Sunday, April 21, 2013

Geezers and gaskets

Some people get cranky as they age.  The crankier they get, the more they are prone to blow a gasket.

Vespas are anti-aging machines.  Nothing makes me feel more alive, or younger in spirit, than going for a ride.  Any ride.  As long as I can ride, I'll be able to resist blowing gaskets.

Speaking of riding, this riding season has been off to a painfully slow and fitful start.  Full of great promise with a nice new brawny bike, but the law of averages dictates time in the pits adding my safety gear.  The stuff I feel naked without.  Horns, lights, power outlets...

And then there's the freaking weather.  When the bike can be ridden, in between modifications, the weather turns nasty.

So when last Thursday rolled around, and the front end of the bike was buttoned back up, and the back-end work had not begun, and the weatherman was only vaguely threatening rain, I dared a commute.

Ahhhhhh! That old blissful feeling.

I took the slow lakeshore route.  It had been five months since I last took these now-familiar roads.  I felt like I was re-connecting with old dear friends.  It was a great commute.

For the evening commute, I couldn't resist the expressway.  I just love the way the 300 eats up the Mountain street on-ramp to the 720 westbound.  Sweeping effortlessly into the left hand lane, hitting the ramp down to the straight flat stretch of the Turcotte Yards and then cruising in the fast lane for once, avoiding the horrible ruts in the right lane before the Ville St-Pierre underpass... pure joy.

When the joyride came to an end at the St-Charles exit, it was nice to sit in the saddle waiting for the green light.

I was happy and the Vespa seemed much more virile, more motorcycle-like.  Purring like a tiger.  Downright growly.

On quiet Beaconsfield boulevard, I began to suspect that the bike was too growly.

Once in the garage, I hit the engine cut-off, switched off the ignition, took off my helmet, and plucked out my earplugs.  I had a sneaking suspicion.

I reached down, flicked the ignition back on, snapped off the kill switch, and hit the starter.

Damn!!! The unmistakably irritating, worrisome sound of an exhaust gasket well on its way to blowing.  The source of the formerly pleasant growl.  At least it wasn't totally blown.

I knew I had to get to my trusty Vespa dealer: Alex Berthiaume & Fils.  Their tiny shop is on De La Roche street, about one-and-a-half blocks north of Lafontaine Park, on the Plateau.  It's about a one hour ride from the house if you take surface streets.

Could a Vespa GTS 300 i.e. Super limp that far with a failing exhaust gasket?  That's a question I couldn't answer.  I called the dealer's service department.

"If it was my Vespa, I'd put it on a flatbed truck to get it here" came the un-reassuring suggestion.

I wanted a second opinion; one I could bet my new bike on.  Modern Vespa to the rescue.

In no time at all, some of the most knowledgeable Vespa experts in the world chimed in, including resident curmudgeon and all-knowing Vespa guru Jim Crowther, and Ken Wilson.  Ken blew an exhaust gasket on the 2012 Cannonball.  Jim did some motel parking lot magic and jury-rigged the existing exhaust gasket for him.  At last word that fix was still holding, five thousand miles later.

Ken is inspirational.  Check out some of Ken's exploits on right side of the page.  The cross-Egypt challenge last year?  That was Ken.

Bolstered by the advice from MVers, I rode to the dealer with as light a hand on the throttle as I could manage. I didn't put my earplugs in so I could listen for changes in the sound of the exhaust. 

Towards the end I could tell that the failure was more pronounced but likely still not 100%. 

I finally pulled into the alley behind the dealership where the service department is located.  It was 8:45 a.m. and I was third in line for service.

I met Phil who was also waiting for the shop to open at 10:00 a.m. (no appointments on Saturdays - so first come first served).

Moments later, this maniac comes literally roaring into the alley on a silver GTS 300.  He was flying!  And when I say flying, I mean FLYING!  The source of the roar was an after-market muffler that sounded three times worse than mine.  The crazy rider blew past us, slammed on the rear brake, and skidded into a parking spot pretty much like that stunt rider in the opening credits to the French movie Taxi.

He pulled off his helmet, beamed a huge smile, and I then recognized the 'crazy maniac' as the dealership's affable sales manager, Paul. 

He recognized me, walked over, admired my new bike, told me how much I am going to love it, and asked me what it was in for. When I told him, he said "Ya, me too, it blew yesterday, no big deal" with the same huge grin, before disappearing through the back door to the shop. 

Needless to say I felt like a ninny for having coddled my GTS on the ride in. 

As the minutes ticked on, and the definitely unseasonable morning chill had Phil and I striving to extract heat from the April sun, more and more riders pulled up for Saturday morning moto service.

The scooter contingent, myself included, were almost all well-heeled, silver-haired gentlemen... all except Phil.  Not that Phil is not a perfect gentlemen, but he's way too young to have grey hair.  'Geezers on two wheels!' I thought to myself.  And here I thought I was setting a trend.  Turns out I may be more a camp-follower than a trend-setter!

