Search This Blog

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Two wheels (motorized division)

For those of you who have read and still read my homages to randomness, you know that occasionally I lapse into discussion of bicycles.  I am aware that no one but me wants to read these lapses.  Yet I persist.  It's a little like my current occasional behavior of defying the Garmin NĂ¼vi.  I just can't help myself.


See?  My Gunnar Rockhound. Don't tell me to turn on Roscoe.  I just won't do it.

Today, though, I am coming clean about a new two wheeled addition to my life.

Here it is surrounded by its non-motorized friends...


Introductions all around, shall we?  In the back top, we have my newest bicycle, the Kona Dew Deluxe. It's not REALLY a hybrid if it has disc wheels, right?  Underneath it (and mostly obscured) is Honey's Gary Fisher Tassajara.  To the right on top it my (now sold) Surly Cross Check.  We never quite got along.  Below the Surly is my Gunnar.  And in the center is my Kymco People 250. (Honey's Orbea Onix was inside at the time the picture was taken and her Honda Magna was in the shop--see explanation below).


There it is...

Let's go back a few years shall we?

When I was in graduate school, I decided to get a motorcycle.  Why did I decide to do this?  Well there were a few reasons.  UCLA let you park one for free.  UCLA didn't let you breathe for free.  They also didn't let you park a car at all unless you lived in Amarillo and could prove your commute was too long by bus.  So, parking a motorcycle in any number of highly convenient motorcycle lots (including one right behind the building my program was in) seemed fab.

Also Honey had one.  I like doing what Honey does.  She's my honey, after all.

Honey, being the independent sort that she is, had learned to ride her bike on her own, taken the DMV test on her own, and was all set.  I'm not that adventurous.  Instead, I decided to take the Motorcycle Foundation Safety course.  It consisted of two in-class session that were a little like High School driving class.  Taught by an older guy who said he never drove a car, they were a little boring, but ok otherwise.

The class also had two riding days.  We rode little motorcycles in the parking lot of Pasadena Community College.  I was the only woman and the instructor thought me pretty much incapable.  Those two days were among the most stressful in my life.  I can, right now, conjure my late 20s self standing at the trunk of my car, on a break, my legs trembling, eating some string cheese and a nutri-grain bar.

Somehow, despite his dislike of me, I passed.  He wasn't done, though.  His parting shot was, "do some of what you're doing out on the road and you'll get yourself killed."

Pedagogically, a very weak approach, I must say.  I don't know WHAT I did wrong that was going to put me in danger, but I do remember the fear and humiliation.

Anyway, I got myself one of these:


It's an 84 Honda Nighthawk. I bought it in 95 or so.  I rode it to UCLA for several years.  Didn't get myself killed, obviously.

I sold it in 99 or so.  I needed the money.  I had stopped riding it once I finished my degree.  I must say that I never quite got over the MSF guy's warning.  I was relieved when a nice Air Force officer bought it from me.

I always regretted that Honey and I didn't ride more together.  We did a long ride once and I was barely able to get through Malibu Canyon because of fear.  She was fine.  I'm scarred.

Honey kept her motorcycle and it sat in our garage for a long time, inoperable.  Last summer, with gas at almost $5 a gallon in California, she decided to get it fixed.  That's her story.  My story, typically, is to follow along with Honey's enthusiasms.  No motorcycle, though.  Not this time.

I wanted a scooter.  Cute, fun, feet flat.  Automatic.  A Vespa.  I'd wanted a scooter for years.  I remember checking the alternative weekly in Washington when I lived there for one to buy. Didn't have to be a Vespa.  Any decent scooter would do.  It was going to be different this time. I was going to be different this time.

So, I investigated.  Discovered that there were, essentially, four types of scooter manufacturers:

Italian: Vespa, Piaggio, Aprilia.  Uber-cool, super-expensive, and probably out of my league.

Japanese:  Some of the usual suspects, Honda, Kawasaki, etc.  Moderately priced.  Not a lot of choices.

Taiwanese:  Lots of choices, decent reputations, brands I hadn't heard of:  Kymco, Sym, Genuine

Chinese:  I gather to be avoided.

I ran into a problem.  I wasn't the only one who thought to buy a scooter last summer with gas the way it was.  Quelle surprise.  Finding a scooter in a showroom was hard.  Verging on impossible.

What you could get was a 50cc.

That Nighthawk?  It was a 700cc.

50s are great for gas mileage.  They'll get 80-100mpg.  They also only get up to about 30 miles per hour.  I test rode one.  I really liked its looks.


I was a total freak about riding it.  Nervous and tense.  Once I got going, though, I remembered.  What to do.  Where to look.  How to use my hands and feet.

I might have bought it right on the spot, but for the 50cc thing.  And Teresa calming me down.  Bless her heart.

Most scooter manufacturers make a 150cc.  Yamaha 150s would be available in October (this was July/August).  Vespas could be sooner, but they cost $5000+.  Genuine Buddies were too small.  The world seemed to be tilting toward a Kymco.  The Kymco dealer was getting some Agility 125s in.

I haunted craigslist and ebay.  The same scooter popped up on both down in Orange County.  It was a 250cc, which seemed better for hauling my ass around.  I talked to the guy and made arrangements to come see it.  I even bought a helmet.  I brought some mountain bike gloves.  I got out cash.  Carrying around a lot of cash makes me nervous.  So does buying motor vehicles.

Teresa and I agreed that it would be better not to take it on the freeway.  Getting from Orange County to Los Angeles County without using the freeway is not easy.  I think it took about three hours.

By the time we pulled into the scooter dealer (it needed service), I was exhausted.  I was also pretty sure I had made a good decision.  It ran well, fit me nicely, and it was fun.

I ride it a couple of times a week, at least.

Sometimes, I act like a goober and stick my knee out when I turn.  Mostly, though, I just ride it.  Sitting up straight.  Following all the laws.  I never split lanes.  I always wear the gear (jacket, full-face helmet, armored gloves).  Gas costs $2 a gallon just now.  It cost me $3.11 to fill up the People last week.



Honey and I have ridden a couple of times together.  We'll ride some more, I'm sure.  Maybe not Malibu Canyon.  Maybe to the movies again.