Cruising Altitude

10 November, 2005 Temperature at takeoff: 29 degrees F.

Yes, I am using aeronautical references because I have named my scooter The Red Baron. Why not? I just hope the frozen pizza company doesn’t come after me for copywrite infringement.

Anyhow, today was our first day of sub-freezing weather. The Baron started right up on electric, and ran well. I am starting to get that “one-with-the-machine” feeling on this scooter, taking a racing line through the corners and leaning it over farther all the time. I know that my time for these antics is short, and I want to take advantage of the dry pavement while it lasts. In a section of my commute that I call “The Byerly’s Chicane”, I actually scraped the sidestand while railing through the left-hand corner. I still don’t know what touches down first on the right, but I may find out this evening. The weather is supposed to be beautiful; sunny and 55 degrees.

We also encountered our first patch of ice this morning. This was a little disconcerting, as we haven’t gotten the Kenda knobbies yet, and I was riding on what are essentially sportbike tires. But I intentionally steered the Baron over the ice and made a small steering input. Guess what… we slid a little bit. I didn’t even have to drag my foot, however. The tires slid across the ice patch and gradually regained traction on the dry pavement, all very manageable. Granted, it was a small ice patch, probably left by a garbage truck or something. Still, I remained well in control, and that inspired confidence.

My feet got quite cold this morning. It’s time to switch from motorcycle boots to something better suited for the cold. One great advantage to riding a scooter over a motorcycle is that you can wear warm, bulky footwear, because you don’t have to fit your toes between a footpeg and a shift lever. Just plunk your clodhoppers down on the deck there and let them stew in their own aromatic juices. Phew!

I also had problems with visor fogging, but my next package from Aerostich should fix that right up. Thanks again, Andy.

Now, yesterday I wrote that I had learned a nice Zen lesson about humility and patience on the road. As with all things in that mystical philosophy, there is a yin and a yang. Last night, I explored the yang side of the equation. One of the roads we had to ride last night was Highway 55 through Plymouth. It was rush hour, and they had blocked off one of the two eastbound lanes for some kind of road construction. The traffic was stacked up for miles, barely moving. My newfound Zen patience was sorely tested, when the solution dawned on me clear as day. It was as if old Sun Tzu himself whispered in my ear:

“Be humble. Use your weakness to advantage.”

Bicycles and mopeds legally ride on the shoulder of this road, as they cannot keep up with the 55mph speed limit. The same must apply to scooters, no? Let’s just move over here, around this smelly diesel pickup truck, and motor on past these poor, stuck cages, with their fuming yuppie drivers. Keeping it around 30mph, I even passed a cop with no hassle. Bye bye, Cadillac! Sayonara, Lexus! Auf wiedersehen, Mercedes! Enjoy your stay….

I do have one problem with my Red Baron: He is far too pretty. The first night when I brought him home, my wife Amy and daughter Emily fawned all over him. They began to speak of my new scooter in covetous terms. “We are going to have such a wonderful time on this next Spring!” -and- “We can ride this on errands, and we can go for ice cream, and to the park, and….”. But most ominous of all, as she was sending me off to work this morning, Amy said, “You be careful with my baby!”.

Uh huh. Sure. I will go through all the hardship of riding this thing through the winter, the ice and the snow, suffering the insults of incredulous drivers, dealing with all the inevitable technical issues, just so I can polish it up and hand it over to you when the weather turns nice. And you just KNOW that’s how it’s gonna be. You have already adopted it. It is a simple fact in your mind. Yeah. I love you too, Honey.

9 Responses to “Cruising Altitude”

  1. Ken Brose Says:

    WOW,,, you are a brave fellow… I am living two block from Lakes Calhoun & Harriet. I just moved back from St. Louis… I am considering the purchase of a 150-SX also…

    A few questions… how does she handle on the Highways??? Could it be driven on say Hwy. 100 or 35W from South 494 into downtown Mpls?? I am a big guy and definitely need the extra power of the SX…

    What do you figure the top speed will be once you break it in??? What can it do out of the box??? Will it keep up with traffic???

    Thanks in advance, Ken…

    P.S. Have you ridden “two-up” on it yet? If so, how comfortable??

  2. Gary Charpentier Says:

    I would not recommend 35W or any of the Interstates. Highway 100 is pushing it. This scoot handles fine at speed, it’s more stable than your typical 10″ tire scooter.

    Out of the box I am seeing a top speed of 75 indicated, but that’s actually about 60mph. It may or may not do 65 once it is broken in. I’m pretty big too, weighing 220 lbs, and it’s working hard at 60 with me on it. This is more of a 30-45mph surface street vehicle.

    It does not keep up with traffic on a 55mph Highway. I get the feeling some cars pass you just because of the ego factor. You just get in the slow lane and let `em go by. You get revenge when the traffic jams up and you take to the shoulder….

  3. Idi Amin Says:

    Here’s the Baron repair site (a work in progress) for future reference:

  4. Tim Says:

    So how do car drivers react to seeing a motorcycle on the road in the middle of winter. I have a short 3-mile commute up here in Canada and would attempt it in winter on my Zuma scooter. I just think I would be honked off the road, arrested by the police and charged with being an idiot, and I think the salt would eat the scooter. Good luck with your adventure, I’ll be following your blog.

  5. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Well, it’s too soon to tell about driver reactions with the scooter. We are still in the throes of a beautiful autumn here in Minnesota. That looks set to change next week, but for now, nobody looks twice.

    As for the salt, again, too soon to tell. When I rode a full-size motorcycle in the winter, it lasted three seasons, and the salt ate it up. The scooter has plastic covering most of the mechanicals, with the exception of the motor and suspension. I am going to use WD40 on those, unless someone can suggest something better.

    Your 3-mile commute should be a cinch! The Zuma comes with a knobby tire, right? If they keep the roads clear most days, you shouldn’t have any problem, unless your province has a specific law prohibiting scooter use in winter. I would check into that, if I were you.

    Good luck, and…

    Ride well,

  6. SaltyDog Says:

    Yeah, I know what you mean…
    When I got my Saturn LS it was supposed to be MY car…but
    my wife drove it, said she liked it, and guess what…now she’s the
    one driving it…

    Luckily she’s still afraid of my scooter….but wait till this spring…
    I hope she does…I wanna graduate up to something like a bet and win
    soon as I get my MSF card.

  7. Sam Fowler Says:

    Two words: Ice screws. See me for details.

  8. Charlie Says:


    You can get stuff in spray cans that is sprayed on equipment for shipping. It is sort of like some messy chain lube in it’s applied consistency.

    It is supposed to protect against shipping on open decks in the ocean.

    Keystone Lubricating Company and Sherwin Williams are two possible suppliers. You probably can check at industrial supply places or machine tool vendors.


  9. Mike Conboy Says:

    My hat (and mittens) off to you sir for your bravery. I rode a winter in MA and two in PA; “child’s play” compared to what you’re up against. Good luck with it. FWIW, there was a guy who posted his winter riding experiences in Finland, during 1999-2002 or so. His name was Jussi Savola. His website appears to be down these days but I bet you’d find it interesting to trade notes with him. He posted some ezperiences with riding gear, tires, studding tires and what fails in the cold and salt.


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