Thursday, November 14, 2013

Let the shopping begin

This is a post for the trendy jet-setters among you.

Now that the Vespa riding season has closed, it's open season on Christmas shopping.

Ogilvy's has a Vespa LX50, skinned in the store's iconic tartan, front and centre in one of its Ste-Catherine street windows.

Ogilvy's windows, and particularly its Christmas displays, make even the grinchiest scrooge want to shop till he drops.  As you can see, the bike is laden with undoubtedly expensive chi-chi gifts suitable for the most discerning trophy wife or trophy husband.
This baby makes its appearance every few years or so in the holiday windows at Ogilvy's.  By the look of this bike it spends its substantial idle time between appearances safely stored in the store's prop department, because it bears not a single sign of wear or tear.

It's a fitting tribute to Vespas everywhere.  Vespas are perhaps, just perhaps, the bikes that best evoke that free-spirited, carefree, upscale, totally cool, yet eco-friendly urban lifestyle that the store feels will lure the fancy-pants crowd to spend, and spend.

For those who have the means to make a trip to Montreal just to do their money-is-no-object holiday shopping, the two city blocks  between Sherbrooke to the north, Ste-Catherine to the south, Mountain to the east, and Crescent to the west, are home to the toniest, most exclusive, and most expensive shopping Montreal has to offer.  Ogilvy's anchors the south-east corner.  The flagship Apple store is two doors west.  Holt Renfrew anchors the entire north end on Sherbrooke street.  In between you will find boutiques offering the nec plus ultra for Christmas, from Cartier, to Louis Vuiton, to Rolex, to Louboutin, to Jimmy Choo, and beyond.  Sadly, there are no Vespas for sale there, notwithstanding the promise Ogilvy's vitrine seems to make.

I suggest you book a suite at the Ritz Carlton right now.  While you<re at it, better make some reservations at Maison Boulud in the hotel, because that place will be hopping with hungry and wealthy holiday shoppers.  Snooze and you lose.  It may already be too late.

The gold diggers among you who aspire to become trophy wives should be able to find a suitable perch at Chef Daniel Boulud's bar where you'll be able to angle for a suitably wealthy sugar daddy.

I can almost hear the sleigh bells.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The thrill is gone...

... the thrill is gone away, the thrill is gone baby...
'Cause the snow has come, the snow has come my way...

Yes indeed, B.B. King and the weather has me singing the blues.

So long black Vespa...
Hello black Honda.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Think big, not small - thoughts on Quebec's charter of values

If there is a season or time of the year for thinking, it has to be November.

University students have exams looming and they have to be thinking.  Remembrance Day is this coming Monday, and that invariably gets me thinking.

This morning I set out for the office on my Vespa.  I had to think about that quite carefully.  The exquisite calculus of low temperatures and the probability of icy precipitation is more art than science.

The year is ending and my work requires me to be thinking, mostly about compliance filings and satisfying the myriad requirements of securities regulators and investors.  Christmas is also on the horizon. I need to think about gifts, holiday plans, and Susan's birthday.

Some thoughts are somber however.

Remembrance day brings my grandfather to mind.  He was a World War I veteran.  I only knew him through my grandmother's voice and her eyes, how tenderly and reverently she spoke of him.  Those are thoughts of loss, of pain.  You get to a point when you seem to know more people who have left this good earth than those who walk it still.  There are people in my iPhone address book who have left us.  Telephone numbers that only evoke memories, that either lead elsewhere, or nowhere, but that used to lead to the well known tones of peoples' voices.  I can hear them now.  "Hello!"  That simple word with the many lilts and intonations.  My mom, my grandmother, my mother in law, father in law, aunts, uncles, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, mentors.

When it comes to thinking, bigger is better than smaller.  Higher, is better than lower.  Anything that gets us to think, really think, is better than the alternative.  Life presents many opportunities to resist thought.  It takes guts to think.  Thinking leads us to the boundaries of our knowledge.  To where the fear of the unknown lurks in the shadows.

