Friday, May 27, 2011

Too good not to share

I'm in Calgary at the airport waiting for a flight to Montreal.

I'm returning from a small, intimate, and very important conference where I was an invited speaker.

The conference venue was the Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff. The resort looks exactly like what you picture when you hear the name.

A collection of log row-cottages with pitched roofs, huge dormers, and field-stone fireplaces, nestled on the flanks of Tunnel Mountain among stands of lodge-pole pines.

I've been here since Wednesday and there hasn't been a single ray of sun. Until this morning it was all heavy overcast skies and drizzling rain.

In any other place in the world, that is a poor recipe for any kind of good time.

This part of Canada features the most stunning scenery I have been privileged to see in my lifetime, so a little bit of rain only adds another shade to nature's perfect palette.

On the drive into Banff on Wednesday in my rented Ford Focus I took a slight detour.

It was impossible for me not to imagine how great it would be to be riding my Vespa here.

Beautiful twisty roads draped on gentle rolling hills that you get to enjoy all by yourself with virtually no traffic as far as the eye can see.
On Thursday, following my presentation, I had a few free hours to decompress and decided to explore a scenic route I had spotted on the Google Maps application on my Iphone called the Minnewanka Loop.  It isn't possible to make a scenic mistake in Banff, and this was certainly no exception.

The road shows incredible promise right from the start, just minutes from Banff village.
A mere 5 kilometers later it's difficult to see Lake Minnewanka without feeling like you have been magically transported to a beautiful but distant and unfamiliar world.
I climb back into the Focus and follow the road.  Just beyond the lake, I come upon these two residents grabbing an afternoon nibble by the side of the road.
They seem friendly, but it's a rented, fully insured car, so those horns aren't nearly as intimidating as they might be if I were on my Vespa, or in our BMW.

Veering  onto a side road that promises to take me to Johnson Lake, I find a spot to park, and a short walk takes me to the spot where the lake empties into a mountain stream.
I return to the lodge completely refreshed.  At dinner I share the photos with some of the delegates.

After dinner, a few of us hang in the lodge's bar until just before midnight taking our time trading tall tales and polishing off a couple of bottles of fine red wine.

This morning, I wake gently and look out the large windows at the end of my room.  Beyond the gallery it looks like a dense fog has envelopped the resort.  Once I find my glasses I am truly blessed to behold a completely unexpected visual delight.
As you might expect, my scooter commute hasn't been intruding on my thoughts all that much since I left the foothills and got to the Rockies.

There is no word for this country other than breathtaking.  If you've never been to Alberta, you owe it to yourself to add it to the list of things that must be experienced.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More about bridges

I can look out the window and see home (roughly close to shore in the centre of the picture) rapidly receding because I'm in the air again with some time to spare and my Iphone for company.

Nothing says 'fun' like typing out a long-ish blog post on your Iphone. I've got to get a bluetooth keyboard.

You can't live in Montreal without thinking about bridges.

Life on a big island sitting in the middle of a big river imposes that on you.

Even if you live 'off  island', you may well live on another nearby island.  On another large island like Île Jésus; or a medium-sized one like Île Perrot or Nuns' Island;  or a small one like Île Bizard; or a tiny one like Dorval Island (for more on Dorval Island, see my post last year) or Île Verte.

Here's an aerial view of Dorval island.
Even if you live on the 'north shore', the 'south shore', or elsewhere in the Montérégie mainland, if you want to fly to some other place far off, or go the opera, or visit the Jazz Festival or the Comedy Festival, or give birth in a large university hospital, you've got to pick a bridge to get to Montreal proper.

Heck, even if you want to take a break and forget about bridges and islands for a few hours, you'll need to take a bridge to Île Sainte Hélène to get to La Ronde amusement park.

Even though I live and work on the island of Montreal, and spend almost all my time here, my scooter commuting route still requires me to cross the Lachine Canal twice using a bridge in Lachine, and further downtown, the Charlevoix bridge.

My goal this season is to cross more bridges.

Last season the first time I left the island on my Vespa was via the Jacques Bizard bridge to get to... wait for it... Île Bizard.

The first major bridge I crossed was the Galipeault bridge to Île Perrot. Yup, you guessed right, I was 'off island' but still not on the mainland.  If you look at the centre of the picture you can see the Galipeault bridge linking the two islands.
To get to the genuine mainland I later took a really serious bridge, the Jacques Cartier, which took me soaring high over Île Sainte Hélene to land in Longueuil on the south shore.  You can read that post here.

Each bridge is a unique adventure.

The longer and higher the span... the longer the bridge approach... the faster and heavier the traffic, the greater is the challenge.  The challenge makes the experience more memorable, especially when you cross on a Vespa.

