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The one function that does hang (or at any rate gets superseded, so to speak), is music playing through an app other than the iPod app on the phone.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

Friday, January 25, 2013

Guilty pleasure

I enjoy writing.

Can you tell?

As you know if you've been hanging around the water cooler here, I am prone to getting mesmerized by blog traffic stats.

When a new milestone looms, I can't take my eyes off the graph for too long.  I start 'running the numbers'.  Will I break through to a new plateau this month?

Scootcommute hit its all time high last May at the same time as I did. Two mesmerizing days spent in sunny Vancouver in the company of fellow riders, and bloggers.

Hitting a new high seems all but inevitable right now.  But I still can't tear my eyes off the bloody graph.

Of course Blogger will just set the bar higher still, and tomorrow's high will be just be a step along an unending winding path towards a new imaginary ceiling.

I guess I'm mesmerized because, as intangible as a blog might be, it's something of value that I have built, word, by word, by word.

Something of value to whom?  Well... I suppose something of value to you.  Otherwise, you wouldn't be here.  Thank you.  I am pleased that my ramblings are worthy of your visit.  After all, I started this blog so that I could return the favour I got from reading other bloggers like Steve Williams, Dave Dixon, and Orin O'Neill.

I think I've done OK.

What I have received in return has far, far, far surpassed what I have given.  Thanks to Bob, David, Sonja, Dave, Roland, Steve, Orin, Brandy, Dar, Keith, Dave, Rob, and...  I feel like some poor Golden Globes starlet, desperately fearful that my struggling brain is going to forget to mention some one of you who really deserves my appreciation.  Oh well, I apologize in advance for my omissions.

So... what do those numbers look like now...


Another milestone passed.  It was fun to see it happen.  One second the line is poking at the virtual 'ceiling', and then poof Blogger raises the bar, the pressure is instantly released, a new much higher ceiling appears, and, if anything, the statistics look smaller, more insignificant.  Which is what they are, really.

But I get carried away watching the blue line hit the ceiling.  It's silly really.  But I think these things strike a chord in many.  Recently the general discussion forum at ModernVespa hit the 1,000,000th posting.  Everyone got a little silly seeing who was going to post the millionth comment.  It reminded me of those contests at retail stores and supermarkets when I was a kid.  The millionth customer.

Similarly, the excitement wanes almost instantly.  There is not much magic in the 1,000,276th post, now is there?

Lottery tickets are in the same vein.  Before the draw there is the possibility.  After the draw, life goes on.  But someone...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Comfort, out of the blue!

I got in from work to find a mystery package waiting for me from Pensylvania.

What I found inside is amazing. 
Rarely, in a lifetime, do you get to meet a human being this kind and thoughtful.

This is a gift that is every bit as appreciated, as it is completely unexpected.  An ultra-light camp stove that runs on alcohol.

 Hot coffee, tea, or instant soup, anywhere, anytime, thanks to a blue flame, and Bobskoot.

Boiled water in about 1.5 minutes.  Amazing.

Thanks Bob!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday night in Canada...

Susan and I enjoyed the quintessential Canadian experience tonight.

While the snow continued to fall, blanketing the city, we, and 20,000 other Montrealers, were treated to the NHL season opener at the Bell Centre.

Canadiens vs the Leafs, complimentary beer, hot dogs and chips, and a pre-game show that had Canadiens old-timers including Jean Béliveau literally passing the torch to the young-uns of the current team.

It was almost enough to make you forget the strike that almost killed the game in 2013.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Making good

Thanks Sonja, Bob, Brandy and Richard, I trekked back to the store and bought a set of the smaller ROK pack straps.

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.



Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tying one on...

... no, I'm not much of a drinker, but as a former boy scout, I have always appreciated the ability to secure gear.

Bob made a casual comment to me in Vancouver.  I had showed him some gear tie-downs that I carry with me.  They are light duty but very strong and tuck away nicely in any available little nook or cranny.  They are sturdy enough that I was able to use them to secure a battery for my Miata to the pillion seat on my Vespa for the ride home.

Bob looked at my little marvels, and said casually "You should get ROK straps".

I've learned over time to take Bob's most casual, seemingly off-hand remarks as pearls of wisdom to be taken very seriously.  I can be a skeptic learner, so it can take me a while to catch on.

This time I listened and have now acted on his advice.

ROK Straps: check!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Preparing for adventure

Susan and I just came back from seeing The Hobbit.

Hobbits, wizards and enchanted forests aren't my thing, and yet the movie doesn't fail to inspire.

Too many of us are Hobbits who live their lives never straying from our comfortable Bag Ends.

