Showing posts with label Vespa LX150. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vespa LX150. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First long distance ride

I did it yesterday.

A road trip from Montreal to Ottawa and back. On my Vespa. I've included a Google Earth view of the trip, mainly because I couldn't figure out how to embed a complete Google map view. I've now figured out that the trip was so long that the result is actually seven Google map segments. There are so many that I've added them to the end of this post.

8 1/2 hours (9:30 a.m to 6:00 p.m.); 375 kilometres, 233 miles; one more province added to the places I've ridden; one $3.00 ferry trip; 6 or 7 bridges; three pit stops to top up with gas; one chat with a fellow rider on a big Beemer who couldn't quite believe a guy on a small-frame Vespa was pacing him; one stop for a bite to eat; one massive traffic jam in Gatineau due to road work; one hour spent visiting my dad; one rush hour in Ottawa; two dozen or so bugs obliterated on my visor; three sets of disposable ear plugs; 75 kms on the Trans-Canada Highway with the throttle twisted to the stop, too few pictures to share, and one numb bum.

That's it for the ride stats.

What did I learn?

Long distance riding is tough. Really tough. The Vespa's gas tank is not designed for long distances. Nor is the saddle or seating position for that matter. 150 cubic centimeters is 100 or so cubic centimeters short for pacing traffic on a straight, two-lane, 90 km/h highway. A mid-height windscreen and a Nolan N-102 helmet is a combination that is WAY TOO LOUD for comfort, even with 32db noise canceling ear plugs.

The sweet spot for the Vespa LX 150 is urban riding. That's where the Vespa really shines. It's fun to ride; it's incredibly nimble; it hauls an incredible range of stuff so it's great for shopping; it can filter through traffic jams like a ghost through walls; you can park it anywhere; it turns heads because it's gorgeous; and the urban riding list goes on, and on.

Which is not to say I didn't have fun on this trip.

The absolute best was a stretch of highway 148 along the Ottawa river in Quebec. It was twisty with good pavement and a speed limit of 80 km/h. Traffic was doing just under 100 km/h. With the throttle wide open, the bike just ate up those sweeping turns. I felt like I was one with the machine, counter steering with just the right pressure on the handle bars, leaning first this way, then that. It was just fantastic.

I also appreciated the elderly gentleman who came up to me after my bite to eat at a roadside hotdog stand, to ask about the Vespa and whether it was made in Italy. He explained to me that the wheels were small because they originally were recycled aircraft landing gear. And I believe he is right.

Crossing from Ile Bizard to Laval on the cable ferry was fun. I hadn't taken that ferry in years.
I also enjoyed stopping at the church in St-Eustache. During the 1837 rebellion the British army laid siege to the church where some of the rebels had taken refuge. You can still see where the wall is pocked by cannon fire. When I was a kid, my mother used to point out a cannon ball that had remained lodged in the wall. That bit must have been repaired at some point, or the cannon ball was dislodged, because it's no longer there.
Visiting my Dad was the reason I went to Ottawa. He loves jackets, so he just had to model my armored BMW Airflow.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the ride home was not much fun. It was much more about endurance. Highway 17 in Ontario was straight, flat, and fast. The limit was 90 km/h and traffic wanted to do 105 km/h, a tad more than the Vespa LX 150 is able to muster. That stretch of road is a two-lane highway with few passing opportunities. The result was that for some stretches I was leading a parade.

Relief from that misery came when Highway 17 merged with 417 which is the Trans-Canada Highway. For some reason the slight head wind went away and I was able to average about 100 km/h. With traffic able to pass me in the other lane it was actually much more comfortable. It also helped that the opposing traffic on the west bound lanes was on the far side of the very wide median instead of being in the lane right next to me.

Between the 17 and the 417, the return trip ended up being a wide-open-throttle affair pretty much all the way. To be honest I was getting concerned about the impact on the Vespa's 150cc Leader engine. The good news is that after I turned off the motor when I stopped to gas up for the last leg home, the bike started right up without a fuss after the five minute respite.

Would I do it again?