This season I added the massive Île aux Tourtes bridge to my list of conquered bridges.  The post on that ride is here.  The only way to appreciate the size of that six-lane bridge is to see it from the air.
My goal this summer is to add more bridges, and maybe a tunnel.

I want to cross both spans of the Lachapelle bridge to Laval for sentimental reasons (I used to cross that bridge daily growing up in Laval).

I want to cross the Victoria bridge for a bunch of reasons. It's Montreal's first and oldest bridge. It's a technical challenge since it has a metal grid deck,  it's a long and narrow sucker, and in it's day, it was a world-class engineering marvel.

Bridges are so special, I'm thinking of setting up a separate page with links to each of the bridge and tunnel posts so that readers can get to all that content from one place.

I may also go back and edit the posts to add more pictures, like these aerial shots I took on my outbound and inbound flights yesterday and today.

That's it for now. My thumbs are killing me. There must be something worth watching on the tube.

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.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Team breakfast

Each Friday my colleagues and I take time to have a team breakfast.  Each of us takes a turn bringing in something for the group breakfast.

This Friday was my turn.

As I set out for my morning commute, I settled on croissants as the team treat, and on Croissanterie Figaro on the corner of Fairmont and Hutchison as the place I would get them.

I blogged about this cozy neighborhood café last season.  It truly is a little slice of Paris tucked away in Outremont.

While my order of two dozen croissants was being put together, I snapped a picture of the café's interior.
Unfortunately, the snapshot, taken with my Iphone, doesn't really do this place justice.  The interior is much softer than it appears in the photo, and the picture fails to convey the very theatrical, turn-of-the-nineteenth-century feel that the interior conveys.  It really makes me feel like I've been magically conveyed to a neighborhood café in the Quartier Latin of 1900.

I asked for my order (six plain, six cheese, six almond, six chocolate) to be bagged rather than boxed.  Good thing I did.  In my mind the order was going to fit in the Vespa's topcase.
 Not so much.  As you can see, that GT parcel hook I installed on my Vespa LX150 really came in handy this morning.
I shifted my laptop to the LX bag hook on the seat, and put the croissants on the GT hook.  The GT hook closes on the handles of the bags making them nice and secure.  As you can see, this year a BIXI stand has been installed right outside the café.

I used the extremity of the BIXI stand as scooter parking, something that I have been witnessing more and more lately.  This phenomenon confirms what I first observed last year.

I headed to the office down Park Avenue, happily cruising with the rush hour traffic at about 65 km/h by Fletcher's Field, up Pine then down Peel to the office.

Mission accomplished.  No croissants were harmed on the way.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The wonders of scenery

That sign says it all.

And this is what it alludes to.
Scenery like this during the morning commute is a large part of the wonder of commuting on a motor scooter.

Dealing with the weather

I don't set out in the rain.

But that doesn't mean I don't ride in the rain.

This week is a case in point.

The forecast on my Iphone weather app showed solid rain every day this week.  Monday and Tuesday bore out that prediction.  Wednesday, the weather was not nice by any means, and it did rain a bit, but there was even a brief sunny break in the afternoon, and the roads were, for the most part dry although when I left for work in the morning there was very light precipitation.

The rain that was falling is what I refer to as "spitting" rain.  I'm not sure how many people use that term.  My mother used to say that.  I did find a definition online: "To rain or snow in light, scattered drops or flakes".

So Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were driving days, not riding days.

Today, Thursday, there was rain in the forecast, but this morning, while the skies were cloudy, it wasn't raining and the roads were mostly dry.

If I didn't ride whenever rain might possibly fall, I would miss out on many excellent riding opportunities.  So today was a scoot commute.

Halfway to work light intermittent rain began to fall.  I pulled over on St-Patrick street where Autoroute 15 crosses way overhead (like five to six stories up) and got my rain jacket out of the pet carrier.  Now that I ride with waterproof armored pants, all I need to do is don the Teknic rain jacket.

With the jacket on I was on my way in just a few minutes.  Simple.  More importantly, I was comfortable and dry.

With the right gear, rain isn't an issue.  I moderate my speed and remain vigilant for road hazards like painted traffic signs on the roadway, metal plates, railroad tracks and debris.  With those simple precautions riding in wet weather is not a problem at all.

Before I began my scooter commuter adventure, I would always see motorcyclists riding in the rain and think they must be having a terrible sodden time.

I no longer think that.

And what about the commute home?  Well that was perfect.  Instead of thundershowers that my wife heard about on the radio this morning, I got blue skies, sunshine and the warmest temperatures so far in 2011.

So if you plan to commute, even if you don't plan to ride in the rain, make sure that you always have good rain gear on board.  Because as I often hear said, all prediction is difficult, but predicting the future is particularly difficult.

