Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Another exhaust collar or joint gasket or whatever the heck the thing is called blew out on my GTS. If the GTS has an Achilles heel, that's definitely it.

My dealership rocks however so when I called to report the problem they slotted me right in.

Spending a couple of midday hours at Alex Berthiaume et Fils is never a hardship.

I took a conference call with my staff and our lawyer in Spain, caught up on some e-mail, had a chat or two with Paul the sales and leasing director, chatted with the mechanics, indeared myself to the parts department manager's dog Toz, sat on a few bikes, offered encouraging words to a prospective buyer looking at a Piaggio BV350 (a steal I think at $5,900), a gold Vespa GTV 300, and a Honda Forza 300, and checked out a few helmets.

All this run-of-the-mill stuff was punctuated when the flatbed pulled up at the front door. Judging from the buzz, I'd say this was the high point of the day. I always kind of wondered how a Vespa (or any bike really) would fare on a flatbed tow truck. Would the operator know how to secure a two-wheeler properly? How tricky is it to load or unload?

These are questions I now know the answers to: 'yes, and no', and 'not at all' are the short answers.

First off, no, the Vespa LXV 150 showed no signs of damage, definitely mechanical ailments then.

The tow truck operator got a few key things right, and one thing very wrong.

Praise before blame:
  • the bike is not on the stand (check!). That's good because it allows the suspension to do its job during the tow, and avoids damage to the stand, the bike, and the trailer bed.
  • the front wheel is secured to a chock (check!). That means the bike can't slip sideways and break loose.
So what was done wrong?

Look at the fore and aft angle of the bike. It's really not level. Why is that? Because the tow truck driver way, way, way, way over-compressed the front suspension. The front wheel is completely compressed right to the end of the suspension's travel, and then some. So much force was applied that the handle bars could have bent. The straps were as taught as highwires. The Great Wallenda would have approved!

The key to tying down the front end of any bike properly is:
  • make sure the bike is securely vertical;
  • make sure the front suspension is only lightly compressed. The same thing goes for the rear suspension.
You see the bike's suspension has to be able to work while the bike is in transit on the trailer or flatbed.

This operator therefore gets a 'F' on a towing pass-fail test. A 'C' at best, likely a 'D' as a letter grade. Nor so good.

And just like that my exhaust gasket is good as new (well in fact brand new) and it's time to high tail it back to the office.

So long, and happy trails!


SonjaM said...

It breaks my heart to see a two-wheeler tortured by tow truck personnel. Most of them have no clue how to handle motorcycles or scooters (same goes by the way for most moving companies...).

When the blackbox on my Beemer R80 failed (that was end of the 90's, to also got towed to the next mechanic on a flatbed truck. When it arrived it was lying flat on the bed (is that why they call it flatbed???), scratched and broken. Insurance paid for the damage back then but I was pretty upset.

I am glad that your minor issue has been fixed quickly. I didn't know that this gasket is prone to failure.

BTW, did the prospective buyer buy a scooter in the end?

VStar Lady said...

Big Truck - little cargo. Great catch. Thanks for the 'tow' tips.

Canajun said...

I was struck by your comments regarding the amount of work you got done while at the dealership. The technology that allows us to do that was mostly unheard of even 30 years ago. Progress, I guess. But then again, 30 years ago you would have had the full couple of hours to idle away in chit chat and tire kicking.

Unknown said...


I have heard of many of these gaskets "failing", actually this is your 2nd one ? isn't it ? Just make sure your rear brake line is re-routed.

at least it's fixed for another year

Riding the Wet Coast

David Masse said...

Sonja, the exhaust gasket is definitely a design weakness of the GTS class. There's a kind of sleeve with goo packing in it, and eventually it fails from heat. You begin to hear it going when the engine gets a little growly, and a precursor is when you accelerate and it sounds like there is some exhaust noise exiting the left front side of the bike.

There is no telling how long the gasket will last. In my case is went in at 25,000 kms, and blew at 32,000 kms. Better than many, worse than some.

I think that the April gasket may have found all my mide-open-throttle expressway and interstate travel in July more than it signed up for. We'll see how long the August gasket hangs in for.

David Masse said...

The 'grand fromage' of the service department was shaking his head when he saw how the front suspension was squashed.

David Masse said...

Dave, whether the future has brought us 'progress' is very debatable. I think in many ways efficiency has suffered because people may do more, but they seem to think less.

David Masse said...

Bob, you are right, when the gasket used to blow, it would also have a tendency to melt out the rear brake line. Piaggio rerouted the brake line, my 2010 no longer has that design flaw. I'm not sure what model year marks the introduction of the re-design. For sure 2010 and later are not prone to that problem. In 2010 Piaggio also solved the heat damage to the spark plug wire issue.

Amazingly, they haven't yet figured out a good way to connect the muffler to the exhaust manifold. It's made worse because to change the rear tire you have to remove the exhaust. More than anything, I think it's the tire change that compromises the exhaust seal. I had my back tire changed about a week before the road trip.

Anonymous said...

I just learned how to properly strap down my Vespa! Thanks for that...

RichardM said...

It makes one wonder these days why have an office. That sounds like a lot of my days. Conference calls, phone calls and email. In person interaction seems to be the exception and one of the main reasons for an "office".

The flatbed seems perfect. I think that it is the only "proper" option that a tow company would have.

Trobairitz said...

I think only experienced motorcyclists/scooterists should be allowed to load bikes on flat beds and tie them down. We've seen bumbling on others tows and it isn't pretty.

Steve Williams said...

I've replaced the graphite gasket with a brass one from Moto Amore. I've had the exhaust on and off a dozen times and have never touched the gasket -- it just keeps on going. I don't think I could get it off if I tried. Would probably have to remove the header pipe and take a Dremel tool to it.

A few months ago the had my GTS on the back of one of those trailers. The tow truck guy has a Harley and was well acquainted with the proper technique. He fussed and fussed before he deemed the Vespa ready to travel.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

David Masse said...

Shad, the very first thing I had to do with my very first Vespa is drive it home on a U-Haul trailer. With 180 kms of highway travel to do, I researched it to death.

David Masse said...

Richard, one of the benefits of the office is knowing when quitting time rolls around. The very best thing about the office is the 30 km commute each way on my bike.

David Masse said...

Brandy, I agree, it's not a huge skill set to master.

David Masse said...

Steve, thanks for the tip. I'm reluctant to tackle real mechanical work but maybe with the winter to practice I could do it myself. The gasket has cost about $90 a pop in parts and labour. I'd love to have a more long term fix.

Unknown said...


I am not a mechanic either but I like Steve's solution. Send me the airfare and I will come to give you moral support and hold the hammer.

Riding the Wet Coast

David Masse said...

A generous offer Bob. You know that if fate were to smile on me and I became unaccountably rich, I'd mail you a tcket and take you up on the offer.

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