Making Old Gear New Again

One of the most aesthetically attractive aspects of my Vespa GT200 when I was purchasing it was the gorgeous Prima luggage roll. (Sonja M so nicely captured it in the Craigslist ad photos as below.)  Top cases seemed pretty mandatory during my research phase -a scooter without a top case seemed akin to a car without a trunk. I did briefly wonder what the heck would fit in one, but was quickly distracted by the fact that it would be lockable.


Fortunately in addition to the lovely lines it produces on the Vespa, the luggage roll is so functional. Like I can buy a thing of low-sodium vegetable stock at Costco and stick it in there, plus my purse and one other random piece of clothing that I always seem to be carrying. Or I can fit in my monster work bag and a change or shoes.

The strapping over the roll has always been in a bit rough shape since I’ve had it but everything worked and the former owner had judiciously used zap straps to keep the whole apparatus together. This fall it really dawned on me that I need to take action. Being down one main strap was still okay but when your second buckle almost falls off that is sort of it.

IMG_3150 IMG_3151

An inspection of the underside of the bag turned up a similarly disturbing state of affairs.


One of my main motivations in adopting a scooter lifestyle was to tread more lightly from a waste and consumption angle. (2 years of commuting to Squamish on the improved but still deadly Sea-to-Sky highway really did in my interest in commuting by car.) So throwing out a giant plasticized bag with working zippers seemed very counter to that goal. Also, the shipping and duty in ordering another piece of gear were just too much to bear.

A lovely coworker suggested I try take it to a cobbler. Which seems obvious but really isn’t all that self-evident to a child of the 80s. So, I dropped my bag off at Nanaimo Shoe Repair on Saturday and got a quote of about $35. A new bag runs $134.99 USD +shipping +duty… +throwing something out that is still mostly in working order.

It’s going to be done in leather, so that should stand up a bit better than vinyl in the sun. I will be asking for some wet leather tips when I pick it up.


Gear on the horizon

Summer commuting and riding were relatively easy gear-wise.  I already had my GoGo Gear black trench jacket and my First Gear black armoured pants.  Not to mention the gold fleck helmet that actually fit my face with glasses and two pairs of gloves (winter gauntlets and light summer gloves).  The factory windshield that only rose 8″ over the headlight put wind to my neck and chest but I never got very cold.  The little rain there was didn’t have time to soak through my jacket, nor did it impede my vision through my 3/4 helmet’s visor.

These days are gone, but I feel ready for the change.  I have recently added quite a few weapons to my cold/wet weather arsenal already.

One of my peeves about safety gear is that I look like a Transformer when I wear both the pants and the jacket.  Sometimes I revel in this totally butch look and the enjoy tension between the toughness and my blonde librarian appearance, but sometimes I just want to be a regular person in a store and less like Optimus Prime.

Hence, my weakness for GoGoGear.  I got my jacket from the now closed Urban Wasp in Vancouver, on-sale (since they were closing…boo!).  It was actually rather flattering!  And it didn’t end at my belly button like the other jackets I’d tried on.  They just got in a new product: kevlar leggings with optional knee pads.  And updated another with actual colours: armoured kevlar hoodies.

Special Edition GoGo Gear Armored Kevlar Hoodies - LIMITED TIME ONLY - SPECIAL ORDER ONLY

Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy a good “adult ladies pink” garment.  The leggings and the pink hoodie are pre-ordered and possibly arriving in Canada for Christmas.  Score!  (Please let the duty charges be small, Santa.)

On a less exciting note, some ass-hat stole the Vespa logo off my leg shields.  This probably happened at work.  And I doubt it was one of the seniors from the care home next door -they can’t piss me off or I won’t help them with their iPads!  Am investigating whether ScooterworksUSA will ship it for less than the $36 that their website says it will charge me (you know, for a $12 part that fits in an envelope).

It looks like the logo is there, but trust me that is just the under sticky stuff.

An aspiring all-season scooter commuter

I moved to Nanaimo almost 2 years ago.  While I loved many things about growing up in North Vancouver, I am definitely appreciating some of the features of (Vancouver) Island Life.  Like the ability to use roadways without people trying to kill you.

Every time I talk to my parents they talk about something craptastic that happened to them on the way home from work in Metro Van or (my dad) how much the traffic has increased in volume. Though this gets tiring to listen to and genuinely stresses me out, I believe that the traffic has worsened in the last 2 years since I’ve moved.  I don’t know that I would have survived learning to ride over there.