375 kilometers is a lot of ground to cover with any vehicle, let alone a Vespa. And yet, if you look at the links on the right of the page, you'll find many accounts of cross continental trips on Vespa LX 150s, and even on 50cc bikes. I was always impressed with those exploits. Now with my own experience, I am in awe of those incredible trips. Any thought I might have had that I could go coast to coast on my Vespa is receding pretty quickly from my mind.

I might try another long trip if I upgrade to a GTS though. The larger motor would have eliminated the anxiety of not being able pace the traffic.

And before any longish trips are planned, I need to rethink my gear. I need to get a new windscreen and cut it only slightly down so I can see over it and eliminate the noisy turbulence. I also need a much quieter helmet. Not having to contend with that drumming in my ears for hours on end would also have made a huge difference.

Here are those Google maps. The route I took is indicated by the blue trail on the map. There appears to be some kind of a bug with the embedding code, and the route may not be visible on the thumbnail of the map. Scrolling around, or zooming out will reveal the route. I include these maps in the interest of completeness, in case anyone wants a more detailed closer look at the trip.

Flash forward: The Vespa LX 150 was my first Vespa.  In 2013 I stepped up to a Vespa GTS 300 i.e. and in July of 2013 managed an epic tour through the northeast.  Click here or on the 'Touring' link above, to learn more.

View Ottawa-trip in a larger map

View Ottawa-trip in a larger map

View Ottawa-trip in a larger map

View Ottawa-trip in a larger map

View Ottawa-trip in a larger map

View Ottawa-trip in a larger map

View Ottawa-trip in a larger map

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The first commute

Before I relate today's excellent adventure, just a little link to the last post. I got my new keys from Jim Hamilton at and they work perfectly. I was apprehensive about the modifications I had done but that I couldn't really test without the keys.

Wow!! is the only word to describe my satisfaction when everything worked exactly as planned.

The Stebel horn is magnificent, and the 12 volt power outlet works like a gem and shuts off when the ignition is turned off. I already used it to charge my dead cell phone on a one-hour ride last Saturday.

Now for today's news.

I set out this morning on my first commute. The clock on the Vespa indicated 7:13 a.m.

The odometer on my U.S. model Vespa LX150 read 1,434 miles.

The temperature was hovering at 1 degree Celsius, just above freezing, but the sun was up and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The forecast called for a high of 14 degrees (about 58 Fahrenheit).

I'm not yet 100% organized for the commute since I'm still missing a rain suit, armored pants, armored gloves, and a suitable bungee net to secure my laptop to the passenger seat. Not a huge problem though, I left my laptop at the office last night and there's no rain in the forecast until Friday.

The ride in was very pleasant. I wore a fleece under my Corazzo 5.0 jacket and had leather gloves. I chose to wear some sturdy hiking boots instead of my dress shoes. They aren't motorcycle boots but they offer a lot more protection than my street shoes. I found the Nolan N-102 helmet fogged easily when stopped, but lifting the visor at red lights brought welcome fresh air, so not really an issue.

Based on advice I got from ModernVespa folks, I plan to leave my dress shoes and suit jackets at the office. Since I am just starting out, I had both of those with me this morning, so the shoes went under the seat in the "pet carrier" and the suit jacket was neatly folded into the topcase.

The route I follow winds along the old highway that follows the shore of Lake St-Louis to the Lachine Canal. From there I take Saint-Patrick street along the Lachine Canal to the downtown core.

I stopped to snap a few pictures.

This one was taken at a park in Dorval looking towards the lake.

This second shot was taken in Lachine at the junction of the lake shore road and the Lachine Canal where my route switches to Saint-Patrick street for the final leg downtown.

The Vespa LX150 has plenty of power to allow me to pace the cars and trucks on my route effortlessly. It's a big plus compared to the LX50 I rented last fall that often left me in the right-hand lane getting passed by most of the traffic.

Once I parked in the underground garage at 8:15 a.m., the odometer read 1,453 miles, so it's a one-hour, door-to-door, 19 mile or 30 kilometer commute. Even though the route is much less direct than the expressway, with less traffic, it's still the same one hour commute. And it's easily the most pleasant commute I've had in a long time.

