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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

That fine line...defining what you are.

As I was writing this it occurred to me this may be the only time in the world when Audrey Hepburn and Hell's Angels are mentioned in the same article.  Admit it, your curious now.

The other day I was asked to move my scooter.  I almost said something about it's how it's not a's a bike.  Well technically it is a scooter but it feels more like a bike to me.  When you start getting into the upper engine displacement ranges the line between "bike" and "scooter" start to fade in my mind.  I can easily do 70 - 80 mph all day (the bike is capable of more but I'm not sure I am).  I can easily pass cars and other motorcycles.  So it's more than a "scooter" but in most people's minds, less than a motorcycle.

Does it really matter what it's called?  Piaggio, I understand, is either currently producing a 850cc scooter in Europe or has been working on the plans for one for some time.

It appears to be pretty slick and blurs the line between "Scooter" and "Bike" even more.  Some motorcycles now are automatic transmission as well, which used to be part of what defined a scooter.

I consider myself to be a "rider" not a "scooterist."  The term "Scooter" to me at least has connotations of the classic "Roman Holiday."  That is probably what most people think of when they hear the word "Scooter" - a small little two stroke Vespa which was probably capable of maybe 40 mph.

And two stars are born
When I decided to upgrade to a maxi scooter I was surprised how many of the little 50cc models from various manufacturer's were being made and sold.  I'm still in shock when I see people going 2 up on them.  Thank you Audrey Hepburn!

Mention the word "Biker" to people and they probably picture something straight out of the Hell's Angels catalog.  Which I am most definitively not, I do however have the scraggly beard.

So what the hell am I?  Does it really matter?  Why am I so obsessed with trying to define it?  What I do know is that I enjoy getting out on my Burgie and just riding, even if it's just going to work or up to the mall.  It's fun for me.

If I manage to save some gas, some money, help the Earth by lowering my Carbon Footprint all while smiling like some idiot well doing it, then more power to me.  I just wish more people would forget about what something is and just get out and ride, be it on a scooter, maxi scooter, or motorcycle.

Speaking of which...I think I'm going for a ride.  Till next time!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh the Rowdies are....a kick in the Grass!

I'm a big fan of soccer, so when I realized that I would be able to attend the next FC Tampa Bay (better known as the Rowdies) football game I knew I was going.
(WARNING - the theme song from the late 70's is very catchy)
The problem is, of course, how to get there.   I want to take the Burgie down for several reasons.  It's a hell of a lot easier to park, better on gas, and be the longest ride (120 miles roughly round trip) I've taken yet on my new machine and that thrill of adventure is tempting.

It would involve me riding on busy freeways, at night, and I knew there would be beer involved.   Not that I would ever drink and ride, but I know damn well I would have a few at the game (soccer fans by definition enjoy beer).  Plus, it's still freaking hot in Tampa.  I know it's late September but the temperature still hovers in the mid 90's.  All these things would have to be addressed in one way or another.  Plus there is a solid chance of rain, which, logic would dictate I should take my car.

But to hell with logic!  I want to ride my scooter to the game!

The ride itself would only take a little over an hour as it's about 55 to 60 miles from here to there which truthfully is not that bad even through I suffer from Numb Butt on my 35 mile commute every day.  My girlfriend has some sort of frozen ice pack thing that fits around her neck and shoulders that keeps the wearer very cool and would fit perfectly under my riding jacket.  So I got a route and a way to stay cool.  At night on the ride back I would not need the pack.

Beer...easily to take care of.  One or two or three at the tailgate before the game then hydrate with lots of water.  No drinking in the 2nd half at all.  There is a old saying.  "There are drunk riders. There are old riders. There are NO old, drunk riders."  I plan on being an old rider.

Sadly I can't do anything about the weather, other than hope it really doesn't rain but it it must that the storm abates quickly and I can put the rain in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible.  I really do need to invest in good rain gear.  I am however in no hurry to get home either.  I would rather be safe than sorry.

Some retro reflective tape added to the bike and helmet recently will help with the visibility at night. Safety most of the time is just good planning.  