There are those, intellectually speaking, who prefer the comfort of the known.  The small circle of friends and family, the familial and familiar.  People who prefer simple explanations.  Sometimes, perhaps often, the comfort of simple explanations and familiar surroundings can best be found by walling out aspects of life, aspects of our humanity, that challenge the simplicity and comfort of our smaller, simpler lives.

I find that many people who succumb to the temptation to live simple, neat and tidy lives, in the midst of simple, neat and tidy surroundings, are small-minded.  They think simple low thoughts.  Often they get their comfort at best by exclusion, at worst by oppression.  This is how ghettos happen.  These are the headwaters of xenophobia, prejudice, biggotry, and racism.

This thinking season, there are stark choices facing those of us who live here, in the Province of Quebec.

A bill has been tabled in our legislature.  We like numbers here.  We especially like numbers when as a society we embark upon the politics of exclusion and oppression.  It's simpler, more comfortable, and invites less thought, when we use a number instead of a name.  Bill 22, Bill 101, Bill 60, now what's not to like?  It's certainly much better for the mover of low-brow, simple thoughts, to give the thing a number than to call it by its rightful name, like The Suppression of Other Cultures Act (Quebec).  It's easier to pretend you aren't a bigot when you promote Bill 60.  Isn't it?  To encourage people to use the number, you give the draft legislation a name that no one can manage in a single breath, much less commit to memory: Charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État ainsi que d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et encadrant les demandes d’accommodement.  It even has the words égalité and charte - "equality" and "charter".  How bad can it be?

What better way to protect our culture, to make it shine brightly, than moving other cultures, different from ours, out of the light, into the shadows, towards darkness, and out of sight.  We can stand tall if we march onto the bowed backs of our minority neighbors, can't we?

Bill 60 is the latest and most odious example of institutional, government-sanctioned biggotry.  It's state of the art exclusionary politics of the worst kind.  It's the heavy leaden hand of the state, preparing to take a hefty swing at the usual suspects, all in the name of the mother culture.

To protect our culture we must take deadly aim at the virus that threatens us.  Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs.  Unless they hide their identities, mask their differences, become white like us, we will drum them out of public office, herd them out of public service, banish them from our government offices, schools, hospitals, municipal offices, recreation centres, remove them from our police and fire departments.  Heck, we don't even want them collecting our garbage.

Torontonians are hanging their heads in shame, wringing their hands, and squirming uncomfortably in the glare of world opinion because they have a mayor who is by all accounts failing as a mayor, and failing as a human being on many levels.

I would prefer every Quebec municipality to have its very own Rob Ford if it meant that Bill 60 simply vanished.

As a Quebecker, I feel anger, and deep, deep shame.  I also fear the inevitable consequences of the vile politics of exclusion.  This will get much worse before it gets better.

Those are my November thoughts for now.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Late October commute

It seems like just a short time ago that I went to a dealership north of the city to pick up my Vespa GTS.  That was the beginning of the 2013 season back in March.

Here I sit, looking at the dismal weather outside my office window.  The same diet of rain and fog is in store for the coming days. I know I won't be riding.  The temperatures are already dipping into sub-freezing digits; there has been frost on my Civic in the morning; I spotted a significant patch of ice mid-morning on the street outside the office earlier in the week.

None of these things bode well for commuting to work on a Vespa.

It's not that there isn't any joy in commuting in weather that's this cold.  Last night's commute was thoroughly enjoyable.

I sped westbound in the left lane along Autoroute 20.  It was 7:15 and the sun had set. The cold air blasted at my jacket, rippling the fabric along my arms.  I could feel the chill settling in, bit by bit.  Curious, I touched the button on my helmet communicator "Siri, what's the temperature?"  I said.  "It's currently four degrees Celsius" Siri replied.

The swing playlist resumed as I executed a little S swerve in my lane:  my way of expressing the joy of riding.  It's difficult for a non-rider to understand.  It's also a little routine that goes way back.  I remember doing the same thing and feeling pretty much the same satisfaction on my bicycle when I was a kid.

