Saturday, June 29, 2013

Inflection: explore, explorer; discover, discovers.

A cryptic title to be sure.

What the heck am I trying to get at?

The best times of my life, the most memorable experiences, the most intriguing events, have been when I have set out to explore, looking to discover.

The summers stretched so long when I was ten, eleven, twelve. I loved exploring. We all had shoulder bags or knapsacks we would stuff with sandwiches, cookies and apples, a canteen for some water, and perhaps a pen knife. Then we'd just go. Hop on our beaten up bikes, and go.

We were gone all day. It seemed that there was always some corner of our world we hadn't been, things we hadn't seen. We would go wherever our bikes could take us, following familiar streets to unfamiliar ones, leaving paved roads to take roads under construction. Those would take us to the edge of our world, to farmers' fields where there were farm tractor paths to bump along, and woods to explore.

What was it that made those times so satisfying?

It may be a guy thing, but I hope not. Certainly there were never any girls sharing our rides. It wasn't that we excluded girls. But it was a time before girls. I don't know how girls spent those summers because we were oblivious. We were exploring Mars, they might as well have been on Venus.

One of the magic ingredients was that for the first time in our lives, for whole days at a time, we were self-sufficient. And we could go places. Places our parents knew nothing about. Places our parents would never take us, places our parents wouldn't, practically couldn't, go. We were free, and we had bikes.

It was serious business. Sprawled, perched, or squatting on the lawn or our front steps, or the curb, or the hot pavement of our suburban driveways, stuffing our bags and talking about where we'd been and where we could go. And then we would just go. Four or five of us. Following our suntanned noses, no particular destination, no rush, no hurry, but rolling. Truly content to feel the wind on our bodies, hear the hum of our tires, and the occasional clank of our chains.

Having a Vespa re-kindled that experience. My world has expanded. My riding buddies lived in houses within two blocks in the burbs. Now they're in distant cities. We explored a suburb, we're now set to explore a continent.

Where once we were just looking for new places, now we're looking for new people and places, kind of.

Why kind of?

Because an important part of this voyage of discovery is riding with each other, and meeting you. Well, not all of you, but many of you. I wish it could be all of you, but it will be many of you. Those of you who live in Ottawa, Cornwall, Kingston, Toronto, State College, and Portland. You are in some ways new. In many ways not. You blog and post on I already know quite a bit about you, a slice of your life, your life on two wheels.

If once my friends and I returned from our rides with stuff we'd found, now we will be collecting faces, stories, and memories.

And we will be displaying them here, for all of you to enjoy.

I can't wait.

Back to the beginning. This is about the importance of inflection. A shift. Moving from the idea "explore", to the doing of it. From the imperative "discover", to the pleasure of finding. Riding marked an inflection point in my life, then and now.

To borrow from a friend, I'll find you on the road.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reporting for duty, Sir!

All the big pieces are ready for the great Blogger to Blogger 2013 coast to coast extravaganza.

New bike so I can run with the big dogs - Check!

Tool roll, compressor, tire plugging kit, flash light, first aid kit, 100' of paracord - Check!

Saddle bags, dry bags, and ROK straps - Check!

Camping gear (tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, pillow, camp stove, lounge chair) - Check!

Five liter auxiliary fuel container, and 32 ounce stove fuel container - Check!

Sena bike-to-bike intercom - Check!

GoPro, digital SLR, iPhone, and GPS - Check!

Road test at 130 km/h to make sure nothing rattles or shakes loose - Check!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Kickin' it nu skool

What do you when you've reached the end of the road, you've pitched your tent, inflated your mattress, laid out your sleeping bag, stowed your gear, made a mug of instant joe with your ultralight alcohol stove, and locked up the bike?

You break out your barkalounger, put your feet up, sip your java, share some tall tales, and in the words of Mark Twain, tell a few stretchers.

I can do that now.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Recreational vehicle

I never thought of myself as the RV type.

Today I got my hands on a borrowed three-man tent and mattress pad: basically a large ranch house with master bedroom furniture to go.

It all fits very nicely on a Vespa GTS. Heck, I'm not even going to feel the extra presence back there!
I've been offered the possibility of upgrading to a larger and more comfortable mattress pad.  Naturally I leapt at the chance.  I've barely begun and I'm getting comped!  I love getting comped!

My RV is rapidly headed to King-Size Komfort Land!!!  Well Gaaawwwwwllllllllllllleeeee!  Soon I'll be the envy of the Clampett Clan!

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Lake St-Louis isn't the coast, it's the lakeshore. Yet, when I take the slow route to the office the view is still coastal.

Sharing it means taking a moment to stop, strolling a few feet to the shore and snapping a picture.

This particular view shows the point that's home to the Forest and Stream Club.

