Showing posts with label Montreal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montreal. Show all posts

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finding a scooter to buy

The easy decision was to buy a Vespa LX150. The next challenge was to find one for the best price.

After a little research, the online classified sites seemed the best way to find a suitable scooter. After spending a little time comparing listings, I found that had a lot more listings of potentially interesting scooters than Craigslist. So last fall I began to monitor Kijiji almost daily. I found that the most convenient way to keep tabs on listings was to save the Kijiji search to my Ipod Touch's home screen.

Since the Montreal market had few offerings I broadened the search radius to 600km to take in the greater Toronto market as well.

After watching asking prices for many weeks I got a good feel for the market for used Vespas.

By early February I was ready to make an offer. I missed out on a few candidates but finally got lucky. I purchased my scooter from Ocean Drive Motors (, a dealer specializing in used Italian sports cars and Vespas located in Toronto.

Purchasing from a licensed used car dealer made many aspects of the purchase easier. For one thing I knew that I wouldn't have to worry about title. I still did a personal property security search on the Ontario government's web site though, just to be sure.

The price for the scooter was a little higher than comparable private sellers, but there were some desirable accessories included in the sale, including a Vespa OEM top case, that clinched the deal. I was also able to negotiate free storage until I could figure out how to get the scooter to make the 500km trip to Montreal.

The fall-back plan was to ride it home.

Ultimately with a favour from my brother in law who was comimg to Ottawa with an empty trailer to get some tools, I was able to pick up the scooter in Ottawa with a rented U-Haul trailer and drive the final 180km back home.

Trailering the scooter in the open U-Haul was a breeze. The 10'X12' trailer's tail gate lowered to act as a ramp so loading the scooter was easy. I got all the information I needed from the Modern Vespa forum about transporting a Vespa scooter safely. I purchased a motorcycle handlebar harness from a local motorsports dealer and some motorcycle and ATV tie downs from Canadian Tire. I tied down the scooter fore and aft to the sturdy D rings on either side of the trailer bed and I chocked the front tire with a section of 4X4. With the tie downs tightened the scooter was rock solid in the trailer, even though it was not on the centre stand. Trailering a scooter on its stand can damage both the scooter and the trailer as bumps and vibration cause the stand to hammer the trailer bed. It also prevents the scooter's suspensiom from doing its job absorbing the bumps.

The drive to Montreal was uneventful. My son drove the Ford Escape SUV and I kept an eye on the trailer. There was really no need to be concerned though. The scooter never budged an inch.

The next Monday I drove the scooter from my home to the local CAA inspection facility for its government inspection (which it passed with flying colours) and then on to the motor vehicle department to get it registered.

I had carefully researched the registration requirements beforehand so the process went as smooth as silk. I had all I needed:

1) The contract of sale;
2) The dealer's registration slip endorsed for transfer to me;
3) My driver's license with the motorcycle Class 6A endorsement; and finally,
4) The official inspection report.

That night I installed the license plate when I got home from work.

The only problem I encountered with the sale was that the dealer had not secured the scooter's master key when the scooter was purchased from the original owner. I found out the significance of the missing master key only when I got the scooter home and I was reading the owner's manual. I could have anticipated the problem better if I had done a little more homework on the Modern Vespa forum.

Not having the master key meant that if I ever lost the one ignition key I have, it would be necessary to replace the scooter's computer plus purchase new keys, adding up to a very substantial expense, likely well in excess of a thousand dollars.

Luckily that glitch will have a happy ending thanks to Jim Hamilton from I sent Jim my only ignition key and the top case lock and he emailed me earlier this week that he successfully made me a new master key and reset the top case lock so that the one ignition key will now operate all the locks on the bike.

The major inconvenience is losing at least two weeks use of the scooter while my keys were in transit. That, plus a hefty price in express parcel post charges in addition to the very reasonable price for Jim Hamilton's services and new master keys. .

So the lessons learned are as easy as 1-2-3:

1) If you shop carefully, and
2) do your homework online, particularly on Modern Vespa (,
3) you can purchase an excellent pre-owned Vespa confidently and start your own scoot commute.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Selecting a scooter

At a private high school I attended the program extended up through junior college. A number of the students at the junior college level rode to school on motorcycles, mopeds or scooters. I was really interested in the Vespas and Lambrettas. There was just something different about those scooters. It may have been the distinctive sound of the motor. I really can't say.