It's days like today that convince me that I must be an optimist.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BIXI, BIXI, BIXI

I was in Toronto over the weekend for a family occasion and noticed that BIXI bikes are operating there as well (see my earlier post with photos of BIXIs in Washington).

This photo and the other one below were taken while driving through the University of Toronto campus (I wasn't at the wheel, my son was, just in case you think that I've taken texting-and-driving to a whole new level).

Bike share programs are wonderful, and the Montreal flavour is probably the very best of the breed.  Solar powered, off the grid, and first class bikes.

In spite of its success, or perhaps because of its success, BIXI is having growing pains, particularly in financing its expansion with sales to New York City, Washington D.C., Toronto, London, and other places that are in the works as well.

I sincerely hope that needed financial assistance will be forthcoming from the City of Montreal town council in short order.

I am among those who believe that we need to change the way we in the U.S. and Canada commute to work.  Bicycles and the infrastructure they require to make them an alternate means of urban transportation are important ingredients in the recipe.

Public bike share programs like BIXI send important messages to urban populations where they are implemented:
  • The community truly cares about its quality of life;
  • More cars in the downtown core is not an acceptable solution;
  • Bicycles are a viable and serious means of getting around;
  • Solutions that consume no fuel, or very little fuel, are by far preferable to those that consume a lot.
 It's certain that there is a cost to implementing a bike share program.  That cost is very much justified.  Implementing a top-notch solution like BIXI makes perfect sense.  The quality of the system and its bikes are an important part of the message.  It means there's a real commitment to make a change, and it means that the users' experience will be a positive one.

So color me strongly in favour.

May the nay-sayers say what they may, and come what may, I say Yeah!!!!
Oh! And while our municipal politicians are busy exporting  our bike share solution to Toronto, they should busy themselves importing Toronto's generous parking solution that makes urban parking free for scooters and motorcycles.  Now that would be a step in the right direction here.

As for the scoot commute and me commuting on my Vespa scooter, it's been lean pickings.

The atrocious and unremitting rainy weather means I drive rather than ride.

Next week the scooter drought will continue.  I'm in Toronto on business on Monday, then off to Calgary for more business for the remainder of the week.

Being a firm believer, as noted in an earlier post, in the law of averages, I will be due for many fine scootering days in the coming weeks and months.

PS: BIXI got it's funding. Hang in there BIXI!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring and the promise of summer


I returned from Washington to gloomy, rainy weather and a mid-week bout with some kind of stomach flu.

This week was a different story altogether and reaffirms my belief that the law of averages is inexorable in its efficiency. At least this week I'm on the sunny side of the equation.

I took the picture for this post on Wednesday with my Iphone. My usual camera was dead flat when I hauled it out of the Vespa's topcase. So this will have to do.

I took the picture on Mount Royal avenue heading west towards Park avenue. This is one of those magical times in spring that last barely a week or so. The trees are budding and the whole city is bathed in shades of pale green.

I had stopped a few blocks earlier to grab a bite. I sat at a sidewalk table waiting for lunch, taking in the bustling scene on the Plateau, and soaking up the warm sunshine. What a joy.

My trip to the Plateau was to visit the Vespa dealer, Alex Berthiaume, to gawk at bikes, drool over gear, and make an appointment for annual servicing and a new rear tire. The tire on the bike now was plugged to fix a flat and has held up well. It loses about three pounds a day with air slowly leaking at the plug.

I'm looking forward to not having to get down on my hands and knees every few days to pump air in.

As I write this I'm in Toronto for a family occasion. It's late. Nite all.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Finally Free in DC

Warm, humid, and wonderful. That's how I feel.

I'm fresh from an invigorating walk back from an earlier successful mission to fetch cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes.

The cupcakes are treats for Susan and Lauren.  Encouraged by my success, I drop the cupcakes off in my room and use the maps app on my Iphone to plan my further evening adventures.

I'm striking out from the hotel further down M street in search of Vidalia.  "Fine southern cuisine" is the promise on the restaurant cheat sheet handed to me by the concierge at the Fairmont.  I'm thinking that it's high time for some real southern fried chicken which I don't believe I've ever had.

Before satisfying my hunger for comfort food, I set off on another quest.  This is, after all, a blog about life on two wheels.  If you know the Washington Fairmont, you may think I'm headed for the complimentary BMW bicycles that the hotel offers to its guests.

Not quite my objective.

In the cab on the way in from Reagan National on Monday night, I had spotted a BIXI stand!  I knew I just needed to shoot proof that Montreal's public bike share program is alive and well in the heart of democracy.  It doesn't take me long to find my quarry.