If you have eagle-eyes you'll spot a plane making its final approach to Trudeau airport.
My new bike is like a Siren enticing me to take the fast path where it can stretch its legs and zoom along. It's easy to neglect the benefits of coasting.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Distance challenges

As you may know if you've been hanging around here for a while, I began riding a motor scooter as a commuter.

It's been three seasons and three months since I rode my first commute. In that time, I have learned one heck of a lot about what it means to commute daily.

You can fill a thimble with what I know about long distance riding.

What's a long distance?

Well I have one long distance day-trip to my credit: 375 kilometers, or if you prefer, 233 miles. That's definitely a long distance ride, but it's about 70 miles shy of what I think many motorcycle tourists consider a decent day's ride.

I only think that, based on casual reading I've done from the comfort of my easy chair. I haven't researched it or attempted anything approaching semi-serious study.

I have a lot to learn. As is my lifelong habit, I plan to learn mostly by doing. Of course I am planning, you would have to be crazy not to plan.

My right wrist hurts. Right at the base of my thumb. It's some kind of strain injury. Whenever I develop a strain injury, I have to ask myself "what have I been doing since this pain started, that I wasn't doing before?". The answer is "I've ridden 15 thousand miles on a motorbike."

As you also know, things come to me slowly.

"Do you think that working the throttle is causing the strain that's causing the pain in my wrist?"

How will I feel after another 300 mile day, after other 300 mile days? It kind of makes me think.

What do motorcycle tourists do?

I was privileged to be at Bobskoot's place admiring his nu-2-him Beemer. He didn't seem to be too fussed that I sat on it. I didn't drop it, so it worked out allright. I noticed that Bob had some hardware on his throttle that I don't have. As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was. Did I mention that I read?

Today I had twenty minutes or so on my way to the office after a doctor's appointment.

I stopped at Moto Internationale, Montreal's largest BMW and Harley Davidson dealership. I was hoping for some instant gratification, and I wasn't disappointed.
For the uninitiated, the thingy on the left is a universal cruise control. The gizmo on the right relieves wrist strain. Both devices slip in one direction, grip in the opposite direction.

I tried the palm assist on the ride home. Interestingly, I felt relief in my wrist as soon as I started using it. Do you think that the throttle is causing my pain? Hmmmm...

Tomorrow there's rain in the forecast so I won't be testing the cruise control quite yet.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Birthplace of the Scootcommute

Few people know the birthplace of the ScootCommute.

That's because I was, until this very second, the only person to know the birthplace of the ScootCommute.

The ScootCommute was conceived, like so many other conceptions, in a hotel room.

To be more specific, in a very nice room at the Fairmont Palliser hotel in Calgary, on March 28, 2010.

I happened to be there on Monday and it struck me that I had returned to the scene of the crime.

So there you have it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

High octane question?

Bob (no, not you) sometimes sends me questions.

Sometimes I'm not smart enough to grasp the problem that Bob tosses my way (other Bobs, please refrain from jumping in to provide testimony corroborating my occasional thickness).

A while back, Bob (no, not you) sent me a gem that I didn't immediately grasp the true meaning of.  So Bob (no, still not you) had to explain it to me patiently.

Well, it certainly is a puzzler in the fine tradition of NPR Car Talk, and I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough to shed any light on the matter.

So I turned to the world's most encyclopaedic source of scooter-related intelligence.  Yes, that's right, the Modern Vespa forum.  Here's a link to the post.

Here's Bob's question (I took some small editorial liberties to help the dimmer wits like yours truly in wrapping their brains around the nub of the problem).
Hmm... I see that the image makes Bob's question impossible to actually read.

Here it is clearly this time:
Once again I seek your help.

Perhaps you or one of your readers can answer a question that has long perplexed.

My new scooter requires high octane fuel - at least 91.

Back in the day it was simple - there was a dedicated premium pump somewhere at the station that pushed only the good stuff.

Now all the pumps are dial-a-matic with one hose and three or four grade selections.

Since the single big fat hose and filter hold a considerable volume of gasoline, and I assume that the gasoline in the hose is whatever the last customer selected (likely lower octane), how can I possibly get any of premium fuel into my tiny 6.0 L tank?

I strongly suspect that when I select and pay for premium, in most cases all I'm getting is regular, and treating the next cheapskate to a couple of gallons of my premium fuel for free.

A friend has a clever solution: He bought a 2 gallon can which he fills first, then takes home and empties into his car.

Alas I lack a second vehicle.

The best I've been able to come up with is that I lurk at the entrance of the station and follow immediately behind the person in the Mercedes, BMW or Ferrari.

Surely someone must have a better idea.
To be honest, this never crossed my mind. I guess I always assumed that you got what you paid for.

Is this a misplaced concern?

Is there some kind of check valve re-sucking system that purges the 'wrong' fuel from the hose?

Enquiring minds want to know.

