Showing posts with label Vespa LX. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vespa LX. Show all posts

Monday, July 26, 2010


One of the great aspects of commuting on a scooter like the Vespa LX150, is that while it is powerful enough, and "legal", for freeway use, it is small and nimble enough so you can literally find parking wherever you care to go.

I alluded to this in the previous post.

I was reading on Modern Vespa today that Boston has expanded parking in the city for motorcycles.

Toronto has taken a much more liberal view, and, in my opinion, adopted the most bike favorable policy I know of, by allowing powered-two-wheelers to park free of charge in any metered municipal parking slot in the city.

Now Montreal has never been that kind to scooter and motorcycle riders.  There are a few (and I mean very few) designated areas where motorcycles and scooters can park free of charge.

There is also a theory (which may have force of law, but who has the patience to find out?) that motorcycles and scooters can also park at the beginning, and at the end, of street parking slots designated for cars.

Here is an example of a motorcycle testing that theory just outside my office.  The reflections from the sun made taking this picture difficult.
 Notice I circled in white the "L" shaped marker designating where the permitted car parking space ends.  Any car parking in the space that the motorcycle is in would surely be ticketed.  The motorcycle? Maybe not.

In other two-wheeled respects, the City of Montreal is among a handful of progressive cities worldwide that make available a municipal bike-sharing program.  The city is now covered with BIXI stands.

Interestingly, just about every BIXI stand just happens to leave enough space at either end for a scooter to tuck in safely.  This is a phenomenon that is sprouting serendipitously all over the city, and here is a great example, also right outside my window.

Close to 300 BIXI stands strategically placed throughout the city means that, in addition to all the existing nooks and crannies where I can park my Vespa, there are close to 600 more cozy spots just waiting for me.

So when it comes to parking for the scooter commuter, although on paper Montreal isn't as enlightened as Toronto, or as forward thinking as Boston, there is no shortage of great spots where you can park a Vespa.

For those of you living in Washington D.C., and for students and faculty at Washington State University in the Northwest, good news, BIXIs are coming your way as well.  More parking for DC scooter commuters.

Ride safely!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finding a scooter to buy

The easy decision was to buy a Vespa LX150. The next challenge was to find one for the best price.

After a little research, the online classified sites seemed the best way to find a suitable scooter. After spending a little time comparing listings, I found that had a lot more listings of potentially interesting scooters than Craigslist. So last fall I began to monitor Kijiji almost daily. I found that the most convenient way to keep tabs on listings was to save the Kijiji search to my Ipod Touch's home screen.

Since the Montreal market had few offerings I broadened the search radius to 600km to take in the greater Toronto market as well.

After watching asking prices for many weeks I got a good feel for the market for used Vespas.

By early February I was ready to make an offer. I missed out on a few candidates but finally got lucky. I purchased my scooter from Ocean Drive Motors (, a dealer specializing in used Italian sports cars and Vespas located in Toronto.

Purchasing from a licensed used car dealer made many aspects of the purchase easier. For one thing I knew that I wouldn't have to worry about title. I still did a personal property security search on the Ontario government's web site though, just to be sure.

The price for the scooter was a little higher than comparable private sellers, but there were some desirable accessories included in the sale, including a Vespa OEM top case, that clinched the deal. I was also able to negotiate free storage until I could figure out how to get the scooter to make the 500km trip to Montreal.

The fall-back plan was to ride it home.

Ultimately with a favour from my brother in law who was comimg to Ottawa with an empty trailer to get some tools, I was able to pick up the scooter in Ottawa with a rented U-Haul trailer and drive the final 180km back home.