On my way, I pass a Honda Metroplitan chained to a signpost looking like a forlorn pooch temporarily foresaken by its owner.
It reminds me of my first scootering experience in Victoria, so I snap a shot of it and move on.  No time for dawdling, I'm hungry.  But as I write this, I have the time to be indulgent.  So here's a shot of my very first scooter experience which, inexplicably, I haven't posted before.
Earlier in the evening, heading down M in the other direction, I had spotted a beautiful cream-colored Vespa ET that followed my cab, then filtered ahead, only to disappear down a side street before I could snap a picture.

A few brisk walking minutes later, I spot my prey at the corner of 25th and Pennsylvania Avenue.  A genuine real, feels like home, BIXI stand!!.  Except here it's capital bikeshare.

But a rose by any other name... is still a BIXI.
Such nice bikes. You just have to love how those sidewalls light up at night.
 Where am I? Right! Boy it's 8:45 and I'm starving.  But it has begun to drizzle.  I swing down Pennsylvania to 24th and back over to the Fairmont to fetch a brolly.

Armed with the loaner umbrella and feeling invincible, I set off down M in search of Vidalia and the promise of chicken.

Five good city blocks later and M has lost virtually all the charm it had in Georgetown from the cupcake store to the bridge just south of the hotel.  Now it's kind of office-y, and drugstore-ish, and drabb-ish, and I'm passing restaurants that are mostly closed-ish, with the only source of sustenance a brightly lit McDonalds.  If Vidalia is a bust, do I do McDonalds?  I shake off the wisp of thought, and forge ahead.

There! Across the street, Vidalia.

I scurry across the street feeling like the scofflaw jay walker that I am.  Hey! I'm a Montrealer.  We invented jay-walking. It's an art, it's efficient, not a crime, OK?

Hmmm.  The restaurant is downstairs.  There's a guy sitting on the stairs on his cell, looking a little dejected and, maybe desperate?  His back is to me.  If he was wearing scruffy clothes, I'd turn around and whistle my way over to Micky D's for chicken nuggets. But this guy's in a suit still.  He might be an investment banker, and this might be his first night on the mean streets.  I shrug, decide to chance it, and gingerly sidestep him as I head down below street level, into the unknown abyss.

Nice place once you're down here.  Now I'm worried that my casual attire or the late hour might earn me a box of McNuggets after all. I glance at my watch and look for anyone else in jeans.

No cause for concern   After a brief consult with the powers that be, the hostess offers me a very nice table where I have a view of the bar, and of a private room emitting clinking sounds and occasional polite applause that wafts out of the open frosted glass door and mingles appropriately with the jazz tracks piped in by unseen speakers.  Very nice indeed.

I've come to this slice of heaven in spite of the fact that the hoped-for fried chicken is only offered on the lower brow lunch menu.  The dinner menu is all braised bison short ribs and crispy duck breast, and foie gras au torchon, and such.  Hey, I can shift gears.

My waiter soon presents himself.  Very cool-looking dude, all in black jeans and shirt, cornrows, looks like the kind of guy you'd like to have as a cool friend, might own a bar in the islands, with a hint of Jamaica in the tone of his voice, and secretly you know he is way too cool to hang around with the likes of you.

I gingerly mention that I was hoping for real fried chicken, but I know it's not on the menu and would be pleased to indulge in some other southern fare.

My cool dude smiles a nice cool dude smile and encouragingly says he'll have a word with the chef.  The chef is way cool too, because they let the menu slide, and in the way I imagine southern comfort to be, indulge my desire.

While I wait, the amuse-bouches that now seem ubiquitous and de rigueur make their way to the starched table cloth before me.  Oh my dear Lord, I do believe I have found the ante-room to heaven and I am in it.

I now know this is going to kick ass!  A beautiful bent wood Scandinavian-looking breadbasket comes with a miniature trifecta of corn bread, traditional dinner roll, and a Vidalia onion brioche, accompanied by a ramekin duo of whipped Amish butter sprinkled with sea salt and a Vidalia onion marmalade.

Now you're thinking that in my overworked, sleep-deprived, meeting-numbed skull, I have lost all perspective and that nothing can be this good.  Dream on you silly reader.

There it now sits.
Three perfect, perfectly trimmed, perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, perfectly beautiful, impossibly crisp pieces of southern fried chicken, resting on what the cool-dude later described off-handedly, with I assume to be false modesty, as black pepper gravy.  He then apologized for having had to substitute Vidalia's signature Mac & Cheese for the promised mashed potatoes, saying that it was just as well, since the chef used heavy cream in equal parts with potatoes in his recipe, so the three cheese Mac & Cheese was the obvious healthy choice.