But now it's different.  There I was last night, cruising along at 110 km/h, listening to the Cherry Poppin Daddies' rendition of Dr. Bones, checking my mirrors, leaning into the turn as the highway veered left away from the airport exit.  It was just above freezing, I wasn't cold, I was chillin'.  I was rocking my Vespa home.  The GPS glowed brightly.  I didn't need it, it's just there so that I can tell how fast I'm really going.  I like the map shifting along as I ride.  It showed me the lake that was out of sight a mile or so to my left.

The ride ended, twenty-five minutes or so after it began.  One of the advantages of working late is that the traffic thins out.  As I rounded the corner I hit the button on the remote control dangling below the ignition.  The garage door rolled up.  I entered, glided to a stop, and hit the kill switch.

This could have been the last commute of 2013.

Rider profile: David Masse

Name: David Masse
Find me on Earth: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Find me Online:,, Motorcycle Men Podcast interview, Life on two wheels YouTube channel
Interview Date: July 29, 2013
Interview Location: Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada

Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

David: It had to be 1974. I was 22.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

David: Just three. A black 1974 49cc Solex moped, a 2006 dragon red Vespa LX 150, and a 2010 black on black Vespa GTS 300 Super i.e. (Ed. - 2015: add to that a 2003 Honda Shadow VT750 ACE)

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

David: I still have the Vespa LX 150 but it's for sale (ed.: now sold), which means the GTS is really my current bike, and it's far and away my favorite.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

David: Without a doubt, that would be counter-steering.  There's a single paragraph about it in the Quebec guide for those applying for a motorcycle license.  It just seemed nuts to me.  That to turn right, you steer left? Come on, it must be a test to weed out the feeble-minded.

And yet it's amazingly and counter-intuitively true.  And the faster you ride, the truer it is.  On the highway on the GTS, cruising at 110 kilometers an hour, changing lanes is all counter-steering.  Press right to go right, press left to go left.  It's amazing.  I owe learning to counter-steer to David Hough's excellent Proficient Motorcycling.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

David:  That's easy.  I'm definitely a commuter.  Commuting and touring place the most significant demands on the rider.  In both cases you have to be committed to the ride.  You can wait out really foul weather, but generally you need to be prepared to ride in wet weather, cold weather, and my personal favourite, wet and cold weather.  It takes preparation, good gear, and a well-equipped bike.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

David:  I am generally a solitary rider, and I really enjoy riding alone.  Roughly half of my 2013 Blogger to Blogger Tour was solo riding, the other half was in the company of two much more accomplished riders.  I learned a lot about riding in a small group on the Tour, and that means I learned from mistakes that no doubt strained my companions' patience at times.

I also did a large group ride with the local scooter club the first year I returned to riding.  That was an interesting experience.  It was a motley crew, everything from a few kids on mopeds through a couple of maxi-scoots, and everything in between.  Riding rules resembled more those of a flock than a squadron. There were a lot of two-stroke scoots along.  As much fun as it was, and it was definitely fun, at the end of the day I felt like I had mowed lawns from dawn to dusk, and my clothes reeked of two-stroke exhaust fumes.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

David:  It was a tiny incident, that took a few micro-seconds, but grew to embarrassing proportions.

Following the example of many motor bike owners before me, and inspired by what I had learned on the Modern Vespa forum, I replaced the stock horn on my Vespa LX with a Stebel air horn.  I was my first ambitious modification.  I had read some isolated reports of Stebel horn failures, and my wiring was initially a little wrong.  I loved the horn, but kind of expected that it could fail for some reason.

I pulled up to the garage at the office after a lunch time jaunt, and the door was closed.  In an effort to get the attendant's attention, I honked.  All I got was a pathetic whirring sound.  Damn! The Stebel's quit, I thought.  I imagined that the whirring sound I heard was the horn compressor barely spinning and managing only a faint hiss.