If you, dear reader (that means you, Bob... yes you!) can shed some light, please chime in.

I'll wait for the smart answers to kick in on MV and then re-post the best of the lot here. If you're not the patient type, feel free to follow the link above and follow the action (if any) on Modern Vespa.

- - - - - TIME PASSED - - - - -

If you click the MV link you'll see that not much of any great merit happened, other than people suggesting that Bob shouldn't worry so much, and some folks pointing me in the direction of other threads (click here, and here) where, supposedly, the question had been asked, vigorously debated, and possibly answered.

Well it turns out that this one has the MV crowd pretty much stumped, making wild guesses, and stabbing in the dark. The consensus is "fugetaboutit" and "don't worry, be happy" and I find myself agreeing, yet being totally unsatisfied with the responses.

Otherwise very well-informed people are saying "there's hardly any gas in the hose, half a cup, max!".

Others say essentially the same thing, but estimates vary from half-a-cup (125 ml), to a cup (250 ml), to two cups (500 ml).

So I started Googling.

The smartest answer from the best source was this, from the Wall Street Journal:
Q: I ride a motorcycle with a typical three to four gallon gas tank. I ride where fuel stations are farther apart, so I fill up when the tank is still half full. The bike requires premium fuel, and doesn't run well on lower octanes. If the previous customer was pumping regular fuel, I assume the refueling hose is still full of regular fuel, perhaps a couple of gallons. This would mean I'm initially getting a mix instead of pure premium fuel. Is this a genuine concern, or does the system have a mechanism for evacuating the gas pump hose between uses?
-- Paul Kowacki,
Orange Mass.

A: It is a genuine concern, but one that motorcyclists tend to appreciate more than car drivers. According to the American Petroleum Institute the gas-pump hose typically retains about one third of a gallon of fuel. So when you pump a couple gallons of 93-octane premium after the previous customer pumped 87-octane regular, your fuel load would be diluted (not to mention overpriced).

This is more important to motorcyclists because bikes have smaller fuel tanks and a lower tolerance for low-octane gas compared with most cars. I have found that high-performance motorcycles designed to burn premium fuel run poorly on regular. They generally do not have the complex engine-control systems that allow cars to run on fuels of varying octane ratings.

I don't think diluting your premium fuel with a little regular will harm your motorcycle, especially if you always select the highest octane rating available. However, next time you're filling up you may want to get in line behind the driver with the highest-performance car in the station.
So if the WSJ is to be believed, and they are so far the most credible source, there is not half a cup, not a cup, or even two cups, but five cups (give or take - 1/3 of a gallon is 1.24919 liters, which we can round to 1.25 liters, which is five cups on the nose) of fuel left in the hose.

Just in the interest of trying independently to get to the nub of truth, let's say that the average gas station hose is 12 feet long.  According to Goodyear's web site, gasoline pump hoses are either 3/8" or 3/4" outside diameter hoses.  Let's take the worst case scenario, that's a 3/4" hose.  All 3/4" gasoline hoses have an inside diameter of 19.1mm (don't ask me why Goodyear's specs give the outside diameter in SAE and the inside diameter in metric).  The volume of gasoline in twelve feet of that type of hose is Pi (3.14159) times the square of the radius of the inside diameter of the hose (19.1mm divided by 2  = 9.55mm, squared = 91.2025mm) times the length of the hose (12ft, which in mm is 3657.6mm) equals  1,049,416.44 cubicmillimeters, or 1,049.41644 ml, or, rounded down is 1.05 liters, which is just a tad over four cups.

Based on the credible WSJ source, as somewhat corroborated by our mathematical, semi-scientific, guesstimated calculations, if we average the anecdotal journalistic number (5 cups) with the semi-scientific guesstimate (4 cups), we get 4 1/2 cups of questionable fuel in the hose.

In the case of the Vespa GTS 300 i.e., the tank capacity is 9.2 liters.  But even if you fill up only once the low fuel light comes on, the tank is not empty.  There are still about two liters of fuel in the tank.

Basically I'm buying 7 liters of fuel when I fill up.  That means that I'm getting 1.1 liters of questionable gas, and 5.9 liters of the good 91 octane gas that I need and want.  Assuming that the octane rating just dilutes like any other liquid, I'm not really getting a full tank of 91 octane, I'm really getting 90.37143 octane.

I think that's pretty well within spitting distance of the truth.

Based on everything I've heard and read about octane ratings and internal combustion engines, that's close enough to 91 octane that the Vespa engine won't suffer for the difference.

So I am declaring this one done, solved and one for the history books.  And I am going to join the ranks of the MVers who don't worry about the fudge in the gas that the local gas station is selling me.

Thanks Bob (no, not you, the other Bob), I thoroughly enjoyed digging to the bottom of this week's puzzler.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.