... to experience ... to share ... to photograph ... people to talk to ... to live...to scoot...to ride

Sunday, February 24, 2008


And I found myself swaggering just a little bit afterwards.

And why not? I bought my scooter Ariel (A SYM HD200) a whole month ago, had to baby her through horrendous winds (~70mph gusts) hoping she wasn't blown over, a few snowfalls, and some very cold temperatures (5 F) testing the anti-freeze. My previous post from two weeks ago was about our attempt to load her up on the truck. The weather and ice would not cooperate. It February in the mountains, what do I expect?

I have just returned from San Francisco with its near perfect scooting weather year round, watching other scooterists zipping through the neighborhoods, even in the rain. It was cold there (40's) and still there were scooters. I wanted to ride!

It turns out the weather here was mild all week with highs in the 40's [ah the irony], resulting in significant melting of the snow on the road.

This morning I walked the top section of our road to see if there were enough clear patches strung together for a short ride - and there were! I'm bouncing up and down with anticipation. So, while my DH sipped coffee on his recliner, I prepped Ariel for her maiden voyage. Bob helped me quite a bit with getting Ariel in and out of her nest behind the stairs - thanks sweetie!

The first challenge was getting down the driveway. Its completely snow covered and this morning it was icy. My solution: YakTraks - chains for your feet.

And then I went back and forth on the clear stretch of road, slowing going through ice zones, turning around on melting compacted snow. We got up to 30 mph!!! I'm having a blast.

The cul-de-sac is covered in snow and old ice. The whole time I'm turning around I'm imagining the scooter zipping out to the side while I've got her leaned over. And yes I put my foot down on those turns and even did a 3 point turn once. I'm not here to prove that I can do perfect counter-weighted u-turns on a patch of ice.

My nerve worked up, I started through the first switchback down the hill. S*#t - completely snow covered but nowhere to turn around. Fortunately there was a clear section after the curve. Ahead lay an expanse of snow and ice down the second straightway. I rode back to the house so we could finish reconnoitering of the road.

Riding up the driveway was a trip! I veered a little off the driveway and got the scooter stuck in 4 inches of snow - oh my what a rooster tail.

Our rece trip showed that there were too many icy patches on too many switchbacks, so off I went on my one-mile circuit. again, again, and again! My last trek up the driveway was a gas. I took a running start and got as far as the truck - and then saw that our mirrors were going to hit. So I backed
down through the snow about 50 feet to the clear run. Took another run and this time did some major fishtailing. So, I walked next to the scooter, gently providing power. I could feel the back tire spinning and tail was leaning against my leg, trying to zip over. I still got stuck, but at least this time I near the top of the driveway. After much wrestling I maneuvered Ariel back into her home - she (and I) are covered in mud. I'm happy :)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Denied! no riding for scootergrrl today.

I'm a bit frustrated ...with myself and the weather. Our driveway has turned into an ice skating rink due to the roaring winds and successive snow falls and compaction. Plus, I just could not come up with a safe way to push the scooter up a steep ramp onto the truck bed.

First I spent a half hour with a hair dryer warming up and scraping out the ice covered junk in the holes with the tie-downs (Dodge has since redesigned these tie-down points). I know I had cleaned them out in January so my guess is the local chipmunks are storing bark and twigs in these perfectly sized holes as an emergency food cache. I digress.

Then I backed up the truck up the driveway, trying to find the optimal angle to create the optimal height (tailgate is as low as possible) which is still bloody high. When the scooter is on the truck bed the handlebars are way over my head which means at some point I have to climb up onto the truck bed... how? A parallel ramp to walk up? I saw a one advertisement of a motorcycle ramp where they used a step stool to help load the cycle and thought I could do that.

Now, if I were really motivated, I would shovel a path through 4 vertical feet of snow from the house through our snow drift and create a flat ramp to roll the scooter onto the truck bed. This has not happened but it might after this experience… read on.

