Sunday, January 25, 2015

Winter doldrums: Key West!!

January and February are deader than dead, riding-wise.

I think I've found a way to get a riding fix in late February that will keep my spirits up until the 2015 riding season kicks in.


Susan and I are planning to devote a week or so to the Sunshine State.  I'm planning to steal a couple of days, rent a bike at Eagle Rider, and teach myself (with a little tutoring and written encouragement from Dar in her brand-spanking-new moto instructor role) to ride a cruiser.

Dar suggested a 600cc'ish cruiser (Honda Shadow, Yamaha XV S650, or similar).

My plan is to drop in on Conchscooter for a beer and maybe a burger or something.  I'm also hoping to entice some fellow riders to join in.  The thing is that they're all up around Jacksonville or Tampa St-Pete, and it's a lot to ask for folks to take three days or so and put all those extra miles on just for a lark.

Stay tuned my winter-bound friends.  We'll see how this goes.


My Florida plans have been scaled back.  Too little time to get all the bases covered.  Key West has taken a back seat, at least in terms of our upcoming trip.

There will be other occasions, I am quite sure.  Perhaps occasions when the stars will align more auspiciously.  Occasions where a band of riders will be able to join in and ride with abandon to the southernmost point.

I will still rent a bike, but I'll confine the ride to an afternoon.  The A1A in Fort Lauderdale beckons.  Its siren call is no match for Key West, but it has the allure of being doable, and there's a lot to be said for that.

I hope to be able to report in the near-ish future that I have will have expanded my repertoire from Vespas to include shifty cruisers.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Product review: Viking Cycle Stealth textile riding jacket

Given that it's minus twenty degrees Celsius in the Great White North as I commit this review to digital paper, this will be a two part review.  The ride report about the jacket's performance on the road will have to wait until old man winter loosens his frosty grip and gives us back our bare and two-wheel-ride-able roads.

In a nutshell: 

The Viking Cycle Stealth is a very inexpensive, but well-designed, armored, padded, 600 denier, textile riding jacket.  It's part of the jacket line-up (click here, and here) from the folks at Motorcycle House.

The lesson here is that you don't need to spend north of $600 to get a good armored jacket.  There are no excuses for taking risks on the road when there are riding jackets like this one available.  If you're on a tight budget, yet still concerned about your riding safety, this jacket may just be the ticket for you.

Full disclosure:

I did not purchase this jacket, I received it from Motorcycle House free of charge for the purpose of doing this review.

Some bloggers won't do product reviews when they haven't purchased the product, some will.

Some bloggers host advertising on their blogs, some don't.

Most bloggers, myself included, write for public consumption and aren't in the least motivated by a desire to profit.  In many, if not most cases, the cost simply far outweighs the benefit.

I don't want to host AdSense advertising, so I know I have no hope of earning any financial reward for my blogging efforts.

With this review I am however dipping a tentative toe in the pool of freebie product reviews.  We'll see where it takes me.

The fact is that it's not easy for suppliers to entice bloggers.  Witness the comments some seriously good bloggers contributed to my earlier more philosophical post.

On the plus side, fellow bloggers have done promotional pieces that I found very valuable.  To mention just one example, take Steve Williams' motorcycle reviews courtesy of Kissell Motorsports.  Kissell Motorsports lent Steve a number of really nice bikes to ride and review.  His motorcycle review posts are examples of top-notch promotional pieces I found (and still find) really helpful. 

Right now my feeling is that as long as I believe that I'm adding value, along the lines of Steve's contributions, I will do more of these reviews.  When the process becomes too burdensome or irksome, I'll stop.

It's that simple.

Video peak:

I recorded a brief little video.

I apologize for the awkwardness the jacket model clearly exhibits.  It was his first time 'acting' on a stage and his natural reserve and shyness speak louder than the jacket he is supposed to be showing off to best advantage.  I also realize that the production quality is... totally amateurish.  I have a lot to learn about video editing.  I have a whole lot more admiration for those of you who produce nice videos.

The amazing thing is that I got it done at all.

There is no catchy soundtrack or helpful narration in the video.  I was on my way to figuring that out, when I upgraded our iMac to the Yosemite version of OSX, and that turned out to nuke iMovie.  When I finally installed the updated iMovie app... you guessed it, my product review video is no longer compatible.

I suggest you view the video. It's mercifully short, and the rest of the review will benefit from the context.

Safety and protection:
Armor and padding:

CE 1621-1 rated shoulder and elbow armor.  I pulled  the armor (never an easy task) and can confirm that it is stamped with the CE rating, with the same designation as the armor in my BMW Airflow jacket.
The armor in my BMW Airflow jacket looks and feels more polished, but bear in mind i) CE rated is CE rated, and ii) the BMW Airflow is more than five times the price.  The armor in this jacket looks not that different from the armor in my Canadian-made Corazzo 5.0 jacket, at three times the price.

