Friday, February 17, 2017

Rider profile: Bill Leuthold

Name: Bill Leuthold
Find me on Earth: Jacksonville, Florida in the historic neighborhood of Avondale.
Find me Online: Rocket and Me
Interview Date: Thursday, February 9, 2017
Interview Location: Cedar Key, Florida

Bill near Klosters, Switzerland

Life on two wheels: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Bill: My friend Matt had a mini bike that we rode around the neighborhood until it broke and his mother traded it for a slot car set, but I really got started when Sarah, Sam and I moved to Bermuda in 1990. There, I bought a used Suzuki FB100 for $800. I rode it for the three years we lived on that beautiful island. I was 35 years old when I got that one.

Life on two wheels: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Bill: I have owned eight bikes.

Life on two wheels: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Bill: I currently have five. Three Vespa GT's, a Lambretta Li125 (in the shop, of course) and a Honda NC700X. The Vespas are my favorite by far, and of those, Rocket has a special place in my heart.

Life on two wheels: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Bill: I believe I have always had a knack for riding, so nothing has been difficult in the learning process. The most important part of riding safely, in my opinion, is to be very vigilant about watching your surroundings.

Life on two wheels: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Bill: I ride the easy 1.3 mile commute to work every day, so you could say I am a commuter. But after two cross country rides and numerous 1000+ mile rides around the southeast US, I consider myself much more of a tourer.

Life on two wheels: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Bill: It is both. I have led over 40,000 miles of club rides for the past seven years. But I also love to ride solo, when I can ride my ride, fast with stops only for fuel. That style is not preferred by anyone else I ride with, so solo rides are special to me.

Life on two wheels: I dare you to share an awkward or embarrassing riding moment.

Bill: The worst one for me was on a long club ride in Alabama. I was leading on my brother's GT, using an older Garmin that I had not programmed thoroughly enough. It led us up a small road. That road got narrower and steeper as we ascended the hill. We crossed a very small wooden bridge near the top where we ended up at a dead end in front of a farmer's house. He came out and said that Garmin sends people up there all the time. It was so steep and treacherous that one of our riders dropped his scooter while turning around. On the way back down, the rider in second saw the wooden bridge and balked at crossing. I didn't notice immediately and continued around the corner and up a hill. When I noticed that nobody was following, I went to turn around on a very steep portion of the road. The steepness caused me to slow and the scooter to lean over. It was so steep that there was no road to put my foot down, so down we went. It scraped the side engine cover badly and broke the rear brake lever. The group of six then arrived to find me on my side. We stood the scooter back up, but it wouldn't start. Then once it did start after 30 minutes or more, it ran poorly. We finally replaced the spark plug and it ran fine for the remaining 1500 miles of the ride, miles that I rode with no rear brake.

Life on two wheels: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Bill: Everywhere has been special to me, but the best ride of all was the Scooter Cannonball Run in 2014. Riding Rocket in Hyder, Alaska was great, then the three days in British Columbia and Alberta were spectacular. The third day took us from Jasper to Fernie, including Banff National Park and the Ice Fields. To top it off, I won that leg with the speed of Rocket.

Life on two wheels: Tell me why you ride.

Bill: There are two reasons. I love riding anywhere, but put me on a Vespa GT on a great road and I am in my element. Riding has become the part of my life that defines me. The other reason is that riding has brought me so many wonderful friends.

Life on two wheels: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Bill: I would like to ride every great road in the world. I know that is impossible, so my simple wish is to be able to ride for many more years.



SonjaM said...

Five bikes! Bill owns a whole fleet of two-wheelers... I need to know how he got that past the CFO?

Bill Leuthold said...

Sonja, the main reason is that all five bikes, plus my 1999 Miata, cost me less than the price most people pay for a modest compact new car. Now, keeping them on the road costs a bit. But Sarah is a good sport about them. She knows how much joy they bring me while getting me out of the house.

David Masse said...

Sonja, Bill is a legend in his own right. Wait till you see the video I will get around to posting.

Steve Williams said...

I always enjoy reading about how riding is absorbed into someone's life. Bill's is certainly infused with the two-wheeled pathogen. And perhaps most interesting is riding styles. Bill's description of the fast, solo ride with stops only for fuel is certainly far from my own desire. I can remember a few like that but it was always motivated by a need to be somewhere by a certain time and ended up feeling like a monumental rush. But I've never undertaken something like it without that clock ticking.

Glad you were able to cross paths with Bill and I look forward to the video.

Bill Leuthold said...

Sonja, One more thing about the five bikes is this. The favorite, Rocket, is old, now with 76,000 miles on it, and awaiting an engine change at the moment. It is not totally reliable, so I bought Razzo, a low mileage 2006 GT. Then, after an unfortunate incident with Vanessa, a 2007 GT I was keeping for friends, I bought that one. It is currently in Seattle after riding it there last year. I will ride it home either this year or next, in the 2018 Scooter Cannonball Run. The other two are a 51 year old Lambretta that is in the shop and a Honda that is no fun to ride. So 5 is perfect for me.

Bill Leuthold said...

Thank you Steve. I get plenty of time to smell the roses while riding in big club rides or with Ken on his Oyster Tours. But solo, it is a lot of fun for me to fly.

Steve Williams said...

Bill, I think you need to add a 50cc Honda Ruckus to your collection. It's a humbling ride and doesn't provide any flying but opens up some unexpected discoveries. And it looks really cool!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Bill Leuthold said...

Steve, That could be a good idea. They are cool machines. I had a Malaguti Ciak 50 for 12 years and enjoyed it much. But after I started wanting to reach out into the countryside, I bought Rocker and used the 50cc less and less. I wish I still had it, but have a friend who needed it more, so it is gone.

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