Friday, November 28, 2008

Winter Vespa Riding

Winter riding holds different meanings for different riders. For some it is the epitome of idiocy and others the cold reality of daily transportation. I’ve ridden my Vespa through several winters and have refined my own limits and sensibilities in a range of cold-weather conditions.

I’ve compiled stories and pictures posted over the past couple years for anyone interested in venturing out in the cold on two wheels. It may not be for everyone but with a few modifications to gear and riding habits you may find that you can extend your riding season. You may even find an unexpected enjoyment.

Feel free to post questions if you have them. If I can’t answer them directly someone else may or I can point you in the right direction for an answer.

Below are links to some of the more interesting posts about winter riding:

Error in Judgment
Making a questionable choice in riding home from work.

Decision Time: Snow is Falling
Struggling to decide if it is safe to ride home from work.

11 Degree Fahrenheit Commute
The routine of riding to work in really cold weather.

Just Another Ride to Work
When the weather changes unexpectedly and you need to ride home.

Watch for Ice
Adjusting mentally for cold weather challenges.

Bringing Home the Christmas Tree
A holiday tradition of bringing home the Christmas tree on the back of a Vespa GTS.

Hauling a Christmas Tree by Vespa
The first Christmas tree brought home on my Vespa LX150.

Only Idiots Ride in the Snow
Deciding what your winter riding limits should be.


Bryce said... far from home to work?
Or the reverse for that matter. IF
the riding was too dangerous for whatever reason, can you get a ride home with somebody else?
No snow yet here at the west end of Lake Ontario however we expect some
in the next few days.

Steve Williams said...

Bryce: The most direct route to and from work is about 6.5 miles. When the weather is bad I take alternate routes with less traffic. That extends the ride anywhere from 8 to 12 miles depending on what route I take.

If the weather is really bad and I am caught at work with my scooter I can put it in the parking garage next to my office and ride the bus home. Or ride home with my daughter, or any number of other options.

Heinz N Frenchie said...

Thanks for the memories. We think our favorite is "Bringing Home the Christmas Tree". But we enjoyed revisiting all of the posts. Your writing and photography are so good. You could publish them and we would all have a new "Coffee Table Book". Be Safe this Winter!

Ale- said...

nice colection, Steve.
ya know, I totally agree with riding in winter, and it's much simpler here in Italy, though it has been raining for weeks, now, and strong SE winds knocked down lots of trees and caused a landslide in the center of Piombino, my hometown...
I ride daily to work, and it's a 21kms ride to go and another 21 to come back.
Sometimes, though it's the same old road, it's a nice ride: sun between the pine trees, smell of mushrooms, squirrels, whatever.
I'd like as well to read a book on Scooter in the Sticks. Why don't you think 'bout it? maybe with previously unpublished texts and pictures...

L'Insetto Scoppiettante

irondad said...

Yes! The Vespa Warrior is back!!!

cpa3485 said...

I love your comments and notes about winter driving. I am a relatively new commuting scooterist, now experiencing my first taste of winter riding. I have good clothing and gear and the temperature doesn't bother me much. I am quite concerned about snow and ice. Here in Kansas we don't get a lot of snow, but it can be very windy and conditions can change in a hurry. I too take the city bus when the weather is really bad or the forecast indicates it can be bad. Even though it may be cold, I find the ride exhilarating. My family and co-workers think I have really finally 'lost it' when I try to explain the enjoyment I get from commuting no matter what the weather is.I think I worry most about the days where the forecast looks decent and so I ride the scooter to work but conditions change for the worse during the day and I might be unable to ride home.I suppose the day might come when I might be riding in conditions that I may not want to ride in. If you have any tips on how to ride in just slightly slippery conditions, I would love to read it. Once again, I really am glad I found this forum.

Steve Williams said...

Heinz & Frenchie, Ale: I've thought a lot about a book. My wife Kim keeps suggesting it as well. Right now it just floats around in my head but I suspect someday I will get serious about it.

For now I am stuck more in the ride and photograph stage rather than the get things together mode...

irondad: Yes, I do feel the urge to ride on in the cold weather growing!

cpa3485: Glad to have you join the scooter rider world. For me, buying a scooter was an unexpected joy.

It is almost impossible to convince people about cold weather riding. It goes against every conventional wisdom out there. But as you have already determine there is a powerful payoff in it.

I've never really posted on winter riding techniques but I probably will as soon as some snow falls on the ground and I can get some pictures. Until then I'll just say that it is not unlike some of the principles followed in a car. Slow down, give yourself more time to start and stop, and don't make any sudden adjustments in speed or direction.

On two wheels there is the added problem of less stability if a wheel slides away. And that is definitely possible. I ride slow, try to stay on straight lines and when I anticipate a turn, curve, or stop, I begin negotiating that far ahead of time.

When things get really slippery I often ride with my feet down as outriggers so I can catch myself if the scooter slides out. I'm doing this at 5-10 mph and not any faster. Sometimes at a crawl.