Certain I had a horn failure on my hands, I promptly sought help from the Modern Vespa forum.  Yikes!  In no time I was accused of being a troll (what the heck??) and of irresponsibly denigrating Stebel horns that were obviously akin to the holy grail of the MV inner circle.  I might as well have kicked a Harley at a biker bar.  The tempest eventually abated and I escaped relatively unscathed.

Initially I felt somewhat wronged.  The deep embarrassment descended upon me in private when it slowly dawned on me, weeks later, after a similar incident, that I had hit the starter button, not the horn button.   There never was a Stebel horn failure, and that horn is now in its second Vespa, and has still never failed.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

David:  That's a tough one.  Almost every ride is filled with pleasure, and some rides are truly blissful.  In that sense, the best place my bike takes me is to a state of mind.  In terms of physical places, the best places have been the places I rode in Bob's company to meet up with Dave Dixon and Sonja and Roland Mager (Coquitlam BC) and Steve Williams (Bellefonte, PA, and State College, PA).   Steve and Dave, more than any others, inspired me to take up riding a Vespa.  I am sure neither of them realizes the important role they played.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

David: I always wanted to own and ride a Vespa motor scooter.  The desire was born in high school where I spent many a lunch break admiring the motor scooters that some of the college kids rode to school.  The closest I came back then was when I was in college and got a Solex moped for my birthday.  My mother was not prepared to let me ride anything more motorcycle-like than that.  I managed to wring a lot of happiness out of that little bike.

I only graduated to an actual Vespa in 2010, very recently.  I'm in my fourth season.  All I can say is that if I had even suspected the pleasure I have had riding my Vespas, I would have begun this adventure years and years earlier.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

David: Never to become complacent, always to be aware and vigilant when I ride.  That, and one day to coax my darling wife onto the passenger saddle for modest little rides along the lake shore for coffee or ice cream.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fishy goings on

When I was a kid, I dreaded fishy Fridays. It's been an eon since I had a fishy Friday.

Last Sunday in Vancouver turned out to be fishy, but in a good way.

First we had breakfast.  You can't have much fun on an empty stomach, un-fueled by a cup or two of Joe.

Well prepared for adventure, we rolled out of the Marina Grill. If you didn't know this place existed, there's no way you could find it. There is however a clue. There's a sign for the restaurant hanging off a crane on the Vancouver-bound side of the second narrows bridge. By the time you see that sign it's way too late. As the farmers are famous for saying, "you can't get there from here".
Bob is secretive, because he loves surprises. Yvonne wasn't about to tip me to his game.

We set out in Yvonne's Subaru SUV.  Bob would only provide cryptic clues on where we were going.

It turned out that the first stop after breakfast was Deep Cove.  It's a charming little town perched on the rocky shore of Burrard Inlet, where the road ends, literally.  It would be too hard to describe this wonderful corner of the world.  Posting pictures will save me thousands of words.
Deep Cove is across the inlet from Burnaby Mountain, Ioco, and Belcarra.  The last time I was in those places I was in the company of Bob, Sonja, Roland, and Dave.

We then headed in the direction of Capilano with Bob teaching me the ins and outs of North Shore geography. It's all about canyons, ravines, streams and cuts. I'm not sure I retained more than the most obvious parts of the lessons.

We headed up a road I do know, the one that leads up to Grouse Mountain, somewhere on the far side of the Lion's Gate bridge.  Following a little bit of U-turn trial and error, we shot down a rabbit-hole of a side-street and followed its twisty route.  At the end of that road (truly a day of dead-end roads) we came upon the Capilano salmon hatchery.

It's quite something to see the salmon leaping up the ladder of small pools, against the torrent of water spilling downstream.
Regrettably I was unable to catch one in the act.