There's a reason that the story of the Hobbit strikes a chord.  Setting out on a quest with a small band of trusted confederates is a fitting adventure to strive for.

Even if there won't be dwarves, elves, Orks or dragons, there are aspects of any adventure that have mythic qualities. Daniel Hillis is credited by Stewart Brand with conceiving the seven stages of a mythic adventure:
"1. The image in the mind of the goal at the end of the journey.

2. The point of embarkation, the point where the transition begins to becoming a pilgrim on a quest.

3. The labyrinth. It's a concept like the twilight zone, where it's difficult, It's a place you must travel through that's disorienting, where you might get scared, but you have to get through it to reach the point of deep reintegration.

4. There should always be in sight the draw, kind of like a beacon, that draws you through the labyrinth.

5. The climax, the payoff, the goal, the main thing that you are trying to get to and, ideally there may be a secret payoff that you didn't expect, that caps the payoff that you did expect.

6. The gradual return to the normal world, that gives you time to assimilate what you've learned.

7. The memento, something that you are able to take away to remind you of the journey.
There's a chance that mythic adventure will beckon in 2013.  There are signs.  Just the other day I noticed that a link to my blog popped up on the Adventure Rider forum.

As many of you know, there's more to mythic adventure than grabbing a bag and heading out the door.

A real-world adventure requires careful preparation. Preparation is part of the quest and is an integral part of the experience.   If it's up to me (and maybe it is), I choose to add preparation for adventure as a first stage in the eight stages of a mythic adventure.

My preparations began in earnest shortly after I got a call from a wizard far out on the west coast telling me that a small band of adventurers planned to set out on an easterly course bound for the Atlantic, and that I might join them when they passed my way.  I need to act quickly, because as matters stand, I am utterly unprepared for adventure.

I knew instantly that I needed saddlebags.  Treppenwitz came to my aid when he sent me a set of saddlebags from Israel.

These saddlebags aren't expensive, and they are truly only designed as a stow-away solution for impromptu shopping with your Vespa. What they have going for them in this case is, having come from far away in a place that in some ways more than qualifies as the cradle of our civilization, they are ideally suited, metaphorically and metaphysically speaking, as the perfect luggage for a Vespa adventure.

What they lack in structure and security, I will make up for in the coming weeks as fierce winter weather grips the great white north.

The first step to prepare my saddlebags is to add some symbolism to pay tribute to their provenance. So I'm adding a couple of Israeli flags. My first choice was definitely Vespa Club of Israel patches, but Trepp told me that no such thing existed. The Israeli flags I picked up here in Montreal at the Flag Shop will do nicely, and will set the stage for an epic trip to the coast.

Practically speaking, the saddlebags need more structure to make them suitable for a mythic adventure. I'll be adding four adjustable strap-and-buckle closures to each bag, as well as some kind of interior plastic panels to the bottom and sides of each bag to ensure that they yield 100% of their storage capacity.

Because the bags aren't waterproof, I'm also planning to get my hands on some Eagle Creek compression bags that will allow me to maximise the space and ensure that the contents stay dry.

Here are a few photos showing where I'm heading with this.  This first bag is standing true to form thanks to some improvised cardboard panels.
This last close-up shows where I'm planning to attach the front buckles.

There is going to be much more preparation in the months ahead.

Keep an eye out here because I will be sharing all my preparations down to the tiniest detail. Who knows, maybe you will benefit from these words and set out on an adventure of your very own!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

One more time...

I bailed out of 2012's office insanity on December 20th, tucked and rolled, coming to rest at home for the holiday break.

Here I am.  I haven't posted because my mind has been in neutral.

I feel the need now to resurface briefly, share a post-worthy  tidbit, before sliding back into a shallow dive of indolence.

I got my top wish on my Christmas list!
 That's right!  A Sena Bluetooth  helmet headset.
I installed it in my Nolan N-102 in a jiffy, paired it with my iPhone 5 in a snap, and read the owner's manual three times.  It exceeds my lofty expectations.  It feels like I've done a mind-meld with my iPhone.  Amazing.

Some of you will understand how much easier that will make a certain road trip, should it happen.

Time to do that shallow dive.

See you on the other side!

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Friends, and long distance

When I was a kid growing up, long distance meant one thing: special, and often expensive, phone calls.

A long distance phone call was reserved for important occasions.

For regular communications there were airmail letters (if you had a lot to say) and postcards, if you wanted to share a few glib words and make people envy your vacation choice.

Things sure have changed.

And they continue to change. The internet has changed the way we live, sometimes in ways that are dramatic.

Take my life, for instance.