At lunch time I rode over to the local Vespa dealer and picked up a good one-piece rain suit and a red bungee net for the laptop shoulder bag. Once I get to test the rainsuit in the rain, I'll be sure to give it a review.

All I'm missing is a disk lock or twist-grip lock and a good cable so that I can secure the bike and the helmet when I park elsewhere than the underground garage here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Scooter modifications

I still haven't gotten my keys back from their cloning adventure in Maine, so I can't actually ride my Vespa in spite of spectacular weather this Easter weekend.

Instead of riding, I managed to free up some time to start working on the safety and convenience modifications I had planned.

Without an ignition key, there's not much I can do to test the new electrical circuits, but, what the heck, life well-lived is an adventure.

In doing these modifications I am following the paths laid out by talented scooter owners and mechanical wizards before me. The project includes a Stebel Nautilus air horn to replace the stock Vespa horn; a 12 volt power outlet in the glove compartment; and a turn signal buzzer to remind me that the blinking rider has left the blinking blinkers on, long after the turn is a distant memory.

I don't need to go into any great detail on these projects since there are extraordinarily helpful instructions and photos on the Modern Vespa forum (, and I'd just be dully repeating what other more talented scooterists have already documented way better than I possibly could.

I’ll just add bits and pieces of my experience that contribute real value for the next person who takes on these improvements.

I won’t keep you in suspense, I’ll cut right to the chase, kind of.

First off, let me quote the unknown wise person who observed that experience is what you get when you were expecting something else.

It turns out that:
  • when you are working on your Vespa in a warm, neon lit garage bay; and
  • and when you are congratulating yourself that you removed the horn cover and the interior leg shield cowl and glove box without breaking anything;
  • and when you are fiddling to convince yourself that your Radio Shack 12 volt power outlet will really fit behind the glove box, which is basically a useless activity since the pictures on Modern Vespa already offer conclusive evidence that the fit is just fine;
well, then and only then will the power outlet slip out of your clumsy fingers.

Now here’s the insight that I wasn’t able to get from Modern Vespa: the Vespa is fiendishly, cleverly designed so that anything you drop inside the leg shield is immediately and efficiently directed along the nice curvy shield and straight under the floor board. The opening to the leg shield is perfectly designed to capture anything you drop, and, unless you are a titan and are able to hold the scooter upside down over your head and shake it just so, the only way to retrieve whatever it is you drop is to remove the floorboard.

Since I was going to have to do that anyway in order to install new wiring from the battery, it was no big deal.

So I removed the floorboard; retrieved the power outlet; installed the new positive and negative leads from the battery as well as the new fuse holder; routed the new wires to the leg shield area; re-installed the floorboard; and congratulated myself again: nothing broken, nothing wobbly, no leftover parts!!

So, fresh from this victory, I grabbed the Stebel Nautilus air horn and started clumsily convincing myself that it would fit in the leg shield, roughly behind the horn cover, basically where it ought logically to go. Again, a totally useless activity, see above.

That’s when the little screw and bolt that Stebel thoughtfully provides with the horn worked itself loose as I fiddled, fell off, and, you guessed it, rattled off down inside the floorboard.

Tonight the plan is to once more remove the floor board; retrieve the bolt; re-install the floor board; stuff rags in the openings to save me from more experience with the floorboard; and complete the wiring.

I won’t take the chance of closing up the leg shield until I get my keys back from so that I can test the modifications. I know what some of you are thinking... DON'T TEST THE STEBEL HORN IN THE GARAGE WITH THE DOOR CLOSED!

Finally, just so you don’t think I’m completely inept, once I finished Dremelling the 1” hole I cut in the glove box, the power outlet snapped securely in, and looks for all the world like it was put there at the factory by the Piaggio folks in Pontadera, Italy.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Selecting a scooter

At a private high school I attended the program extended up through junior college. A number of the students at the junior college level rode to school on motorcycles, mopeds or scooters. I was really interested in the Vespas and Lambrettas. There was just something different about those scooters. It may have been the distinctive sound of the motor. I really can't say.

