Tuesday 19 June 2007

Reaction Time

Time to start blogging again.

Report cards are done, school’s almost over, and summer holidays are just around the corner.

When I first bought my Vespa, there was a big range of reactions.

One was along the lines of “You look like more of a Harley rider,” which may allude to my size. My response is that I have always loved the look of the Vespa - and it takes me back to those backpacking days in Europe over 25 years ago. Harleys, I am sure, are well built machines but, having a retired cop for a father, I always associated Harleys with Hells Angels and organized crime. Mind you, there’s a link between Vespas and Mods and rioting on beach towns in Britain but that all seems rather cool in a way and very distant.

Another reaction is, “Why would you bother? You’ve got a car where you don’t have to worry about weather.” I guess I’m turning greener as I get older. Cars are great, don’t get me wrong, and I do drive my Mazda a few times a week, but the Vespa is great on gas - much better than a car - and because it has a four stroke engine, I feel pretty good about the amount of pollution it creates. Also, with my eldest daughter driving now, I find myself without an option for a car most days as she drives her sister and a friend to high school every day.

Friends that know me say, “But what about riding your bike?” They have a point. I love riding my bike but I have to get up about 20 minutes earlier to do so. Those 20 minutes are nearly impossible to manage lately. I only ride my bike about once a week where last year it was closer to three times a week. The other factor is the Vespa is just so much fun to ride! I hope to work on this area next year.

Then there was the, “What are you doing on a scooter with such a small motor?” reaction. As I’ve previously mentioned, I don’t need a motorcycle license with this scooter. The hassle of getting a learner’s license, taking a couple of tests, etc., etc. are just too much of a bother right now. Also, I like the challenges that go along with riding a small motored scooter in an urban and suburban area.

Finally, there’s the, “Those things aren’t safe,” reaction. My father-in-law, another retired cop, is quite vocal about all the horrible things that happen to motorcyclists when they crash. I know that falling off my scoot at 50 km/h is very scary and could seriously injure me but I still feel that I’m a lot safer than being on a 650 motorcycle and not a lot worse off than being on my bicycle.

So, what are the pictures of the two scooters for? Well, one colleagues reaction was to buy her own scooter! The two are parked just outside the staffroom of my school. It’s an electric scooter and she just loves it.

Now, that’s the kind of reaction I like!

Sunday 3 June 2007

Safety on 50ccs

What with planning year-end field trips. marking final projects, avoiding writing report cards, and attending to my parental duties (year end shows/concerts and water polo/lacrosse games of my daughters), I haven’t had a lot of time to blog - nor do I see that I’ll have a much time for the next three or so weeks - but I’ll do my best to write something.

I thought I’d tackle something that is probably a bit contentious - safety.

First of all, understand that I come from a bicycling background. I’m a pretty safe cyclist - I wear bright colours, I always wear a helmet and gloves, I have lights and reflectors on my bike which I use, and I obey the rules of the road.

I have taken a lot of what I have learned as a cyclist and transferred that to my scooter riding. I think riding a 50cc scooter is not a huge jump from riding a bike and the skills I have developed as a cyclist over many years work really well on a scooter.

What skills? Looking everywhere to make sure nobody is going to kill you is a good one to start with. Anticipating that cars at intersections might not see me. Making sure I have lots of room in front of me so I can stop safely. Not doing stupid things because two wheels aren’t as stable as four.

The reader might think, where is this going? Well, we have had a spot of hot weather - 25 to 30 degrees C. ( I think that’s somewhere in the 80s F. - it’s been a long time since I’ve used that scale) - and I’ve been scooting around in (gulp) shorts and a t-shirt!

So, what do I usually wear when out on my scooter? A helmet - a half shell model that was the only one I could find to fit my head in the Vespa store. It has ear flaps to protect my ears and a visor. I bought a clear shield from Helmets R Us that snaps onto the front and is great in rainy and cold weather. I actually have it down most of the time unless it’s really hot. Full face helmets scare me - the only time I put one on I had a heckuva time getting it off my head without removing my nose. I do plan on getting a 3/4 helmet - I think that would be a good compromise.

For a jacket, I usually wear my red, reflective gortex cycling jacket from Mountain Equipment Coop. I realize that it’s not that much protection if I fall down but my rationalization is that I’m not going a whole lot faster than on my bike. It’s most important, in my opinion, for people to see me. If it’s really hot, and I’m going on a local trip, I do sometimes just wear a t-shirt. My bad.

I always wear gloves - sometimes two pairs together if it’s cold and wet. I have some leather gloves but prefer full fingered cycling gloves in warm weather and lobster mitts or kayaking gloves in cold or rainy weather.

As for pants, I try to wear jeans but I do sometimes wear slacks (on the way to work) or even shorts (which I feel a little guilty about). Mind you, riding with my shades on, in shorts, and wearing a t-shirt on a sunny day is a wonderful feeling. Guilty pleasure, perhaps?

Footwear? Running shoes. Sometimes I wear suede shoes that fit higher up the foot than running shoes.

I am always open to change so I may wear ‘safer’ clothes in the future but I’m OK with what I’m wearing now. I do go faster than my bicycle and if I did fall off my scoot at a fast speed, I have no illusions about the potential for serious injury. However, I try to ride as safely as possible, without taking stupid risks, so I hope to avoid serious injury. After all, the only time I’ve crashed on my bicycle was when I couldn’t get out of my clipped pedals and fell down - at a stop sign!

Ok, so that's what I currently think on safety on a 50cc scooter. Go ahead, let me have it....