I blog.

Why? The source can be traced to my desire to commute to work on a scooter instead of driving a car or riding a train. It's a choice that few people make in North America. Because it's my nature, I turned to Google for information.

What I found was the Modern Vespa Forum, and a number of moto and scooter bloggers.

What a treasure trove those finds have turned out to be. I found all the information I thought I needed, and a whole bunch more that I didn't know I needed.

And that's what led to starting this blog.

I was raised to believe that giving is more important than receiving. Having received so much from people whose blogs I had read, I knew I had to start a blog of my own to return the favour.

I was not long after that I found the unexpected. I found friends. Good friends. What kind of good friends?

Well that depends how you define "friend". I suppose we all have slightly different definitions.

Some of us may make friends easily, and may have many friends.

Like many of us who have demanding careers, and have married and raised a family, personal time has been the exception rather than the rule for me.

I've never had many friends.

Long distance took a toll on the friendships I did have. Very close friends moved hundreds of miles away. It was difficult to maintain those friendships. In many cases, long distance eventually dissipated the intimacy and shared experience that make friendships work.

Lately a reversal is taking hold.

The more I ride, the more I blog and post on the forum.

My words are seeds, and I have literally sown thousands of them.  It often turns out that they are seeds of friendship.

Long distance friendships have sprouted. No one is more blown away by my new friendships than yours truly.

Let's get back to what it means to have a friend. I define friendship as someone who devotes precious time to you at the expense of spending time with someone else.

By that definition I have earned a number of friends.

I define a good, or close friend, as someone who will go out of their way for you. By that definition, I count four new good friends.

The interesting thing is that they are all long distance friendships.

I don't want to embarrass them because friends don't embarrass friends, so I won't go into detail about who they are, where they live, their acts of kindness, or how they have gone out of their way to spend time with me, or do special favours for me.

These are people I would invite to share my home in a heartbeat, lend my Vespa to, share a meal with, go out of my way to help, or travel with. Truly good, close friends.

This experience has helped me to understand the power of the internet and of shared interests to obliterate the barrier of long distance.

It's yet another way that riding a scooter has enriched my life more than I could have imagined when I set out on this adventure.

Life on two wheels rocks!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A package from far, far away...

The Modern Vespa Forum is a very special place and there are some very special people there.

One of those people is David Bogner. His forum handle is Treppenwitz.

David has a blog where he writes about life in Israel.  David is also a very frequent poster on the Modern Vespa forum.

Not long ago, David was at his Vespa dealer having his bike serviced when he came across some roll-up stowaway saddlebags.

He mentioned them on the forum.  A number of forum members were interested in them and asked where they could order them online.

I'll let David tell the story of what ensued.
"I frequent a forum of people who share my interest in scootering and Vespas. We don't all agree on anything, but our interests overlap to the extent that we find it rewarding to continue exchanging thoughts, ideas and humor.

I stumbled on a locally made product in an Israeli scooter shop and was so pleased with it that I naturally shared a picture and description of it on the forum.

Several people asked where they could get one so I went and asked the shop if the supplier had a web site. They didn't.

In the meantime even more people commented on the thread that they would love to get a set, and even more PMed me for supplier info.

Once I realized that it was a local product with no international distribution, the next step was obviously to work out the economics (including the pain in the ass factor) of doing a bulk buy and sending them out to whoever wanted them.

In the end it really wasn't that big a PITA. It cluttered up our dining room table for a couple of days and made a few people in the local post office roll their eyes and look at their watches.

But it benefited the local scooter shop, the manufacturer and the MV members who wanted the bags.

And MV as a community benefited because others will (hopefully) step up and do similar good deeds (on an individual or group level) to help one another source local products now that it doesn't seem like such a crazy thing.

Lastly, I benefited.... because it felt really good. I meant what I said earlier in the thread: The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is to let them help you."
David is too modest.

He purchased, and shipped no less than 68 sets of saddlebags, to MVers all over the world.

I didn't want to bother David to purchase saddlebags for me because I didn't think I really needed them.

Then a funny thing happened.

Bob called me to suggest that I join him, and a number of other moto bloggers, for a grand tour of the Maritimes next summer.  Wow!  What an invitation!

"OMG!! I need saddlebags!!!!"

I was late to the party.  I sent a sheepish private message to David, knowing that he had already gone way, way, way above and beyond the call of duty.  I was in no rush for them, and that was the consolation.  David could wait as long as he wanted before buying and sending me the saddlebags.  I was just hoping that he could squeeze in one more order.

