Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rider profile: Michael Beattie

Name: Michael Beattie.  I was named Conchscooter for my avatar on a motorcycle forum, long since forgotten, years ago, by a moderator, and I adopted it.
Find me on Earth: Cudjoe Key, Florida
Find me Online: http://conchscooter.blogspot.com
Interview Date: Monday, July 14, 2014
Interview Location: It began in Beaconsfield, QC, and wrapped up in Brooklyn, NY
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Michael:  My mother bought me an orange Vespa 50R in the summer of 1970 when I was 12 years old. In Italy it is only legal to ride at 14 but I rode it everywhere in the mountains round my home. My mother loved motorcycles and she planted the seed of my favorite way to tour. She died when I was 15, but the motorcycle bug remained. I've ridden ever since, no interruptions, for 44 years.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Michael:  I count roughly twenty, more or less. The largest was a Goldwing 1200 which was too much, the first real motorcycle was an MV Agusta 350B, to my current 2007 Bonneville.

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

Michael:  I believe it takes years to find the right motorcycle and my Bonneville is the culmination of years of buying the right bike for right now. The Bonneville is light enough to roll by hand, comfortable enough to ride for 36 hours straight, and easy and fun so that the prospect of riding never puts me off. It's the first bike I've ridden 80,000 miles with minimal maintenance and maximum reliability.

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

Michael:  The most challenging riding skill is to hang back when circumstances require it. I like to ride five miles per hour faster than the traffic, but when I see a distracted driver ahead, the best policy is to slow down and let them go. Or if they come up from behind to pull over and let them go. I've got good at it after a half century of criticizing other road users.

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

Michael:  I have ridden on many long journeys in the Americas, Europe and Africa. I live in a mild climate year round. If I commute by car my colleagues ask me what's wrong - usually I'm coming down with a cold or I needed the car for a specific reason. Rain doesn't bother me in a sub tropical climate.

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

Michael:   I am a solitary human. I go back to Umbria where I grew up and ride with my brother by other parents. Giovanni and I have been riding together for all these 44 years but aside from him I prefer to ride alone.

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

Michael:   In 1977 I was riding my Moto Morini 350 on a congested street in Dorking, a town in Southern England where I grew up when I wasn't growing up in Italy. I lane split and got caught by a car turning across the traffic in a gap left by a considerate driver. I flew over the car, landed on my helmet, walked away, red faced, and bent the forks on my motorcycle. Lesson learned and I never did that again. I watch other traffic like a hawk.

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

Michael:  Across the US in 1981 on my Vespa P200E, the perfect touring bike. I traveled light, no tent, just a sleeping bag, no cooking gear, barely enough clothes, no spare parts. Fantastic. I rode my SR500 Yamaha across West Africa two years prior and went overloaded and fearful. I was too young and did not get the most out of that journey. These days I love to ride 12 hours out of Key West to the Appalachians north of Atlanta and ride the Blue Ridge at random when I can get away alone. (Ed.: Here is a link to Michael's account of his 1981 adventure.)

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Michael:  I ride because riding makes every journey an adventure, a test of skill, and a flight into the unknown. Keeping a two wheeler upright takes constant effort as it's instinct is to fall down. On a motorcycle I can be the solitary human being I crave to be in daily life. Plus when I come across another rider I can be as social as necessary without having to explain or justify my pleasure in being alone.

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

Michael: One riding wish would be to have Cheyenne meet me at the motel room at the end of a day of solitary riding. My wife knows why I leave on my motorcycle and reads my texts during the ride. Cheyenne sees me disappear and reappear a few days later without warning or explanation.



Trobairitz said...

A great interview of Michael.

It sounds like he needs to start Skyping with Cheyenne when he is away though.

RichardM said...

Another interesting interview. I really enjoy his stories of his past and current trips especially when he goes back to Italy.

David Masse said...

Brandy, Michael is one of the most interesting people I have met.

He is also a very open and does not hesitate for a moment or hold anything back when he tells you his life story. Someday, Michael should write an autobiography. I think it would make a fine movie. The type that might win an award in Cannes.

ScootCommute is very discrete though and always sticks to the same ten questions.

I enjoy going back to the rider profiles and re-reading and comparing them. There's something about very different people, with a common passion, answering the same ten questions that is quite powerful.

The most interesting re-discovery, is in Roland Mager's profile. His wish that he wanted granted was to ride in Tuscany.

Ha! He got his wish, in some small part thanks to the ScootCommute. I swear, I had no memory of his wish when I started planning the Tuscan Loop.


Time will tell.

Interviewees may have to consider their wishes carefully.

I wonder when Bob will sit for his (long overdue) interview with ScootCommute (plants not so subtle reminder - nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

David Masse said...

Richard, like how the Italian boy from Umbria sports a genuine British accent, for instance.

Coincidence that his favorite ride is a Triumph?

I don't think so.

SonjaM said...

Interesting. So Conch was quite the adventurer before settling down in Florida. Coincidence that he rode a Vespa across the States? Quite the statement I'd say.

David Masse said...

Sonja it was a privilege to meet with Layne, Michael, and Cheyenne. They made a significant northern cross-border loop for the get-together, and had to brave the madness of Quebec's unilingual highway signage.

But as you now know, that little adventure was nothing to Michael. A walk in the park.

Conchscooter said...

Actually we both wished for more time. Had a blast at your place and I'd have loved to see Montréal with you, even if they don't allow right turns on the red on the island.
New York was an adventure. I forgot they don't turn right on the red either and I managed to scare a few New Yorkers with that trick!
Every journey, even a commute, is an adventure when done right. You know that.

David Masse said...

Safe travels Michael.

Two wheels to Key West is turning around in my mind. 2015 might see it happen.

len@RE-GLAZE-IT said...

Hi David ,
I really like these "Rider profiles" ,
You do such a good job at it..... It really does help me to really get to know the person more, they share things with you that they would not always blog about themselves .
Great stuff keep it up!

Unknown said...




Unknown said...


Michael was too modest to post his link


Riding the Wet Coast

David Masse said...

Bob, you never fail to amaze!

The only thing I can add to that is a clickable link: click here folks, and read one hell of a compelling story.

David Masse said...

Thanks Len, but I don't think I deserve the credit. It's the magic of the interview process.

The star is the interviewee.

It really is magic.

David Masse said...

Nope... that doesn't even qualitfy as a step in the right direction. It's only punctuation.

Hmmm... You could say that Bob has a point. Period. Ah... actually no, it's a colon smaller than an open parentheses.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.