As you can see, my feast was rounded out by beautifully presented and confit-like collared greens as a vegetable antidote to the other portions of the meal.

Do you get my point that you have to now start planning a visit to DC just so you can eat at Vidalia?  Chatting with the owner, I find out that this slice of bliss has been in business for 18 years.  That's an elephant age for a restaurant.

It's already tomorrow, and I have to be up at the crack o'dawn.  So this post has to come to an end now.

Nite!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lofty thoughts

Warmer temperatures are finally forecast for this week.

That's the good news. The not so good news is that rain is also forecast just about every day.

Still, fair weather or foul, warm or cold, bright or dismal, my Vespa will have to wait patiently for me because, as I write this on my trusty Iphone,  I'm cruising comfortably in pitch darkness at 32,000 feet heading to Reagan National in Washington DC.

Business meetings and the intense preparation they entail will be the order of the day, dawn to well past dusk.  No time to sightsee.

If I stumble on fellow scooter commuters' trusty scoots while I'm at the political epicenter of the earth, I'll try to snap some photos to share here.

That will have to do, and will be as close as I'll come to the scoot commute until Friday.

In the meantime, Steve Williams' thoughtful  post giving thanks at Easter, has got me thinking along the same lines.

There's precious little to do anyway. It's a small regional aircraft and the only amenities are pretzels.
In most ways that matter, I'm truly blessed.

It's good to pause and reflect on my good fortune and think of my loved ones as I hurtle through life.  I surely don't count my blessings as often as I should.

To my wonderful wife, my daughter and our two sons, my sisters, my father, my brothers in law and sister in law, to my nieces and nephews, and my dear friends, I love each and every one dearly and you are the true source of my happiness.

So begins our final approach.
Good night all, and pleasant dreams.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life in the slow lane

Yes it was cold this morning.  But with the right gear, and the right scooter, the commute to work can be serene rather than stressful.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Project report: Installing an AdmoreLighting.com auxiliary brake light and turn indicator on a Vespa LX150

I promised to provide a project report and here it is. I know that many of you will appreciate this and that's why I'm taking the time to do it. It's more work doing the project report than actually doing the project.

Here goes.

This project report shows all the steps I took to install an AdmoreLighting Mini Light Bar LED auxiliary modulating brake light and sequential turn indicator unit on the Vespa OEM topcase on my Vespa LX150 motor scooter.

You'll see that I'm documenting my mistakes and clearly identifying them, so that others doing this project may not make the same mistakes. Not to worry though, there's always a way to get back on track.

Tools
  • Electrician’s pliers or wire cutter
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Wire strippers
  • Solderless connector crimper
  • Phillips screw driver
  • Soldering gun
  • Heat gun
  • Electric drill
  • 1/15 Drill bit
  • 9/32 Drill bit
  • Sharp craft knife, box cutter or scalpel
  • Voltage meter
  • A Sharpie fine-point permanent marker
Supplies
1.  I planned to mount the Admore unit to my topcase.
I wanted to be able to remove the topcase without having to cut wiring connections.  The Reese trailer harness provides a good weather proof connector for that purpose.

2.  All the wire you’ll need for the installation comes with the Admore unit.  What you need to do is separate the wire in two parts, use the electrician’s pliers or wire cutter to cut the wire about 6 or 7 inches from the Admore unit.  On my unit there was a label on the wire.  Assuming that the labels are in the same place on all units, cut the wire just on the far side of the label, as you see in the photo below.
 3.  Cut the insulation sheath back a few inches, then strip each of the six wires about 1/4”.

4.  Cut the wires leading from each of the Reese trailer plugs about 1 1/2” or 2” from each plug and strip each of the five wires about 1/4”.
5.  Take the long section of wire you removed from the Admore Unit and, beginning at the end where you cut the wire, cut the insulation sheath back a few inches, then strip each of the six wires about 1/4”.

6.  As instructed in the Admore installation instructions that come from the unit, twist the blue wire and the red wire together.

7.  Cut five 1 1/2" lengths of 1/8 inch black heat shrink wrap and fit one on each of the wires you stripped in the preceding step.  Since the red and blue wires are twisted together, you only need five pieces for the six wires. 

This is where I made the first mistake. I forgot to slip heat shrink wrap onto the yellow wire before soldering it.  I unsoldered it, but the solder on the two ends of the wire prevented me from making a new solder joint.  So I shifted gears and used a solderless butt joint crimp connecter on the yellow wire.  Problem solved.   Hopefully by putting the heat shrink on all the wires before you start soldering, you’ll avoid my mistake.

8.  Notice that the two trailer plugs are not identical.  They are mirror images of one another.  One has five female connectors and one male connector, and other has the reverse.  On the assumption that one day you’ll want to travel without the topcase, select the plug that has the five female connectors as the one to solder to the long wire.

