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.