A little bit of planning and I'm all set to take the Burgie down to the game. I can just see my Ralph's Mob scarf blowing in the wind behind me as I eat up the miles to the game.

Sing it with me now, you know the words! OH THE ROWDIES RUN HERE, THE ROWDIES RUN THERE.....

Monday, September 19, 2011

Style or Substance?

"(T)the bike I eventually purchase will not be chosen for its storage capacity. For me, it's not about how much I can take with me, but how much I can leave behind."

An old friend of mine has recently passed his motorcycle endorsement tests and is now legal to ride. I thought the above quote from him is telling. It tells me we have two different ideas of what riding is and should be.

Where I am interested in using my bike to eventually replace my car, riding it every day and more interested in touring; he is planning on "escaping" with it. Day trips and riding just to ride. If you it the "Easy Rider" syndrome.

Neither one of us is wrong on what we hope to accomplish. Hell, I've been complaining that I'm not "riding just to ride!"as much as I would like. Where as I am more concerned with storage capacity, fuel efficiency and comfort, he is more interested in the look and speed of a bike. If fact, he is very interested in purchasing a BMW R1200C mostly because it was in a James Bond film and displayed at the Guggenheim Museum as part of their "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibit.

In other words, style over substance. There are worse things to buy than a BMW however, in fact many of my friends were pushing me into buying a Triumph Bonneville when I wanted to upgrade, hell my girlfriend figures in about a year from now I'll be itching to buy a "real bike.

Is this the typical biker?
Truthfully though...what is a "real bike?" What defines a "biker?"

If I ride my Suzuki Burgman to work every day as well as short jaunts to the market and such does that make me a "1 %er?" Not someone who has killed for his motorcycle club (which is pure fiction by the way) but someone who rides all the time in all types of weather. A serious dedicated rider. I ride a freaking scooter by the way and don't belong to any clubs...nor do I consider myself part of that elite group. I just am using the term to make a point.

I chose to embrace a different lifestyle.

The image has always been the outlaw. The rebel, the leather jacketed hood who uses women and then beats, sells drugs and drinks heavily.

Funny, I don't know that guy. He doesn't sound like any of my friends that ride and frankly; I really don't want to meet that guy either.

We all choose different reasons to ride, different bikes and different paths. I choose to be a "Scooter commuter" and a serious one at that. I'm glad others are going down the two-wheeled path as well...I just hope they choose what is best for them and not choose to fit into a certain image.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Gloves....Part 1 of the "Gearing up" Saga

Anyone that is a writer, or claims to be a writer, or for that matter wants to be a writer knows they have to make the subject interesting.

Sure I could tell you about my new gloves, how they fit...look...about Kevlar knuckles and two way stretch knit.  Are you sleeping yet?


Alright about the term "pre-curved fingers."  If that doesn't turn you off then frankly I don't know what will.

What I do know is that I needed a pair of gloves and up until this time I've not been riding with any on.   Truthfully I never really thought about it.  Helmets, jackets, and long pants are a given and part of safe and sane riding to me.  Frankly though I never really gave a thought to gloves.

I don't like wearing gloves.  Sure in the winters of my home state of Pennslyvania they were a given.  Thick things designed more to keep my hands warm.  You weren't expected to do anything in them except hold the hand of your love, hot cocoa and/or coffee and make the occasional snow ball.

I worked for several years as an engineering technician where sometimes I had to have work gloves on.  The second I was done with my task, I had to strip the damn things off.  So I was a little weary of getting riding gloves despite the fact that they protect my hands in case of an accident or even the rare stone or insect that decided life was worth living anymore.  Honestly if they were not required for the safety class that I am taking soon then I don't think I would have ever got them at all.

But need them I do and being the uber-geek I am I started to do research.  What I wanted to know was why one pair was under 10 bucks and another pair $199.95.  I figured that I could find a good pair that I liked for under $30.  What I learned was simple, it really did depend on what I wanted and what I was doing.   I figured I was doing mostly highway commuting, and therefore needed something that would keep my hands cool, be comfortable for extended periods and generally safe.  While the Kevlar might be great for somethings, I had no plans on catching bullets while riding.  So we can knock those out.

