Sunday, 9 September 2007

Flat to School

Well, it was back to school last week.

After a summer of relaxing, some travelling, a bit of fixing up the house, extended family time and great guests, it was time to head back to the classroom.

As always, I looked forward to the first week with an odd mixture of dread, anticipation and excitement. Once I had my new students,. however, the dread subsided.

On the Vespa front, things were not as positive.

On the way to school on Thursday, it seemed to be going a bit slower. I thought about checking the tires but I didn’t have time.

When I left school that day, I went to an after school presentation on wellness put on by the district presented by Dr. Martin Collis. I hadn’t doubled anyone on the scooter for a while so when I doubled a teaching buddy, I was surprised that the scooter seemed a bit wild. On the way back from the presentation, I finally noticed that my rear tire was almost flat. I was luckily near a gas station so I filled the tire up with air and arrived home without incident.

Fast forward to Saturday. I downloaded a video on how to change the tire on a Vespa, gathered all the tools and studied the video. I then went out to my garage, thinking, I can do this! I arranged my tools and set my laptop on a shelf, set to the video.

Close to an hour later, I still hadn’t been able to get past the first step - removing the two screws that hold the exhaust system to the engine. My fingers are good for hanging on to things, squeezing things, and shaking hands, but they are not mechanic’s hands.

Disheartened, I slowly put back my tools, closed up my laptop, and shuffled back to the house.

I thought, instead of going into Vancouver to get it fixed, I’ll try someone local. I phoned up CR Cycle, the place where I’d first test driven a scooter. After salutations, the conversation went something like this.

“I have a Vespa scooter and I was wondering if you could fix a flat on the rear tire.”

“Well, a tire’s a tire, so we can fix it.”

“Great! Can you take it today?”

”No, we’re really busy so we wouldn’t get to it for two or three days.”

“OK. Can I drop it off today?”

“No, we don’t have room so you’ll have to make an appointment for when we have room.”

“OK. Look, if there’s a problem with the tire, can you replace it?”

“It depends if we have a suitable tire.”

“Well, do you?”

“I dunno.”

“OK. I’ll get back to you.”

Needless to say, I pumped up the tire, lashed my floor bike pump to the back bar of the scooter, and headed into Vancouver, stopping every fifteen minutes to refill the back tire. Of course, I was headed for the people at Vespa Vancouver. Although they weren’t able to work on it right away, they were happy to hold it there until they were able to fix it.

And now, I have to wait, Vespa-less for the first time in a year, until it is ready.



DaveM said...

What a story, Dave. It's so hard to find good customer service these days. I guess this shows that there can even be a downside to having scooting become so popular. It reminds me of the Seinfeld's Soup Nazi and his famous take on customer service..."NO SOUP FOR YOU!"

Orin said...

Dave, you have experienced the main reason I decided to trade in my ET4... both the PX's wheels and tires are the same size! And there's a spare!!

The post where I describe changing a flat tire has had well over 700 views.

Scootin' Old Skool

Dave Dixon said...

Thanks for that humourous take on things - I loved the Soup Nazi- and would probably have been less ticked off if the guy at CR Cycle was just blatantly rude!

Hmm - now you're tempting me - if only I didn't have to get a motorcycle license.....
I read your post on changing a flat - I am definitely envious!

CodyandMichelle said...

What a PITA it is for changing tires on these Vespas. I have to go to a place 45 minutes south of here, it's a scooter shop(not Vespa) but I need a qualified guy to change the tires because I have Chrome rims and you can't just let anyone do it. No one said owning a Wasp would be easy :(

Dave Dixon said...


I think Vespa Vancouver might be the only scooter shop near here! I don't think I'd try to change it myself again, though.

Conchscooter said...

You should carry tire plugs and CO2 cannister in whatever name brand you like. P-series Vespas also had split rims so the inner tube could be replaced with just a couple of wrenches. However modern tubeless tires don't go flat suddenly (as you experienced)or dump you (as i have experienced!)when the air whooses out. The speed advantages of tubeless aren't visible on a 50cc scooter.

Steve Williams said...

This is why you need to own two scooters. Or a motorcycle as backup.

Seriously though, nothing is worse that mechanical problems. I don't care if it is a scooter, a toilet, or a lawn mower, I just want it to work when I want to use it. When they don't we all are thrown into the Byzantine system of technical service that varies so widely in expertise and service that one feels like a victim.

When you find a good professional who cares about what they are doing money is no longer an issue. When you feel like you are getting screwed money is always an issue....

Conchscooter knows this all too well.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Dave Dixon said...


Speed advantage? LX50? You've got that right!

I am going to start carrying that flat repair in a can stuff. Don't want to be stranded far from home and have to walk...

I seem to remember the end of your LX150 because of your attempts to do some maintenance!

Seriously, I thought changing a tire wouldn't require an engineering degree and surgeon's fingers....

Vespa Vancouver is a good place - I'm happy with the service - and I can live with the prices!

Steve Williams said...

When I attempted to change the drivebelt on the LX150 I reassembled the driven pulley incorrectly and that allowed the pulley to begin to wobble and it chewed the splines up on the crankshaft. Now it needed an engine rebuild. On the positive side it did lead me to a new GTS....

Seriously though I am torn about what to do in terms of maintenance. As long as I am riding where I am I can always have the scooter towed home if it dies. But someday I would like to ride much farther and it seems to make sense that I know how to do a few things. Like changing oil, filter, plug, drivebelt, rollers, tires, exhaust.

But as you found out it does take more than a casual affair with a wrench.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Dave Dixon said...

I found out when I was 17 and had a beater I bought for $150 how much I hated being a mechanic. I don't mind tackling a small job but, as I found out, the tire wasn't small.

I guess my strategy is to get a servicing fairly frequently (about every 2000 - 3000 km) and hopefully catch problems before they happen.

Maybe a bit naïve?