Last year when I started to think that actually
getting a scooter would be a real possibility, I was drawn to the Montreal Vespa shop. While that shop has since closed, I just knew that I wanted a Vespa.

I finally got to rent a Vespa LX 50 on the 2009 Halloween weekend. I suspected that what I really needed was the LX150 but I reasoned that taking the LX50 on my intended commuting route from downtown to the West Island and back would give me a better feel for the experience and would serve to confirm whether the extra power that came along with the 100cc increase in displacement was worth the additional cost, and the pain of getting a motorcycle license.

I picked up the bike on Friday on my lunch hour at the dealer's main location just north of Lafontaine Park, which is roughly three kilometers northeast from my office. I rode to the dealer on a Bixi bike which was both quick and convenient since there is a Bixi station just outside my office, and another one at the intersection near the dealer.

It was a cool day, but not really cold. While it is relatively rare, Montreal has seen snowfall on Halloween. I had made arrangements with the attendant in the underground parking garage in my office building to let me park the scooter there for the afternoon free of charge. The forecast called for rain the following day.

The ride from the dealer to the office was my first real taste of riding in heavy urban traffic. The full face helmet that had made my head feel huge in the shop seemed incredibly unnoticeable once I was underway. The ride presented an early opportunity to test the limitations of the 50cc engine. I was surprised to find that with a headwind, the LX50 topped out at about 40k
mh climbing the rise where Park Avenue crosses the shoulder of Mount Royal. That was just not fast enough to pace the traffic that was doing 55 or 60 kmh.

I parked the Vespa in the garage and went back to work.

I planned to leave the office early in order to avoid travelling home after sunset. At about 4:30 I changed into jeans and a windbreaker and headed down to the garage. When I rolled up and out of the garage, the first thing that greeted me was light rain. You just can't rely on a weather forecast.

I was thankful that my windbreaker was waterproof. I also really appreciated the full face helmet. From head to waist the rain was surprisingly a non issue. At first it was not so bad on my jeans either. The leg shield did a surprisingly good job of protecting me from the rain. It was definitely a dryer ride than it would have been on a Bixi bike. Nevertheless, by the time I got home, my jeans were very damp but not soaking, and
my feet had remained essentially dry.

All told, less than ideal conditions for a first test scooter commute, but in spite of the difficult conditions, I enjoyed a very pleasant ride.

The following day I awoke to find the sun shining. I figured that the weatherman was just slightly off his game and that I got the anticipated Saturday rain unexpectedly on Friday, and that I would get a much more pleasant sunny ride back to the dealer on Saturday. We went out for breakfast as a family as we often do, so I wasn't able to get underway to return the scooter until around 11:00

By that time the sun had vanished and it was raining again. But this was not light rainfall. We're talking real rain. Not large raindrops bouncing off the pavement, but a good steady downpour nonetheless.

By the time I got to the dealer's shop, I was still dry from the waist up, but otherwise I was well and truly drenched. One of the weird things I discovered about driving
a scooter in the rain, and I wasn't really surprised that it happened, because it makes sense, is that your weight on the saddle creates a depression that the rain running down your body turns into a miniature lake. You realize this kind of suddenly the first time you come to a stop and shift your weight in the saddle, and slurp, you feel like a little kid who just wet his pants. Oh well. I made a mental note to make sure to buy really good rain gear.

If my body was drenched, my spirits were buoyed and not in the least dampened.

The test was an unqualified success on all fronts. I now knew from real world experience that :

  1. The scoot commute is a hoot!
  2. The route I had planned to take from my downtown office to my home on the West Island was a really good route for the scooter.
  3. I even really loved it in the rain, without proper rain gear, and in chilly October.
  4. The Vespa LX was definitely the right bike for me. Much more substantial than the smaller Yamaha Vino I had rented in Victoria the year before, but still small enough to fit just about anywhere.
  5. A full face helmet is a really nice helmet to wear in the rain.
  6. If at all possible, I definitely wanted the Vespa LX150. I had no intention of riding on highways, but the additional power would mean I would be able to keep up with urban traffic in all cases, and with additional power in reserve.
Next up: Finding a scooter to buy.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.