Friday, April 13, 2012

High Mileage and the Vespa GTS 250ie


Morning along Interstate 99 on my way to breakfast 60 miles from home.  The freeway isn't a common choice but when gathering miles is the goal it's an easy path to that end.

The April 2012 issue of the BMW Owners News published results of the annual mileage competition heralding the achievements of male and female riders by state with awards going to the champions.  Casual conversations with a wide range of riders who I've crossed paths with confirm a fascination with racking up miles -- an end in itself with very little attention to the landscapes traversed.  Maybe it's easier to collect miles than experience.  Maybe they're the same thing.

A Vespa is not associated with mileage competitions or even capable of such feats unless you fall into the scooter underworld.  ModernVespa.com is full of anecdotal evidence of mind boggling mileage feats from the annual Canonball Run (a cross America scooter race) to riders who routinely put tens of thousands of miles on their Vespas every year just commuting to work.  My particular favorite is the fellow from Clearwater, Florida who retires, decides to buy a scooter, and for his first trip rides to Fairbanks, Alaska and back, a nice little near ten thousand mile ride.  He's repeated the feat.

Still, the BMW mileage competition raises some interesting questions.  Paul Antonio, another Florida rider, put 42,419 miles last year on his 2010 BMW R1200RT.  Some quick math says he needs to ride 116 miles every day to pile up those numbers.  Whenever I run into someone who tells me about high mileage or long trips the same question pops into my head as it did when I read the article; "Don't these guys have jobs?"  I can't get my head around the time it takes to put that many miles on a motorcycle.  Or a car for that matter.

Antonio indicates in the article that he's semi-retired and has amble time and good weather to "ride first and work later".  I'm going to discuss this notion with my boss next week.  Top female finisher Nancy Lou Dunn put an impressive 30,215 miles on two BMW F650GS motorcycles -- maybe more impressive than the top male because Dunn lives in Michigan which has a markedly shorter riding season.


Cold weather definitely has an effect on riders and the accumulation of miles.  A stop outside of Tyrone was motivated by the desire to record the scene and to let my blood warm a few degrees.  After 20 minutes at 70mph in 35F air I was cold and made a note to adjust my attire for freeway riding in the future.

I also wondered whether BMW has a complex algorithm to adjust mileage for various experience deducting credit for bikes with fairings, windshields and a variety of electrical heating devices.  And surely a mile in sub-freezing Michigan is worth more than a spring day in Florida.


Just past Tyrone I got off the freeway preferring the more relaxed riding on old US220 over the boring monotony of the superslab experience.  It's always an adventure to be riding along and finding the road closed and being forced onto an alternative route.  And at that moment I began to wonder about the differences between collecting miles and collecting experiences.  I place myself in the latter category preferring to spend my days wandering and meandering without a destination or concern about how many miles I've put on the Vespa.

I've ridden 400 mile days on the Vespa and know what that's like.


It's difficult to ride 400 miles on meandering back roads with 35mph speed limits.  It's why so many road reports don't seem to ever say much about routes like these.  Riders like to go far and fast.  A colossal waste of machine to putt along the countryside.

I have a bit under 20,000 miles on the GTS after five years of riding.  That would put me at the low end of the BMW mileage competition for some states and in the middle for others.  What that tells me that not all BMW riders are about collecting miles.  Some might be like me and enjoy the scenery.


After breakfast my father-in-law and I went for a short ride before I had to head home.  The temperature had risen nearly 15 degrees after a lazy breakfast making it far more pleasant to be on the road.

At 74 Bob's still riding to work on his ET4 and wishing he had started riding far sooner that he did just a few years ago.  I ask myself the same question from time to time and have only run into a few people who started to ride and quickly abandoned it.  Almost all because they started the experience on a machine far too big for their ability and scared themselves stupid.  More so than they were when they made their purchase.


A stop outside an old church in Sinking Valley Presbyterian Church for a drink of water and a look at the old cemetery.

There's no reason the Vespa can't keep going for a long, long time and undertake trips to the same destinations that large motorcycles undertake.  The only difference is the comfort factor at high speed.  While all day riding on the freeway is possible on the Vespa the place it really shines is on web of secondary roads across North America.  A person could easily tour through all the lower 48 states, Canada and Alaska on a Vespa with little problem.  And following it's natural connection to the road less traveled have a bang up time to boot.

You just need the time.


The road home is quiet and rolls through the agricultural valley just west of Tussey Mountain.  It's the kind of road a Vespa is suited for and far from the urban hipster image that's in many rider's minds.  It's ready to ride to the horizon and collect miles.  And I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a Vespa rider out there somewhere that has put 40 thousand miles on one in a year.  But that kind of talk might be a bit threatening to the fantasy of some riders.


