem to making a comeback, allbeit in colours other than brown.

Hey, like or hate'em, as you please.  At least they're not pink Krocs!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One more reason to visit Montreal this summer

Canada isn't Italy, France, Japan or England, that much is plain. So if you're looking for something spectacular and so old that no one is quite sure what it is, by all means go to Stonehenge. If what you're missing is a city that is one large orchestrated canvas of 19th century charm, then head to Paris. In search of the epitome of landscape architecture? Off to Kyoto you go.

But if you're curious, and you're in the neighborhood of North America, and you want to know what Canada has to offer, I'd say go to Vancouver; you won't be disappointed, I promise.  If you're even remotely a foodie, you'll have found Nirvana.

If you find that's too much of a stretch to the west, then definitely come to Montreal.

No, I'm not going to wax on forever about the usual quasi-world-famous stuff that Montreal has to offer. I'm not even going to mention that stuff, not even going to mention one word bullet points.

I'm going to give you a great reason to come for a visit that you may never have heard of.

The Tom Wesselman exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

One word... stunning. Two words, hedonist's delight. Three words, quintessential pop art.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Here at last :)

 After keeping a close eye on the availability of the new WiFi remote for the GoPro camera, and hunting for it at local stores that carry GoPro cameras and accessories, I decided to order the remote from GoPro directly.
On Monday morning I dropped by Fedex on the way to work and I finally have this great device in my hands.

I plugged everything into USB power supplies (the WiFi backpack, the remote, and the Hero HD camera), and on Monday night I updated all three to the latest firmware revisions, which is a required step.

Once I am satisfied that everything is in order and I can operate the remote easily while riding, I will begin planning this summer's project to document Montreal bridges as a service to motorcycle and scooter riders planning rides to this fair city.

I plan to show key information about the bridge, type and condition of the roadbed, helmet cam video of the approach, the bridge and the return to surface streets, speed limit, actual vehicle speeds, hazards, and anything else I can think of to help PTW visitors.

My first tests were during Tuesday's commute.  I hung the remote from the Vespa lanyard  that Bob gave me when I was in Vancouver and that seems to be to be best way to use the remote.  It's easy to find the remote, press the buttons and see the current operating mode of the camera in real time.  I had mounted the camera on a RAM mount on the right passenger grab rail.  I thought I had angled the camera sufficiently off to the right, but on examining the results, I need to swing it out further still.  It's really not intuitive at all.  The extreme wide-angle lens makes it really difficult to position the camera efficiently using guesswork.

On the home leg of my commute I had the camera angled out at about 45 degrees that looks a little goofy on the bike, but the results are much better. Thanks Bob. You were right. I really should never question your advice.

Here's what that test video looks like.

So far the remote is everything I was hoping for, and then some.  I highly recommend it to all you GoPro users out there.  Worth every cent.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scooters at the Petersen

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

Sometimes you plan a trip down to the smallest detail. It seems that nothing is left to chance. Then you get to your destination and a museum is closed for renovations, or a planned exhibit was cancelled, or the restaurant you were dying to try has closed.

Other times, wonderful opportunities open that are completely unexpected.

 It's amazing how these things happen.

Early on during our not so recent trip to Los Angeles, we were on one of those hop-on, hop-off open-top sightseeing bus tours. We like those tours because they are not very expensive, they typically give you a lot of flexibility, and if you're in an unfamiliar city, they are a great way to get your bearings and figure out which sights and attractions you want to visit during your stay.

There we were, cruising through L.A. in the farmer's market district. We passed the Petersen automotive museum and the museum's electronic marquee flashed the word "scooter".

That was the only clue I needed.

A little Googling and I learned enough about the exhibit that I knew I had to see it. It turned out that there was indeed a scooter extravaganza that just might be the most definitive curated museum installation on that subject in the history of the world.

At first I thought that I might have missed it.  Luck was with me because it turned out that the exhibit was only wrapping up at the end of the month.