Last year when I started to think that actually
getting a scooter would be a real possibility, I was drawn to the Montreal Vespa shop. While that shop has since closed, I just knew that I wanted a Vespa.

I finally got to rent a Vespa LX 50 on the 2009 Halloween weekend. I suspected that what I really needed was the LX150 but I reasoned that taking the LX50 on my intended commuting route from downtown to the West Island and back would give me a better feel for the experience and would serve to confirm whether the extra power that came along with the 100cc increase in displacement was worth the additional cost, and the pain of getting a motorcycle license.

I picked up the bike on Friday on my lunch hour at the dealer's main location just north of Lafontaine Park, which is roughly three kilometers northeast from my office. I rode to the dealer on a Bixi bike which was both quick and convenient since there is a Bixi station just outside my office, and another one at the intersection near the dealer.

It was a cool day, but not really cold. While it is relatively rare, Montreal has seen snowfall on Halloween. I had made arrangements with the attendant in the underground parking garage in my office building to let me park the scooter there for the afternoon free of charge. The forecast called for rain the following day.

The ride from the dealer to the office was my first real taste of riding in heavy urban traffic. The full face helmet that had made my head feel huge in the shop seemed incredibly unnoticeable once I was underway. The ride presented an early opportunity to test the limitations of the 50cc engine. I was surprised to find that with a headwind, the LX50 topped out at about 40k
mh climbing the rise where Park Avenue crosses the shoulder of Mount Royal. That was just not fast enough to pace the traffic that was doing 55 or 60 kmh.

I parked the Vespa in the garage and went back to work.

I planned to leave the office early in order to avoid travelling home after sunset. At about 4:30 I changed into jeans and a windbreaker and headed down to the garage. When I rolled up and out of the garage, the first thing that greeted me was light rain. You just can't rely on a weather forecast.

I was thankful that my windbreaker was waterproof. I also really appreciated the full face helmet. From head to waist the rain was surprisingly a non issue. At first it was not so bad on my jeans either. The leg shield did a surprisingly good job of protecting me from the rain. It was definitely a dryer ride than it would have been on a Bixi bike. Nevertheless, by the time I got home, my jeans were very damp but not soaking, and
my feet had remained essentially dry.

All told, less than ideal conditions for a first test scooter commute, but in spite of the difficult conditions, I enjoyed a very pleasant ride.

The following day I awoke to find the sun shining. I figured that the weatherman was just slightly off his game and that I got the anticipated Saturday rain unexpectedly on Friday, and that I would get a much more pleasant sunny ride back to the dealer on Saturday. We went out for breakfast as a family as we often do, so I wasn't able to get underway to return the scooter until around 11:00

By that time the sun had vanished and it was raining again. But this was not light rainfall. We're talking real rain. Not large raindrops bouncing off the pavement, but a good steady downpour nonetheless.

By the time I got to the dealer's shop, I was still dry from the waist up, but otherwise I was well and truly drenched. One of the weird things I discovered about driving
a scooter in the rain, and I wasn't really surprised that it happened, because it makes sense, is that your weight on the saddle creates a depression that the rain running down your body turns into a miniature lake. You realize this kind of suddenly the first time you come to a stop and shift your weight in the saddle, and slurp, you feel like a little kid who just wet his pants. Oh well. I made a mental note to make sure to buy really good rain gear.

If my body was drenched, my spirits were buoyed and not in the least dampened.

The test was an unqualified success on all fronts. I now knew from real world experience that :

  1. The scoot commute is a hoot!
  2. The route I had planned to take from my downtown office to my home on the West Island was a really good route for the scooter.
  3. I even really loved it in the rain, without proper rain gear, and in chilly October.
  4. The Vespa LX was definitely the right bike for me. Much more substantial than the smaller Yamaha Vino I had rented in Victoria the year before, but still small enough to fit just about anywhere.
  5. A full face helmet is a really nice helmet to wear in the rain.
  6. If at all possible, I definitely wanted the Vespa LX150. I had no intention of riding on highways, but the additional power would mean I would be able to keep up with urban traffic in all cases, and with additional power in reserve.
Next up: Finding a scooter to buy.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.