So you can see how a normal 6 mile commute in snow could turn into an hour long adventure. And if vehicle traffic is heavy (and cars still race alone in snow) I look for alternative routes.

It's a lot to do and if you are in a hurry to get somewhere then a scooter in the snow is not a good idea.

And if there are no alternative, slower and less traveled routes, then also probably not a good idea.

I happen to live in a place where I have ways to manage snow. I don't go looking for it but I have as you indicated you worry about been caught at work when it starts to snow.

This morning I have been looking at the weather report. Snow showers this afternoon. But the temperature is predicted at 38 degrees. So I am thinking wet roads only and will ride to work. But I have seen that logic fail and the roads snow covered when it is time to ride home.

If that happens today I will leave the scooter in the parking garage and ride the bus.


Troy said...

Steve, This is great! It feels so good not to be alone in this respect. There are so many usable winter days. We have rough winters here in Rochester, but I still manage to get a day or two a week to ride, even in the worst part of the winter. I love the christmas tree pictures!

Steve Williams said...

Troy: I bet Rochester would be a real challenge in the winter time. Lot's of lake effect snow?

I'll be heading out for the Christmas tree again soon. It's a Christmas tradition!

Bob Olcott said...

quaI grew up (well almost grew up) in Rochester, and know that Buffalo and Syracuse get more snow than anywhere in continental U.S.--now living in northern New England on the Vermont/New Hampshire border--poses new challenges to winter riding ("black ice";"frost heaves"-especially lateral ones;"pea gravel";dirt roads-treacherous when the ground freezes; pot holes; "white outs", No/Low Salt use on Roads next to water bodies; etc.). Yankee lore refers to conventional wisdom as "Common Sense"! Have a safe riding New Year!

Anonymous said...

I love your pictures!
I wonder to know what kind of tyres do you have?)

Steve Williams said...

I don't have any special tires for winter riding. I have a Pirelli GT23 on the front and a Pirelli SL26 on the back. Both regular street tires.

I've thought of getting more aggressive tires to improve winter and off-road use but have never gotten around to it.

Thanks for your kind words about the pictures. I still find the scooter in the landscape asking for me to take it's picture...

Bob Olcott said...

Hi Steve,
The photos are always a pleasure. I've managed to ride my Genuine Buddy 50 every day in December, and every day [so far] this year-mostly in New Hampshire and Vermont. Usually {in past winters] I've had 14-21 days when I didn't ride ... just thankful that this winter has been good to me..Best Regards, Bob Olcott

cristal williams said...

Hi Steve. I'm new to scootering and am DYING to drive along the east coast of Florida from top to bottom.....yes, the Keys. The only problem I have is I live just outside Atlanta. Is there a sensible way to get my scooter (and my son's scooter) from here to Florida, or should I just jump on and ride, making it a month-long trip? I need a professional's opinion!! Is this just a crazy idea? We have brand new Flyscooters, 150cc. Any other advice is welcome as well!! Thank you so much

Steve Williams said...

cristal: The decision to ride the coast of Florida and how to get the scooters there is personal and depends on a lot of factors.

I would suggest you visit the Modern Vespa forum and seek out specific advice there. People will not only have experience in those areas of the country but they will also have experience with trailers, shipping and such.

Sounds like a great trip. Good luck!

second hand scooter said...

According to me if you live in the Willamette Valley you probably take pride in hard-charging on your mountain bike through the worst of weather.The first 5 minutes of my rides are great in winter riding because I love to ride in winter but can not bare much cold.

Bob Olcott said...

Hi Steve,
Just when I thought spring had arrived in New England, we got snow on Wednesday, April 28th ... this comment from one who rode all but 5 days this past winter!

stimme said...


Just ordered Iceman stud-able tires for my scooter. I can not find where or what studs fit the new Schwalbe Iceman. Do you have any contacts or advice on how to stud these tires?

Steve Williams said...

stimme: The Schwalbe site offers information on studs and I suspect you can purchase from them directly. Here is what they advise:

For the ICEMAN scooter stud tires we use aluminum studs, type 8.8-11/1. The body of the stud is made from aluminum and the stud cores are made of wolfram-carbide steel. The stud core protrudes 1 mm from the body.

You can purchase their studs at this URL:

Good luck with that hardcore riding!

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Chris Underwood said...

Fantastic read (and I am glad I found this blog). Followed all of your links, read what you had to say, and agree completely with the sentiments you express.

I do the same thing you do - ride all winter long. But I do it on a bicycle with studded snow tires. Everything you said about how to be safe on your scooter in the winter applies to the bicycle (only I freeze less I think - I move a lot slower, and I provide the power to move which heats me up a lot!)

I get some pretty crazy looks, but the feelings of, for lack of a better word for it, pure bliss I get when riding in a blizard through 15+ cm of snow cannot be beat.



Pirelli Motorcycle Tires said...

Winter riding is a nice time to check out if the bike can really withstand the cold weather. Which tires are good for snow riding?