"... in the history of the world", really?

Well, I know it sounds like extravagant hyperbole, but in this case, I honestly think that the claim may be close to true.  There's the Dezer museum in Miami that has a large permanent collection of scooters, so technically that may be in some measure the world's most definitive permanent collection.  I've never been there, so I can't really say.  There's also the Piaggio museum in Pontadera Italy, but that exhibit is, as far as I know, entirely devoted to Piaggio products.

Putting aside the hyperbole for a moment, and without much further digression, you'll find some pictures I took below.

In many ways the most remarkable scooters in the exhibit were the Salsbury scooters.
Aside from having a certain Jetsons' kitschy appeal, it was quite a topical scooter to see. Only a few months ago, a 1947 Salsbury scooter handily won the 2012 Scooter Cannonball race rally traveling from Savannah Georgia to San Diego in just eight short days. It's true that the winning Salsbury was doctored with a state of the art 250cc Ninja motorcycle engine tucked under the bodywork. But when you see a Salsbury, riding one coast-to-coast seems like the most remote possibility.
Truth is often stranger than fiction.

As you might expect, Piaggio's Vespas were heavily represented, though for some strange reason I don't recall seeing any LX models.  As you will see, there was a Piaggio MP3, and a Vespa GT, and those bikes are in contention as my next commuting machines.  Decisions, decisions.
 When you compare the attention to style and detail of the Piaggio products to other scooters of similar vintage, you immediately see why Vespas became so iconic.
Among the surprises were the golf scooter above, and the Piaggio car in the exhibit.
Not bad for a little serendipity.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

This is how it all begins...

These are the early days of my nephew Gabriel's life on two wheels. His sister Hannah is still busy exploring life on two feet. Good times!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Improvements on all fronts

I finally bit the bullet and got the RAM mount I needed for the Garmin Nuvi GPS unit I have.  Like my other RAM mounts this one came from the Canadian branch of GPS City.  The power for the unit, like the power for the iPhone charger (the iPhone sits in a RAM mount on the right mirror stalk), comes from the 12 volt outlet I installed in the Vespa's glovebox.  The wires route out the bottom lip of the glovebox door and don't prevent the door from closing.

Two years ago I was using a Garmin Pilot i5 unit that was old and so finnicky that I just stopped using it.  Last night that unit hit the dustbin.

I now have all the instrumentation I need and there are no more mysteries about how long my commute really takes, or what the top speed was that I hit when the Vespa's speedometer, with typical Italian brio, tells me I'm sailing along at 72 mph.

In scientific terms it's really 105 km/h or 65.2439752 miles per hour.  Or so it was on this morning's commute.  Not too shabby for an LX150.  Piaggio should be proud to show the real speed, no?  Why opt for puffery when the truth is shockingly impressive?  Ahhhh... BRIO!

Speaking of Italian brio, isn't this a nice cozy picture?
Today I'm sharing my privileged parking spot with this gorgeous 50cc two-tone Vespa S.  Things are looking really spiffy in the garage now.  Won't be long now before the Ferraris show up, that's what I'm thinking.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Sometimes a little distance is needed to put things in perspective. When you face a challenge and you're not sure that you've got what it takes to make it through.

I remember when I was a kid. My friends and I would dream up challenges. It usually involved feats of daring-do. Jumping across ditches or streams that we would encounter in the summer when we were marauding on our bikes, for instance.

On those occasions, if you weren't sure that you could go the distance, you took a good few paces back and took a running leap instead of the usual lunge and jump. Sometime you cleared. Sometimes you ended up sopping wet and muddy.

A leap of faith often requires a mental step back before you run up to the challenge and launch yourself into space.

Scooters are good for that. They let you get your body into a different space quickly and efficiently. The physical view from the new space sometimes offers the inner distance you need to make the jump.

Lafontaine Park is where I found yesterday's inspiration. Fifteen minutes on a Vespa.

Happy Independence Day to friends and family in the US!
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.