Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!

Wishing all readers a happy and healthy 2012.


Dar suggested that it was a good idea to have an ICE entry in your cell phone (In Case of Emergency contact and vital information). My nephew had mentioned the same thing over dinner the other night.

If you have an Iphone, and if, like me, you must keep it locked to satisfy a corporate security policy, neither the ICE entry in your contacts or the ICE app (yes Virginia, there's an app for that) will be accessible should that emergency arise.

In an interesting twist, my wife lost her phone in the Aventura Mall here in Florida just a few days ago.  We were able to lock it remotely using the Icloud "locate my Iphone" feature after I posted a bunch of "Lost Iphone: if found, please call (XXX) XXX-XXXX" text messages to the phone.  The text messages did the trick and the phone was returned to us by a good Samaritan finder (also a Canadian).  Curiously, the Icloud lock and locate feature only kicked in after we retrieved the phone, and then wouldn't let us unlock the phone, necessitating a trip to the Apple store to restore the phone.  Kind of cool, kind of not.

If I had read Dar's post earlier, I might have done the following trick to my wife's Iphone and avoided the whole ICloud ordeal.

Here's a work around you can set up on your Iphone in seconds.

Use the Notes app to create an ICE entry, take a screen shot of it (hold the top on button and simultaneously press the home button) then set the screen shot as wallpaper for the lock screen.

Problem solved.

This is the easiest New Year's resolution to make and keep. Do this now, Iphone people.

Friday, December 30, 2011

I took the plunge!

I am now the very happy owner of a GoPro Hero HD point of view camera, and am very pleased with the purchase.

There is no scooter to ride here in South Florida.  But did I mention the sunshine and the pool?

Ahhhhh.... the perfect antidote for all the hard work the fall had in store for me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday spirit

Nothing says "here come the holidays" more than a vintage Vespa sidecar rig with all the trimmings.

Things are still nuts at the office. There's no time for a longer post.

This gorgeous Vespa has been a fixture in a clothes boutique in the Place Ville Marie mall for more than a year now. I've taken a picture of it in the past but I'm not sure that I've posted it here.

It will have to do as a holiday decoration for the ScootCommute until I have the time to post something more substantial, such as responding to Dar's challenge to post on the theme of 5 local road trips and dream trip challenge.  If you've got a scooter or motorcycle blog, take a look at the challenge and consider joining in on the fun.

I'll get around to it eventually, maybe on the weekend.

In the meantime, spread the holiday cheer folks!

Monday, December 5, 2011

An ounce of prevention

Putting my Vespa up for its annual hibernation is a breeze this year, thanks to the Modern Vespa forum.

Last year I removed the battery and brought it into the house to put it on the battery tender. That's a chore.

As part of last year's winter projects I upgraded the ground line from the battery that powers my Stebel horn and accessory outlet in the glove box.

Once I had the bike all opened up, I also followed the excellent advice from forum member Danny*h, and added a separate 10 amp fused positive and negative line direct from the battery. That new line terminates in a 2 pin trailer plug that hangs just a tad below the left cowl.

I soldered a matching 2 pin plug onto my portable air compressor that I keep in the pet carrier. Now I can pump up my tires to fix a flat without worries of blowing the fuse for the horn or power outlet.

On Sunday I cut the alligator clamps off my battery tender and soldered on another 2 pin plug.

This year all I needed to do was plug the battery tender into the bike. No battery removal.

That left me with one remaining 2 pin plug but with the wrong (female) polarity.  I added a couple of yellow butt crimp connectors to the leads from that plug, then"reversed" the polarity by putting red heat shrink tubing on the black lead, and black heat shrink tubing on the red lead.

Presto! Now I have a test point directly to the battery. All I need to do to check on the battery is plug in my test lead and plug the leads from my multimeter into the open ends of the butt connectors.  That test lead will make it a snap to monitor battery condition once the heated grips are up and running.

Not trusting my technical writing skills, I have added 5,000 words worth of pictures below.

