September 12, 2011

Harvest Moon

There's a full moon risin'
 Let's go dancin' in the light
 We know where's the music's playin'
Let's go out and feel the night
 (Harvest Moon - Lyrics by Neil Young)

September 11, 2011

Twist 'n Go!

Last Friday I celebrated a new milestone: 5,000 kms on my 2006 VESPA GT200 Granturismo Daring Plum a.k.a. Paolo, previously known as "Agnes' Bike".

Here's my take on this cool and stylish two wheeled vehicle. For all who expect an expert's opinion... please don't. An objective review on a piece you love is next to impossible.

As often with commuter vehicles the Vespa came with a few battle scars on the right side as a result of a reckless driver backing into the scooter and kicking it over. The cager had fled the scene, and the previous owner didn't have the budget to get the damage fixed. As a result I got a reasonably good deal on it because the bike was otherwise in good shape, and just serviced by the best scooter dealer in town.

I have owned this scooter for five months now,  and I am extremely happy with it, rain or shine.
 A 60's Advertisement in a US magazine with lots of text... 
People could actually read back in the days?

This over 40 years old ad nails it for me. Aside from trips to the airports to drop off or pick up the spousal unit I haven't used our car much. The scooter serves all my needs, handles well, is comfortable, handsome looking, reliable, and economic. My weekly commuter distance is about 200 km, which means I have to refuel for 10 bucks (approx. 7,5 liters) once a week. My fuel bill sums up to 40 bucks a month, what's not to love?
I named it Paolo (the little one), as it is the smallest bike in my two-wheeled family. Force of habit as well as blind dedication made me farkle up the scooter regardless of its scars.
I added a fly screen, put my GPS ram mount on the mirror, installed a power plug, mounted a rear rack for my luggage roll bag, and got a side stand. Occasionally the bike would feature a front rack but as it is causing unwanted wobbles, it hasn't been used very often. Maybe I am going to re-sell this farkle.

No doubt 200cc are more than enough to scoot around in town or for daily commute. I am also not shy to take major roads, as the Vespa can keep up easily with highway speed, and we even do 'International' travels.
Endurance for (wo)man and machine had been tested on our epic trip through Northern Washington, and Paolo performed extremely well. No flaws, no complains, it rolled and rolled.

Recently I had the scooter serviced again, fluids exchanged, and a new rear tire (Pirelli) installed. Otherwise it didn't need anything but a full tank of gas and continued exercise. The motto being: I ride daily, so I need no stinkin' battery tender (not that I could install one in the parkade anyway...).

Other motorcycles seem to come and go in my life, and I have yet to find the perfect keeper. I will probably continue to shop around for conventional bikes until I found my perfect idol. How different is two-wheeled life with scooters. I don't want anything else but my Paolo.

One day I will have the paint and dents fixed, or maybe have it re-painted all-together. The "Daring Plum" is a colour I had to get used to and I don't mind it, my favourite colour however would be "Giallo Arancio":
Giallo Arancio dal 1968 al 1969 

Time (and budget) will tell. Until then I hope that we will have many more miles (and smiles) together.

September 05, 2011

Jazz on the Mountain

A long weekend ahead, an excellent weather forecast, and a fistful of dollars left over in the travel budget are the best ingredients for a last minute weekend getaway.
Both being huge fans of jazz music (classic, funk, fusion, basically everything but free-style) we decided to spend the weekend in Whistler and attend the newest Jazz Festival, a three-day open air event with free (and some ticketed) concerts.

Originally we had planned to travel by Vespas but hubby's shoulder was acting up again, so he preferred the car. And knowing well that I would be grumpy all weekend if I didn't get my two-wheeled fix, the best husband of all let me lead the way by Sportster.
Traffic up to Whistler was an ordeal, cagers everywhere, going 70 km/h where signs allowed to go 90 km/h, slowing down to snail speed before every turn, and panic brake maneuvers before merging lanes. Some people simply shouldn't be on the road!

Lots of riders were on the road as well. I gave up on waving at all of them, my hand was getting tired...

We had made reservations at the Aava, a newer, reasonably priced, clean and quiet contemporary hotel, located on the edge of Whistler town site. The room was already available, and we could move in early after we parked our vehicles safely underground.
After settling in we explored the pedestrian zone in order to get a decent food fix. The ride in fresh mountain air had made me hungry, and I was in the mood for Italian, which means authentic cuisine, and not Spaghetti Factory stuff.
The husband knew where to get a fix for my craving, and guided me straight to Il Caminetto Di'Umberto, probably the best Italian restaurant in town.
We had excellent halibut and veal parmigiana, plus half a liter of white wine. After that we were not only filled up but also reasonably tipsy (not used to alcohol...), and staggered back to the hotel to sleep off our inebriation.
 Somebody's having fun!
 Pretty girl!
 Yours truly with helmet hair.
The rest of our time was spent on listening to all varieties of jazz music, but the highlight was certainly Spyro Gyra, an American Jazz fusion band, originally formed in the 70's, and today better than ever. The stage was state-of-the-art and the sound (especially given it was open air) was awesome, a real treat for the ears.

