Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Requiem for a Vespa



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My 2010 Vespa GTS Super Sport 300 i.e. (it's appropriate use the complete full name on solemn occasions like this) is dead. Just over 50,000 kilometers on the clock, young for a Vespa. It led an action-packed life.

The gory details are in the video.

It started its life in Pontedera Italy, a little industrial town near Pisa, in Tuscany. I visited its birthplace a few years back at the end of the Tuscan Loop in the company of Sonja and Roland.

Bob Leong (aka BobSkoot, may he rest in peace) invited me to join him and Karen (aka V-Star Lady) for an epic Atlantic Ocean seaside jaunt back in 2013. He said I could come if I upgraded from the Vespa LX150 I was riding at the time, to a Vespa GTS. In the early spring of 2013 I purchased the Vespa from Carl Normandeau who was moving up to a brand new BMW R1200GS (what a thing of beauty). Carl had already logged twenty some-odd thousand kilometers on the Vespa by the time I took over. Last I heard, Carl was longing for another Vespa in his garage to keep his BMW company. I wonder if he pulled the trigger on that.

In the time the black Vespa and I spent together we commuted day after day, after day, and toured all over the place: Montreal, Cornwall, Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, State College, Hartford, Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, Portland, Old Orchard Beach, the Adirondacks, Kingston, Belleville, Stouffville, Wasaga Beach, Midland, St-Catharines, Buffalo, State College, and finally, Niagara Falls, where our adventure came to an abrupt end.

Along the way that Vespa and I met moto-blogging legends and, to be honest, my relationship with that bike has been life-altering, truly it has.

I assure you, my life on two wheels doesn't end here. It's just going on a little hiatus, that's all. In the meantime this blog and the new vlog will continue to plow along. There are riding episodes to come that are still in the works, some social commentary, preparing for the Vespa's departure and documenting the de-farkling (it will be sold as a project bike to an as yet-unfound kind soul whom, I hope, will drag it back to life on the road), maybe some food rants and recipes, and rest assured, so much more.

So keep an eye on this space.

The music for this episode of Life on two wheels is Doctor True by Jingle Punks, made available courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

The expert but sad diagnosis for my 2010 Vespa GTS 300 i.e. was performed by Lou DiBiase of Vespa Toronto West. When it comes to Vespas, Lou has no equal.

40 comments:

  1. R.I.P., David's Vespa :o( Sorry about the death. It's at least had a reasonable good run, not stellar, but could be worse. Stuff happens.

    If it's not too financially painful, your loss should be well compensated by your 2018 model. It's still an awesome machine. I look wistfully towards other PTWs, but know I'd miss my GTS.

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    1. Thanks for the emotional support Dave, it's much appreciated.

      It's just such a nice unseasonably warm fall, what a shame not to be riding.

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  2. Time to start riding the”spare bike”. A bit louder and a bit clumsier than the Vespa but still serviceable.

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    1. That's great input Richard.

      Stupidly, I allowed the insurane coverage on that ike to lapse. At this point in the season it makes no sense to insure it.

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    2. Can you not transfer the policy from Vespa to Honda?

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  3. I always hate to get rid of an old bike that still has some value, but paying shop prices for all that work really doesn't make much sense. So look on the bright side - a new adventure for you - the adventure of choosing a new motorcycle. I'm anxious to see what you finally decide upon. Good luck.

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    1. Thanks David.

      I might consider tackling the work myself in better circumstances. The biggest obstacle is that we're in a condo and working in the garage is certainly possible (I did my first ever oil change in the garage two weeks ago) but tearing into the guts of the engine is way beyond the pale for that location.

      The other issue, is that I doubt that I would diagnose whether the components on either side of the defective gasket would need machining.

      So there will be a new bike, and the Vespa will just have to be sold 'as is' with fulll disclosure, of course.

      Delete
  4. Your claim of not making attachments to machines is undermined by the sadness in your voice, and I suspect the same in your eyes if not hidden by the Ray-Bans. The memories you've constructed with that Vespa are indelibly etched in you and it's easy to understand the connection between the two.