You will note that the Vespa LX parcel hook makes a perfect place to hang my Motomaster battery tender:
Multimeter connected to the test lead:
Close up of the 2 pin plug / test lead:
Battery tender connected to the Vespa:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How and Why I got into Motorbikes

Gary France asked the following question this week on his blog Flies in Your Teeth:

"I have read a few motorcycling blogs recently that I haven't seen before. With almost all of them, I was left wondering how the authors of those blogs initially got into biking, and why?............ I would like to know your reasons, so if you want to participate in this, then write something on your own blog about 'How and Why I got into Motorbikes'."

I posted something like this when I started this blog.  After reading the many blog posts inspired by Gary's post, I think it's the perfect time to revisit the topic.  I'm hoping to answer Gary's question without covering exactly the same ground as in my first post.  So here goes.

One of the most difficult things I have ever done to this day, was learning to ride a bicycle.

I did it on a brand new 24", candy-apple red, Raleigh coaster-brake bike that I got for my seventh birthday.  I wanted that bike so badly.  Somehow, in my mind, I figured that by some magic, I'd just hop on that bike and ride off.  Reality intruded on that fantasy awfully fast.

The problem was that the bike was just too big for me. I could barely straddle the crossbar on tiptoes.

My first "ride" was with my dad holding the bike steady with his hand gripping the saddle from behind, as I wobbled along the driveway concentrating more on begging my father not to let go, than riding the bike.

I remember the frustration I felt, especially when the neighborhood kids who could ride were turning effortless circles and figure-eights in that driveway while I could barely go four dicey feet without my dad's guiding hand.

My parents got me training wheels, but I hated them because I had to choose  between trying to ride properly, which was a mixed bag of feeling the promise of what riding a bicycle could be, and having a training wheel kick in and feeling that horrible lurch; or giving in to the training wheel on one side or the other and riding painfully down the street at an awkward lean with the training wheel making the sound of a defective shopping cart rolling downhill.

Curiously, I have no memory of an 'ah-ha' moment when the art of riding a two-wheeler finally clicked.

We soon moved to a brand-new house, in a brand-new development in the suburbs. All my brand-new friends and I quickly evolved into Evil Knievels.  We tortured our bikes.

It started with jumping them off curbs; then slamming on the coaster brake to make dozens and dozens of unsightly J-shaped skid marks on the hot summer pavement; off-roading at breakneck speed along rutted farmer's paths and forest trails; even soaring off a seven foot berm over a sand pit,  launching the bike off the ledge,  dismounting in mid-air, leaving the bike to clatter into the sand, while we tucked and rolled trying not to meet up with it. We were nuts.

Those endless summers on two wheels, riding like maniacs for hours on end, made me one with my bike.  To this day, I feel intuitively what a two-wheeler is, and is not, willing to do in any given situation.

Naturally we all fantasized what riding a motorcycle would be like.  We used clothes pegs and baseball cards to imitate  the sound of a growling Harley, and imagined what a sprung saddle and suspension would do for the ride.

By the time I graduated to a three-speed bike in my early teens, that Raleigh was one stripped down, beaten up, mean-looking ride, with at least one cross-threaded, half-stripped axle, and handlebars that could no longer be tightened quite right.

At the high school I attended, a handful of the older students had Vespas, Lambrettas and 50cc or 90cc Hondas. I spent countless recesses and lunch breaks drooling over those bikes. I watched those riders start their bikes up with a sure-footed kick, and swoop off campus. I can still hear the put-putting sound the Italian scooters made, idling before take-off.

The closest I got to actually riding a motorbike, was riding pillion on a white Vespa for short ride, and riding pillion for a still shorter ride on my cousin's Triumph Bonneville, while my mother scowled and fretted.

By the time I was in university I managed to convince my grandmother and my mother to buy me a Solex moped.  That moped barely qualified as a moped.  And yet I used that bike up, logging more miles than I can remember.  It had some horrible features.  The absence of suspension meant chronic broken spokes.  I could never quite get the oil:gas mix right and I'd get powdery build up in the cylinder.  And talk about a defective drive-train: the Solex is front wheel drive; the motor sits on a pivot over the front wheel and an abrasive roller rests on the wheel and drives it by simple friction.  In the rain the roller looses traction slowing the bike, meaning that you get to enjoy the miserable wet ride in the rain even longer.