9.  Solder the wires to the trailer plug, matching the colors shown in the following diagram.
Click on the diagram to get a full size view.  You should probably also print the diagram out now, because you’ll be needing it later at the Vespa end of things.

Take care not heat the shrink wrap when you're soldering the wires.  In my case, I did cause a small bit of the shrink wrap to contract.  I used the box cutter (in my case, my scalpel [don’t ask, I’m a lawyer, not a doctor]) to cut away that small bit to allow the tubing to slide over the joint.
10.  Slide the heat shrink tubing over each solder joint so that each joint is insulated.

11.  Use the heat gun to shrink the tubing.

12. Starting from the other end of the long wire, slide an 8” or 9” piece of 3/8” heat shrink onto the wire and run it all the way to where the trailer plug is soldered on.  Bend the wires at the plug to bring them as close as possible to the plug, and slide the tubing as close as possible to the plug.  In my case, my scooter is Dragon Red, so I used red shrink tubing.  Since this piece of the wire will run from the scooter body to the topcase in plain sight, the red helps it look less obvious.  Just esthetics.

13.  Use the heat gun to shrink the tubing.

14.  Now carefully remove all the visible original black sheath off the wire and carefully separate the six colored strands.  Use your knife to cut away the fabric strands.  The easy way to remove the sheath is to slice it open where the shrink tubing ends, Get a hold on the six wires, and just pull them out of the sheath.  You won’t be needing the sheath, so discard it.

15.  Time to test your electrical skills.  Connect the two trailer plugs, the one you just soldered to the long wire, and the one you’re about to solder to the Admore unit.  Using a volt meter, check each wire for continuity between the very end of the long admore unit wire, to the stripped wires of the second trailer plug, the male one, making sure that all the connections work.  Congratulations, you passed your amateur electrician’s test.

16.  Now that you’ve soldered five joints successfully, you can tackle soldering the other trailer plug.

17.  Select the remaining trailer plug that has the five male connectors as the one to solder to the short wire coming from the Admore unit.

18.  Slide a piece of 3/8” heat shrink onto the wire from the Admore unit and run it all the way to the unit.  Make sure that the tubing is about 2” shorter than the sheath on the Admore unit wire.

19.  As instructed in the Admore installation instructions that come from the unit, twist the blue wire and the red wire from the unit together.

20.  Cut five 1 1/2" lengths of 1/8 inch black heat shrink wrap and fit one on each of the wires that come from the unit.  Since the red and blue wires are twisted together, you only need five pieces for the six wires.

21.  Solder the wires to the trailer plug, matching the colors shown in the diagram above.  Take care not heat the shrink wrap.  In my case, unbelievably, I made exactly the same mistake with the yellow wire.  There must be something in my brain with yellow.

22.  Slide the heat shrink tubing over each solder joint so that each joint is insulated.

23.  Use the heat gun to shrink the five pieces of tubing.

24.  Bend the wires at the plug to bring them as close as possible to the plug, and slide the black tubing down from the Admore unit as close as possible to the plug.

25.  Use the heat gun to shrink the tubing.

26.  Finally, all the lab tinkering is done.  What you now have is the Admore unit, terminating at the five-pin male trailer plug, and the other half of the wiring harness, terminating at the five-pin female trailer plug.
Now it’s time to head out to the scooter.

27.  Park the scooter in the center of your work space.  Set up some good task lighting.  If, like me, you’re working in a cold garage, lay a blanket down at the back of the scooter.

28.  Open the topcase, and remove the mat that lines the bottom.  Remove the large center screw, and then remove the topcase from the rack.  Bring the topcase indoors to your work bench or kitchen table.
29.  Open the seat and remove the pet carrier bucket.  Using the Phillips screw driver, remove the screw from the battery cover and remove the battery cover.  Make sure that you have a container to hold the screws you remove.

30.  Remove the screws that secure the plastic cover that surrounds the battery and the gasoline (petrol, for my UK readers) filler tube.

31.  Remove the gas (petrol) cap and gently lift off the plastic cover.  Once removed, replace the cap on the filler tube so that you don’t have to breathe in the high octane as you work, unless you like that smell and grew up sniffing gas for kicks.  No, seriously, put the cap back on.

32.  Next, still using the same screw driver, remove the single screw holding in each turn indicator light, pull the housing out, and let the housings dangle from their wires.

33.  Remove the two screws that hold the tail light in place, and remove the tail light, letting it dangle from its wires as well.
34.  Get the five Posi-Tap wire tapping gizmos out of the Admore unit parts bag, and install them onto the wires leading from the Vespa light housings following the wiring diagram above.
35.  Take the wiring harness terminating at the five-pin female trailer plug you completed in step 25, separate out the yellow and green wires.