    As you know, I've thought a lot about motorcycles and my Vespa GTS -- older and a few more miles than yours. And I've already reached the conclusion that there is no substitute for the Vespa. Should mine die the desire to replace it will be strong. And while they come with a premium price tag, it pales in comparison to buying a bass boat or other assorted past times. When thinking of pure joy, dollar for dollar, the Vespa can't be beat.

    Look forward to seeing how things shake out for you. And in regard to the video -- it's a great, personal, engaging piece.

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    1. Thanks Steve, that really does help.

      I think that for my situation, where most of my riding in a rather intense urban environment, it's impossible to top the Vespa. The nice bonus for the Vespa is that it is also a competent touring machine.

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  5. At least you didn't wreck. Personally I love the 300 engine when running but I fear the reliability. MY 2007 250 was a victim of bad parts purchases by Piaggio from China...However I am a fan of the two valve air cooled 150s, the early four strokes before water cooling. So far so good but a top speed of 100km/h is limiting.


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    1. The new GTS is really amazing. In addition to the performance advantages of the larger displacement engine, Piaggio has tweaked the front suspension to address the infamous wobble, and the addition of ABS and traction control make the new bike very compelling.

      I was privileged to borrow Ken's GTS and was able to ride it with no hands!!! Zero wobble.

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  6. I say keep it and learn to do a little wrench turning this winter to pass the time and gain some new knowledge - what else will you do all winter but find more restaurants in TO? Sorry to hear your loss but I honestly think you should give the wrench thing a try - wrost case is you toss it bit by bit into the dumpster and have fun learning.

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    1. I actually did take up some wrenching, oil changes, exhaust gasket replacement, and purchased torque wrenches, addittional socket sets, etc.

      There is certainy satisfaction in doing routine maintenance work but tackling an engine rebuild? I don't have the temerity to touch that with a proverbial ten-foot pole.

      Delete
  7. I just heard about this from Ken. There is no description of the mechanic's findings but he hinted that it is related to a cooling system leak and the inevitable overheating.

    I had serious overheating on Vanessa, a 2007 GT, a couple of years ago when the wrong hose was fitted and came loose twice. Luckily I noticed a very high temperature gauge reading and did the stop and tow home routine. After fitting the correct hose (I tood it from another broken engine in Boris' warehouse and installed it myself), Vanessa carried me to a third place finish in the 2016 Scooter Cannonball Run. So, in my opinion, the engine may be salvageable. If not, why not go the route I took with Rocket. Buy an engine from a wrecked scooter and have it installed. So far, Rocket is almost as good as new these days.

    Or go ahead and get a new one. I hope you stay in the Vespa realm, and come to ride in Florida again soon.

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    1. Bill,

      Your suggestion is my tentative plan when my own GTS has some serious failure -- keep it as a project scooter or find a salvaged engine. Either way, I would probably buy another scooter. Nothing worse than Scooter Interupptus...

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    2. Bill that is a really good suggestion. There a few Vespa dealers here, and I suppose I could canvas for an engine. The dealers would know, because I am sure that insurers would get a damaged Vespa evaluated by a dealer. If one was 'totalled' by the insurer, the dealers would know about it and could help sourcing an engine.

      I'll give that a try.

      As for your kind invitation to return for another Florida jaunt, I will do my best to take you up on that.

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    3. 'Scooter interruptus'.... arghhhhh!

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    4. Try Troy at Fada for an engine or rebuild

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    5. Steve, Rocket, with it’s new engine is much more than a project scooter. I rode it up to the fall gathering in North Georgia a few weeks ago. 400 miles up, two 200 mile riding days there and another 400 home. I might ride it to Pensacola in two more weeks.

      Davis, the cure for Scooter Interruptus is owning more than one.

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    6. Bill that ‘more than one’ approach merits some serious thought. I have the space. Maybe two used trumps one brand new.

      I’ll give that some serious thought.

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    7. Ed, I'll touch base with you, I really value your advice and recommendations.

      See my comment to Ry, I think I'll do a test ride on the Vespa over to your shop some time next week.

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    8. Saw that and missed this last night. Wonder if distilled water matters or not? Sure, bring it over ... or just yourself.

      Remember Adamson is closed Mondays.

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    9. BTW, thought I should mention ... if you have blown the head gasket, and the coolant is not on the ground, it could be in the oil. Check and if so don't run it.