In addition to the removable CE-rated armor, the jacket has polycarbonate exo-skeleton portions aligned with the internal removable shoulder and elbow armor.
Non-rated but removable foam back pad.
Permanent foam pads in the abdomen, chest, and back.
One of the keys with armored clothing is ensuring that the armor is positioned properly, and that it stays optimally positioned in a crash.  This is where fit is critical.  The Viking Cycle Stealth jacket fits very snugly, so much so that it's just a little bit of a struggle getting it on.
Once on, the jacket is comfortable and the armor is well positioned on the arms and shoulders. The sleeves are snug and there are hook-and-loop adjusting straps that allow the sleeves to be snugged up even more.
The impression the jacket leaves is that the armor is likely to stay put in a crash. Neither of my other jackets provide quite the same feeling. My Corazzo 5.0 is the loosest fitting. My BMW Airflow is snugger than the Corazzo 5.0, but not nearly as snug and form-fitting as this Viking Cycle Stealth jacket.
This jacket has a feature my BMW Airflow has, but that my Corazzo 5.0 lacks: the wrist-forearm zipper closure has a full gusset, so even if the zipper opened, the sleeve remains fully enclosed and wouldn't be as likely to separate and ride up in the way that I think that the sleeves on the Corazzo 5.0 might in a good slide. I like that feature, I have to say.
As a final note on protective elements, the jacket has a joining zipper that allows you, should you choose to do so, to join the jacket to your riding pants.  Doing so provides some assurance that the jacket won't ride up and expose you to road rash in a slide.
 Abrasion resistance:
The Viking Cycle Stealth jacket has a 600 denier outer shell which will survive a slide almost as well as Kevlar and competition leathers.  The downside is that after a slide, the jacket will have given its all, and will need to be replaced.  Given the price of this jacket, you could afford quite a number of slides, buying a brand new jacket each time, and still manage to save a decent amount of cash.  

Though this jacket is jet-black, there is an ample reflective strip on the front of the jacket, and a smaller reflective piping on the back.
My personal preference would have been to have as much reflective material on the back as on the front.  The reflective material is black to match the jacket, and is non-apparent until it reflects a light source (oddly, in the photo below, there must have been some stray light that lit up a small section of the reflective strip). 
The reflective material is not as prominent as on my BMW Airflow jacket, and neither of those jackets can hold a candle to the Corazzo 5.0 with its copious, yet nicely designed, reflective striping back, front and side.
Comfort and convenience:

The Viking Cycle Stealth jacket has two exterior zippered pockets that are well-positioned, and suitable for  keeping your hands warm off the bike on a cool day, and to keep cash or coins handy for tolls.
There is also an interior zippered slash pocket just behind the zipper on the left side. I like pockets like this.  My Corazzo 5.0 has one, but my BMW Airflow doesn't. They're a handy place for my iPhone, when it's not in a RAM mount.  The photo below doesn't do a good job of conveying exactly where this pocket is, or how accessible it is.  Check out the video above, since it does a better job of showing off that pocket.
There are two more pockets in the interior of the vest liner, one on the left side designed to hold a cell phone with a hook-and-loop closure....
... and the other on the right side suitable for a wallet or passport with a vertical zippered closure.

The Viking Cycle Stealth jacket came with a removable quilted vest-style liner. The jacket I got for this review did not come with a full sleeve waterproof liner, but the seller's website says that one is normally included.
Overall impression:
The Viking Cycle Stealth jacket is a decent armored jacket, it's inexpensive, it fits very snugly, so much so, as mentioned, that it's just a tiny bit of a struggle getting into it.  The sleeves are designed for the riding position, with a natural curvature from the shoulder to where your hands would be on the handlebars.

Once on, the jacket is comfortable and the armor is well positioned on the arms and shoulders.  The sleeves are snug and there are hook-and-loop adjusting straps that allow the sleeves to be snugged up even more, and there are also hook-and-loop adjustment straps at the waist.
The impression the jacket leaves is that the armor is likely to stay put in a crash.
 So there you have it.

I'll revisit this jacket early in the 2015 riding season and share how it performs on the bike.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Motorcycle House

If I could find a way, I'd figure out how to make a living as a writer.

The odd thing about that statement is, I actually have made a very nice life by writing. That's mostly what lawyers do. The only rub is, it's all too often a stress-inducing affair, and the writing lawyers do lacks, well, appeal.

When I started the ScootCommute my only thought was to provide a public service of sorts, if anyone could find me, of course.

Well, find me they did.  Many more people found me than I ever thought possible.  Still, to cast the ScootCommute in its broadest category, it's a moto blog.  That is a very, very, very narrow slice of the internet pie. The saving grace is that the internet is very, very, very, very, very big, and it's still growing by leaps and bounds. Even a minuscule insignificant crumb off a teeny tiny slice is something.  Like the Earth is, in relation to the known universe.

The ScootCommute has allowed me to practice writing in new ways.  In a more relaxed conversational style.  As a story teller, rather than as a compeller of things yet to pass.  In a way that people may actually read because my writing is tolerable. Not because my preface was 'without prejudice'.