The old growth forest reminded me of Muir Woods just north of San Francisco.  The trees are not as tall, but the feeling is familiar, strolling among the towering trees, with the river rushing its way through the canyon.
The Lumix LF1 camera that I bought on Bob's recommendation seems to live up to Bob's assessment in spades.  It has an astonishingly good optical zoom, an excellent aperture that lets lots of light in, and a very large image sensor that allows you to capture some very attractive shots.
The rather unique thing is that there is a Panasonic app for the iPhone that lets you control the camera over the WiFi connection.  You can frame, zoom and shoot with a touch of the icon on the app.  The downside is that you end up with a goofy look of concentration on your face as you try to operate the app while looking nonchalant and debonaire.  Fail.
l used a slow shutter speed to lend more drama to this waterfall.

I thought we might be done for the day, but Bob had one more local pearl to share with me.

We headed towards Horseshoe Bay.  I recognized the winding road that hugs the shoreline.  Bob took a left turn down a street that looked more like a private driveway than a real street.  No tourist would have gone this way.

The street lead to a small point jutting into the water.
I'm not sure what the 'Pilot House' might be.  I was in a quiet contemplative place, and reading the plaque was the furthest thing from my mind.
This is a truly peaceful place.  It's a good place to come to sit and think.  There are a few benches for thinkers who prefer not to sit on the rock.
The city is visible, but barely intrudes on the serenity of this place.
It is a good place to think.

A very big thank you to Bob and Yvonne for devoting their Sunday to show me more sights.  The weather was dismal, but the company more than made up for it.

I had a great time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Breakfast with Bob

I had to pick this title because it's whimsical.  It's not misleading, but it is inadequate.  A better title would be "A weekend with the Skoots".

Not too long ago I posted "Lunch with Bob".  Once more I'm sharing a meal with Bob, but it's not that Bob, it's this Bob.  If you're confused, it's all Bob's fault.

Last Saturday morning I was patiently waiting for Bob (see my previous post) so that I could have some breakfast.  We had decided the night before (I can't remember if it was before or after the excellent dinner I enjoyed in the company of Bob and Yvonne at Phnom Penh) that our Saturday morning breakfast venue would be the Tomahawk.  Vancouver is a foodie city.  At the risk of offending, I'll say that Vancouver and Montreal are neck-and-neck as the foodie capital of Canada.  It should come as no surprise that Vancouver attracted Guy Fiori and his Camaro.  Among the diners, drive-ins, and dives he showcased are those two fabulous eateries.
Suffice to say that we didn't come away hungry.
After breakfast, Bob and I set off to see the sights.

Lynn Creek is not a name that does justice to the rain forest valley that is barely a twenty minute drive from downtown Vancouver.

Simply stunning.  Those are just the right words.  Towering moss-covered trees, and a crystal clear stream babbling its way along the valley floor around smooth river-worn rocks as it leaves a shrouded grotto nestled at the end of the park.  Therapeutic is another good word.
Actually, you only get the therapy if you don't have a fear of heights or suspended bridges that bounce and sway.

The day was capped off by... more food.  This time all you can eat sushi in Richmond in the company of the Vancouver chapter of the British Columbia Corvette Club.

Bob gave me this pin.
The pin ceremony was brief ("here's a little something...") but not entirely devoid of decorum. I think I may have to buy a Corvette.  Yikes!

Once we were incapable of eating more food, there was endless chatter.  The words C2, C7, header, oil, and Bowling Green Kentucky, came up, a lot.  Next summer there is a massive Corvette rally in the states, and many members of the club are making the trip, including Bob and Yvonne.

Again I find myself privileged to meet truly exceptional people.  Jenny and Loren drove a Ford Model A Phaeton from Peking to Paris this past summer.  Two nicer people you'll never meet.  After the restaurant everyone headed over to Gordon and Sue's place for coffee and more conversation. This was an evening I truly enjoyed.

Not too shabby for a weekend on the wet coast.  And stay tuned, there's another instalment coming.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Westward, the wet coast beckons

I'm a little homesick.  I'm also a little hungry.  Where's Bob?

Just sitting here in Vancouver, waiting for Bob.
Where is he? Hi Sonja!  What are you and Roland up to?

The blog as real-time communication.  Fascinating.