36.  Take piece of 1/8” heat shrink tubing as long as each of the wires, less about an inch, and slide one piece each onto the yellow wire, and the green wire.

37.  Use the heat gun to shrink the tubing.  These wires will be fairly exposed to the elements inside the scooter’s body and that’s the reason for the extra protection.

38.  Now, looking down at the scooter from above, you’ll see that between the battery compartment and the back of the scooter body, there is an opening.  You’ll be feeding the three wires headed to the tail lamp through that hole.  On the opposite side of that hole, you’ll see an unused screw hole that leads into the battery compartment.  Thread the green and yellow wires from the hole at the back of the scooter, over the lip of the battery compartment, through the screw hole, and into the battery compartment.  Sounds confusing, but with the help of the photo, and seeing your Vespa, you’ll see what I mean.  Easy-peezy.
39.  Thread the yellow wire from the battery compartment, through the chassis hole nearest to the shock absorber screw, and down and through the left turn indicator opening.

40.  Do the same with the green wire, down and through the right turn indicator housing.  You’ll see that the inside of the scooter is pretty exposed and messy with road dirt and grime, and that’s why you added the extra insulation.

41.  Mount each of those wires to the Posi-Tap connectors that you installed at the turn indicator light housings in step 33.
42.  Now it’s time to tackle the part that took me the longest time until I figured a path out.  Fishing the remaining wires to the tail light.

43.  Turn your attention to the place where the tail light attaches to the scooter.  You’ll see that the wires come through a black rubber grommet.
Use your fingers or a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull the grommet out.  Slide the grommet back to the tail light housing that’s dangling free.  Now you can clearly see the rectangular hole into the scooter body.

44.  Get a three or four foot length of fairly stiff wire.  I used 12 gauge automotive wire, and it did the trick nicely.  Beginning at the opening at the top of the scooter, thread the wire into the opening and down towards where the tail light assembly is.  It takes a wee bit of trial and error, but eventually, you’ll catch a glimpse of the wire through the rectangular hole at the tail light end.  In the picture below, you can see the yellow 12 gauge wire going into the opening, and then coming out at the tail light end.
45.  Using the needle-nose pliers, grab the wire and pull it through.  Now, the toughest part of this project is done.

46.  Moving back to the opening at the top of the scooter, using electrical tape, tape the four remaining wires from the Admore unit wiring harness you made (the purple, black, blue and red wires) to the 12 gauge wire.  Moving to the tail light opening, gently pull the 12 gauge wire out through the rectangular opening until the Admore unit wires have been pulled through.  Here's a picture of the harness wires once they were pulled through the tail light hole, still taped to the 12 gauge wire.
47.  You can now remove the excess length of the Admore unit wires.  Cut the four wires so that you have enough to make the connections to the Posi-Tap connectors that you installed earlier at the tail light housing.

48.  Feed the four Admore wires through the rubber grommet, then push the rubber grommet back into place to seal the rectangular hole.
49.  Twist the red and blue Admore unit wires together, and then connect them to the Posi-Tap connector connected the Vespa wire with the black and yellow stripe.

50.  Similarly, connect the black Admore Unit wire to the black Vespa wire, and the remaining purple Admore unit wire to the Vespa wire with the black and white stripe.

51.  We’re almost done with the Vespa-side wiring.  Here's a photo of the new wiring harness with the battery compartment housing re-installed.
But before buttoning the scooter back up, it’s best to run a test.  Take the Admore unit and plug it in.  Make sure the kill switch is in the run position. Turn on the ignition.  The Admore unit should light up as a running light.  Now turn on the left, then right turn indicators.  The Admore sequential turn indicators should work.  Make sure the unit is right-side up so that the left indicator is on the left side.  Now apply one of the brakes.  The brake light should modulate, then stay on.  Release the brake and then re-apply it.  The brake light should come back on, but without modulating.

Here's a video of the test I did.

 

53.  You won’t re-install the underseat compartment parts just yet.  Let’s move on to the topcase end of things.

54.  In the comfort of your kitchen or workshop, turn the topcase upside down.  Take the Admore unit mounting bracket and figure out where you want to place it.

Here’s where I made another mistake.  I judged the location of the holes from the outside of the topcase.  Inside the topcase you’ll see that there’s a kind of trough that runs around the perimeter.  I ended drilling the holes a little too close to the edge of the trough.  I couldn’t get the supplied Admore mounting screws to sit flat as a result.  What I did was to mount the screws from below, with the nuts inside the topcase, and there was barely enough room.  I was lucky.  Make sure that the holes you drill as well within the “trough” so that there’s room to let the screw heads or nuts lie flat, whichever you prefer.