I'll close this post with some Vespa Dakar footage -- little scooters traveling with the big GS bikes.  I'm convinced that riding challenges have less to do with the machine and it much more about the mind.  And choices are made for reasons that have little to do with the tasks at hand.

Regardless, my hat is still off to those brave souls who pile on the miles.  Ride safely.

25 comments:

bobskoot said...

Steve:

I think your comments can also be applied to the "iron butt". High mileage within limited time frames, putting on the miles with no regard to the enjoyment of your surroundings not to mention the unsafe factor of fatigue and pushing yourself beyond your limits. And in the end, what does it prove ?

bob
Riding the Wet Coast
My Flickr // My YouTube

Bryce said...

High mileage...sold my 1981 Honda Goldwing two years ago with over 300,000 km, mind it was an 1981.

As to your Vespa, I think these smaller machines are wonderful, just
too bloody small for somebody of my height and weight. Well recall the Goldwing with a load bearing weight of 500 pounds, me on the bike with 24 litres of fuel exceeded the weight limit...

Conchscooter said...

When I was learning to sail I was told the only way to get comfortable on the water was to "put in my time." and so it was. Riding a motorcycle is the same thing. Put in the miles. Every time you choose to drive and not ride you are choosing to limit your experiences on two wheels. Be it at 35 or 75mph.
As to the Iron Butt, I say why not? I've done two for the satisfaction of knowing I can ride 1500 miles in 36 cold hours. But I prefer to enjoy most of my rides outside that rigid format.
60,000 miles in four years of flat warm weather doesn't seem much to me, but I am astonished how few miles so many owners of entirely capable machines choose to ride. Check used bike lists for confirmation.

Conchscooter said...

Oh, and ATGATT is a mileage killer. If you feel obliged to dress like an astronaut every time you leave the house little wonder the car appeals more than the fearsome two wheeler.

angelo said...

I am hoping you get the green light on that BMW purchase, soon. BMW envy can destroy the best of them.

Charlie6 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie6 said...

Hi Steve....another memory-stirring article!

Back when I was an active member of the BMWMOA and only owned the R1150RT (Maria) in terms of motorcycles...I participated in the annual mileage contest. I came in 11th of 79 Colorado riders in 2007 who participated with 15,181 miles...didn't do as well in 2008, coming in as 15th out of 76 Colorado riders...with 8211 miles on Maria. I wasn't able to add the Brigitta miles as I bought her AFTER the contest had started; that total for 2008 would have been 12,692.

I've since given up these contests, due to the time constraints you mention, wanting to spend more time with the family, and let's face it...Urals just don't rack up mileage that fast either! :)

Scooters in the Dakar Race....who'd have thunk it!

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Charlie6 said...

Hi Steve....another memory-stirring article!

Back when I was an active member of the BMWMOA and only owned the R1150RT (Maria) in terms of motorcycles...I participated in the annual mileage contest. I came in 11th of 79 Colorado riders in 2007 who participated with 15,181 miles...didn't do as well in 2008, coming in as 15th out of 76 Colorado riders...with 8211 miles on Maria. I wasn't able to add the Brigitta miles as I bought her AFTER the contest had started; that total for 2008 would have been 12,692.

I've since given up these contests, due to the time constraints you mention, wanting to spend more time with the family, and let's face it...Urals just don't rack up mileage that fast either! :)

Scooters in the Dakar Race....who'd have thunk it!

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Ronman said...

I don't ride a Vespa, Steve. However the backroads are my cup of tea. I love touring on my Harley around the countryside stopping to enjoy the beauty. I call it finding America.

American Scooterist Blog said...

I've always wanted to ride more miles than I have. Even when I had just motorcycles, I always seemed to take the country roads so never put on the miles I thought I might at the beginning of a season. And now, with young children just getting out is pretty special. Maybe one day...

Harv

Low Buck Rider said...

When riding my Riva 200 I averaged 8,000 miles a year. Living in So. Ca. there is a lot of stop and go in town riding to get to any place you might want to ride. Because of this I experienced much of the nicer parts of The LA area that one would normally get through as quickly as possible Watts, Crenshaw, & Compton come to mind. Of corse there are many nicer towns and areas too, Pasadena, Malibu, any thing with Beach in the name. I enjoyed many things that normally you bypass because of the freeway systems. Earlier this year I purchased a Burgman 650. In the short time I have owned it I have already hit my years average and ridden many roads I had wanted to on the riva but the logistics were just out of reach because time and maximum speed. Next week I will be taking off to Crescent City California, the first stop Will be Santa Cruz. With the Riva Santa Cruz would have been a week trip by it self, and yes I have a route that would be all none freeway in my head.

Mike D.

Mr. Brilliant said...