Trailering the scooter in the open U-Haul was a breeze. The 10'X12' trailer's tail gate lowered to act as a ramp so loading the scooter was easy. I got all the information I needed from the Modern Vespa forum about transporting a Vespa scooter safely. I purchased a motorcycle handlebar harness from a local motorsports dealer and some motorcycle and ATV tie downs from Canadian Tire. I tied down the scooter fore and aft to the sturdy D rings on either side of the trailer bed and I chocked the front tire with a section of 4X4. With the tie downs tightened the scooter was rock solid in the trailer, even though it was not on the centre stand. Trailering a scooter on its stand can damage both the scooter and the trailer as bumps and vibration cause the stand to hammer the trailer bed. It also prevents the scooter's suspensiom from doing its job absorbing the bumps.

The drive to Montreal was uneventful. My son drove the Ford Escape SUV and I kept an eye on the trailer. There was really no need to be concerned though. The scooter never budged an inch.

The next Monday I drove the scooter from my home to the local CAA inspection facility for its government inspection (which it passed with flying colours) and then on to the motor vehicle department to get it registered.

I had carefully researched the registration requirements beforehand so the process went as smooth as silk. I had all I needed:

1) The contract of sale;
2) The dealer's registration slip endorsed for transfer to me;
3) My driver's license with the motorcycle Class 6A endorsement; and finally,
4) The official inspection report.

That night I installed the license plate when I got home from work.

The only problem I encountered with the sale was that the dealer had not secured the scooter's master key when the scooter was purchased from the original owner. I found out the significance of the missing master key only when I got the scooter home and I was reading the owner's manual. I could have anticipated the problem better if I had done a little more homework on the Modern Vespa forum.

Not having the master key meant that if I ever lost the one ignition key I have, it would be necessary to replace the scooter's computer plus purchase new keys, adding up to a very substantial expense, likely well in excess of a thousand dollars.

Luckily that glitch will have a happy ending thanks to Jim Hamilton from I sent Jim my only ignition key and the top case lock and he emailed me earlier this week that he successfully made me a new master key and reset the top case lock so that the one ignition key will now operate all the locks on the bike.

The major inconvenience is losing at least two weeks use of the scooter while my keys were in transit. That, plus a hefty price in express parcel post charges in addition to the very reasonable price for Jim Hamilton's services and new master keys. .

So the lessons learned are as easy as 1-2-3:

1) If you shop carefully, and
2) do your homework online, particularly on Modern Vespa (,
3) you can purchase an excellent pre-owned Vespa confidently and start your own scoot commute.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting started...

The city in the title backdrop is Montreal. I took the three pictures I used to make the composite view of the city on a flight home from Victoria in the fall of 2008. The city is seen looking to the south.

(Ed.: this journal was redesigned in late 2015 and the original header was changed. Here is what it used to look like:

That should provide the needed context.

To begin this blog, a little context is in order.

I vividly remember my first bike. It was to be the present for my seventh birthday. A candy apple red Raleigh 24" frame, coaster brake bike. I dreamt about that bike. I imagined I could ride it. I day-dreamed about what it would be like to get it for what seemed like eternal winter weeks and months.

When I finally got the bike in the spring, it was everything I had hoped for. It spent the first night in my room, on its center stand, at the foot of my bed. In the darkened room, with my eyes closed, unable to sleep, I could smell its presence. A whiff of that wonderful smell that you get when you walk into a bicycle store.

I found out the next day that actually learning to ride that bike was going to be incredibly scary, difficult, and ultimately in those first few days, painful.

Like most kids I persevered and never looked back. Growing up, my bicycle was the key to freedom. Endless summer days and evenings, riding with my friends, every day a fresh adventure, more riding skills learned.

By junior college, I was riding a second-hand 10-speed bike. I was easily doing 30 or 40 miles a day, between home on Montreal's north shore, to my summer job near the airport, and then east to Ville St-Laurent for summer classes.

In university I managed to convince my parents and my grandmother to buy me a moped for my birthday. All I could afford was a Solex. It was basically a more or less sturdy bicycle with a 49cc engine driving a kind of abrasive roller that rested on the front tire. In dry weather it could easily do 20 miles an hour. In the rain, the water lubricated the roller causing slippage, and you were lucky to do 15... 10 if there was a head wind. That could be misery. Still, I loved that bike and the freedom it brought.

