This morning under a dazzling sky and frigid 12F atmosphere the Vespa scooter returned to the road — mostly, just a few side jaunts to re-familiarize myself with the newly mounted winter tires. The winter Vespa has slightly different handling characteristics that take a few moments to program into muscle memory.
There’s still a bit of snow and ice to contend with but the main roads are mostly clear and dry though the stray patch of ice or packed snow still lurk in the shadows demanding winter grade attention to detail. I can sense the autonomic responses at work and seem to have a level of hyperawareness that’s not present in warm weather. All the usual suspects remain — other drivers and such, but now the road surface has far more pitfalls. Crossing through a residential neighborhood I found myself riding at 15mph on packed snow where I would normally be navigating at 35mph.
Winter riding means slow riding.
Paul Ruby provided transportation from my home to Kissell Motorsports where the scooter with it’s new fuel pump and winter tires waited. In exchange I took him to breakfast at the State College Diner. The temperature rose sharply from 0F when I was walking Junior to almost 10F at breakfast. Add a little sunshine and your brain can convince you it isn’t all that cold.
The scooter had been sitting in unheated storage for a few days and nights of really cold weather and took a bit longer to start than normal. Once it fired up it ran like a champ. I let it run a bit while I paid the repair bill and took a look at the motorcycles and scooters.
The technician let me know that come spring when I remove the snow tires I should change the rear wheel bearing. Not surprising that some water and salt grime have gotten into the bearing. He cleaned it out and regreased the bearing but it’s time for a shiny new version.
Update on the FirstGear Kilimanjaro jacket in the cold — fantastic. Riding at 13F I was able to do so with a long-sleeved undershirt, a sweater, and the jacket. It appears impervious to cold. No leaks, not cold penetration. The zippers are big and easy to operate and the velcro closures seem perfectly placed and easy to use. Really happy with this jacket.
Off on a few errands and then onward towards home. First order of business was to not dump the scooter in the parking lot. Slow is the order of the day. Heated grips worked really well and warmed my hands nicely through a thick pair of Tourmaster winter gloves that I’ve had for years. The Tucano Urbano muffs also do a great job keeping the wind and cold at bay. The combination of heated grips and muffs is the best winter Vespa hand protection that I’ve found. A far cry better than heated gloves alone. At some point I’ll test the heated gloves with the muffs in place of the heated grips.
The only weak link left in terms of me getting cold are my feet. After about 45 minutes my feet started to get cold. No spare power on the scooter for electric socks or insoles. Thinking it might be time to just get some heavy boots — perhaps a Sorel winter boot though the rubber bottoms worry me a bit in terms of wear.
The tried and true method of managing freezing body parts is to stop riding and seek shelter. The Pump Station in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania provided shelter today along with some steaming hot Earl Grey tea. Sitting inside with the sun pouring in the windows kept the place warm and I was ready for a nap.
While not perfect winter riding weather because of the lingering snow and ice it is possible to still ride if you’ve winterized yourself and your scooter or motorcycle. Riding on neighborhood roads and streets is a mixed bag of snow, ice, and dry pavement. Don’t get over confident on the dry stuff only to suddenly find yourself having to navigate the slippery stuff while going much too fast. It’s a perfect way to try out your protective riding gear.
I still find a puzzling level of satisfaction riding the winter Vespa. There’s a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing I endured the cold. And of course the fun of riding which has not diminished much regardless of the weather.
Wonder what’s next this winter?