Bell BMX style glove
Leather gloves have been serving bikers well for years, but can be hot and pricey.  In fact, someone suggested getting a pair of Bell BMX gloves.  They are padded and designed for BMX riding, so they are tough and made to protect the hand if the rider goes down.  Even vibrations would be canceled out.  Cost is about $15.

Everything I was looking for.  Problem was, they didn't fit right.  They were tight and just didn't seem like they would let my hands sweat very well.  So again, where does that leave me.   I was shocked when I would come across the gloves I liked.  If fracking Wally World of all God Forsaken places.

They were Motocross style gloves.  Gel padding in the palm, reinforced stitching and Kevlar knuckles - always good to have in a bar fight.  So I've been riding a bit with them, my hand feels comfortable in them with a better grip than the bare skin of my hands. If I drop my hand the air flows through them pretty well and wipes the sweat away.

The fingers are pre-curved and have pads to clean the visor off quickly.  So far I'm happy with them.  In fact the biggest issue I have is that they are black.  I would have like to have a little more color in them since I am a fan of being visible.   At $20 they didn't break the bank account either, part of Gearing up is paying out of pocket for the helmet, the gloves, the jacket...but over months and several hundred if not thousands of miles they will pay for themselves.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Random thoughts at 1000+ miles

Somewhere yesterday or the day before I tripped the 1000 mile marker on the Burgie.  It happened without fanfare, no angels descended from Heaven to mark the occasion although there were donuts at work and cupcakes there the next day.

I suppose 1000 miles is not really that big of a deal, I commute 70 miles roundtrip each day and that number adds up pretty quickly.  I'm averaging over 64 miles per gallon and have spent under $100 in gas (I think as I've not done an official count).

Ye Olde Bugs in the teeth!
For me however it is a big deal.  When I rode my little Yamaha Zuma 125 back and forth and here and there they were short trips, under 35 miles total usually.  I got experience and learned to ride...but it's a different type of ride.

Maybe it was just me but coming home tonight I felt "locked in" to the bike, the steering column barely seemed to move as I took the corners at 65 miles per hour on my commute.  I really enjoy riding at night.  It's another world, less traffic to worry about it's true...but I am even less visible on the road.  My commute involves long lonely stretches as road as well,and Lord forbid if something should happen, it would be a long night till someone came along.

I put these thoughts out of my mind though.  Enjoying the night air and the croaking of frogs off in the distance.  There is something ethereal about being the only one on the road, the whine of the engine and the light of Venus above.

There is one major issue I have however.

Numb butt.

That strange condition that affects some riders...where your ass just is not comfortable on that seat no matter how you move or what you do.  Everything from adding and subtracting foam to the seat to get a hard wooden beads to sit on has been suggested to me.

I've seem something similar to the hard beads in cars but have not really tried it, but people swear by it.  It's also been suggested that since I'm in Florida something like a sheepskin cover for the seat might help as well.  I hope to get it covered later this week or next.  No matter where I move my skinny bony ass I just can't seem to get to comfortable.

I also realized that I am doing what I sent out to do.  With the exception of one day, where it looked like rain, I've driven the bike in every day.  I'm a 2 wheeled commuter.

Problem is, I'm not having any fun.

Sure I could blame the seat, the fact that I own my own small business which eats up time and work a goofy ass shift at my regular job.  I could do all that.  The problem is that I'm just riding back and forth to work.  I want to break out of the rut and do something different, ride somewhere different.

I break up the route I ride a little bit, twisty roads one day...the highway the next.  I want to simply ride and do something different.   I think that's part of the motorcycle mystique...that sense of freedom.

I am feeling the need to just ride.   Somewhere.   Anywhere.

The weird thing is that before I started riding I could not have explained this feeling.  I would simply say "I need a vacation" and go hiking in the woods or take a couple of day and do nothing.  Now I just want to ride.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lets take a moment.

I was going to write a big remembrance piece today, about where I was and what I was doing.  Some moments stay with you.

I was lucky, I didn't know anyone that was directly affected when the towers fell...indirectly and profoundly changed yes, but no one who lost their lives or the lives of a love one.  No one that I know suffered the loss of a loved one indirectly either.

