Monday, January 14, 2013

A reader asks about scooters and potholes

Last Friday I had the following e-mail exchange with Bob.  Regular readers please note that this Bob is not that Bob:

Firstly allow me to congratulate you on producing Scoot Commute. I find it interesting, entertaining and informative.

I was in the sailing magazine business for many years, which was considered extremely 'vertical' in interest, but you've gone far beyond that.

I think it's likely fair to say that you're an expert on the scoot scene in Montreal and in that capacity I seek your advice.

I moved to Montreal five years ago, to the Park Extension neighborhood, and bought a scooter for the first time. A very nice 2002 low mileage Yamaha 50cc. I love it and have done the F1 track on the Island and gone up the mountain uncountable times but in reality put on only 1000 K/year.

My problem centers around the fact that I weigh 50 pounds more that the scooter. 250 vs 200. The poor thing is 70 pounds over with just me aboard. This past summer the front and back ends both came apart at the same time, (I was sure I cracked the frame and wrecked it), but it was fixable for not too much $. I dodged a bullet.

The obvious solution is to move up to a 150cc, which I would do in a flash (sooner the better as this is buying season) except for the license. I would also like larger wheels in defense of the potholes.

I have not been able to find out about the required courses which seem to be long, expensive, preoccupied with gears and on top of everything I'm uni-lingual. Did I mention I'm 74?

I thought of putting a 50cc motor into a 150 chassis but the shortcomings are obvious. I have no interest in driving on freeways etc.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you for you time.

Hi Bob,

First off, thanks for the kind words.

As for the scooter question, the scooter I ride is a Vespa LX150. It has a 150cc engine. It's very well built and there are plenty of guys with your build riding on that frame.

The good news is that the vast majority of Vespas LX scooter on the streets in Montreal are Vespa LX50's. Basically, a 150cc frame, with a 50cc engine.

You should have no problem finding one used on

The LX50 weighs 225 lbs vs 243 for the LX150. Other than the engine, the two scoots are identical.

Here are the specs:

Getting a motorcycle license is expensive and time consuming but very much worthwhile. I dodged that bullet because in Quebec in the past if you had a driver's license you automatically were entitled to ride any motorcycle. Some years ago they put on a campaign to encourage non-riders to give up that privilege, which I had done.

When I was shopping for my Vespa the dealer informed me that those who gave up the motorcycle privilege had three years to reclaim it, which is what I did.

Still, riding a powered two-wheeler is very different than a bicycle, especially once you get up over 50 km/h. It's cornering that requires special skill and it's not something you can easily learn without instruction. If you don't learn it, it can be very dangerous.

One option for you is to pick up a Vespa LX50 and have the dealer kit it up to 78cc's (I think that's what the displacement kit offers). The Montreal Vespa dealer, Alex Berthiaume, just north of Lafontaine Park, is very good and could do that for you.

If you do decide to go the Vespa route, check out Tons of good advice and a very good internet forum.

Hope this helps.

Because this exchange may be helpful to others as well, let me know if you mind if I post it on my blog. I won't do it without your OK.


Thank you very much for the info. I do not mind if you put our e- mails on your blog.

I'll give Alex Berthiaume a call on Monday.

I notice you cleverly avoided the pothole question bit then I guess life is full of them.


Oops, oversight.

Potholes. Interestingly, they aren't the worst hazard.

Those steel construction plates, sand and gravel, tire ruts left by overloaded 18 wheelers, seams, cracks and ridges, and sunken sewer covers, all make riding a scooter in Montreal a challenge.

I don't find the small wheels as much of a liability as I assumed they would be when I started out. In fact they handle obstacles like that surprisingly well.

Vespas are extremely maneuverable ("flickable", to use a motorcycle term). For the most part I have fun dodging potholes and sunken sewer covers. When they sneak up on me or I fail to dodge them, at worst they bottom out the rear suspension. On a Vespa you can adjust the suspension but even at the stiffest setting it will bottom out.

It's the other hazards that worry me more. I have gotten airborne off ridges on St-Patrick street near the cement plant, and often that road is slimy with muck.

All told, all those hazards don't detract appreciably from the pleasure I get from commuting on my Vespa.


Don't get me wrong - I love my scooter and just yesterday checked the calendar to see when I got it out of storage last year-March 11.

A few years ago I was southbound on Querbes and suddenly noticed a pothole about 12" across (the same size as my front tire) and seemingly as deep, very close in front. Not being familiar with 'flicking' (and I think I'll leave it that way), I used the old bike trick of yanking up on the handlebars and sort of semi jumped over it.

Since then I have reduced my speed 5 kph which gives me time to multi-task: watching for traffic and holes at the same time.

Obviously I was expecting too much of you to solve the pothole situation and if any of your readers come up with a solution I'm sure you'll spread the word.


Hi Bob,

I was editing our exchange to post it on the blog and noticed something I should have mentioned to you, but didn't.

I don't think that you need to speak French to get your motorcycle license. One of the popular outfits that provides the motorcycle training course is Morty's Driving School, and I'm sure that they provide instruction in English.

As for the SAAQ road test, I'll bet that it's available in English too.

None of this makes it an easy thing to do, but I can guarantee it will be fun.




Unknown said...

Mr David:

I have heard about a BOB convention somewhere in the USA. I can find nothing about it but I think it would be neat to go to one. Imagine hundreds of people with the same name.

There may also be a DAVID convention somewhere. Can you image more of YOU ?

Riding the Wet Coast
My Flickr // My YouTube

David Masse said...

I had an uncle Bob. Bob and David may top the list of popular names. My brother-in-law's name is David (made it simpler for my parents). David married my sister Elizabeth, so when we were kids, it was David and Elizabeth, and now that she's married with kids, it's still David and Elizabeth. Who did I get my Israeli saddlebags from? David. Who was the Vespa dealer in Sherman Oaks I visited last spring? David. I could go on, but it gets tired real fast, Bob

Dar said...

Dear other Bob.

Best practice for potholes is to avoid them. You should be looking far enough ahead that you see it and can avoid & manouevre around the pothole. They teach you object avoidance in motorcycle class. I once hit a monster pothole on my Yammy Vino 50cc scoot when I first started scooting 2 years a ago and it almost swallowed up my little scoot. If you can't avoid the scooter eating pothole, roll off the throttle a bit. Good luck ith your scooter eating potholes!


If you are going to have a Bob & David convention you might as well throw 'Dar' in there too, sounds like fun.

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