In the end, I could get the cylinder head off, clean out the residue, pop off a wheel, replace a few spokes, and take off on a weekend adventure in under 45 minutes.  And in spite of all that grief, I loved that bike.

Fast forward more years than I care to count.  It's August 2008, and I'm at a conference in Victoria, British Columbia, staying at the Empress Hotel.  I have a Sunday to kill.  I stroll down to the inner harbour in front of the hotel and notice scooter rentals.  Could I do it?  What if I break my neck?

I check out the price, and hang around watching people sail up, rent scooters and scoot off, with seemingly reckless abandon.  I hem, I haw.

Viciously prodded and hounded by a gaggle of angels perched on my shoulder, I shake a finger at myself, and head back to the hotel.  I sit in my room contemplating my computer, and the work I could get done.  But that scooter is dancing in my mind, taunting me.

I finally give myself a monumental kick in the butt, and nervously set out for the scooter rental shack.  It's difficult to resist the angels on my shoulders screaming at me to forget this stupidly risky scheme and get back to the safety of the Empress.  I stand there, imaginary fingers in my ears, humming a brave tune to drown out the heaven-sent voices, waiting my turn, forcing myself to plod through the rental process.

Finally, the paperwork done, the credit card surrendered, the charge racked up, the time is upon me.  I'm handed a helmet and led to the parking lot.  I'm nervous.  The angels are still screaming.  I strap on the helmet.

The rental guy gives me the most cursory instruction in the art of scootering.  "Insert the key here;  turn it like this;  make sure that this switch is in this position; now apply the brake; push that button" and the scooter coughs and sputters happily to life.  Now the guy asks me if I know how to ride.  "I'm really good with a bicycle" I say lamely.  He looks at me, and a fleeting shadow of doubt whisps across his face.

"Let's see you ride straight over there" he says, pointing to the sea wall "then turn around and ride back to me".  I nod like a dutiful student, gently twist the throttle and prudently make my way over to the sea wall in a nice straight-ish line, trying to look jaunty and confident.  The U-turn I manage to handle, haltingly, but at least there isn't any point when I'm going to lose control, or drop the bike.  I ride back to the shack.  I get a thumbs' up, and a nod, and the rental guy turns on his heels to serve another willing victim.

There I sit, astride the beast.  Alone.  Responsible.  Almost free.  Nervous.  Alert.  The angels are whimpering and trembling now, desperate, and bereft of hope.  The end may be near.

The devil on my shoulder gives me a hearty whack on the back, a wink, and a devilish scowl.  "Well done lad, now, let's get some lunch! Tally-Ho!"

I turn right on Government street and join the traffic.  It's the first time I'm on two wheels and taking up a whole lane!  I try to look cool and nonchalant.  Don't get too close to the car in front.  Easy on the throttle.  Every second I am learning more about the scooter, and learning more about riding.  It's all so new.  Clearly, it's not really like riding a bike.  But I'm not dead yet. Yay!!

I head over to Barb's Fish & Chips.
I pull into the parking lot, park the bike, pull it up on the stand, and turn off the motor.  "How cool is that?" I say casually to the devil.  He looks at me, nods knowingly and shoots me a devilish grin.  The angels have abandoned me, nowhere to be seen or heard.
After a delicious lunch, I decide to head up the shore road.

Before leaving, I pause to snap a picture of my ride:
I spend the next three or four hours happily exploring the coast beyond Victoria.  In my mind, the devil is casually wondering whether I could ride my steed all the way to Butchart Gardens.

I find myself on a quiet residential street, straddling the idling bike and studying my rumpled and woefully inadequate tourist map intently.  I'm feeling like a real biker now.  I no longer need the devil to egg me on.

