Reflections on 5 months with scooter as sole transport

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redcass
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Reflections on 5 months with scooter as sole transport

Post by redcass »

I've recently returned home to Illinois after my sabbatical in Ithaca NY. Now it's 2 degrees outside, and my beloved scooter is plugged in to the tender in my garage.

I didn't have a car in Ithaca, just my 125cc Buddy. And I'm really glad I did it that way. The experience has taught me that I can indeed ride in lots of different weather conditions, and I can find ways to carry lots of gear with me.

Transporting the scooter from IL to central NY was not the easiest thing. The smallest available UHaul trailer is overkill, but a minivan with stow-and-go seating worked well, after I removed my mirrors.

Ithaca has some really nice motorcycle/scooter parking lots, but parking on the street was often a pain in the butt. Cars regularly squeezed into my metered spot with me, and moved my scooter "out of their way" while I was eating dinner or whatever. On the street there was never anything handy to chain my scooter to.

I did not like parking overnight outside all the time, but I made it work. I always used my NY noose chain and scooter cover, despite the mocking I suffered from my landlords. I often had to remove my battery and take it inside to the tender, but that was just a minor inconvenience, until I lost one of the nuts and had lots of trouble finding a replacement.

The worst incident was when I returned after fall break to find my rear rack broken. Apparently someone my landlord hired to do work in their house decided to move my scooter, despite the fact that it was chained to a railing. My landlord denied that it had been moved, but it was obvious. Fortunately, they paid for the replacement rack, and Scooterworks had the chrome racks in stock. I needed all the gear space I could get to carry my stuff around.

I am still unable to kick-start my scooter. One time she didn't start by button (during the era of the missing nut), and I tried and tried, but one of my colleagues ended up getting her started for me. I gotta keep practicing that.

I don't think I spent even $40 on gas the whole time.

I got quite good at riding in the rain, and only got wet through my leather jacket zipper vents (when I didn't wear the liner). But I did decide to forgo some optional trips like concerts when the weather seemed crappy.

I am definitely a more skilled rider, more comfortable through curves, really good with U-turns, and had lots of practice avoiding accidents. That experience is invaluable.

Now that I'm back to the option of cage or scooter, I hope I don't get lazy. Gearing up always takes longer than just grabbing the car keys and going. But I want to ride more, and I know that I can handle pretty bad weather. I rode a couple times with single-digit wind chills, but avoided snow and sleet. Can't wait to ride again! But, it's still 2 degrees out there. I think I'll stay home.

So...I'd love to hear your thoughts MB-ers, about scooter as sole transport, why/how you do it, or why you don't.

Peace,
RedCass
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gr8dog
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Post by gr8dog »

Excellent post redcass.

My scooter accounts for about 90 % of my transport in spring/summer/fall. I am married and have 2 kids. The 4 of us don't do to well on the scooter. Any time I need to transport something too big for the scooter I need the car. Winter is just too darn cold and the roads always have icy patches on them. I live 30 miles south of Green Bay so I am probably 250 miles north of you.

I've gotta get going now to visit relatives in Two Rivers. Keep scooting.
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Post by rajron »

Like your pictures – and I feel sorta bad for not riding in all kinds of weather but your pics are during good weather, when I like to ride.
And, and, I know its wrong, safety an all; but I do wish more women rode with dresses and heels, I would be on my scooter even more!
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redcass
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Post by redcass »

Yeah, I should get a shot all geared up with snow on the ground. But, it's cold ya know? :)
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Post by jrsjr »

Hey, redcass, great write-up! No doubt about it, you are a hard-core scooterist.

Happy new Year!
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Post by jmazza »

Great write up!

I do have our car as a back up (we own 6 wheels in our family) but 99% of the time I take the scooter. I've learned to carry a lot (no surprise to any of us here): every type of stringed instrument but a double bass, lots of beer, pizza, a guitar amp, a hockey stick, and many other things. I've also learned that all-weather (ok, no snow or ice down here but a LOT of rain) riding can be done. Learning to ride in the rain is not only a challenge, it's a great skill to have (and can be fun).