I unlock the scooter, start her up just to make sure everything is ok and then my husband and I start pushing... and quickly I realize I'm banging into the wall of the house, tripping over the *#!*% downspout...and rocks to hold down the downspout, the deck struts and finally we've got the scooter completely on the ramp. The handlebars are over my shoulders...

and I'm stepping onto a step-stool which is sitting on a quarter inch of dirt that we’ve sprinkled onto the 2 inches of ice... with my foot literally in mid-air and the scooter heeling over at a strong angle, finally my cautious side overcomes my desire to load the scooter. A vision flashes through my head – physics 101 scenarios of the angle of force from my stepping onto the step-stool, coupled with the frictional resistance of four tiny one-inch feet of the foot stool, minus the coefficient of friction of ice once the smear factor of dirt has been overcome – and I’m envisioning the stool sliding under the truck, me flipping onto my back with the scooter landing onto my belly. oUCH.

At this point, I pitch a verbal fit about the unfairness of this all, Bob pitches fit about how he's mentioned that we have 6 months of winter (like I had forgotten) ... and we carefully roll the scooter off the ramp and back to her protected parking spot. Upon further analysis, our loading process is flawed. My next method will be to bribe friends with a trailer to haul my bike down to Boulder so I can go riding in March or maybe I’ll dig that trench after all. It’s good exercise.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider course

It was cold and dark when I got up on Saturday morning but it didn’t matter, I was finally taking my motorcycle safety class! I had been registered for a class two weeks previously right after I bought my scooter, but they had canceled the class because the weather was supposed to be cold. Ha. That weekend ended being warm!

Still at 5:30AM as I left, it was 10F at the house so I was a little nervous that all we’d be able to do was the indoor lecture portion today. It was supposed to be 45F and sunny and in Colorado, if it is sunny even when its cold, you warm up (higher elevation + lower humidity = more intense sunlight).

As I drove along the Peak-to-Peak highway I dreamed ahead to this coming summer and hearing the drone of Harleys riding through “po-taa-to, po-taa-to”… and that I might be able to join them on my scooter “ringggg-dinggg-dingg-dinnggg” And then I saw some elk on the slope and really started paying attention to the road. It was clear. The canyon road was clear, so was Highway 36 and I-70.

An hour and a half into my drive and a mere 3 miles from the Aurora Town Center where the class was to be taken there was a thick rind of snow on the road. I watched as a truck wildly fish tailed almost into the wall and the traffic start to slow down – it was slippery and I was going to be late!

The parking lot was covered in snow. I saw one fellow walking to the mall entrance with his helmet, so I knew I was in the right place. There ended up being five of us and our instructor, Curt. Curt has years of riding and racing motorcross experience, and while I think he’d prefer everyone to ride motorcycles, he was cool with the two of us who wanted to take the course on scooters.

Our class was quite a mix: an attorney who plans to ride dual sports with his wife and teenage son, a young man who graduated early and moved to Colorado for school, a former college-football star about my age, a young woman who is also in college, and me, a middle-aged computer and education geek doing her part to help save the environment by using less gas.

The morning passed quickly; we covered the homework questions and watched videos that helped show important concepts, then we took the written test. If you read the MSF book, you’ll pass the test. We all did. Then we took a lunch hour and met at the riding range – it’s a section of the mall parking lot that has been blocked off by cones. Curt had us walk the lot to prove to ourselves that there was no ice.

It had warmed up to 35F and they had plowed the lot, so there really was no ice, just wet areas. Fine, we’re good to go! And we started off with baby steps by duck walking our bikes getting used to the throttle and clutch from one cone to another. The hardest part was pushing our bikes in a tiny s to turn around. The second hardest part was learning to shift (for the motorcycles). I really think that if there weren't so much machismo attached to motorcycles, that starting to learn on scooters without shifting would be (is) better, and then once the handling skills are down, then teach the shifting part. Look at driver's ed for cars... I was riding a Kymco Bet & Win 250 cc – it weighs 350lbs! The other scooter was a Vento Phantom 150 and two Suzuki dual sport 200’s and a Suzuki cruiser ~250cc. 350 pounds is a lot of weight to push on a slight incline.