I hear a female voice, "Can I help you?" it says.   I look up and there is this gorgeous, impossibly fit, tanned, young woman, perched on a Tour de France, multi-speed bike, probably all carbon fiber, decked out in skin-tight, blinding, multi-hued, blue and white spandex, offering to help me find my way. "Hi" I say, trying to sound casual, virile and possibly attractive.  " I'm not lost.  I was thinking of riding to Butchart Gardens... how far is it from here?" I ask politely.

"You won't get there on that thing" she says with disdain bordering on ridicule and with a dismissive, deprecating tone.  She kicks a pedal and in an instant, she's off, leaving me there, my ego deflating with a pathetic, mournful hiss.

I head back the way I came, the beautiful spandex wonder receding quickly from my consciousness, washed away by the pure bliss of riding that scooter.

Later that fall, my wife and I visit Paris and Barcelona, firsts for both of us.

Quite aside from the amazing experience of gobs of European culture and delight, I marveled at the two-wheel culture.  Bicycles, Velibs, scooters, motorcycles, filling the streets, lining the sidewalks, students, young professionals, gray-haired men,  executives in expensive suits, women in business atire, every single segment of society on two wheels.

Guess where that lesson led?

I suppose that if you're a follower of my posts, you already know the answer.

I think I'll make a point of revisiting this topic once a year or so.  It's quite therapeutic to remember how I got here.  Thanks Gary!

Now I'll go back to reading other posts of riding-bloggers' reminiscences.  It's nice to find those unexpected common threads.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Preliminary semi-scientific conclusions

If you're new here, this post won't make much sense unless you read the previous post, and be warned, that post might not make much sense at all.

Oh well! That's life, so here, in as coherent a fashion as I can muster, are my conclusions.  I have the generous assistance of CircleBlue, BobSkoot and Brady Steffl, both on and off this blog, to thank for allowing me to get this far:
  • The Vespa LX 150 has a 12 volt electrical system that reliably (so far) generates at least 7.5 amps of electrical current at 3,000 RPM.
  • The total load of electrical bits and pieces that come with the stock Vespa LX 150 draw 7.27 amps.
  • That means that the Vespa LX 150 is designed to operate with a mere 0.23 amps left over to charge the battery.
  • The normal running electrical draw of the stock Vespa LX 150 is 3.85 amps.
  • Oxford heated handlebar grips consume 3.6 amps on average.
  • The normal running electrical draw of the Vespa LX 150 with Oxford heated grips in operation will be 7.45 amps, leaving 0.5 amps of electrical head room.
  • That 'head room' means that the Vespa LX 150's electrical system is able to deliver all the power needed to run the scooter, and run the heated grips, without drawing additional current from the battery.
  • The battery in the Vespa LX 150 is a 12 volt 9 A-h lead acid battery with a charging rate of 0.9 amps.
  • The trickle charging rate for the Vespa LX 150 battery is 0.03 amps.  This means that a charging rate of 0.03 amps is sufficient to keep the battery topped up if it's got a full charge.
  • With the Oxford heated grips running, the battery won't be draining, and there will even be 0.05 amps available for trickle charging the battery, which is more than the 0.03 amp trickle charging requirement for the battery.
My conclusion is that the Oxford heated grips work with the Vespa LX 150, but it's theoretically tight in terms of the electrical budget.

I think that in a real-world application, for the way that I run my Vespa in the course of a one hour commute each way to work, the Oxford heated grips will do just fine, and that the electrical budget won't be nearly as strained as the analysis to date would show.

For instance, I would expect either to run them at the low range of the settings from the beginning to the end of the commute, or wait until I feel a little chilled, and then run them at a higher setting only until I get the chill out.

Running the grips at 30% capacity will consume 1.08 amps of current, increasing the head room to 2.57 amps left to charge the battery, which is only 1.08 amps less than the stock bike's excess capacity, and a lot more current than the 0.9 amp normal charging rate of the battery.  Running the grips on the highest setting for the coldest twenty minutes of the commute would yield a similar result leaving 2.46 amps of headroom.

The worst case scenario would be running the grips on high from beginning to end of the commute.  In that case, there are times when the bike would be idling and producing less than the 7.5 amps of maximum current, and it is likely that for those portions of the commute there would a power deficit that would be draining the battery.