That's right, stop!
How often do you do that? Stop the serious stuff you're up to? Like commuting?

I never used to. What stops me?

McDonalds stops lots of folks. So does Starbucks. Traffic stops most of us, likewise subway and train issues, bus delays, fuel stops. None of those count. Only voluntary stops and pauses count.

What stops me? More than any other thing, the sky stops me. First it arrests my eyes, then blows my mind, and that shifts my focus. I am drawn, I have to stop. The sky dictates the place, and my Vespa is my enabler.

Momentarily, I am distracted by necessity. Kickstand, helmet, gloves, iPhone, exposure, focus, composing, fussing, snapping. Knowing the picture doesn't have a prayer of translating what my eyes plainly see. Yet saving the moment, sharing the moment, in spite of the obvious imperfection, is a must.
So there it is. Wasted effort? Time wasted? Time well wasted. Effort well spent.

This is so much more important than... many other things.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lunch with Bob

I finally got to meet Bob Lush last week.

Bob suggested Mount Royal, in the area near the Smith House, across from the police riding stable.
It was a beautiful setting, on a gorgeous sun-drenched fall day.  Bob spoiled me.  He had stopped by Schwartz's on the way to the rendez-vous and picked up some smoked meat sandwiches and kosher dill pickles.  He flatly refused my attempt to pay.

We spent almost two hours chatting.

Oddly, we spent more time talking about sailing, than riding.

Bob is a fascinating guy, a retired sailing magazine publisher, and an expert sailor.  And I don't mean that he's a talented weekend fair-weather Lac St-Louis sailor.  I mean serious ocean sailing.  He spent twenty-odd years sailing his 37 foot sailboat in the Caribbean, from his home base in the Virgin Islands where he lived on his boat.  He's a skipper's skipper.  He taught himself celestial navigation, and then taught others the skills he learned.  Give Bob a decent sailboat, a sextant and some half decent charts, and there is nowhere on this planet he couldn't roam.

I am not a sailor, but I have known more than a few sailors.  Some with decent sailing skills, some who sailed by the seat of their pants, and others who made up for gaps in skills with large amounts of money.  Bob strikes me as a guy who knows more about bridging money gaps with mad skills than most other people I have been privileged to meet.

Oh... and Bob took up riding at 70, that's his ticket to freedom, and this is his ride.
I should add that I only know three riders who use throttle locks. There's Bob, there's me, and then there's Bob.

Monday, October 14, 2013

There's a Maniac Laughing at me

Guest Post by bobskoot:

Let me say that when you are traveling on unfamiliar roads, following your GPS doesn't give you the real story. You follow that purple line and it tells you to go straight, or make a turn. It doesn't necessarily tell you which lane you should be in. And so it was that I had to go straight but was caught in the left turn lane. I did ask the lady in the car next to me to let me in, but since I was in the Lead I also had to take care of those following behind, which was David (scootcommute) and Karen (Vstar*Lady)
We were nearing our destination and my GPS said to go straight for about half a block and then turn right.  I mean, how did I know not to be in the right lane where all traffic was supposed to turn right.   I had no alternative but to go where my gut told me but David was right behind me and he could see the predicament I was in and turned his GoPro on to record the whole thing.   I could hear him laughing at me all the way through my Sena helment communicator.

We were about to get another scolding from No Nonsense Karen.    I was having problems with my GoPro freezing due to a mistake I made performing the software upgrade so I missed recording the part where David (scootcommute) did a lane splitting maneuver somewhere near Old Orchard beach when he passed on the right to get past some slow moving cars.    It was the curb lane where normally there would be parked cars, except no cars were parked so he used that as an acceleration lane.   I somehow knew he was going to "gun it" when the light changed green but I think Karen thought we were going to make a right turn.