As for the motorcycle set who were waiting for service, well let's just say that they kept to themselves.  You needed at least one serious tattoo and an earring to fit in there.  Demerit points for a full-face helmet and armored gear.

When the guys opened the service bay at 10:00 a.m. sharp, they wasted no time taking the first three bikes, mine included. 

An hour and a half later (just enough time to grab breakfast at a nice cosy neighborhood diner with Phil), and $80 less in my wallet (which I thought was reasonable and was happy to pay), I was on my way with my bike. 

It sure was nice to have my tiger back to purring rather than growling. 

Even the 2C weather, dark threatening clouds, a stiff, full-on, gusty wind blowing eastward, and a snow squall on the return ride, couldn't dampen my enthusiasm. 

Spending Saturday morning at a moto dealership, having breakfast with a fellow Vespa addict, getting my Vespa 300 back good as new, makes a blown gasket nearly worthwhile.


Trobairitz said...

I am glad things held out for the ride in to service, although it sounds as though you could have been more heavy handed with the throttle. Best to be safe though as then you don't get a larger repair bill.

Hope your weather stays rideable.

David Masse said...

Thanks Trobairitz. I don't know about you, but there is nothing quite like hopping onto the saddle and having the bike stutter to life when you hit the starter. I think it's the anticipation of freedom and adventure that does it.

Weather-wise, we've got cloudless sunny blue skies, but it's still chilly in the morning, 33F-34F (1C-2C). We might hit a high of 55F (13C) today. If that happens I'll be giddy!

Unknown said...


There have been reports that when the exhaust gasket fails it would overheat the rear brake lines. This happened to many GTS's (NOT SUPERS) because the brake lines were too close to the exhaust. Perhaps they fixed this problem

It also happened on my Previous Kymco X500Ri on my ride to Kelowna where the brake fluid was boiling and caused lack of brake function.

better to be overcautious, then macho . . . but then again I can't see you being the macho type. :)

Glad you managed to go for a ride

Riding the Wet Coast

Dar said...

Well I guess I could be a Geez-ette! Sorry to hear your baby was sick so soon, particularly as you were experiecing moto zen! I hate that when that happens!

I always get a chuckle about some motorcyclists who are 'knobs' for the lack. I definitely don't fit in with those as I wear a fullface and fully armored gear. Its funny though last year at the local scooter rally I experienced a very uncomfortable feeling by my local scooter community because I was riding my motorcycle and met up with the Vancouver group and they were derogatorily calling me a 'shifter' and telling me I wasn't welcome. It was such a pity and made me kind of snarky actually. My roots are in scooting, but then those same folks didn't accept me then either because I had a Yamaha Vino. But for me I could careless what anyone rides and I gladly wave at riders motorcycle or scooter. Its too bad because they are missing out on some nice folks all because of their narrow perceptions.

Glad you are back on the road again, I think I would have liked to see the whirling dervish pull up on his scoot at the shop, it would have been something to see.

David Masse said...

Bob, you never fail to amaze me!

You are absolutely dead-on. It was the GT 200's that had the brake line routing issue and when the exhaust gasket failed, it would almost immediately melt the rear brake line. Piaggio corrected the problem with the GTS's. The 300 doesn't have that particular issue either.

You're right that I'm not the 'macho' type. If I were, I wouldn't be riding a scooter.

I don't think that there are any scooters that qualify for 'macho' guys.

I think that only an old school motorcycle or a sports bike can suit a 'macho' guy (or girl). And many folks who ride those don't err on the side of being 'macho'.

David Masse said...

I have never understood discrimination.

The guy I was chatting with had an LX 50 in for a tune-up. You'd think that he'd fit the demographic of those who have bought Vespa LX 50's who are on their first PTW and are basically noobs.

This guy has owned scooters exclusively since he was 16. I'm guessing he's now in his mid-thirties. He's owned all the Vespa shifty two-strokes, Yamaha C3's, BWIS, Kymco's, and the list is very long. Rising insurance rates and registration costs made him weed his stable down to the Vespa LX he's riding. He knows more about riding than many of the 'macho' guys on their big cruisers. Plus he's a great guy.

Finally Dar, better to be called a 'shifter' than to be called 'shifty'.

Dave said...

Sorry about the mechanical problems, on the other hand, it made a great blog post, and seems to have turned out well. MV is indeed awesome. Not as awesome as actually riding, but a good filler for when you can't :o)

Hope this is your last challenge for a while...

David Masse said...

Dave, send me a PM so I put an avatar on a name and I'll see if I've guessed right.

Thanks for the kind words! To be honest, Modern Vespa is as indispensable as a good dealership. Vital if the quality of the dealership is in question.

Plus it's a good plain fun to hang out with kindred spirits :)

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