After a morning commute with that kind of brutal punishment, I still think that what battery drain would have occurred have still have been marginal and that the bike could start up for the evening commute.  After a similar evening commute, plugging in the battery tender at home would top up the battery and set the bike up for another such brutal commute the next morning.

What I don't think that the bike could handle would be a long distance cold weather trip with the grips running on high morning to night.  Although, even then, the likelihood is that the bike would be mostly running at high RPMs and the battery might just hold up fine.  As long as the high beam wasn't also on, and the GPS wasn't hooked up... and that's not likely to happen.

If I make that kind of trip, it'll be a mid-summer adventure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Making friends with Alessandro Volta, James Watt, and André-Marie Ampère

If I were an engineer, or a particle physicist, I would be qualified to tackle the laws of the universe.

As some of you may know, I am a lawyer.  That means that I am only licensed to handle man-made laws.  That's why I'm pretty sure there's no law that says I can't dabble in the laws of physics.

That is all the more true if the experiment I contemplate involves the more or less inconsequential, microscopic, minuscule corner of the universe in the dark, tiny places inside my Vespa.  Unless I manage to do something with the Vespa's electrical system that causes a black hole to form, or that creates a teensy bit of anti-matter, life as you and I know it will probably snake on into the future pretty much as we expect.

This puzzle-post is the first tentative dip of my right big toe into the most complex yet of my Vespa LX 150 modifications.

There will be more posts as I venture down into this rabbit hole, and be forewarned, I may yet decide to stop in my tracks and head off in the direction of trading up to a Vespa GTS of one variety or another.  Only time and this blog will tell.

For now, you will find below the bits and pieces of the puzzle as they lie helter skelter in my lawyer's brain, ill-equipped as it is for this journey [Ed.: when you see entries like this, it's me, making a snarky comment]:
+ = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
Oxford grips draw up to 4 amps (source: Oxford web site, user manual).

The pair of heated grips draws an average 3.6 amps when in operation.  Each grip can draw up to a maximum of 2 amps, so that means 4 amps of total draw at the maximum heat setting, of 28 to 30 watts. (source: Oxford web site, user manual) [Ed.: that's a math or physics mistake on Oxford's part.  In a 12 volt system, 3.6 amps is 43.2 watts and 4 amps is 48 watts.]

The Oxford electronic control automatically shuts off the grips to protect the battery from excessive discharge.  The shutoff point is 11.5 volts (source: Oxford web site, user manual).
  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"The battery capacity that battery manufacturers print on a battery is usually the product of 20 hours multiplied by the maximum constant current that a new battery can supply for 20 hours at  68 F° (20 C°), down to a predetermined terminal voltage per cell. A battery rated at 100 A·h will deliver 5 A over a 20 hour period at room temperature." (source: Wikipedia)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"There are only a few amps of excess alternator capacity on an LX150 to charge the battery above what is necessary to power the stock lighting. One 35-watt driving light uses 3 amps. You do         the math." (source: - "12 lamps on 1 LX"  - comment posted by SilverStreak on the thread posted by another MV member, Sunday, October 17, 2010)

  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"You cannot convert watts to amps, since watts are power and amps are coulombs per second (like converting gallons to miles). HOWEVER, if you have at least least two of the following three: amps, volts and watts then the missing one can be calculated. Since watts are amps multiplied by volts, there is a simple relationship between them.

However, In some engineering disciplines the volts are more or less fixed, for example in house wiring, automotive wiring, or telephone wiring. In these limited fields technicians often have charts that relate amps to watts and this has caused some confusion. What these charts should be titled is "conversion of amps to watts at a fixed voltage of 110 volts" or "conversion of watts to amps at 13.8 volts," etc."


"The Following Equations can be used to convert between amps, volts, and watts.
  + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"Re: Heated grips?

pdxvespa wrote:

Has anyone installed heated grips? More to the point, can the electrical systems of the ET/LX/GT handle the extra load?  And if so, what does the installation involve.....?

phr3d answered:

1) Nope

2) Do you have specs on one?