By way of contribution to the thread, I've tried a lot of rain gear- Frog Toggs, etc. I've always come home with the front of my shirt wet from either vents or rain going down my neck. I recently bought this motorcycle rain jacket from ArmyNavyDeals.com and got to test it right away in a torrential downpour. It's amazing. Period. And only $13.50. It has layers (hard to explain) around the neck so no rain could get in with the hood up under my helmet. Not breathable, non-reflective, etc., but fits over an armored jacket and I fit my messenger bag under it just fine. Despite the description, it does not come with pants. I use my Frog Toggs pants.
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Post by Kaos »

jmazza wrote:Great write up!

I do have our car as a back up (we own 6 wheels in our family) but 99% of the time I take the scooter. I've learned to carry a lot (no surprise to any of us here): every type of stringed instrument but a double bass, lots of beer, pizza, a guitar amp, a hockey stick, and many other things. I've also learned that all-weather (ok, no snow or ice down here but a LOT of rain) riding can be done. Learning to ride in the rain is not only a challenge, it's a great skill to have (and can be fun).

By way of contribution to the thread, I've tried a lot of rain gear- Frog Toggs, etc. I've always come home with the front of my shirt wet from either vents or rain going down my neck. I recently bought this motorcycle rain jacket from ArmyNavyDeals.com and got to test it right away in a torrential downpour. It's amazing. Period. And only $13.50. It has layers (hard to explain) around the neck so no rain could get in with the hood up under my helmet. Not breathable, non-reflective, etc., but fits over an armored jacket and I fit my messenger bag under it just fine. Despite the description, it does not come with pants. I use my Frog Toggs pants.
As a side note to this, I JUST got Storm Guard rain pants on sale at Cycle Gear for $15.
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Post by enzomatic »

I've been either riding my bicycle or my scooter as my transportation for the past few years, I own a car but it just gets moved when street sweeping makes me move it.
I checked out those $15 rain pants, look like a good deal but the reviews are a bit mixed.
Looking for ppl to ride with in LA.
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Post by mattgordon »

Great share, should be "required reading" to those considering scootering for practical, vs. recreational reasons.

Living and scooting in So-Cal (high 60's~low 70's today) it's an easier choice to make, however their are other hazards (traffic density for one) to take in consideration. Your post brings up some practical matters not generally considered when the "romance" of an impending scooter purchase is luring someone new into the fold.

I'm sure the experience will increase both your enjoyment of scooting recreationally, and your use it for practical transport, and perhaps provide food for thought to others preparing to take the leap.
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Post by nateandcourt »

Great post.

I have been on 2 wheels for a while now myself.
My wife does have a car for her and our son though. I wear a backpack and do everything on my scoot. Its just rainy here in southeast louisiana. The past 2 weeks it has dropped down into the 30s. I just bundle up and go.
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Post by Dibber »

I was cageless once, when I lived in So Cal in my Navy days. But here in Minnesota it doesn't work. It is still -18 as I write this message and the roads are full of snow and ice. Your write up reminded me of the day when a couple of Chopper Gang riders stopped some guys trying to steel our cycles. We let them take care of want-a-be thieves. Never did see the two guys again either. I recconned they learned a lesson. Thanks for the write up and great pictures.
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Post by pimaCanyon »

great post, Cass! Thanks for posting, and Happy New Year!
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Post by scootermom »

Beautiful pics! I love Ithaca, having gone to college in upstate NY.

I own a Hyundai Santa Fe in addition to my scooter (my husband has the minivan). Unfortunately, I won't be able to be a scooter-only rider, as we have three kids, two of them still in car seats. But, I plan to take my scoot as often as is practical when I go to work, and when I have to go places that I don't have to carry any kids (or large items). Of course, the weather will be a factor, but here in VA, it's not too bad MOST of the time. :)

Thanks for the great write-up!
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Post by KABarash »

As the only driver with 4 vehicles available to me this past summer, 2 scoots, 2 Jeeps. I put 4000 miles on the Buddy, 300 on the Met, and 1000 combined on both Jeeps!! One of which I didn't even attempt to start from July to October. Scootering is the prefered means of conveyance for me!