Needless to say we both got a scolding later in the day.   We both quickly learned that the teacher is always right

I am finding more time to edit and post my video and when I saw this clip that David recorded I just had to share it with you

bob skoot
Riding the Wet Coast, Vancouver, BC

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rider profile: Danielle Bartholomew (formerly Vallée)

Name: Danielle Bartholomew (formerly Vallée)
Find me on Earth: In a cafe somewhere in Montreal, Quebec. Or look for me in Tokyo!
Find me Online:
Interview Date: Thursday, August 1, 2013
Interview Location: At home in St-Lazare, Quebec
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Danielle: Ha ha, I started less than 2 months ago and I'm 48! Is this my mid-life crisis? (I intend to thrive 'til I'm at least 96!).

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Danielle: Only the scooter I have now. I've always been attracted to classic motorcycles and Vespas but I have a fear of falling (even from a bicycle!), which led me to become an excellent hiker and a respectable weightlifter.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Danielle: I bought a brand new 2013 Honda Giorno 50cc scooter in Azuki brown, which I love. In the U.S. Honda calls it a Metropolitan. I'd actually planned to get a Vespa LX50 and the salesman took one look at my 5'4" frame and said there was no way I could sit on it with flat feet. So that steered me towards my Honda or the Yamaha Vino. I've since been reading about shaving down the foam in a Vespa seat to make it lower and narrower for shorter riders, so that could be a project for down the road. But in the meantime my Honda Giorno is a beautiful, well-built scooter and thank god, it doesn't sound like a mosquito.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Danielle: There are so many challenges on a scooter that I've never had to think about driving a car for 32 years. Like the wind pushing me around, or bugs smacking me in the face, or my body absorbing every dip and bump in the road, or the need for a strong core to stay alert, balanced and steady. Stuff like the crazy focus required on a scooter compared to a car where you can slouch and multi-task. The strange fact that when I take a turn I have to look way ahead to where I'm going rather than at the road just in front of me. I'd say counter-steering and cornering are still a bit tricky - it's still scary to go from riding at full throttle to slowing to take a sharp turn without a stop sign or traffic light to alert the drivers behind me.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Danielle: Yes. :-) For now I'm sticking to fair weather. I can see that I'm going to want to ride deep into Fall but I want to be careful about biting off more than I can chew. And since I can't control other drivers, only my awareness of them, I never forget that. Once a week in the summer I finish work early so I've started commuting the 2+ hours in each direction on those days, between home and the heart of downtown Montreal. That is TIRING! But it's SO exhilarating! It's a beautiful ride along the lakeshore and the challenge of doing something a little crazy but basically safe definitely appeals to me. That commute is so long it feels like a tour!

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Danielle: Since I'm so new to it I'm a solitary rider and to be honest, I like the silence and break from my iPhone, computer, TV, radio and all the "stuff" that makes my life better and yet not. Besides, none of my friends rides a scooter - god bless 'em, they're all out on their bicycles!

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Danielle: Turning a corner in rural St-Lazare and going so wide I almost landed in the ditch! I still didn't have the feel of the throttle yet - you know, that ability to micro-adjust it so the scooter doesn't leap forward? Trying to get the handlebars to turn back onto the street I felt like I was wrestling a crocodile! I was in the middle of nowhere laughing out loud, thinking "YIKES! I haven't got a clue!!!" And I still don't; but I'm working on it. :-)

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Danielle: Home! In the Spring I'm moving into a loft on the Lachine Canal near downtown and I'll use my scooter to get around. But in the meantime I still live in St-Lazare and this area is a paradise for riding with long, winding, hilly roads passing farms, carving through forests, and following the lake. I'm SO grateful to have started my riding here and I know after I move I'll be so happy to ride "home" to visit my sister and her family here. Also, my weekly commute along Lac St-Louis into Montreal and back is impossibly gorgeous and surreal. That long ride tests me in a lot of ways and rewards me in more than I can count.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Danielle: I didn't intend to ride. But in May my co-worker Martin took me out for a spin on his motorcycle to help me let off some steam and - something inside me shifted. My fear of falling from a bike was replaced by the sudden, visceral need to feel that free again; within 2 weeks I'd bought a scooter having never ridden one. I tell people that there's something about the vulnerability, the speed, the smells, sounds, tastes - everything you feel, everything that riding asks of you and gives you back - that's exactly what I need in my life at this time to forget about my worries and just appreciate what is.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Danielle: I'd love to have my motorcycle license so I could ride a more powerful scooter like the Vespa GTS 300ie! And oh yeah, it would have to fit. ;-


Friday, October 11, 2013


Days are growing shorter; the 2013 riding season is gradually drawing to a close.

