Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Vespa and Craig Ferguson wants YOU to join the cause!

While flipping through the channels last night to find the PBS program Frontline-which was most excellent, by the way-I came across the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Jill Hennessey from Crossing Jordan was walking on stage when in the background, sitting by itself was a black Vespa LX. In the short amount of time I was able to keep watching, there was no mention as to why the Vespa was on the show, so I changed the channel... Assuming I could ask Mr. Internet and get an answer.

Good 'ol Mr. Internet ALWAYS comes through.
It seems that Mr. Ferguson and Piaggio have joined forces to raise money for a non-for-profit called the Lollipop Theater Newtork. The LTN "brings the magic of movies, currently in theatrical release, to children confined to hospitals nationwide due to chronic and life-threatening illnesses." The Graphite Black with Tan seat LX50 isn't exactly stock as the likes of Derek Luke, Angela Bassett and Lorraine Nicholson (who?) have signed it.
The actual auction starts on Monday, March 19th, but you apparently have to pre-qualify and opening bids start at $3000.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

3-wheelers to penetrate American market??

An article about three-wheeled transportation? Three wheels? WHAT?

Joking aside, the article posted on the Detroit News site by Susan "the ill informed" Carpenter of the Los Angeles Times is actually kind of funny. In the piece, Carpenter explains the benefits of two wheels over three and backs them up by saying that they have "been roaming Europe for years" which isn't exactly true. The Can-am Spyder by BRP just hit the trade-show circuit as a finished prototype this year and isn't due till November and the Piaggio MP3.. Well, we're all still sitting on our hands for that bike to arrive here after its inital release (and quick sell-out) in Italy and the UK last year. Years, indeed.

Being a nit-picking nerd, I thought her explanation of the MP3's phenomenal stopping power was funny too: " has twice the stopping power of a regular scooter: Double the wheels and, basically, you double the brakes."

Double the wheels... If you're unfamiliar with the MP3, it indeed has more "wheel power" than the traditional scooter or motorcycle by having an extra wheel up front, but that brings the number of tires up from two to three. That isn't exactly "double." Sure, in percentages, its 50%, but that's not double the amount is it? Wouldn't that be 100%? I'll be the first to admit, I'm dumb when it comes to numbers, but you're more than welcome to correct me if you know better.

Aside for that rant, the article is another decent review of the MP3 with the author's only gripe being that the steering lock system beeps when its activated. I assume that she found it grating because, like most folks in Los Angeles, she's an expert driver and the need for dummy indicator systems is just a little bit redundant, especially when trying to talk on her cell phone while sipping her coffee.

Check out the article here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Machine Review: Piaggio X9

As a Piaggio and Vespa shop, we get to play with the toys all the time. Its fun. However, because we're so busy having fun, we usually don't get the luxury of riding the bikes, especially for any extended amount of time. When we do, its awesome; not only do we get to burn up the mean streets, but we can give interested customers first-hand experience about the bikes, not just relay info that we read from the brochures.

Last evening, I decided to stay on the clock and take the Piaggio X9 out for an extended jaunt around Kansas City. Now, with previously limited saddle time, I wasn't a big fan of the X. Its big, heavy, the suspension is harsh and its just akward looking when comparing it to the Vespas. By taking the bike out for a longer experience, I was hoping to learn that there was more to the bike than I was led to believe. I heard it was a highway king, but I hadn't checked for myself and as far as I was concerned, the bike was sorta out of place in our shop.

Surprises, surprises. Heres what I found out:

Last night wasn't the warmest weather to be riding in, but with the 3-position windscreen and wide fairing, I figured I'd take a gamble anyway. In my full face helmet, riding gloves and zip-up track jacket, I was suprisingly cozy as I made my way North on Nall Avenue. Sunlight fleeting, the large brakelight and turnsignals telegraphed my intentions and gave me one less thing to worry about while riding amongst all the cell phone drivers on the road. Seriously, the brake light and signals are bright!

Being a big bike, I expected the machine to handle like one, and while it does have the cruiser-like comfort you’d expect from looking at it, it busts through heavy traffic like a smaller Vespa: effortlessly and with finesse.

Once I left the slower confines of Nall and began my trek westward on Shawnee Mission PKWY, I decided to see where the throttle would take me. The power delivery of the X9 for real world use can be described in one word: smooth. In two words? Really smooth. You twist the throttle, and the bike simply glides to speed, regardless if at a standstill or from a 30 MPH pace. It was sorta like being in my car, just faster! A lack of throttle-lag or jumpiness made the acceleration extremely predictable and it really surprises me how much I enjoyed that.