My commute is a fairly pleasant 20-25 minute affair, entirely composed of Old Island Highway traffic lights with some faster travel of up to 80-90 km/hr (wheeeee…!).  It was relatively unintimidating to build my skills on and is predictable and steady.  In 4 months I’ve only sounded my very loud after-market horn once and boy, did it work!  (Wolo, installed by previous owner.)

Since I’m not as worried about being mowed down I have been focusing my energies on getting warm and dry gear.  I am generally a cold person and cling to the Persian saying of “cold hands, warm heart” to feel less reptilian.  My wife wears a polar fleece with the underarm vents open, and I wear a merino wool shirt under a polar fleece with a down jacket on top to not freeze my butt off.New Termoscud

Items purchased this Fall:

  • Highlighter yellow rain jacket that fits over my armoured jacket, Scott’s, 3 way stretch from Tuff City Powersports here in town (about $95)
  • Black rain pants that fit over my armoured pants, same as jacket (about $85)
  • Tucano Urbano Termoscud lap blanket/”pensioner blanket” from SIP Scootershop online (97 Euros + shipping and duty)
  • Prima Windscreen (Tall, Clear) for Vespa LX/GT from ScooterworksUSA online ($114 + shipping and duty)

Service and install done this Fall:

  • Oil and filter
  • Installed windscreen
  • Installed heated grips (from Tuff City, a Christmas gift from the year before that never quite got installed)
  • Tire pressure adjustment

It felt awesome to have the cash to actually get some good gear.  I was previously precariously employed for 4.5 years (on-call casual hours, contracts with no benefits -don’t get me started…).  Now I can invest in my comfort and safety to have a lighter environmental footprint and save a bunch of money by not having another car in our family.

So…. I suck at blogging regularly…

I had intended this to be a chronicle and how-to guide for someone like myself who had no intention of being a regular in motorcycle stores and really didn’t know how to to a lot with a scooter. My desire to be thorough combined with a shoulder problem have thwarted my efforts. My new goal is to be brief and regular. I’ve acquired a bunch of new accessories in my attempts to make it through this winter commuting to work, so I will try to include those.

Scooter sightings: SYM Mio


Arrived way too early for the ferry on Friday morning since I got a ride with my giant suitcases and saw this little guy attached to the bike rack outside the Horseshoe Bay terminal building on my way to waste time at Starbucks. It’s a SYM Mio 50 cc scooter and I don’t think I’ve seen one in the wild before. The weather was not particularly nice on that February morn so I am guessing that this is someone’s primary mode of transport.

It’s been interesting watching a mini explosion of scooters and motorcycles in the last 2 years. Last summer was particularly notable. I know I’m more attuned now but there are definitely lots more young people on the North Shore with 2 wheelers. Makes sense given the economic slump and that the 50cc ones are so cheap (not to mention no motorcycle testing).

Wouldn’t it be cool if kids got scooters instead of marauding in oversized luxury SUVs?


Motorcycle Skills Test practice

I’m pretty awesome at written tests. You don’t get two post secondary degrees without some skills in that department. But driving tests scare the crap out of me. ICBC Driver Testing and I started off badly with me failing my knowledge test for my learner’s license to drive a car when I was a mere 16 years and 2 months old. This former honour roll student was unaccustomed to failing anything. I wouldn’t admit to anyone but my parents’ (who had to drive me) that I took that test twice until 5 years later. Like most teenagers who are developing a sense of how things work and that it takes a bit of thought to go from point A to point B under your own direction, I had to do the driving test to get my Novice (“N”) twice. Everyone did that twice, except my brother. He has to work hard at many things -it was actually kind of a relief to see him outperform me on this one. Failing and trying again is how we develop skills. Skills that we get and then don’t really think about anymore. Having to work at things develops character and fortitude.

This is the attitude I am trying to apply to cone slalom exercises. I need to have this down before I take the Vespa over to the Burnaby testing centre. (In BC you need to pass this skills test in order to ditch your supervisor and really be able to start riding by yourself. It’s like having an “N” for a bike.) Riding around is fun and pretty easy. Everything got much better once I figured out that you can just press in the signal button unit to cancel your right or left signals. Yes, I had been meticulously switching it the other way to cancel the signal. I actually was really good at it until I realized how unnecessary it was. (This is why you need a supervisor!)