Monday morning we beat traffic by heading home early. We hit the road by 8AM, and I was thankful for my Olympia jacket with the inner liner, and my leather pants, because is was friggin' cold! Two and a half hours, 150km and a few foto ops later we arrived back home. It was a smooth ride sans traffic, with clear skies and crisp air (and did I mention cold?).
All in all a wonderful weekend getaway.
Life is good!

September 04, 2011

Who says Summer is over?

Sun and summer temperatures all week, now that's the way I like it!
See you on the road!

Yours truly.

September 02, 2011

Having a Bad Day

The day sucked already because I had a long workday ahead of me. I woke up at the break of dawn, headed to the office, worked through lunch, and left at 6:30PM. Blech!

What made today a terribly bad day was the fact that I saw a horrible motorcycle accident (at Gaglardi Way / Cariboo Road - Bob will know...) on my way home. Ambulance was already gone but the bike looked badly mangled. Then another traffic jam, and another accident close to home involving a public transit bus.

And then this: As I enter the third level of the parkade where my bikes live...
Everything looks normal, or does it?
Have a closer look:
Can you see it now?
From the other side:
A wire rope hanging down at level with my throat while I was riding down the ramp. If I hadn't seen it, it could have thrown me of the scooter, or strangled! What are people thinking? Was it somebody who hates riders? Or pure and simple stupidity? The husband immediately called the strata emergency services to report this. I am still upset about what could have happened...

This day really sucked all over! I hope that the people involved in the previously mentioned accidents are somewhat o.k. I will update if I can find out more. Having a cup of tea now and resting on my sofa cuddled in a blanket.

Hubby went down again to check. The issue has already been taken care of before somebody was seriously hurt. But I am still upset.

September 01, 2011

A Thousand Splendid Miles

The bike: 2008 Harley Davidson XL883 Sportster, a.k.a. Rover
The mods: Fork mounted front indicators
The upgrades: Sundowner seat, quick-release sissy bar with back rest, detachable windshield
What else: Engine guards added at day of purchase

The verdict:
I wanted a reasonably priced newer two+ cylinder motorcycle, with more power, easy to handle, no chain-drive for a change, and I wanted a bike with a classic look. No doubt about it, I got it all in one package with the Harley Davidson Sportster.

As the smallest member of the HD family the Sporty looks like a small bike, but isn’t. I have never owned a bike bigger than 650cc, so a two cylinder 883cc engine feels like plenty of power to me!

The Sporty falls in the category very affordable, I basically swapped the 2008 model against my 2004 F650GS. Compared to other used bikes of three years or older it seems to keep its value pretty well.

The bike has a nice clean finish, and provides the classic look I was looking for in a two-wheeler. I find it nimble, and easy to maneuver, and well balanced at low speed. The 500 lbs give it a lot of stability in cross winds, and add to the rider’s confidence. It is a good feeling that one cannot be thrown that easily into the next ditch (a fear I always had with the F650GS).

The Sportster is an ideal bike for the vertically challenged of either gender.

The clutch is light and easy for small hands to handle, the gear shifting is precise, and the brakes work like a charm although there is no ABS.

My first encounter with the dealership had been an extraordinary positive experience, and needless to say that you can get a load of farkles for said two-wheeler.

Of course there are a aspects that are a bit of an annoyance:
The peanut tank is part of the signature design, however it will only give you a 150 to 180 km (max. 115 mpg) range.

I like the single seat but the stock seat is way too thin, and not made for longer travel comfort. On rough roads the stock shocks are a bit tough, and the bike has next to zero off road capabilities (but really... I don't want to go there anyway.)

Having said that, would I buy one again? Yes, but rather the Super Low with the bigger tank and the higher bars.

Will I stick with the brand? I have to admit that I am hooked right now… Should Triumph ever improve their dealer network and provide 24/7 roadside assistance in North America ask me again, I might falter.

Do I miss my Beemer? Not really. I got a much newer bike that serves all my needs for the same price. Two cylinders are better than one. And honestly, the F650GS is a functional bike, but doesn't do elegant or classic. What I miss are the heated grips, and being able to go 300km on a tank.

Maybe these days I am becoming a cruiser at heart, and not the long-way-round adventure rider, I thought I was. For now I am truly happy with my choice, and might farkle up Rover a bit before I move on to the next level.

On my wish list: Bigger tank, comfy single seat, luggage rack and luggage, better rear shocks, and pull-back handlebars.