Sunday, February 24, 2013

Halfway there

I'm very slow with a needle and thread. I've persevered and now I'm halfway done.

The workmanship is, well, the best I'll say is, barely adequate. I measured twice and sewed once. Yet it's obvious to me that symmetry is wanting. Still, I've achieved my goal of adding quick release buckle closures to one of my Israeli saddlebags.

I think that once I've done the other one I'm going to take them to the shoemaker and have the stitching bolstered.

Then they'll be ready for the open road.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The birth and evolution of an icon

You don't need to understand Italian to learn how the Vespa GTS 300 Super is the reigning icon of a legendary brand.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Here's what I'm thinking once I get my grubby hands on the GTS (that I'm expecting to be fairly identical to this specimen, truth be told, plus the trunk for my junk, of course): - topic 87326
Not that Starbucks is not desirable fuel, but I'm thinking more along these lines:
Canadian Tire Corporation
The ingenious foot rack will come from Classic Racks.  I'm debating whether I want the cupholder version like the one above, or the version with the Vespa logo.

What do you think?

PS: Today, February 19, 2013, I finally got to see the GTS in the flesh and it is identical to the photo above, minus the rubber floor mat, with a topcase, Tucano Urbano Termoscud apron, and a few discreet chrome additions that the seller contributed. I have made a firm offer on the bike.  It's still early in the season, and the seller has got to get some other ducks in a row, so we're not there yet.  But we're closer, much closer.  Now it's time to back off and let nature take its course.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Slow and steady

I'm on the cusp of a shiny black and tan GTS 300.  Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

I have been talking to the current owner for almost two weeks now.  We were introduced by Paul at Alex Berthiaume & Fils, Montreal's Vespa dealer.

We're both very busy people, and well, let's face it, it's February and the Montreal riding season doesn't seem to be in sight.  Add to the non-conducive weather, the fact that my new friend is kind of attached to his GTS.  Can one love a machine?  Is a Vespa only a machine?

The thing that's slowing down the process, is that we both love our Vespas.  So it's more an adoption process, than the sale and purchase of a motor vehicle.

At this point you may well ask why I refer to the seller as a new "friend".  Here's the deal.  He's had his GTS for three years.  I've had my LX for three years.  He commutes.  I commute.  His commute is about 19-20 miles or approximately 31-33 kilometers.  Guess what? So is mine.  His odometer reads 24,000 kilometers.  My odometer reads 15,000 miles; same diff.  He dropped his bike and picked up some scratches.  I low-sided mine in a heavy rainstorm in September and picked some scratches.  He has all his servicing done at Alex Berthiaume... OK, OK, you get the drift.

Guess how long it takes for a discussion of me buying his bike to digress?  Less than 10 seconds.  We pretty much can't get much past "hello".

So now you know why this purchase is going to be slow and steady.

The next step is for my new friend to send me pictures of the adoptee.

Yes, yes, yes, I know, you want to see pics.  I promise to post them. Honest.  I just don't want to jynx this.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Soon time to say "Hello... goodbye"

The time has come to bid adieu to my trusty Vespa LX150.

We have shared darn close to 15,000 miles of pure fun together, but I'm planning to set my redhead free into the welcoming arms of a yet-to-be-identified stranger, as I shift my gaze to a younger trophy bike with more voluptuous curves. Yes, sad and bittersweet, but true.

Her rival is not a platinum blonde, or a suicide blonde. It's a Titanium Gray, semi-gloss, Vespa GTS 300.

This is just a tease. The plot is afoot. Details to follow in due course. Stay tuned.

PS: Aaaaarghhhh! My GTS dream machine slipped away, the seller's darling wife decided she wanted it. I celebrated too soon. Oh well, back to trolling Kijiji.

PPS: Oooooooh! All is not lost.  Another GTS, decent price... shhhhhhh! Got to keep the jynx at bay.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Satellites and Vespas, iPhones and Nuvis, Senas and Me

I've been experimenting with the maps application on the iPhone 5.

I know that Apple got flack for some poor execution on it so I wasn't expecting much.

What I am finding is that in fact the turn-by turn instructions are quite decent and so is the display.

Even better is the Bluetooth implementation.

So far I'm only testing it in the car, but my new Sena SMH10 helmet headset should work the same way as with my Honda Civic's Bluetooth.

I get the voice prompts loud and clear on the car stereo, the display on the phone is as legible as my Garmin Nuvi, the iPhone multi-tasks nicely, i.e. it can navigate, play music and make and receive calls simultaneously without hanging any of the three functions.

The one function that does hang (or at any rate gets superseded, so to speak), is music playing through an app other than the iPod app on the phone.

