Have you ever had one of those moments when something happens – an event, or you see someone you haven’t seen for awhile – and you realize wow, I was seriously JUST talking about this!
That was me and some gravel last weekend.
No, I don’t talk to gravel. But last week I was talking to a friend who rides about gravel skids – he had a recent near-miss on a corner – and just a day or so later found myself kicking tiny rocks under the Vespa, thanking the scooter gods that I had the good sense to wear kevlar jeans, sturdy boots, and gloves.
Friday I took the day off work and headed down to Missouri wine country with a riding buddy. We planned to hit a few of the wineries and breweries on the windy little state roads between Ste. Genevieve and Farmington. He rides a “real motorcycle” but I had no trouble keeping a decent following distance even at higher speeds when we were on the four-lane divided part of Rte. 67. I led for part of the way and took the opportunity to finally give the GT200 a wide-open throttle for a decent stretch, including some hills. I was pleased to note that she purred nicely the whole time, no struggles or wobbles. Vespa states that the max speed on this bike is 74 mph, and sure enough, the speedo needle STOPS just shy of 75. I think that may be a little deceptive. I know from using the GPS speedometer on my phone that my bike’s speedometer is about 10% optimistic. However, I didn’t have it on at the time, so I have no idea how fast I was truly going. I know the windscreen has the potential to give you a little extra speed on the top end (and when I took the screen off later I noticed a massive difference in just how it felt), so I’m curious to try this again with a more accurate idea of my speed. Still, however fast I was going, it was a lot of fun.
I was grateful on this longer ride for the high-density foam in my new Cheeky Seats seat cover. This recent addition soothed my need to break up the all-black look of the scoot, but keeps it well in line with the classic styling. I might eventually get another one in a fun color, and if I do I’ll definitely spring for the added cost of the extra foam again no matter what. The owner makes all the covers by hand here in the U.S. of A., and is wonderful to work with for a custom. I started with this design for the GTS seat, and she adapted it for the GT200 seat and did the whole thing in distressed caramel vinyl with contrast stitching. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
After we got off 67 in Farmington, the windy back roads took over. Our first stop at Twin Oaks winery was a pleasant surprise – I’d been there five years ago and business must have boomed since, because they had added a wonderful new covered patio. The weather was perfect for sitting outside in jeans and t-shirts, sipping a glass or two of Vignoles. We agreed on the next destination, seven miles down the road, and headed out. That was when my riding buddy in the lead turned left instead of right.
I hit him up on the intercom – another fantastic and well-worth-the-money addition to my kit – and said dude, turn around, we should be going the other way. He pulled off the road to turn around and in hindsight I really should have known that I shouldn’t follow him. I had a few seconds to gauge the spot he’d chosen to turn and had enough time to observe that it was not a good spot for turning 12″ wheels and getting back on the road. It was the end of a gravel driveway, and the bottom of a hill with very little flat space before it hit the asphalt. No shoulder on the road, just about a 1 or 2 inch lip. NOT GOOD. But I just didn’t think or react fast enough I guess, because suddenly, there I was.
By some miracle, I got my bike turned perpendicular to the road without dropping it. I didn’t want to chance a sideways move onto the road with the height difference between the asphalt and the gravel – 12″ wheels don’t like to play with that. Since there really wasn’t any traffic, I figured that a little throttle at 90 degrees would get me up onto the road, at which point I could turn in the other lane to get pointed the right direction. I backed it up as far as I could with the stupid hill in the way, then gave it a twist. My front wheel popped up easily, but as soon as it was up I could feel my back wheel struggling with the gravel and the angle and starting to slide. I reflexively grabbed the brakes and put my feet down to steady the bike, but I just didn’t act fast enough. The rear wheel did pop up onto the road but landed unsteadily and slid over.
I fell, REALLY slowly – so slowly I swear I hit the kill switch before I hit the ground – and ended up under the Vespa’s right cowl, hands down. My Biltwell gloves did a great job protecting my hands and I only got a bruise at the point of impact. My legs were well-protected with my Speed & Strength Motolisa jeans (which I have grown to love a little more after a few washes and a little inexpert tailoring) and my new Harley-Davidson boots (I KNOW, hush) actually got dented but kept my feet and ankles safe. Going down on the right this is especially important because the exhaust pipe is right there and that thing can really burn you.
This is a lesson for scooterists who don’t like to gear up. I was going SLOW. I could have been doing that same move on a 49cc putter and this still could have happened. I could have ended up with a fistful of gravel embedded in my throttle hand, a burn on my leg, and a broken metatarsal or two in my left foot – all from a slow-speed tip-over. I’m no angel when it comes to ATGATT (or anything else, come to think of it) but the most I’ll leave off is my jacket, and I often wear regular old jeans instead of protective gear. But always pants, always boots, always gloves – because those are the impact points in a lot of falls.
So I sustained some bruising to my right hand, the top of my left foot, and my dignity. Lucrezia kindly let me bear the brunt of it, and she didn’t suffer any scratches thanks to the crash bars, the panniers, and my body breaking her fall. The windscreen – already a little wobbly from the time it fell out of my basket on a busy road – cracked again, and I think something got bent because it refuses to lock securely in the mounting holes now. It wobbled on the way to the next stop so I just took it off. Oh well. But the point is, I got back up and got back on and somehow muscled that damn bike onto the pavement.
After all, there was wine down the road.