I can do the math to verify. The regulated output at 3000 RPM is 7.5 A <----- Haynes is wrong here. I can't find it in my Workshop manual, so guessing 7.5 since it is fused at that. The Typhoon 125 puts out 8.5 A, so should be close.

Stock Battery is 9 a-H

Full Load:
Side Lamps   5 W
Brake      21 W
Turn      2 X 10 W (we'll assume you won't indicate both directions, but still 2 for front and rear)
Plates      5 W
Inst/Warn   1.2 W
Headlight   35 W

87.2 Watts /12 V = 7.27

Normal Running Load:
Side Lamps   5 W
Plates      5 W
Inst/Warn   1.2 W
Headlight   35 W

46.2 Watts /12 V = 3.85
So at 7.5 Amp out put at 2000 rpm (guessing this, see above). We have 0.23 Amps to spare under close to full load, and 3.65 under "normal". Hope I didn't miss anything.

3) I would take it to the battery, inline fuse it for whatever the Grip warmer is rated at. Relay it some something that only turns on when the engine is running.

Edit: Forgot it should be 2 x 10 W for turn signals because of front and back. Seems close to being in a drain situations."

(source: - "Re: heated grips" - posted by phr3d on November 13, 2005)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
Vespa OEM battery specifications:
  • 12 Volts
  • 9 Amp Hour @10 hr rate
  • 0.9 Ah Charge Current
  • 130 CCA
(source: - Vespa LX150)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =
"Charging rate
Charging rates for a trickle charge are very low. For example, if the normal capacity of a battery is C (ampere-hours), the battery may be designed to be discharged at a rate of C/8 or an 8-hour rate. The recharge rate may be at the C/8 rate or as fast as C/2 for some types of battery. A float or trickle charge might be as low as C/300 (a 300-hour discharge rate) to overcome the self-discharge. Allowable trickle charging rates must conform to the battery manufacturer's recommendations.
For a 12 V 60 Ah battery a C/300 rate would mean 60 A / 300 = 0,20 A = 200 mA"
(source: Wikipedia - Trickle charging)
 + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To sleep, perchance to dream

Well, the consolation prizes are:
  • The wonder that the first snowfall of the winter season always inspires.
  • Christmas morning is in sight.
  • I managed to keep the scoot commute rolling to within two commutes of winter's onslaught.
  • Once winter gets going, each day brings the 2012 scoot commute one day closer.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

T'is the season to be modding...

With the 2011 riding season all but in the history books, what's left for a dedicated scooter commuter to do?

I think you know the answer!

Yup! It's nearly open season on Vespa modding!!

So here's my wish list (in no particular order) for this season of plotting, hunting, thinking, wrenching, browsing, drooling, ordering, waiting, thinking, planning, installing, testing, and project reporting:
  • Purchase a new Cuppini windshield (to be cut down just barely below eye level
  • Sew my 2010 ModernVespa patch on my BMW Airflow jacket
  • Purchase and install heated grips at last,  either Oxford or Hot Grips. If they work on Keith's Symba, they should do just fine on my Vespa, as long as I install an electronic control unit to manage the electrical consumption
  • Install some nice shiny bar ends to go with the heated grips (I'm hoping it's an option with the Vespa LX handlebars)
  • Purchase a GoPro HD video camera
  • Replace all the Velcro on my Corazzo 5.0 riding jacket
As I think of other cool winter projects I'll add to the list!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nibbles for the kaffee klatsch

Sorry, no fresh pictures with this post, for a couple of reasons.

First off, things are crazy hectic at this time of year in the office and every minute is counted, including extra minutes during my commute.  Secondly, fighting the cold at this time of year means two pairs of gloves, which is my tactic this year.  A thin pair of merino wool glove liners and a pair of Icon gauntlets.  So stopping to shoot pictures requires a minute or so more, and it's sad to say, but it really is a minute I don't have.

It was cold enough on Friday morning (-1C / 30F) that I had no choice other than to stop to pull on my rain jacket after a few miles to add a wind proof layer. I have enough cold weather riding experience now to know how much exposure to the cold is going to be too much.

