Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What you see...

As mentioned in an earlier post, this week is not a scooter week, it's a travel week.  Today an in-and-out to Toronto for some meetings, then tomorrow off to Banff for an important conference.

If I'm not riding I can always observe.

For instance, there are a lot of scooters in Toronto, and my unscientific taxi-back-seat-survey reveals that a majority of those scooters are Vespas: LXs, ETs, PXs, GTSs, Ss, the whole Vespa alphabet. Seeing is believing.  Or is it?

I picked up the current issue of Scientific American to read during my travels.  There's a promising article on quantum physics and the emerging theory that quantum effects extend into the macro world, the world we readily observe.  For instance, there's a theory that migratory birds "see" magnetic fields as a result of quantum entanglement.

What we see is very dependent on the limits of our visual process.

Case in point.

I was on a DeHavilland Dash 8 turboprop plane and I had a view of the propeller.  In flight, you see through the propeller, its outline only faintly visible.  I was experimenting with a new camera app for my Iphone (Camera+, recommended by David Pogue, really, really worth the $1.99 and more).  What the Iphone saw was something completely different.  An alternate view of the reality of the propeller.

The propeller was, at the very same time, appearing one way to the naked eye, and completely differently to the camera lens.  It's not a quantum effect, but with my muddled lawyer's brain, it helps me in my own way to relate to the article I was reading, and to Schrodinger's Cat, alive or dead, dead and alive, who can tell?

Which brings me back to riding my Vespa.  Nothing bothers me quite so much as not being able to see how I ride.  And the thing I most want to observe is how the bike and I perform in the "twisties".  How much do I lean?  Too much? Not enough?  Am I close to scraping the center stand?  What will happen if I do?  How much traction do I have?

I don't want to find out more about this vital aspect of riding by finding the limit split seconds before low-siding the bike into a ditch, or worse.

But you can't observe yourself in real time.  So I don't know about you, assuming you ride, but there's a lot going on in my mind's eye when I'm cornering.  I imagine the lean angle, try to sense the traction from the feel of the road, feel the optimal lean angle and where I am in relation to that angle.

The most lean I achieved (I think) was last week going up Camilien Houde parkway, a steep switch-back road that goes up Mount Royal from the east.  I was taking the first hairpin after entering the parkway at Mount Royal avenue.  Wide open throttle, countersteering in the curve, and man, I was lower than I remember at any previous time.  I was thinking "I'm really leaning" and creeping to the forefront was some kind of anticipation of what might happen if I scraped the stand.  Would I freak out, in a bad way, would I hit too hard and lose control?

The question I ask myself, is "why push those limits?"  Rationally, I think "slow down, enjoy riding through the scenery, enjoy the moment..."

But there's the rub with life on two wheels.  There's so much fun in those twisties.

And that's where the saving grace is with my Vespa.  My Vespa is to motorcycles, as my Miata is to sports cars: a whole lot of fun, and you don't need to be going ridiculously fast to find the fun.  I can do a four-wheel drift in the Miata getting onto an expressway ramp with the pedal to the metal at 6,500 RPM.  In a Porsche, I'd need to be going way, way, way faster to launch that drift.

I want my thrills, but at lower speeds, with less risk.

The Vespa's just right for me.

1 comment:

Keith - Circle Blue said...

It's almost embarrasing how long it is taking me to wear off the "chicken strips" from my new tires. Obviously, I'm not much of a leaner, oh well.

Nice post and thanks for the share.

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