Sunday, February 15, 2009

Crisis? No, Sir!

It was suggested by somebody who ought to know me a whole lot better that my getting a scooter was part of a mid life crisis. Nope. I'd say second childhood is more like it. I loved riding my bicycle when I was a kid and a teen and I often rode my ten speed to relatively distant places just for the fun of the ride. I might have pulled the old bike out of my parents' basement when my daughters were learning to ride, but my cousin's husband dropping dead in his early 40s while taking an after dinner bike ride scared that idea right out of me.

Although I've had to squelch a lot of my favorite childlike qualities for the sake of being a responsible, functioning adult, they're still right under the surface and I like letting them out when I can get away with doing so. Yes, perhaps riding a scooter is an expression of that part of me that longs to be 10 again, and if it is, I make no apologies for that. I've done a fairly decent job at adulthood, and if my bike is a little bit of a reward that lets me feel young again, good for me! I'll take it!

The air was cold today, not out of the 30s, but while the sun was blazing I managed to get out for a ride that lasted a few hours, and I loved every turn of the wheels. Since winter kicked into high gear I missed the unique kind of introspection that I only seem capable of doing while I'm riding, and I was long overdue for some quality cranial cobweb cleaning. I didn't finish figuring myself out while I was on the bike today, but I made some progress. Um, I think.

When I'm on the cycle I often pull over for a view that I'd not bother stopping to enjoy if I were in the car. This was a peek I got of the Susquehanna River this afternoon that almost made the dirty old thing look inviting. Well, inviting to look at it, at least. I'd still not dip so much as a single toe into it.

There was some switching action at the train yard which made stopping there it a worthwhile pause. Although the yard is about 15 miles from home, many of the trains which pass through it are the very same ones that I can watch from the back window of my house. Add a cup of hot coffee to watching a long freight roll through on a winter's night, and it's one of those moments that make life's simple pleasures the best.

I stared wistfully for a while on the other side of the fence from Interstate 81 and wanted to go out to play with the big dogs. I've ridden between one exit and the next on the interstate now and then, each time scaring myself more than I'd like to admit. I don't know if it's just that the scooter feels so lightweight or if I'm that bothered by feeling so utterly vulnerable, but when I'm out there I feel totally edgy and can't wait to get off the highway. I wonder if a heavy motorcycle would feel more safe?

Come to think of it, and I'll bet one of you guys can answer this for me, what is it about the design of the scooter that makes it feel like a fly weight? I can see all of the shiny, awesome looking parts on a "real motorcycle," and they all give it so much substance. I'm half afraid that if I were to peel the plastic off the BV250 I'd see something that looks more like my lawnmower engine than a motorcycle engine. Is that what's under there?

Anyway, it was a nice day for riding, I took advantage of it, and I'm even more looking forward to spring popping up all over!


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading your blog.
I can just see you standing there sipping your coffee and watching the freight train roll by...having enough life-awareness (yeah, I made that word up but you get the point)to know this is a "good moment".

I can tell you for a fact that you would feel much more secure on the interstate on a heavier bike. The lightness of your scooter allows it to be buffeted around mercilessly as traffic passes and the smaller diameter of your wheels also attributes to the "lightweight feel" you mention. Your scooter is an incredible machine, but it is understandable why the interstate can be daunting on a light machine like that. Heck, I can't tell you the difference I have felt between my 800cc Suzuki Volusia and my 1800cc Gold Wing. The "feel" of the heavier bike is lightyears ahead of the lighter one when I spend hours on the interstate.

Paul said...

The defining difference between a scooter and a motorcycle is engine placement. On a motorcycle, the rider straddles the engine, while on a scooter, the rider sits above it. There are also differences in how the engines are mounted to the frames of the two different vehicle types. The basic core of a scooter's engine is essentially the same as a motorcycle engine. Most of the difference between modern scooter engines (with the exception of the Genuine Stella) and motorcycle engines is actually in the transmission, not the engine at all. I'm sure you can get a more technical explanation from someone else, but I can assure you that your BV250 is not running a glorified lawnmower engine.

Joe said...

Sarch: Yes, it's that "buffeting" that makes my teeth chatter on the big roads, and I have to agree that it's most likely the passing traffic causing it because I can do just fine on a secondary highway at the same speeds but fewer other motorists.

Paul: Thanks for the crash course on engine differences. My dad taught me a lot of stuff about many different things, but his knowledge ended short of doing anything with an internal combustion engine besides taking it to a good mechanic.

irondad said...

Sarch and Paul have offered good comments on the situation. Interestingly, some bigger bikes feel sort of unstable, too.

For example, the big Honda ST1300 has a large fairing and front end. I've ridden down the freeway and it feels like the bike's rocking back and forth. That's because all that area becomes a big sail when the wind's right.

In contrast, my Honda ST1100 and the Yamaha FJR1300 aren't affected nearly as much.

You also have a little bit less trail on a scooter which just makes it naturally twitchy. Keep your eyes looking up and well ahead. That helps stabilize the scooter more than you might realize.

By the way, nice picture of you and the Leggo's!

Lance said...

Nice post Joe! I took my Elite 150from one freeway entrance to the next exit (a little over a mile), fairly early in the morning (so there was less traffic), and it was not a fun ride!! It just seemed at that rate of speed the bike sounded like it was struggling, plus when a car did go past me, I felt it! I know in my case, the light weight of the bike had much to do with the twitchiness on the freeway.

chessie said...

Three cheers for you! No one should be left behind in the search for emotional freedom and stability. For many of us, it's the motorized two wheel conveyance that lends us the feeling of balance and stability of the mind.
Your doing what comes almost naturally...thank God for small favors, like the motorbike!

chessie said...

I'd like to leave one more comment if I may.

While all of the above responses are correct, there is one more physcal attribute to the scooter that lends the feeling of vulnabilty.

It's the wheels. Your diamiter of the wheels is much smaller. Leaving your bike to work twice as hard to pull itself the same distance as a "real" bike.

The very fact your wheel has to make more revolutions to go the same distance causes the mind to sense this distraction, making you feel much smaller among larger traffic. Much of the feeling is a combonation of both pysical and mental.

Laurie said...

Thank you for your story! You're absolutely right about the sense of freedom that a scooter can give someone. It's much easier to pull over, and take in a view. It is "fun"...lending to one's feeling like a kid again. Keep on Scootin'! :)