It was my turn to pick up nibbles for the Friday morning office kaffee klatsch. My fingers were tingling with cold when I stopped at Banette, a French bakery franchise on Sherbrooke Street in NDG.  The real borough name is a mouthful, so English-speaking Montrealers eons ago shortened Notre Dame de Grace to "NDG".  We are fond of that here.  We used to live in TMR (Town of Mount-Royal) and my brother in law used to live in DDO (Dollard Des Ormeaux).  In the east end of the Island there is RDP (Rivière des Prairies).  There are probably other examples of this inclination of ours to truncate the places we live, but I've already digressed enough.

16 miles, half of that at 60mph, had taken its toll by the time I got to NDG. And yet everything else was nice and warm, just cold tingly fingers. Not too shabby.  As any rider will tell you, it's all about the gear.

I took a few minutes to warm my bands on the headlight before going into the shop.

10 minutes later and I was on my way with my treats, with nice warm fingers. You know you're OK if your fingers warm up and recover from the cold quickly.

I know, I know, you're counting the minutes wasted (putting on the rain jacket, warming my fingers, ten minutes in the shop...) and you're thinking that I could have snapped at least one picture!  You'd be right.  As I pulled back into traffic I remembered that I had forgotten to snap a picture of Banette which I was planning to do.  Banette is a special place because it's not a Canadian or US franchise.  It's a franchise from France, and it's the only Banette outlet outside of France.  How cool is that?

So to make up for my forgetfulness, here is a shot of a Banette outlet in Paris, in the Latin Quarter that I took in 2008.
Their Montreal location is short on charm (at least it doesn't hold a candle to that location in Paris), but the pastries and croissants are incredible.  If you're not from around here, and you find yourself in Montreal with time to kill, it's worth setting your sights on.  Here's a shot of the Montreal Banette I found on the web. It's either a spring or fall shot because their tables aren't out, and there are no leaves on the trees.
So where was I... Oh yes, cold weather commuting tips.

If you chill your core, good luck. I did that on my last commute of the 2010 season and it took a space heater under my desk blasting away on high until noon to get the chill out of my body.

No such problem on Friday morning.  Another minute or so warming my hands on the headlight (it just feels so good) and when I got up to my office I was just as comfortable as after a summer commute.

Easy peasy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Too many questions; not nearly enough answers

We have owned many cars, and driven even more. Some were just OK. Some were just plain terrible. Some were money pits at a time in our lives when money was hard to come by. Some were very useful. Some were pretty impractical. Some we were glad to be rid of. Some we still can't bear to part with.

And yet, after all those hundreds of thousands of miles, not one of those countless cars ever came close to giving me the pleasure I get from riding my Vespa.

What the heck is it? I'm still just going from A to B. It's just that on my Vespa it's much more like going from "Eh!" to "be". It's existential. And after more than 9,000 miles (closer to 9,300 miles) the ride still satisfies me to the core.

This morning was quite chilly. And yet the ride was still pure joy. Skiing is like that too. And riding a bike. Canoeing too.

So is it the skill required to travel this way that makes it so special?

Is it the freedom that riders often write and talk about? And just what is that freedom? How are you more free on two wheels than on four or more?

Is it the risk, and taking chances? Then why wear all the gear all the time?

Could it be the challenge and facing that challenge square on? Is it really that challenging?

Why are there so many motorcycle and scooter blogs? Maybe I'm seeing trees because I'm in the forest. Are car blogs similar to PTW blogs? I don't know. I do know that in all my years of owning cars I wasn't tempted even once to join a car discussion forum, or write a blog.

So many questions, so few answers.

All I know is that it's getting really cold. On the ride home I'm positive that there were occasional snow flakes streaking white arcs through my field of vision.

And yet I'm still in the saddle, occasionally grinning like a mad man, yet inscrutable behind my visor.

What the heck is it?

I'll just have to keep riding until I figure it out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

You know it's cold when...

Capturing a shot like this on a Friday morning commute to work makes cold weather riding such a deeply satisfying experience.

