Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Midwest Scooter Enthusiast


Since everyone seems to be coming up with new words, I may as well use one I came up with many years ago. I created the word to describe a moment of acceloration as the action influenced by a condition of joy. You're really happy about something so you're cruising at a high rate of speed or you're momentarily uplifted emotionally and pour on the juice to puncuate that feeling of elation. Accelerbratory.

I used to ride the backroads of Wisconsin. No direction in particular, just out for the sheer unadulterated joy of riding my machine. Every now and then I would happen upon an exceptional stretch of road. Something with rises and sharp dips. Twisted and wandering. The kind of road which burrows through hardwood forests long ago broken up into sections by generations of farmesteads. Ribbons that follow the undulating lay of the land instead of cutting through it.

Gradually, unconsciously, my speed increased as I moved through the forests. The happier I became the closer to the tarmac my inboard knee would become. Right to the point where I would realize how fast I was moving by how much I would need to slow to prepare for the next sweeping apex.

Roll the throttle forward hard, slam down a gear and repeat until you reach entrance speed. The rear tire would often hop a little. Hot sticky rubber compound fighting to draw down momentum.

The safest and most fun way to bank a turn is to accelerate hard through it. Now and again that meaty rear skin would skip again, fishtailing as I drew down the rpm's until I brought the rear wheels rate of rotation equal to the speed the motorcycle was going. Once the bike was piloted out the turn (or close enough to being out of the turn haha) I would pull the throttle wide for one last fishtail and put my weight on the bars. Grinning like a kid who stole the last cookie from the cookie jar, I was capping off my latest accelerbratory moment. As I recall, there were a few more that day. (BIG smile)


The Roadbum

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Midwest Scooter Enthusiast


If you're young enough you might not know what the term "sidehack" means. It may be that the only experience you have with one is seeing them on late night television: Hitler's army is advancing. Tanks and strange open-air truckish vehicles with tracks where the rear tires should be, roll across your screen. Then come the higher-ups in their black limousines, escorted by men in dark trenchcoats riding BMW motorcycles equipped with sidecars. The roads are snowed in but no one misses a beat getting around in these purpose built vehicles.

Nowadays about the only place you might chance seeing a sidecar is on a magazine cover. Someone recovered a gem in the rough from a trash heap in the back of a farm. After countless hours and exceedingly high amounts of money they restored some rarity more out of love than utility. Personally I wouldn't have it any other way. Someone's got to remind us.

There was a reason sidehacks were built.

Somewhere recorded in the annals of modern history it was accepted that if you rode, you might even continue to ride if you could just get that motorcycle to stay upright even on ice. You could certainly dress warm enough. Leather and wool have been considered the peak of durability and warmth only until very recently. Even canvas in its various forms has done pretty well. But modern fabric construction is on a molecular level now. There's even heated clothing. Were it not so I'd be hard pressed to think anything could ever improve on leather and wool.

It seems that here in the northern reaches of the upper Midwest, winter's spell puts all motorcycles into hybernation.

Well the scooterists aren't buying it. They're willing to ride any chance they get. The problem is it turns into a pretty big risk sometimes. When the temperatures are hovering around freezing that's one thing. We'll still stay warm in our windproof heated clothes. But the roads are a different matter. We have to contend with loose sand, salt, and ice. We're still on two wheels. We can still hurt ourselves pretty badly.

Enter the Sidehack.

You can find sidehacks bolted to old Vespas. Sidecars made for scooters. They look great. They were useful and people who owned them could take those winter days and still ride with confidence.

Fast forward to the present. The modern Vespa has a following not unlike the vintage Vespas have. The passion is the same. These New Era Mods (I can't think of a better way to say it) are just as single minded. You don't make excuses, you ride.

When the weather turns and the days grow shorter, enter the Sidehack. While the vintage Vespas could handle the extra weight the rigs brought to the engines and transmissions, I wonder if today's CVT designs could handle a sidehack? I know that if it could be done, scooterists would be considered some of the toughest riders of the two wheeled world.

It comes down to whether or not modern Vespas can pull the extra weight without burning their drivetrains into the ground. Whereas mounting a sidehack to an LX150 or larger might not prove to present a serious problem, the first issue is still the important question.

The Roadbum

The Roadbum