Scootermom: Where in upstate NY you went to school? I was at SUNY Wanakena, (3 1/2 hours north of Ithica)
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Post by scootermom »

KABarash wrote:
Scootermom: Where in upstate NY you went to school? I was at SUNY Wanakena, (3 1/2 hours north of Ithica)
I am from Rochester (but graduated HS in Miami, FL), and graduated class of 1992 from SUNY-Geneseo with a degree in speech pathology. I miss Geneseo. Or maybe I just miss being in college. :)
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Post by hcstrider »

Redcass,

Great post, I admire people who use their scooter as their primary transportation. Five months as your sole transportation, that is awesome. I love all of the details in this post about what works/what doesn’t work and the practical obstacles you have to deal with (like people moving your scooter from your paid parking spot).
Wayne
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Post by sunshinen »

Whether you get rid of your car or not, it can be really rewarding to learn what conditions you can ride in quite comfortably and all the things you can carry on a scooter. I love the feeling of being completely dry on a scooter out in the pouring rain. I love the feeling of big trips through country roads. I love the feeling of figuring how to pack such a tiny vehicle to the brim.

But I wouldn't suggest that new riders go cage-free cold turkey. Being forced to ride in bad conditions is very different than choosing to. Take the time to build up your gear, your skills, your ego-free riding attitude, your knowledge of the traffic and roads in terms of scooting needs, and your ability to judge weather, wind, road hazards, other drivers, suicidal squirrels (fall, i.e., food storing time, always makes them ... nutty), etc.

How and why did I get rid of my car?

Why:
Because, like some people's scoots, my car was often not working due to neglect (dead battery, deflated tires, dry-rotting tires, emergency brake rusted to the wheels...), and it wasn't an old clunker. I decided it would be cheaper just to lose the car and rent one when I needed one.

How:
Work: I can arrive and leave with a fairly flexible schedule, and I can work at home when there's snow or ice on the roads.

Errands: I have an open top basket with bungee chords on the rear rack, reusable waterproof grocery bags under the seat, and a completely waterproof duffel bag for whatever.

Weather: As they say for most outdoorsy things, there's no such thing as bad weather, only a lack of appropriate gear. I have "surprise" bad weather gear under the seat, including extra warmth layers year round. I have good waterproof, windproof, layerable gear, and a mesh jacket for summer and heated gloves for winter. I LOVE those gloves!

Safety: Vow to never ride when you really, really shouldn't. The job, the party, the movie, the hot boy (or girl)... it can all wait. And if they're worth their salt, they'll understand and keep... except maybe the party or the concert, but you'll survive, and that's the key.

I kept my car until I reached the point that I was comfortable with riding in almost any condition. I learned a lot by trial and, fortunately, not-too-bad of errors. When I first got the scoot I did not ride in the rain — not because I thought I would fall on my own, but because it only took one near-miss to realize I wasn't ready to deal with the way cars behave in the rain. (They slide at stops and around corners. The drivers seem to develop sudden-onset cataracts, etc. This takes a weather condition that compromises your response time and your ability to stay upright ... and adds new and unusual traffic obstacles and challenges.)

I slowly added more challenging riding conditions as I became both more skilled and — most importantly — more aware of how to survive on a scooter in traffic. I read all the safety tips I could get my hands on. And you know what, the little things pay off big! I take note of near-misses, analyze what happened, and look for ways I can change my riding (not their driving) to avoid it in the future. I read the crash thread on here and try to learn from the experiences of others. The more you ride, the more you "just know" when someone else is about to violate your right of way. I now usually know when to put myself front and center of potential danger's eye-line (and when to give up that tactic), and when to just prepare or the potential violation of my right of way.

So if you're tempted, definitely go cage-free! It's fantastic fun, saves a shit-ton of money, and quadruples your cool :helmet: (or is that dork? :nerd: ) factor! Just be sure that you are ready before you set yourself free.
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tshall
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Post by tshall »

Sabbatical in Ithaca sounds great - I lived there from 1990 to 1993. Beautiful town and scenery - how did Buddy handle the hills?
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