It was great once we were allowed to use power to help turn ourselves around. We practiced riding straight and then gentle curves and even gentle swerves. I won’t describe all of the exercises, I will say that MSF has really thought through their training program and be a training developer myself, it is SO nice to take classes that are well thought out... and theirs is meticulous in preparing you.

My body and head stayed warm the whole time; I had on a polar-max undershirt and long underwear, a lightweight poly and wind resistant vest, a neck gaitor, and an Olympia Air-glide jacket plus jeans. I had on hiking boots and wool socks – my feet were toasty. My hands stayed warm for most of the afternoon and then suddenly they got cold and I couldn’t do anything to get them warm. My cold went from slightly annoying to turn-on-the-faucet and I went through a whole pack of tissues. Oddly my nose only ran when we stopped riding.

With our weather delay we only made it through 6 and a half exercises our first day and by the time we left it was getting very overcast, dark, and cold. Still I was thrilled to have ridden at all! Even the long commute back home was OK – I crashed early that night, my hips and wrists a little sore.

Day2, Sunday. We didn’t start until a little later to give the sun time to re-melt any ice. We had 10 ½ exercises to get through and all of us were chomping at the bit to practice our quick stops, swerving around dump trucks (in reality little green cones), and counterweight our way through that little box. My ears wouldn’t equalize (my drive took me from 8200’ to 5400’) and I was a little worried that my balance would be off. We started off the day at ~33F.

And off we went! All of the exercises went smoothly; the swerves came more easily today than yesterday. Except for one exercise that stumped me – a little rectangular box where you have to do 2 U-turns (a complete S) – the second try I almost did it and then it went downhill from there. I need to turn my head more and keep it turned. Counterweight more, especially the right-hand curve. Finesse the brake with the throttle partly on. I felt like a failure.

The temperature climbed to 38F for most of the day with a spike of 46F when the clouds opened for an hour, and was just going below freezing when we were taking our test. The wind kicked up to a constant +10mph for an hour or so. It was not dangerous and gave us some practice with dealing with gusts. My ears equalized by lunchtime.

Later in the day we practiced the box one more time. The other scooterist did yet another big box without touching down. I asked her about her approach and she was like ‘f**k the box, I’ll do what I can”. Wow. Its refreshing to get an alternate perspective so I tried that approach and I decided that if I did a bigger box I was OK.

My body ached all over, my back, my hands and wrists, my hips; the temperatures and wind sapped my body of energy and I was stiff by the test, so as I did the S-shaped U-turns for the box, I did my best and yes, I went outside of the lines. Twice! Lightning didn’t strike; a horde of shrieking Valkyries didn’t descend from the heavens to smote me; I didn’t turn into a slime-mold; and I still passed the final riding test… which in Colorado means I get my motorcycle endorsement!

One person had a perfect 0 – our instructor still warned him to keep practicing… our rides had all been below 15mph so there’s a lot more to learn. He gave each of us specific areas that we needed to work on. Me, I need to work on riding slowly in tight circles with my weight counter-balancing the lean of the bike. I felt this proper balance once or twice during the day… something to keep working on.

As I drove home I was elated to have come so far - we had ridden about 15 hours in two days, most of it on Sunday – I had gone from feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing to feeling good that I have some specific techniques I can use while riding to keep myself safe.... I’ve heard the term “ride safe” and wondered “well, of course, I going to ride safely”; now, Ride Safe really means something and it is more than a cerebral understanding. My body knows what it means too.

Now if it would just stop snowing so I could go to a parking lot and ride…

About Me

Join me in my adventures as I learn to ride a scooter and experience the world through two wheeled transport.