Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cross Winds And A Vespa

I did  tell my wife, by way of reassurance that I planned to take the car in to work last night, but there again I told her that the night before when I took the Bonneville...and had a rollicking good time despite a little (a lot actually) of cold wet rain on the ride home at four in the morning. Cheyenne was waiting for me as I stripped off my waterproofs and then demanded a 90 minute walk in freezing North winds. After the fun of my ride I felt unable to refuse her so I got to bed at 6:30 quite chilled and cheerful.
I studied the entrails offered by the National Weather Service and it looked to me like rain might be in the offing but only on the way home which is not much of a problem. Getting soaked and cold on my way to a twelve hour shift in an artificially chilled office is more of an issue. The communications center is kept quite cold year round not for our benefit but to keep the radio telephony stacks at comfortable operating temperatures...which is quite important as tax payers like 911 to work all the time. So getting wet feet and hands and shirt collars and sitting in damp clothes on a 63 degree ride is not indicated. But all looked good enough to risk. Bugger the car! I'm riding!
The next thing to think about was whether to take the Bonneville or the Vespa. The Bonneville has 60 horsepower, enough to fight headwinds easily, and a big windshield to keep my torso warm and relatively dry if the rain's not too heavy or continuous. However the Vespa has floorboards to keep my feet dry if there is any residual rainwater on the road. And the small screen helps to push air over my head though I think it is really more of psychological support in nasty weather. A lot of people think ten inch wheels are a liability at speed or in cross winds but I have never found them to be so. My technique in strong winds, and the weather service reported gusts to 35 miles per hour, is to hold the handlebars lightly and let the machine take care of itself and it works really well. I never get blown across the road and I have been out in stronger winds. You need to keep an eye on passing slab sided vehicles and hedges or buildings that may shield you from the wind because sudden changes in wind pressure can cause a motorbike to lurch but  a light touch on the handlebars is all it takes, I find. 
The Vespa performed flawlessly and I had a nice ride into town easily keeping up with traffic even in the 55mph zone. I had another reason for wanting to test the Vespa in these conditions: next week I am scheduled to drive to Allentown Pennsylvania to get my 1979 P200 back from Gene at Scooters Originali. I can hardly believe the 18 month restoration is just about over. Tuesday morning I plan to show up with my trailer, in what I hope will be 55 degree weather, and tow it south as fast as I can for a Thanksgiving with friends in Georgia, at Jekyll Island. Anyway I am hoping the P200 will perform in similar fashion to my wife's more modern 150cc which I have found ideal for my flatland commute. 
The problem with the Bonneville is that it's too powerful some days for this road. It's an easy bike to ride and seventy miles per hour is entirely comfortable but that just gets me in line for a ticket. My theory is that a Vespa commute will keep the pace slower and leave me less tempted to pass everyone all the time. Why I prefer the old two stroke over a modern Vespa is a story for another day. First I need to make sure my theory about the 1979 nostalgia trip works in real life. That I rode one from New York to San Francisco, via Guadalajara, in 1981 is not a guarantee that this P200 will be the ideal daily rider I think it should be. Certainly my wife's 2004 four stroke automatic handles the job really well at a high cost in tires belts and variators. I am hoping the P200 will use almost no consumables with its gear box needing oil changes and split rim wheels making tire changes easy even at home.
I got to work in plenty of time and in fact there was evidence of rain in the parking lot at work, but I was dry and ready to sit up all night in comfort. My half hour ride is quite a  privilege this time of year when snow and ice is the order of the day most places in the northern hemisphere. I found this rather evocative picture on the Web from a long defunct Italian blog. They seemed to be enjoying snow, something I find hard to imagine frankly.
Vespa snow riding Pavia
To each their own and mine is sun, tropical primary colors and heat thanks.