Illustrations By Richard Dorgan (Dick Dorgan) U.S.N.R.F. Published in 1918, by Frederick A. Stokes 
Since then, yes.  To war, to disease.

On such a day as this I will remember the little things.  Remember how quiet it was, how strangers hugged.  How blue the sky is, and how the song of a bird seemed so sweet at that moment.

I will kiss the girlfriend and hold her tight.  I will call my brother, a volunteer firefighter, and thank him.   I will tell my friends and family I love them.

These are the moments we need never to forget.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

...with no particular place to go...

Some classic Chuck Berry to play while your reading.

Now it's a lovely day, the sun is shining but the heat not struck us yet.  The humidity is low.  What a great day to simply go...somewhere.   Anywhere.
I got some 20 to 25 years left in my working life, but I've always said that when that time came I was going to climb aboard a RV and avoid the highways.  See what's down that dirt lane to the left and find out if their really is a waterfall down "Waterfall lane."  Perhaps part of the reason I wanted a bike like was Burgie was to get a look at that life.

To "retire" a bit early.  Touring was always in the back of my mind.

I did have a bit of a agenda on my ride though.   I wanted some pictures of some of the places I found while on my Zuma.  For some reason the camera phone would not download the photos.  This time, I brought the camera.

I was curious to know if the larger Burgie would lose speed up one the steepest, toughest hills in all of Pasco county, Florida.  So I gunned it up to the legal speed limit and.......
the ride up was really disappointing.  My Burgie did the climb like it was nothing.  Let me tell you, nothing prepares you for how cold and windy being a total of TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL truly is.

I swear I saw a hungry penguin checking me out for dinner.

All joking aside though, I can see why people tour on a motorcycle.  It's a slower pace of sorts, your more connected to the road and without the distractions of music, cell phones and air are left to your thoughts.  The bike becomes a part of your body, leaning into a curve just so...the smell of flowers and oranges on the side of the road.   The simple joy of driving through a old canopy of trees with the Spanish moss hanging ghost like.

Stopping to take in a view because you can.  Not because someone built a concrete slab into the side of a hill.   Finding that out of the way cafe or winery.   They say the cyclists "SEE" all the time.  I know that's not just not for safety but for the soul.  Where as cars are built for the highways and to get us from point A to B.   Life on two wheels feeds the soul.

A historical marker on the side of the road can not be read at 55 mph very well.  It needs you to pull over and take a moment to actually read.   The idea of a town full of freed slaves making their way in the Deep South is an interesting that this rider would have never have known about unless he stopped.

So yea, stopping for a moment in this fast paced Internet driven world where time is not measured so much in minutes anymore but Megabits per second...seems like a radical idea.  It's worth it though.

I'm starting to understand why people ride, and it's not always for gas savings.   I'm wanting to get out again, to just ride in a chase the sunset or just go to the left.  All roads lead somewhere.

I did pass one lawn sign in someones yard, I wanted to get the bike next to it for a good photo...but I did not wish to ruin their yard by parking my bike in it even for a moment.   I read the sign and smiled..."Not right now there isn't.  This is a perfect moment."

Not when your riding there's not.   

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Random thoughts on rainy days.

The girlfriend woke softly to the same sounds of rain drumming on the roof that I awoke to moments before.  She placed a warm soft hand on my chest and snuggled her naked body even closer to mine.

"I guess you're not riding today."

I grunted, enjoying her closeness.  Closing my eye and drifting off to the sound of her breathing mixed with the soft random thuds of rain on my roof.

Over the last two days here in West Central Florida we have been battered by the remnants of tropical storm Lee which has made the humidity, which is always high, even higher and the temperatures climb.  Rain continues to threaten to was over us.  The day before yesterday I did not ride into work due to the threat of rain, only to have the afternoon be bone dry.  Yesterday the skies opened and it rained; hard and fast and constant, the wind blowing wild.

It was not a fit night for man or beast to ride in.

Nelson-Rig SR-6000 Rainsuit
I don't have proper rain gear yet.  All I have is a plastic poncho which I think would be more of a hindrance than a help.  I've been lucky in that I've only been caught out in the rain once; I was riding my original Zuma 125 on the back roads of Pasco county when the storm caught up to me.  The rain felt like a pellet gun hitting me at a 40 mile an hour pace, I suppose the rain would feel like a shotgun blast at closer to highway speeds.