For instance, suppose I am listening to music streamed by Toronto's Jazz FM radio station 91.1 via their iPhone app (which is excellent, by the way).

Everything is great, I get the music, and, when necessary, I get the voice prompts for the navigation, and all the while the screen shows where I am on the road.  The issue arises if I make or receive a phone call.  The phone call supersedes the music and the voice navigation prompts.  The problem is that when I terminate the call, music returns as do the voice prompts, but, the music that plays is whatever was last played by the iPod app.

To get the streaming music to come back, I have to access the iPhone, stop the iPod player, go back to the Jazz FM app, stop and restart the streaming.  None of that is safe while driving a car, I doubt it's even possible on a motor bike.

The navigation function recalculates nicely, though the voice prompt doesn't announce "recalculating" but the display does show it.

As far as I can tell, the shortcomings (other than the streaming issue mentioned above) are:
  • There isn't much you can do to customize the Apple map app compared to my Garmin Nuvi (such as display options, avoidances, time vs route, etc.);

  • The voice prompt is sometimes not quite naggy enough on an urban expressway with complex interchanges (i.e no "in 250 meters keep left" prompts, so you need to keep an eye on the display to avoid the suspense).   For instance on a recent trip to Ottawa, the voice prompt didn't give any prompts at the junction of the expressways to Toronto and Ottawa, whereas the Garmin Nuvi was quite helpful, telling me " in 400 meters, keep right" while Siri was silent.  The display made the direction clear though.

  • Other times the voice prompt is needlessly verbose.  Once the Ottawa-Toronto junction was cleared, the Garmin announced "continue 140 kilometers".  Siri said, quite unhelpfully, "continue on autoroute Félix Leclerc".  She managed to mangle this as she does most street names, calling Félix, felliks.  Siri is smarter than Brittany (the name we have given to our Garmin gal, since we chose the UK voice as a preference), because Siri knows to say the name of the highway and Brittany doesn't.  However, I add that Siri did this 'unhelpfully' because it was unhelpful information, particularly before the junction, since none of the overhead signs or the highway signs make any reference to "Félix Leclerc".  As far as I know, only the Quebec Department of Transport knows that this section of highway 40 is named for one of Quebec's most celebrated authors.  Apparently they told Siri, but no one else.

    Brittany was then content to let me listen to some really nice jazz, while Siri insisted (to the point of annoyance) on repeating, at what seemed like two-minute intervals, always as unhelpfully, "continue on autoroute felliks leclerc". She did this even though the only possible alternative I had while she was telling me this was to put the BMW X3's all-wheel drive on the adventure setting and try to perform a Steve McQueen by running up the embankment beyond the right-side ditch, in the hope of getting sufficiently airborne to clear the deer fence and set myself free to roam into the adjoining farmer's field.

    What the hell was she thinking?  I asked her, but she didn't get my drift.  "I don't understand what truck are you singing about" she said.  I then asked Brittany, but she wouldn't break her silence.  Mutual respect among thinking devices, I suppose.  Thank the lord the BMW didn't join the conversation, because it could have.  That would have freaked me out.

    This silliness continued until about ten kilometers past the Ontario border.  Once in Ontario, Siri changed her tune slightly to "Continue west on TC".  It took me a good five kilometers to decipher that useless tidbit.  Finally it dawned on me... pc? teepee? dc? ec? tc?... OMG TC!!!! I'm on the Trans-Canada Highway...

    Siri finally settled in for the drive and left me alone until I reached Ottawa.  She must have sensed my annoyance because she never again repeated useless prompts.
All the silliness aside, the iPhone's turn-by-turn navigation is so good that I'm debating whether to go ahead with a planned GPS purchase.

What I was hoping to find was a waterproof GPS with Bluetooth turn-by-turn prompts.

That seems only available in the Zumo series which is very pricey.

I think the iPhone is already so good that there's no point spending all the extra cash on the Zumo.

I'll just use a combination of my existing Garmin Nuvi and the iPhone since I have RAM mounts and power for both devices. What the iPhone currently lacks, the Garmin has, and vice versa.

I still need to find out if the iPhone uses network data to navigate or not. If it does that could be what makes the Zumo cheaper for my planned summer road trip with both US and Canadian legs.  Some say that the iPhone stops performing as soon as it looses cell signal.  Others say that it continues to give voice prompts, only losing route display.  Frankly, my testing hasn't progressed that far.

Any thoughts?  I encourage you to use the comments feature on this post to add your two cents (or shekels, drachmas, kroners, or whatever you have that passes for useless change).
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.