Cones were all cool the first two times I set them up in the nearby cul de sac. I zipped through and didn’t touch any of them. I felt ready to tackle the stupid MST that required me to load my scoot into the truck with man muscle help, drive over, unload, test, then reload, drive, and ultimately unload at home since I’m not nearly ready to ride over a bridge with trucks on it.

The test is:
-cone slalom (weaving cones places 1.5 bike lengths apart)
-quick stop
-3 point turn
-pushing your bike/scoot
-putting your bike/scoot on the stand

I was actually more worried about putting the scoot on the stand. My scoot has a side stand (which is apparently not super legal) and I had been using it because it doesn’t involve any muscle. The spot in the garage for the Vespa is also too tight to really get it on the centre stand and I even now fear trying would unleash some sort of cartoon rake in the face situation. (Seriously, I’m lucky to get the little garage space I have.)

The garage, nestled in between two ATVs and a shelf with drywall stilts.  Hazardous floor accessories abounding.

The garage, nestled in between two ATVs and a shelf with drywall stilts. Hazardous floor accessories abounding.

YouTube helped out by showing me about a dozen videos of big dudes putting tiny scooters on centre stands. (NOT!) I have girl arms, shoulder problems, and a 200cc vehicle. Sure, it’s easy…

Well, actually it is. I made my father do it the first few times to iron out the technique. (Aren’t Dads great?) We discovered, for example, that even he cannot get it to work on a downhill facing slope. The technique we worked out goes like so:

1) Position the scoot facing up any slope you are on. Flat is great but only football fields are flat in North Vancouver.
2) Place left hand on left handle. Keep brake on for now. Place right hand on grab bar on back of scoot. Noting the position of the brake activation pedal, keep your knees bent and your legs powerful with your right hip perpendicular to the scoot.
3) Release brake and let scoot roll gently backwards to generate momentum. (I actually have to let go of the brake entirely to grip the handle effectively, which is fine because I have a firm hand on the back of the bike.) Give a decisive step on the pedal and the bike will be on the stand.

I was worried about toppling the scoot away from me but the grip on the back is a powerful one because of how low it is. I never felt like it was falling over or getting out of control. It can take a few tries to get the momentum to work for you with your pedal push. The pedal is all about using your weight to your advantage and keeping a wide balanced stance. No arm muscles were harmed in the parking of this Vespa.

To take it off the stand, put your hands back in the aforementioned positions (left on the left handle, right on the back grab bar) and face the scoot with your body. Hold the brake on with your left hand and pull forward with your right. The front wheel will drop down to the ground and not roll away cause you put the brake on. So easy!

Cue delighted FB status that people only like because they are happy that you’re happy.

I’ve been sick all week with a horrible cold. Found out I was sick partly by practicing cones and running several of them over. Found out I am still not that well today by practicing cones, running several of the over, dropping the scoot, and being told by my bro that I should call it a day.

I’ve promised myself that I won’t do them again until I feel really good. Like excited for a job interview kind of confident. Trying to remember that I actually passed the motorcycle knowledge test on the first try despite getting a question about what a red light does wrong (ICBC makes bad multiple choice tests) and trying not to be so desperate to do this thing that I get into a bad headspace.

The licensing system is set up for motorcycles. The first 6 chapters of the book they give you are all about using your clutch. (Ummm… yeah, I can drive a straight line. I twist the handle thingy and it goes!) It’s a bit annoying that a 50cc scoot doesn’t need any of this rigamarole and can still be driven on the streets. But I wouldn’t be happy with a 50cc for long (or able to leave the North Shore!) so I persist in the rainy winter weather with my cones.

Scooter sightings: Electric Blue!

Walked around downtown Nanaimo last weekend with my gf and I had to cross the street to see this adorable little scoot:

Photo 2013-01-19 08.43.59 PM

I was taking this picture just as a mom and 10 year old boy were getting onto it.  It’s a Motorino and electric.  It can go 60km/hr apparently.  (Whenever I hear that something is electric I think of that Office episode, The Duel, where Andy keeps his Prius under 10km/hr in order to silently crush Dwight against the hedge in the parking lot.)

I love that this eye catching electric is being used as a family vehicle.  Drivers are really courteous in this town so I’m not at all terrified for their lives and limbs like I would be in Metro Van.  Hopefully I’ll see them again with my scoot.