Read on, there's a picture of a Solex below.

With each each new bike, my range increased. I thought nothing of jumping on the Solex at my parents' house (then located on the western slope of Mount Royal) to visit my friends who lived 25 miles away in Ste-Rose.

Eventually I graduated to a family of my own, kids, cars, hockey and soccer practices, dog walking, and life on two wheels just became a thing of the past.

In the mid eightys I left my law firm to work in-house for a large Canadian public company. The firm’s managing partner bought me a really good Norco touring bike as a parting gift.

It was by far the best bike I have owned.

I began to re-discover the pleasures of cycling. As my sons, and later my daughter, learned to ride as well, we would take longer and longer rides. Eventually, the kids grew up, and, as I had done, moved on to cars. Somewhere along the way I was lucky to acquire a nice shiny red (my wife was quick to point out it was "mid-life crisis red") Miata roadster, so I wasn’t exactly pining away and missing life on two wheels.

2008 was a turning point in my life on two wheels.

My wife and I got to take two weeks’ vacation in Paris and Barcelona. Both those cities were firsts for us, and we absolutely loved each of them.

What struck me most was how people in Europe live on two wheels. It didn’t take long for that impression to hit home. In the taxi on the way to our rented condo, as we drove along the expressway towards Paris, there were actually five lanes of traffic on the three lane expressway: motorcycles and scooters were riding the white lines and traveling somewhat faster than the cars and trucks. 110km an hour in rush hour traffic on the lane dividers on scooters… all kinds of scooters, Vespa GTs, Burgmans, MP3s, and three-wheeled BMW scooters complete with 4-point seatbelts, stereos and windshield wipers.

I have to say it made quite an impression. Including the person seen here commuting on a Solex.

After two weeks of seeing all those folks living care-free on two wheels, I began to think I could do the same in Montreal.

I first rented a scooter in the fall of 2008 during a conference in Victoria B.C. I spent a wonderful afternoon riding as far as I could up the coast of Vancouver Island. What a blast.

Last fall, I rented a Vespa LX50 for a couple of days and tested a commuting route from my home on the western tip of the island to my office in the downtown core. It was October 31st and it rained for both the trip home and the trip back to the Vespa dealer. Without real rain gear, I was wetter than I have ever been, and cold too… but in spite of less than ideal conditions, I was firmly hooked by the Vespa bug.

Three weeks ago I took delivery of a second-hand, lovingly cared-for, dragon-red, Vespa LX150 with a Vespa top case. What a dream.

I haven’t begun to commute quite yet since there are some minor issues to deal with, such as installing a turn indicator buzzer (since I have discovered to my dismay that, try as I may, I remain prone to forgetting to cancel the indicators; a nice, loud, Italian air horn (a Stebel Compact Nautilus, to be precise), because I don’t want to be going “meep-meep” when some fool is bent on threatening my life; and lastly, the scooter didn’t come with its master key, so my only key is off on its own adventure getting cloned.

April 1, 2010 (I know, April Fools Day, but I’m not a prankster, this is for real) will mark the beginning of my scoot commute.

I learned a ton of stuff from reading scooter blogs and following the posts at Modern Vespa since last fall, and I figure that I owe it to others to share my experience as well.

This blog will not just be about my Vespa. Montreal inaugurated North America’s first public bike system last summer, and I am proud to say that I was one of the very first subscribers. I got a special black smart card key to prove it. From the first day the service began in May until the bikes were taken off the streets for the winter at the end of November, I racked up more than 600 kilometers on Bixi bikes. The Bixis are the best gift I have received from the C├Čty of Montreal since Expo 67. This summer I'll continue to Bixi on my lunch hour, getting down to Old Montreal, and up to the Plateau, or over to the Atwater Market for lunch.

Future posts will not likely be anywhere near this long. I just figured I needed to introduce myself properly before getting on with it.

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