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  8. David, a big disappointment and very honestly, a sad surprise. I'm sure you'll do what is right, but if you ask me (and you shouldn't), you belong on another Vespa for a myriad of reasons.

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    1. Thanks DougI

      I beg to differ. I certainly value your advice. I'm afraid however that it would involve keeping this Vespa, heading a little north of here, buying a farm with a big empty barn, setting up a workench there, and then acquiring a very large number of second-hand bikes, including a couple of other Vespas, a KTM, a Honda dirt bike or three, a vintage BMW or two....

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  9. A sad ending to a truly amazing journey of your's (and the Vespa), David. For us urban condo dwellers it's next to impossible to do maintenance and repairs of such dimensions. In my rented garage it's in fact forbidden to do any of this, its purpose is meant for storage only... I'd say go for the new one, and sell the old one for parts. I am at a point where I could do without a bike but never without a scooter ;-)

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    1. Sonja I like a challenge, but there are mountains, and then there are MOUNTAINS.

      Vespas just check so many boxes, especially in the city. It just seems like there is no better way.

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  11. I wonder if Tim (with the Virago) has room for another bike in his storage locker ...

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  12. Oy, that ain't cool--I'm sorry about the serious failure, David, but I'm excited to know where you go from here. My two cents?... I can totally see you on a Guzzi. ;-) That said, I did have a favorite part of this sad video: the video-bombing squirrels--they cracked me up.

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    1. Squirrela... shameless little devils.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      I feel quite certain that I'll stick to the Vespa. It just ticks so many boxes for me.

      This morning I had to move the bike down to the P3 level of the garage because our level was being pressure washed. I took a pitcher of water with me and filled the coolant up. I expected to see the water drip drip dripping onto the floor, but... no leak.

      I started the bike up and let it idle until it reached normal operating temperature. Still no leak... and still no leaking after the trip to P3. I'll ride it on short trips and see what happens.

      Clearly there is a gasket issue, but not likely as serious as it seemed at initially, I think that the engine may be in better shape than suspected.

      I'm going to follow up with Ed (Thomas) because he seems to have some ideas about tackling an engine overhaul.

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    2. Who me ... ? Who has 2, not 1, two, a pair of 2 strokes with blown crank seals.

      I should tell you about a TMSC member who stuffed a whole lot of money into an older Vespa ... which was subsequently pranged

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  13. I have refrained from saying anything but let me say here don't be rash. Get a second opinion. A blown head gasket blew for a reason but once figured out it can be repaired. It's only a top end problem. Besides you're retired- what else are you going to do? Worry about medical bills? Oh wait you don't get those in the land of snow. Nor hurricanes neither.

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    1. That’s good advice Michael.

      That’s the way I’m headed I think.

      I also like the idea of two Vespas, adding a new-to-me second-hand Vespa.

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    2. After watching the video and the description of what and where it happened...you are describing classic "after boil"...typically caused by a tired radiator cap or weak cooling fan. Just something to explore...Best of luck!

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    3. Thanks for dropping by and commenting ACVW74!

      That’s interesting and I’ll google that to understand it better. It’s certainly consistent with what I experienced.

      The only real mystery is precisely where the leak was. Logically it would have been from the thermostat housing. There’s no gasket between the engine block and that housing. If the thermostat jammed shut the resulting pressure build up in the cooling channels would have taken the path of least resistance and that points to the thermostat housing. That would also be consistent with the coolant spray in the engine compartment. The only thing is that I don’t remember seeing any leakage there. Although, I was not really looking at that component in the heat of the moment (pardon the pun).

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  14. Oh no!! I'm sad to discover this only now. But it sounds like you have a plan in motion for getting back on two wheels?

    FWIW, my Vespa head requires replacement as well. I was lucky and found a salvage 2007 GTS 250, so there's an entire spare engine sitting in the garage. Now it's just waiting for old blue to arrive on the truck.

    Winter is time to rebuild engines, right?

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    1. Steph, as you'll learn in subsquent posts, turns out that the likely culprit was the thermostat, so my black beauty is not really dead after all.

      I read that you're planning a head change. I don't think I have the mechanical chops to tackle that on my own. But our mutual friend Ed Thomas kindly offered a way I could do the work in his shop over the winter if the need arose.

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