Being exposed to the weather is one of the drawbacks of riding.  The sun beats down on you, your going to get wet.  These are givens.   As a new rider I have to balance my comfort with safety.   My full face helmet is great to protect me in case of accident and from wind buffering, but is also heavy and a bit hot.

I wear a "highlighter" yellow jacket (not pictured) which makes me a bit more visible I hope, but also a bit warmer as well.  I admit to wearing short sleeve shirts and even shorts at times for the shorter jaunts I've taken.

The first weekend of October I'll be taking my endorsement class for my motorcycle license.  I'll be required to have the following:

  • Long sleeve shirt or jacket
  • Denim jeans or heavy pants (not excessively baggy, long or with holes or frayed edges)
  • Over the ankle boots covering the ankle bone (not tennis shoes or fashion boots with heels)
  • Full-fingered leather gloves
  • Shatter resistant sunglasses or safety glasses
  • Sunscreen and lip protection

I'll need the boots and gloves.  I was also told a rain suit was in order as well.  Now it comes down to simple research.   The boots are not an issue, I just need to find something comfortable with non slip oil resistant soles that are water resistant.  The gloves are easy as well although I wonder why one pair is $9.99 and another is $199.99.  Is there that big of a difference?

I want a rain suit as well, but again...what is best and affordable?  I would rather pay for quality and have it last than buy cheap.   But I can not justify spending a few hundred dollars on it either.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So why a name change?

First of all there is the much better written Life on two wheels, the scooter commute.  This blog has been around for some time as well and I felt like I was stealing the name.

I am smart enough to know that my reasons for getting a bike; part greed, saving money is always good.  Partly environmental, using less gas and putting out less greenhouse gasses are good.   Partly because I've been to the islands where all you see is scooters.   I've been to parts of Asia and you see more scooters than cars.   I've been to parts of Europe and you see scooters everywhere.  It's a cheap easy way to get about and these trips put the idea into my mind that "Yea, maybe owning a Scooter ain't so bad."

It's also fun.

In a way I believe that America's future lies in 2 wheels.  Not that I expect to see a street scene out of China anytime soon.

But we have to be honest with ourselves.  America is going to become more urbanized in the future, partly because of the budgets local communities face, and ever growing gas prices.  Partly because people realize that living closer to where they actually work makes sense.  Scooters, bikes and motorcycles are smaller, cheaper and "fit" better in a more urbanized society.

I don't want this to turn into a political blog, although I am a dyed in the wool Democrat, I consider myself a realist as well.  We need to change our way of thinking and doing things in order to thrive in the future.   My little contribution towards that effort is this blog.

I'm still planning on writing about what I'm going through as a new rider but I think it's a bit foolish not to be just a little bit political.  Their are going to be things that affect me, as a rider and a person, that I feel need discussed.   So yea, I'm putting on the advocacy hat and painting my sign.   I'm a "biker" now (what ever the hell that means), a concerned citizen and I truly do believe that getting people - even one person - to look at something differently is a good thing.

So "Scooter Revolution!"   Why the hell not?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Speedy Delivery

I consider myself a road warrior of sorts.

With the exception of the big rigs I've logged a lot of miles in my day.  Partly because I've had jobs where I been required to drive from site to site, or to make customer service calls in person or just to get from point A to point B.  I enjoy driving, although frankly I don't think I could do it for a living.

So I find it a bit funny that I'm a subcontractor for a publications company.  I work for them two days out of the week and two additional days out of the month on top of that.   In doing so I earn an additional $225 - $320 a week.  I also get to deduct mileage, tires, oil changes and what not on my car.

I invest this money into my house and into my stock portfolio.  

Why am I telling you this?  Because yesterday I was running late for work and the wonderful woman I call the Girlfriend had to finish the route for me.

I knew that I would be running past a few of the more remote stores on my commute into work, so we filled up the unseat storage space on my Burgie with the books and off I went!