In no time I got a reply from David.  "You're in luck..." he wrote.  Within minutes I dug up my PayPal account and sent him the money for the cost of the saddlebags and shipping, reminding him that there was no rush.

To make matters worse, for David (if that's possible, because he, like many of his countrymen, was already dodging rockets from the Gaza Strip), he had a bad encounter with a large diesel spill on his commute and sprained his knee in a slow motion crash as he valiantly tried to keep his Vespa upright.  You can read David's unflinching account of his accident here.

I messaged David to encourage him to take it easy and not to ship the saddlebags until he recovered from his injury.  Not surprisingly, David lost no time shipping those bags to me.

I received them on Friday of last week.
David's only request was that the lucky recipients post a picture of the saddlebags on their scooter once they received them.

Naturally I hauled my Vespa out its hibernation deep in the recesses of the garage and put the saddlebags on.
Before I put the bags on the scooter, I rummaged through my dresser and closet and stuffed into them what seemed to me to be enough clothing for a five to six day road trip.
There was room to spare. Oh... and no, the Teddy Bear is not a necessary travel companion.  He'll stay comfy on our bed for the foreseeable future.

I still need to figure a few things out to make the best use of the saddlebags.  The fact is, David has made a huge contribution to what I am sure is set to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Thank you David.

I owe you. Truly I do.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A reader asks about bridges

I just read parts of your Scooter blog and found it very inteeresting... I have a question for you: With most of the bridges being highways on/off the island, is there any way for 50cc scooter riders to leave legally? From the research I did back a few years ago, I recall the Highway Code stating 50cc scooters weren’t allowed on “limited access” roads or anywhere where the speed limit is >50 km/h. If this is true, are scooter riders essentially “trapped” on the island of Montreal, save for Dorval Island and Ile Bizard?

This limitation is why I want to move up to a motorcycle, because it seems ridiculous to me that in order to drive a 125/150cc scooter you need to go through the entire motorcycle licence process as you would a 1100 cc sport bike. If I’m going to do 2 years and $700+ of courses, I might as well get a 750cc and be able to go to Ottawa for the day.

Anyhow, respond if you have time or if you have covered it in your blog, I’ll take a look.



Hi Andrew,

When I started out with my scooter I wondered the same thing. 

I am legal on expressways since I have a 150cc model and am now comfortable on them and have taken a number of bridges. 

The challenge is more to the south shore. The one bridge that for sure is OK for a 50cc scoot is the Victoria Bridge. The only issue is that it has a metal deck that takes some getting used to. The good news is that you can practice on the Charlevoix bridge across the Lachine Canal. 

I think that the Jacques Cartier bridge might be OK as well.  Someone posted that they checked with the SQ who confirmed that it's OK for 50cc scoots. 

To the west the Galipeault on the 20 is OK from the on ramp in Ste-Anne de Bellevue towards Ile Perrot. Going back is OK too as long as you take the first exit. You will find that one a little hairy though because people speed. 

To the north there are a number of good choices: the bridge to Ile Bizard then the ferry to Laval. The Cartierville bridge, and the Pont Viau bridge. 

All to say that 50cc scoots aren't trapped on the island by any means. If you check out the link to the bridge posts at the top of the page you will find specific posts with more information. 



(This e-mail exchange was posted with the sender's permission)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Black arts

I enjoy learning how things work.

I get more satisfaction as I learn more and more about something.  It's even better if few are in the know.

This is true about life, law, information technology, riding, and parking.

The moment of true enjoyment is observing something for the first time that allows you to learn a new thing about a topic that interests you.

Parking, for instance.

Most people's interest in parking is limited to finding inexpensive, convenient parking. That's what motivates me too.

Most people drive cars. As with just about everything, when most people do something, it's relatively easy to learn, even if parts of it are difficult. Like parallel parking a car in a tight space. It's difficult, but driving instructors, family members and friends who are willing to teach the black art of parallel parking are easy to find.

Parking a scooter or a motorcycle is dumb, stupid, simple, compared to parking a car, right?

Well yes, and no. Is it spatially challenging? Not so much.

The challenge, as with a car, is finding Costanza parking.

Jerry Seinfeld is a really good observer.

His particular brand of enjoyment is learning the black art about the mundane things we all take for granted, sharing his insight with us, and then branding the knowledge, making it memorable.

So it goes with parking.  Costanza parking.

Costanza parking, named for Seinfeld's fictional pal George Costanza, is the holy grail of parking: free parking mere paces from your destination in a place where any parking spots are hard to find, and where even the expensive parking is less convenient than the Costanza parking.

Costanza parking is rare, unless you ride a Vespa.

