Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rider profile: Danielle Bartholomew (formerly Vallée)

Name: Danielle Bartholomew (formerly Vallée)
Find me on Earth: In a cafe somewhere in Montreal, Quebec. Or look for me in Tokyo!
Find me Online:
Interview Date: Thursday, August 1, 2013
Interview Location: At home in St-Lazare, Quebec
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Danielle: Ha ha, I started less than 2 months ago and I'm 48! Is this my mid-life crisis? (I intend to thrive 'til I'm at least 96!).

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Danielle: Only the scooter I have now. I've always been attracted to classic motorcycles and Vespas but I have a fear of falling (even from a bicycle!), which led me to become an excellent hiker and a respectable weightlifter.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Danielle: I bought a brand new 2013 Honda Giorno 50cc scooter in Azuki brown, which I love. In the U.S. Honda calls it a Metropolitan. I'd actually planned to get a Vespa LX50 and the salesman took one look at my 5'4" frame and said there was no way I could sit on it with flat feet. So that steered me towards my Honda or the Yamaha Vino. I've since been reading about shaving down the foam in a Vespa seat to make it lower and narrower for shorter riders, so that could be a project for down the road. But in the meantime my Honda Giorno is a beautiful, well-built scooter and thank god, it doesn't sound like a mosquito.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Danielle: There are so many challenges on a scooter that I've never had to think about driving a car for 32 years. Like the wind pushing me around, or bugs smacking me in the face, or my body absorbing every dip and bump in the road, or the need for a strong core to stay alert, balanced and steady. Stuff like the crazy focus required on a scooter compared to a car where you can slouch and multi-task. The strange fact that when I take a turn I have to look way ahead to where I'm going rather than at the road just in front of me. I'd say counter-steering and cornering are still a bit tricky - it's still scary to go from riding at full throttle to slowing to take a sharp turn without a stop sign or traffic light to alert the drivers behind me.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Danielle: Yes. :-) For now I'm sticking to fair weather. I can see that I'm going to want to ride deep into Fall but I want to be careful about biting off more than I can chew. And since I can't control other drivers, only my awareness of them, I never forget that. Once a week in the summer I finish work early so I've started commuting the 2+ hours in each direction on those days, between home and the heart of downtown Montreal. That is TIRING! But it's SO exhilarating! It's a beautiful ride along the lakeshore and the challenge of doing something a little crazy but basically safe definitely appeals to me. That commute is so long it feels like a tour!

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Danielle: Since I'm so new to it I'm a solitary rider and to be honest, I like the silence and break from my iPhone, computer, TV, radio and all the "stuff" that makes my life better and yet not. Besides, none of my friends rides a scooter - god bless 'em, they're all out on their bicycles!

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Danielle: Turning a corner in rural St-Lazare and going so wide I almost landed in the ditch! I still didn't have the feel of the throttle yet - you know, that ability to micro-adjust it so the scooter doesn't leap forward? Trying to get the handlebars to turn back onto the street I felt like I was wrestling a crocodile! I was in the middle of nowhere laughing out loud, thinking "YIKES! I haven't got a clue!!!" And I still don't; but I'm working on it. :-)

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Danielle: Home! In the Spring I'm moving into a loft on the Lachine Canal near downtown and I'll use my scooter to get around. But in the meantime I still live in St-Lazare and this area is a paradise for riding with long, winding, hilly roads passing farms, carving through forests, and following the lake. I'm SO grateful to have started my riding here and I know after I move I'll be so happy to ride "home" to visit my sister and her family here. Also, my weekly commute along Lac St-Louis into Montreal and back is impossibly gorgeous and surreal. That long ride tests me in a lot of ways and rewards me in more than I can count.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Danielle: I didn't intend to ride. But in May my co-worker Martin took me out for a spin on his motorcycle to help me let off some steam and - something inside me shifted. My fear of falling from a bike was replaced by the sudden, visceral need to feel that free again; within 2 weeks I'd bought a scooter having never ridden one. I tell people that there's something about the vulnerability, the speed, the smells, sounds, tastes - everything you feel, everything that riding asks of you and gives you back - that's exactly what I need in my life at this time to forget about my worries and just appreciate what is.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Danielle: I'd love to have my motorcycle license so I could ride a more powerful scooter like the Vespa GTS 300ie! And oh yeah, it would have to fit. ;-



The City Mouse in the Country said...

I tell people that there's something about the vulnerability, the speed, the smells, sounds, tastes - everything you feel, everything that riding asks of you and gives you back - that's exactly what I need in my life at this time to forget about my worries and just appreciate what is." - Same reason I enjoy riding so much.

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

Nice to meet you Danielle. Safe and fun riding for another 48 years!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, guys! And thank you, David! This blog and your generosity were a huge catalyst in my decision to buy a scooter. I can say that purchase has allowed me to experience and appreciate things I never could from inside my car. Cheers!

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