Without heated grips on the GTS, cold hands will soon be the bane of my commute.
This weekend is fully booked, and there is no time to install the tall windscreen and the Tucano Urbano apron. I can only hope that next week the weather will be kind-ish.

The consolation? Delightful sunsets, and the comforting glow of home at the end of the ride.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kindness and generosity

'What goes around, comes around', 'pay it forward', 'do unto others...', 'random acts of kindness' are all phrases that encourage us to be generous and kind.

When you see people going places on two wheels, kindness and generosity are not the first sentiments that come to mind.

More often than not, the rider we see is solitary, the glimpse we get is fleeting.  There's not much time to form any impression.  If I think about this, trying to put myself back into the shoes I wore before I started riding, the impression that comes to mind more than any other is solitude.  The solitary rider.  Other impressions I imagine as I think about it some more, are somewhat unfavourable, often associated with loud pipes, sport bikers bent on breaking a land speed record, or even outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Because non-riders outnumber riders by a huge, huge proportion, I imagine that kindness and generosity are the furthest things from most people's minds when it comes to riding, and riders.

From my relatively new vantage point as a rider, the strongest impressions I have of riders are of generosity and kindness.

I won't name names, because no one is looking for praise or recognition, far from it.  But I can cite incredible acts of kindness and generosity I have witnessed, and personally benefited from.  I will admit to having performed some of those acts myself.  The truth is that it would be very difficult for me to balance the account by giving as much as I have received.  As some of you know, I have tried.  But it seems an impossible task.

So I do the best I can, with my modest means.  I did a nice turn recently for a rider I've never met, who lives in a far-off place.  I hope some day to visit, and to connect the face, the voice and the presence needed to complete our acquaintance, and our mutual acts of kindness and generosity.

This is just one of the ways riding has brought me happiness.

Me ka ha`aha`a,


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rider profile: Bob Lush

Name: Bob Lush
Find me on Earth:  Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Find me Online: E-mail only, and that's personal.
Interview Date: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Interview Location:  Mount Royal
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Bob: I moved to Montreal 6 years ago and bought my first scooter about 6 months later. I was 70.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Bob: My new 2011 Kymco Super 8 is my second. My first bike was an '02 Yamaha and was a super unit except it was not up to my weight and the Montreal potholes. I abused it terribly. The Kymco is robust but dangerously slow and I am currently in the midst of spending a fortune giving it some balls. (Not because I want to be fast, but because I want to be safe.) The Yamaha was by far my favorite.

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Bob: 2011 Kymco Super 8 is my second.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Bob: I find Montreal drivers terribly anti-scooter, particularly women, but my biggest challenge is parking. It looks and sounds easy but I've received a few crippling tickets.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Bob: I'm retired so can schedule my outings but have been caught in the rain a few times which scares the hell out of me. I figure at my age I've only got one fall left in me and do not look forward to it. I do not ride like a granny though.

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Bob: I might be interested in group outings but so far language is a barrier, because I don't speak French.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarassing riding moment.

Bob: A few years ago I suffered a loss of balance, and I almost stopped, which was embarrassing but painless. May they remain so.

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Bob: Riding is my prime method of getting around and my most-fun times are when I get lost, which happens often, and end up exploring and finding new places and things.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Bob: Riding is my prime method of getting around and my most-fun times are when I get lost, which happens often, and end up exploring and finding new places and things.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Bob: Riding 12 months a year, rather than 9, would be better but I don't live in the tropics anymore.

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