Among the folks who have taken notice are publicists eager to get their products noticed beyond manufacturers' and e-retailers' web sites, in the vast uncharted sea of social media.

And that's how Motorcycle House came to me, as it also came knocking on other bloggers' virtual doors, offering products to review.

I took my time deciding whether reviewing products was something that made sense for me, and for the ScootCommute.

Oh, right.  I have reviewed products.  Lots of products.  Just check out the gear posts. The thing is though, I bought 99% of those products, or received them as gifts from friends and family. I was free to say what I wanted about them, unfettered by any kind of quid pro quo.

I treasure the creative freedom I have here, and I don't want to sacrifice it just to get my hands on some free products.  I also don't want to waste sponsors' time. They have a business to run, and they have needs too.  Last, but far from least, there is you. I don't want to disappoint you.  Whatever I decide to write about, I want you to appreciate my words.  I want you to come away with something you'll value.  After all, a blog without regular readers is just a waste of bits and bytes.

In the spirit of the ScootCommute, after deliberation, I am pleased to introduce you to Motorcycle House.  They have a lot to offer. Though the products they sell are primarily aimed at the cruiser crowd, even a scooterist like yours truly can find moto-happiness in their catalog.

Now that the introduction is out of the way, I'm sure that some of you will have clicked on the links to take a peek at their offerings.  I'm equally sure that some of you are wondering which products tickled my fancy.

As you know from a previous post, the answer is 'jackets'.

I love jackets.

Always have, and I think I always will. 

I've mostly been a shy-ish unassuming kind of guy.  Except when it comes to jackets.  One of the great things about riding is that I get to wear jackets.  Serious jackets.  Jackets with body armour.  Jackets that tell a story.  'I think that guy rides. Check out his jacket.'

There was a suede fleece-lined Davy Crocket jacket that saw me through junior college.  I still remember the sound and feel of the fringes as I trudged endless miles on cold cold nights.  The fringe made my thighs sting when it was really truly cold.  I know, I know, but it was the 70's.  1970 in fact.  I rode buses not Vespas back then.  The shoe leather express.  Psychedlic was in, Easy Rider was in, I was in, sort of.  I was serious about peace, love, and rock-and-roll.  My generation had broken with the past in a serious way.  We were revolutionaries, all of us.  We were the counter-culture, we were anti-establishment, man.  Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Frank Zappa, and Jefferson Airplane.  The White Album.  The blues;  Paul Butterfield, Janis Joplin, John Mayall; and serious folk; Joni Mitchell, Carol King and Leonard Cohen.  We were going to change the world.  Woodstock, weed, Vietnam; and my Davy Crocket jacket.  That, and my army jacket with the peace symbol painted on the back.  Honestly.  Those were the days.  Timothy Leary was the high priest with a simple message: tune in, turn on, drop out!  Haight Ashbury and the summer of love, my friends.  How Susan agreed to date me back then is one of life's deep mysteries.  I had hair down to my shoulders!  My god I'm lucky.

Flash forward.  The Motorcycle House jacket I really wanted was out of stock.  Wouldn't you know?

Fortunately, they have a heart of gold.   They suggested that I try another jacket.  Oh well, 'OK' I thought, but without much enthusiasm to be perfectly honest.  'What if we send you this other jacket  and when the jacket you want comes in, we'll send you that one too?'  Really?

And that's how Jacket Number One from Motorcycle House landed on my doorstep.

My next post will be a product review of Jacket Number One.

We'll see what you think.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Unbounded generosity

When Peter Sanderson reads this, he may squirm, but what the hell, when generosity is your hallmark, and you bestow a kindness on a blogger, you're going to get outed.

Those of you who have taken the time to follow Peter's blog know that when Peter commits to something, there are no half-measures.

So it was when Peter set out for an adventure on two wheels.

First Peter bought himself a gorgeous Vespa GTV. For those of you unfamiliar with Vespas, the GTV is the top-of-the-line model. It has features that hark back to vintage Vespas from the 50's and 60's: exposed chrome handlebars, and retro-styled dual saddles.

Not content to leave a beautiful bike be, Peter set to work upgrading. Among other goodies, too numerous to mention, He swapped out the stock exhaust, shock absorbers, and brakes with high-end performance parts.

In no time, Peter found a Vespa GTS for his wife (how blessed is Chantal?) so they could ride together.

They documented their rides and I was pleased to follow their adventures.

In the fullness of time, Peter and Chantal, seriously bitten by the PTW bug, upgraded to motorcycles, and more recently, have purchased matching BMW GS dual sport-bikes, all decked out for serious touring.


That left Peter with a bunch of stock Vespa odds and ends, including the OEM exhaust, and schock absorbers.

Guess what Peter did?

He sold me those precious Vespa parts for a song. And Chantal delivered them right to my front door.

That, dear friends is an act of pure generosity that will top the list for a long, long time to come.

Thank you so much Peter.

When the bike gets serviced in the spring, I think I'll swap exhausts and rid myself of the annoying loose baffle that rattles at low speeds.

Pretty cool, yes?
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.