Nice post, Steve.

As a long-time Beemer rider and a recent convert to Guzzi, I have always found the best routes are those with the dashed line (or less) down the middle. For some time now, in the back of my mind, acquiring a Vespa has been gnawing at me. Too many more posts like this one, and I'll have to make room in my garage.

I'm sure my wife will thank you very much when her Civic has to sleep outdoors.

Cheers from "the Church of the Open Road."

Steve Williams said...

bobskoot: I've pondered the Iron Butt competition from time to time imagining what would be involved on a Vespa. There is a fellow in northern California who's done it on his GTS. Not an easy task to make 1000 miles in 24 hours. You need the right kind of road for a vehicle that can't run 90mph.

But in the end I arrive at the same conclusion for myself -- why? But I realize everyone has their own drives and desires.

Steve Williams said...

Bryce: Long time no see here. Hope things are going well for you. Sounds like you were a high mileage rider. What kind of trips were you making to accumulate all those miles?

Steve Williams said...

Conchscooter: Sailboats are better teachers than motorcycles. It's easy to learn to point a machine down the road, go a long ways, and still not really having much of a clue about how it works, or how to deal with it in an emergency. A sailboat is constantly testing you and the feedback is relentless so hours on the water do make a better sailor.

You're right about how many bikes never get ridden much. I see it all the time especially with scooters that are purchased as "toys". Five years old with 500 miles on them...

You put a lot of miles on commuting don't you? I seem to remember those rides from home to Key West keep you in the riding frame of mind.

Steve Williams said...

Conchscooter: ATGATT can get oppressive at times especially if shrouded in leather or ballistic materials from head to foot. But in the summer there are times I go ATGATT Lite -- boots, jeans, riding jacket, gloves and helmet. Much faster than in cold weather where I have layers and overpants and electric wires...

I try to keep riding though and not let my brain get in the way.

Steve Williams said...

angelo: No BMW in my immediate future. After careful consideration I realized I'm content for now with the scooter.

Steve Williams said...

angelo: No BMW in my immediate future. After careful consideration I realized I'm content for now with the scooter.

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: I've been impressed for a long time on the miles you gather especially through the winter. You are a riding demon. If work didn't get in the way you would probably be one of those 100K a year riders. Daily trips from Denver to Kansas City for lunch. That sort of thing.

Steve Williams said...

Ronman: A Harley certainly can be at home on the backroads but so many riders seem to stay on the bigger and faster main two-lane arteries. Maybe it's because there are more services or maybe they don't want to get lost. But it surprises me how few motorcycles I encounter once I depart the beaten path. Central Pennsylvania is so damn beautiful...

Steve Williams said...

Harv: Good seeing you post here. Hope all is well with you and your family.

Life has a way of interrupting the best laid plans -- riding included. We all have to take what we can and do the right thing by our jobs and families. But on beautiful days sometimes its hard not to be selfish...

Steve Williams said...

Low Buck Rider: Congratulations on the new scooter. Those Burgman 650s are really nice and open up a wider range of possibilities. Sounds as if you are on your way to more miles (and service needs!) and adventures.

Southern California and the areas around LA probably have endless possibilities. Ride safe and I look forward to hearing about your travels.

Steve Williams said...

Mr. Brilliant: Honda Civic motorcars belong outside. Don't hesitate a moment longer to add a Vespa to your stable of two-wheeled machines. You won't regret it.

If you need further motivation check out my post on Camping with a Vespa. More description of miles and adventure.

Your blog is an interesting mix of information and stories. I'll have to spend some time there reading.

Thanks for commenting here. I always appreciate different experiences and perspectives.

Ride safe!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Scooter In The Sticks (Steve Williams):

I have concluded that there is a time for going like hell, and a time for smelling the roses. And sometimes these intervals occur on the same day.

I have flown down interstates where it was possible to take in the big picture at 90 mph, and buzzed along country lanes where 35 mph was almost too fast.

My favorite story happened when riding with Mack Harrell. We were doing 55 mph, ans passed the site of a forced landing by the largest plane in the US Air Force inventory. A "Galaxy" transport had crashed in Delaware (without loss of life) and we rode past it.

It had broken in half and was the size of an apartment house. (These aircraft are much larger than 747s.)
I slowed as I went by, debating whether I want to stop. I just gave it the nod, and continued.

Later, when I said to Mack, "What did you think of the plane crash site," he responded, "What are you talking about?"

Regardless of the road, you have to have your eyes open to see anything.

Fondest regards,
Jaxk/reep
Twisted Roads

Steve Williams said...

Mr. Riepe: You've distilled the situation to its vital essence -- "
Regardless of the road, you have to have your eyes open to see anything."

Well said. Are you a professor of logic or rhetoric somewhere?