When you ride a Vespa, Costanza parking is plentiful. There's even more Costanza parking for Vespas than for other motorcycles (yes, Vespas are motorcycles).

That's because Vespas are relatively small beautiful works of transportation art, and the parking warden (in Montreal we call them Green Onions because their uniforms were green and the tickets they give you make you cry) who will gleefully ticket a Harley, will cruise right on by, overlooking a Vespa.

This is critically important, because parking that attracts a ticket is the most expensive parking of all, the antithesis of Costanza parking.

What's my point (I know you're wondering)? Patience, we're getting there, I promise.

Costanza parking can seem more plentiful than it actually is. You know this. You're going to that great little restaurant you've dying to try, and wait! There's a spot! Oh... fire hydrant. Oh! There! ... Drats, a no stopping sign.

You see for cars there are signs, lots and lots of signs. All you need to do to find true Costanza parking is to read the signs: 'no parking' 'no parking 7:00 a.m, to 10:00 a.m.', blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Finding true Costanza parking with a powered two-wheeler is more a black art than a reading assignment.

Yes there are some signs: 'stationnement pour motos'. But they are rare, and even more rarely do the parking places they identify qualify as Costanza parking.

Like the coureurs de bois, Indian scouts, trappers, and woodsmen of old, you need arcane knowledge gained by keen and patient observation. You need to stop and stoop where others tramp hurriedly on, to scoop and sniff a handful of earth, notice a broken twig, or observe an overturned stone, to find the quarry.

It is by taking the time to pause and observe, the other day, that I learned more about moto parking.

You see, those wise in the ways of the PTWs teach that you can park a moto at the beginning or end of permitted street parking spots, in other words, technically in forbidden parking space, and you won't get ticketed. It's not written anywhere (or if it is I can't be bothered to find it).

I have shared this before, grasshopper.

What I observed recently is priceless. I'm a giver (as my MV friend Treppenwitz says) so I'm sharing it here with you.

Pay attention, grasshopper. Observe.

See the motos parked in the forbidden space, close by the permitted space.
See the dreaded Green Onion ticketing the hapless black car.
See the Green Onion stalking oh so closer to the motos, within p-e-r-f-e-c-t striking distance he is, p-r-e-c-i-o-u-s!
Oooooooh! NO TICKET!!!!

Bazinga! You're welcome!

PS: If parking interests you too, I have listed all the parking posts together as a topic in the gear posts page, which you can get to by clicking on the link above, or by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cold weather is here

When the cold sets in, I need to have all my cold weather riding strategies in play.

I found and installed the liner for my riding pants, my Icon winter gauntlets are standard fare, the grip heaters are set to medium low at the start, but quickly make their way to the maximum setting.  A windbreaker sits between my Corrazo underhoody and Corazzo 5.0 jacket.

With all that gear on you begin to feel like an astronaut... until you get underway.  Until then, hyperthermia is more a risk than hypothermia.

The gear that's way too much indoors, is perfect during the commute.  Even at expressway speeds there is no chill, no pain, only the joy of riding.

So what dictates the end of the season?  Icy roads; full stop.

Commuting is very different from casual riding.  You could take a ride on any winter day when the roads are dry and clear.  The gear I wear will keep you warm.  And if it wasn't quite up to the task, without spending a fortune, I could buy heated motorcycle clothing like a vest, for instance.

But commuting reliably and safely means that conditions have to be good for the hour spent on the road in the morning, and the hour spent on the road in the evening.  If a storm blows in during the day, the bike could be stuck downtown for days, weeks, or possibly a month, while I wait for roads to become safe.  That's not a good situation.

The scooter commuter therefore has to call it a day once the temperature drops to where snow is a real possibility.  And that day has come.  Snow flakes have been drifting down in the last few days and there are reports of significant snowfall outside the city.

Now that the 15,000 mile mark has rolled over on the odometer, I'm content to plug the scooter in, throw the cover on, and start looking for a winter project.

Friday, November 2, 2012

And now for a change of pace

Three years of the scoot commute have left me happy, and fat.

It's high time for a change of pace. I'm plugging in the Vespa soon and trading life on two wheels, for life on two feet. Exchanging rubber on the road, for boots on the ground. The shoe leather express.

Some folks here refer to it as taking the BMW to work (as in Bus, Metro, Walk).

I drove in yesterday morning owing to the continuing inclemencies of hurricane Sandy. Lauren wanted the car to go home early, so it was time for me and my newly acquired train pass to pound the pavement and hit the rails.

It's nice really, a brisk 15 minute walk, a brightly lit brand new double-decker commuter train. A nice place to blog, really.

I feel more virtuous already.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.