Last season I packed in the scoot commute after a ride just below the freezing point. I had to pull into a McDonalds half way to the office to warm up over a cup of coffee. I was wearing ski mitts, and it just wasn't enough to deal with the windchill. When I got to the office I was probably well on my way to hypothermia.

This season I'm much better equipped. The windscreen makes a huge difference by keeping the wind off my hands. The lined riding pants and the layers under my riding jacket keep my core nice and warm. So basically the only effect left is cold fingers. That's manageable.

When I get off the bike in the underground garage, I pull off my gloves and place my hands on the headlight, one after the other. The residual warmth is just the ticket. Not too hot, just nice and toasty. By the time I get into my office and sit down to work, a hot mug of coffee is all I need to banish the rest of the chill in my hands.

The remaining issue is the condition of the roads. If there is a chance of precipitation that could become ice or frost on the road, that will spell the end of the 2011 scooter commuting season.

Time will tell, but, by any measure, the end is near. Repent!!

Monday, October 31, 2011


Happy Halloween!

This is T-H-E day for all those who ride orange Vespas!  Get your spook on you guys!

Changing the exposure on today's image of Lake St-Louis in the morning reveals more of who was hanging out all night just for this occasion.
Ride safely, and spookily!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hit the road Jack!

Last week was full of work-related challenges.  Everything went more or less as planned, but by the time the weekend rolled around, it sure was time for a break.  Unfortunately, the work-related duties intruded well into the weekend.

On Sunday I had some minor chores to take care of.  After lunch there was finally some me-time.

There is no better treat for me than hopping on my Vespa and hitting the road.  Even if my name isn't Jack.

I headed north, determined to take it slow and easy.  Take in the fall colors.  Enjoy the late fall sunshine.
Continuing on my northward course, I took a nice quiet back road that cuts obliquely across the western tip of the island, finding its way to the shore of the Lake of Two Mountains.
When I got to the lake, I couldn't resist the temptation to check up on the memorial.

Sure enough, Jim Katz was up to his quiet literary philanthropy.  Another copy of The Senneville Time Warp was discretely tucked into its special place on the monument.  It's a treat for me to see it there.  It makes my connection to the place much more meaningful.  Thanks Jim.
Something caught my attention out on the lake, behind the memorial.  Amazingly a couple of kite surfers were taking advantage of the stiff winds.  I tried to snap a picture.  I know that the kites are in the frame, but they blend in with the fall foliage and all but disappear.
From the memorial I began the ride home, westward along the shore.

On this trip there was no trace of summer left.  Leaves rustling in the breeze, pumpkins on stoops, folks strolling in heavy jackets and bulky sweaters, the scent of log fires in the air.

Thinking of Steve Williams, I took the Vespa off-road, into a grassy field, and down to the water's edge.

A small flotilla of geese was resting by the shore bobbing in the choppy frigid water.  Mother nature is good at camouflage, so you have to look carefully to see them.
Looking left and right, or south and north, the lake from this vantage point is just beautiful. Unfortunately it's just a question of time before someone snaps up this land for another McMansion.
I pushed on, slowly meandering homeward on Senneville road.

When I got to Ste-Anne de Bellevue, I went down to the boat ramp near the entrance to the lock that allows boaters to go from the Lake of Two Mountains into Lake St-Louis.

The boat slips at the marina are empty now, and many of the docks have been hauled ashore in preparation for winter's assault.
Further west it was the same story at the Baie d'Urfée Yacht Club.  The sailboats are all on shore and ready to hibernate.
All that was left to do was push on home.  The weather is supposed to be reasonably good this coming week, so the scoot commute is still on.  But the clock is definitely ticking down to the close of the season.

There was a snow storm warning over the past couple of days for the US northeast.  It's just a question of time before my world goes white too.

On a housekeeping note, a curious link seems to have developed between this blog and my Vespa. The odometer on the Vespa is at 10,385 miles, and the stats counter on the blog is at 10,023 pageviews, more or less neck and neck. With the winter hiatus looming, the blog is sure to pull way out in front of the Vespa.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.