Its not the first time a scooter, maxi or other wise, has been used to deliver things.  Down the street from where I used to work there is a restaurant famed for it's corned beef but also for making deliveries on little 49cc scooters.  When I asked the driver about it one day he laughed and said it was the owners way of avoiding insurance and gas costs.

Food in the back, drinks up front.  :)
"They are also a lot of fun to drive."

While I don't see the streets of (insert a major city here) filled with scooters anytime soon, I just can't help but wonder how long it will be before other companies copy this idea?  Or before delivery boys and girls do something to save a dime or two and invest in a scoot?

I have to admit that if it wasn't for the getting off the bike, opening the storage compartment and then restarting the bike only to do it all over again, I've considered using my maxi-scoot for deliveries.   Sadly a little 49cc won't do it.  Right now I don't have the money to consider something like this.

We will just wait and see if it's going to be something I might expand upon in the future (I don't do pizza's but magazines) and would it be worth it to me?  Or perhaps there is a business opportunity here?

Right now I'm more interested in just riding and enjoying myself than I am anything else, but in the back of my mind there is that idea that eventually I'm going to replace my car full time with my Burgman.  So this is an idea that will always be filed in the back of my mind.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A little bit of fun with a Harley rider.

The other night I am sitting at a light and in the other lane a Harley rider pulls up.  He looks over at me and just shakes his head "No."

The light goes green and it's a straight shot up the road to the next light, about 1/4 to a half mile up the road.   I should have resisted...but I opened her up.

As he pulls up to the next light I just look over at him and shake my head..."Yes."

Friday, September 2, 2011

You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.

I feel stupid.

I feel worse than stupid.

I am downright mad at myself.

I went down yesterday.  Not hard, not in traffic and in fact if your going to go down it was in the best place possible.   I went down outside my driveway.

Somehow, I'm not sure how, as I was pulling out of the driveway on the way to work I lost control.   I think the throttle stuck some or I hit a lip, but I could not regain control, hit my neighbor's stone border on their flower garden and down I went.

I'm more angry over the fact that my pure and beautiful bike is now scratched up.  The chrome on the the muffler is scuffed, a bit of cracked plastic in the front.  I know damn well it could have been worse, all I have is a minor scrape on my arm and a scraped knee...I've had worse chasing the girlfriend naked around the house.

No, what bothers me is that I didn't check things first.  Did I have enough clearance?  Was their something n the way?   What did I do that caused me to go down in a heap?

I know that every biker goes down at least once.   It's what you learn from it that counts.  I would rather go down from being stupid in my driveway than being stupid at 70 mph in the middle of a highway.

The question in my mind is now, what can I do to repair the damage and make the bike look newer?  What did I learn from this?

Oh yea, I rode in.  Nervous as hell, but I rode into work.  I'm not going to let a little bump scare me off of riding.   But I will let myself learn from this.  I will be just a tad more careful.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rain, Rain Go Away...

If the television was to be believed then their was a 50% chance of rain yesterday.   It is going to happen eventually I know, where I have no choice but to drive through a thunderstorm or get caught out in a torrential rainstorm.

Growing up I was told that it rained every day in Florida, and although I now know that was an old wives tale, a storm can come up out of no where.  It can last 5 minutes or all day.  So before taking off for work today I checked and saw showers at 3 PM and at 9 PM.  Unlike the TV, allows for a much more localized forecast.

It take me just under an hour to get to work, I start at 4 PM, and would be driving directly into the belly of the beast.

Normally I would not ride in the rain, I'm still a "newbi" and know enough to avoid putting myself into a potential dangerous situation.  For what ever reason though I decided to go.   I don't have a rain suit, although I do have a poncho.

I kept riding, riding, riding into the darkness ahead.   My Burgman has a ambient air  temperature gauge, which I kept an eye on as well.  I figured that if the temperature started to fall drastically that I would be heading into the rain.

It never did rain, the ride was uneventful.  At 9 PM the rain started to come down and I moved the bike from the parking lot to a covered area to keep it dry.

Today I have to ride into work again.  I have a 50% chance of getting rained on when I leave for work.   A 30% chance on the way home.  So do I roll the dice again?  Or play it safe?