55.  On the outside of the topcase, use the permanent marker to mark the two mounting holes.

56.  Using the point of your sharp knife, make a small dimple in the topcase in the center of the mark, to give your drill a place to “bite”.

57.  Using your electric drill and your smallest drill bit (I used a 1/15 bit), drill pilot holes.  The topcase material drills nicely, I found that a low speed worked best.

58.  Switch to a 9/32 bit, and drill out the two holes.
59.  Using the screws provided with the Admore unit, mount the bracket to the topcase, and then mount the Admore unit to the bracket.
60.  Now re-attach the topcase to the Vespa, and plug in the Admore unit.

61.  Push any excess wiring harness wire into the opening at the top of the scooter.

62.  Remove the gas (petrol) cap, and, taking care not to pinch any wires, put the plastic housing that surrounds the battery compartment back on the Vespa.  You’ll see that there is a tab that fits into the hole you used to fish the wires down to the tail light.  That tab now has to share the hole with the wiring harness for the Admore unit.  That’s also the recess where the seat latch fits in.  So there’s now a lot going on in that hole.  As you re-install the housing, make sure you don’t pinch any wires, and use your finger to poke the wiring harness wires to the side, so they remain clear of the laching mechanism.  Once that bit of fiddling is done with, screw the housing down securely, taking care not to over tighten any screws.

63.  Drop the pet carrier bucket back into place, close the seat, and, finally, this project is done.

64.  Take a moment to congratulate yourself, admire the wonderful light show at the back end of your Vespa, show off your handiwork to your significant other, and then go for a ride.

Pheww... that was more work than actually doing the project.  I hope you will find the project report useful.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

WOT to the Bridge

It's Friday and I'm stuck in the office waiting for a meeting with VIPs that never actually happens.  My wife and I are invited to dinner at the home of close friends who live just off the western tip of the island in Vaudreuil.  

It's 6:15 and I'm still downtown. If I take my usual scenic southern route that hugs the lake, I estimate that I won't be able to make it to our friend's house until 7:45. 

I roll out of the underground garage at 6:20 and decide to swing north, straight up the mountain on Peel to Pine, then west over to Cote des Neiges, over the mountain and down to Jean Talon, west to Lucerne, and north to highway 40. 

Highway 40 is Montreal's major east-west expressway. Late last season I chanced riding the 40 for a couple of exits, and that's my only experience so far. 

Traffic has been light and I've made really good time.  Heading through the Décarie traffic circle, I'm debating whether to stick to the service road or hop on the expressway. 

The Vespa's clock on the dash is indicating 6:40, but I know it's running five minutes fast and I make a mental note to adjust it. I don't want to hold up dinner, so I take the first on-ramp and open the throttle wide.

The Vespa LX150's speedometer reads a steady 65 miles per hour. I know i'm doing more like 57 or so based on past experience with GPS comparisons, but I'm pacing traffic in the right hand lane, and even need to roll off the throttle from time to time to keep my distance.  So I decide to stay put on the expressway. 

I'm really eating up the miles at this pace. A few eighteen wheelers slowly pass in the middle lane. I brace for buffeting each time. While there is some, once the truck is about 100 feet ahead, it's not dramatic. The Vespa cruises along like a champ. 

As the western tip of the island looms, so does one of my milestone challenges: the long six lane bridge that spans the Lake of Two Mountains. 

I'm getting set for the adrenaline rush of crossing that bridge at wide open throttle. Last season the Ile aux Tourtes Bridge seemed like a challenge I might never dare to take.

As I cruise down the long slope on the far side of the span, I'm sufficiently comfortable to take in the spectacular view of the lake far into the distance to my left and right. The  Vespa is doing an indicated 68 mph. 

 I take the next exit.  There is a good crease in the road where the concrete expressway lane transitions to the asphalt of the exit ramp. There is a momentary squirm as the Vespa negotiates the crease. I'm alert, and very focused, but not intimidated.  As I cruise along the ramp gradually decelerating to the speeds I normally ride at, I realise how far my riding skills have progressed. 

The weather for this ride is great. Clear skies and a comfortable 11 Celsius. Before leaving the office I had removed the liner from my Tourmaster Caliber pants and I'm glad I did. The windshield makes the ride very comfortable. I've had my visor up and my collar open the whole time without the least discomfort. 

When I ring the doorbell at 7:05, everyone is shocked to see me so soon. My wife had only arrived minutes before me and figured she would have to wait another 45 minutes or an hour for my arrival. 

If you're concerned that you won't get to see the end of my new Admore light unit installation, no worries.  I'll return to that project just as soon as I can and post all the details. 
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.