After I made my way home, I told the girlfriend what I was up to and she put on her gear, hopped on the back and we were off towards the Country Club Plaza. I was anxious to see if the neutral handling remained with a pillion passenger. On most bikes, the addition of a pillion not only increases your braking distance, but makes accelerations slower, and turning a pain as it can require more effort to get the bike leaned over. The X9 passed my test with flying colors. It remained neutral throughout, with just a touch more braking pressure being required of the Brembo calipers when stopping at stop signs and traffic signals. Getting ahead of traffic was a continuous surprise as weaving in and about slower moving cars was very easy! I wasn’t expecting that since streetfighting is next to impossible in moderate traffic with the X9’s competitors, especially the big Burgman and Silverwing. Then again, the X9 isn’t as big as those maxi-scoots either.

We quickly arrived at our destination: Balsano’s!! While sitting down to enjoy our Gelato, the GF gave me the 411 on what she thought of the X9. She enjoyed the wide seat, the hand rails, and most importantly, the wide-seat. As an owner of a Vespa ET4 and a semi-regular passenger on the back of my Ducati, she’s the authority on the uncomfortable vs. comfortable butt, and it was good to hear that she enjoyed the X9. Although it smarted a bit when she not only agreed that it was comfortable but added, “it was WAY more comfortable than the Ducati!”

The X9 and I had another jaunt through Overland Park this morning. This time, it was to find out the limits of its high-speed handling and to experience its interstate mannerisms. I entered the “testing grounds” of the Brookwood office park prepared to throw the bike into its 8 small-radius turns and small elevation changes. Even at the speed limit, the testing grounds are a good way to obtain information on braking, cornering and acceleration; just ask all the Mini Cooper folks and superbike guys that scream through those streets ‘round midnight.

The X9 felt surprisingly nimble through the first set of esses, and when squeezing the brakes for the long left-hander that follows, the Brembo Series Ono brake system does a great job of giving you the feedback you need to feel within your limits. Through the rest of the test, the bike’s cruiser-like acceleration and turning made for slower stopwatch times, but the X9 is not a sport-bike and it doesn’t pretend to be. Its performance I-69 however was freaky! I jumped off 87th and drove south to the 103rd st exit.


The predictable cruiser acceleration got me to 60mph with no surprises, but by the time I looked back down at the speedometer, I had somehow arrived at 85 MPH in an instant, and it still felt as if I only was going 60! Even heading into the wind, the bike kept pulling, its windshield and fairings sending all the turbulent air around me and keeping me comfortable and in control. I won’t post how fast I was going before I decided to stop breaking the law, but I will say the machine has power to spare!

The final real world test was to see if I could put groceries in it. I could. I went to HyVee this morning and stuffed two egg-sunny side up- with bacon and hashbrowns, an Arizona Tea bottle, and a broccoli and raisin salad under the seat and I had more than enough room left over to store a gallon of milk and a pair of shoes. Nice stuff!

Over all, I had a lot of fun with the X9 over the last number of hours and instead of it being the bike I was least excited about, I’m now very enamored with it. While it still shines at high speed cruising above all else, its not a bad bike for the city, especially if riding with two folks is what you plan on doing more often than not.

Scooters = Success

Posted this morning on the site was a nice article about Michael Duckworth and his adventure in bringing Vespa to the peoples of Dubai. Apparently frustrated with the parking and traffic in the uber-cosmopolitan city, bringing the sexy, sleek and powerful Vespa to the sprawling mean-streets was a logically smart solution. However, as the article states, Duckworth's exciting venture into scooters wasn't met by all with open arms. To read more and find out how he succeeded, click here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Scooter prep!

Now that we're getting some riding sunshine back on our roads, its time to do the obvious: ride! However, before you hop in the saddle, its best to go over a few things to not only make sure you are able to enjoy your scoot to its full potential, but to insure maximum safety as well! There are a number of things you should go over, but one of the easiest and probably the most important... The tires!

If you haven't ridden your bike all winter, its pretty much guaranteed that the air pressure (PSI) is going to be low in at least one of your tires. Before you decide to go grocery shopping, you're going to need to fill the rubber back to factory specs. Easy stuff!

First check your owner's manual and see what the suggested amount of air is per tire. Its going to be different between the front and rear wheels, so read carefully. (If you can't find your owner's manual, check the label inside of the glovebox, the info is there too!) Remove the valve stem covers, and while the tires are cold, check to see how much air is actually in there. If its crazy low (I did our X9 demo this morning and the front tire was reading at 3 PSI instead of the 30 PSI that should have been in there!) don't freak! Take your pump and fill your tires accordingly. Done.

For those of you not near an air machine/ or air compressor. If you can make it to the shop, we'll fill your tires, free of charge! If you're lucky, we may even sell you something :)

If you're going to be in the area anyway, you might as well schedule a full service to get your bike ready for the riding season ahead.

Whatever option you choose, make sure your bike is ready and safe for the road out there!

-Shiny side up!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gotta get to Des Moines!

Super imaginative artist Patricia Piccinni from Australia is touring a contemporary exhibition throughout the states this year and one of the stops is our sister-city, Des Moines! Showing at the Des Moines Art Center from January 19th to the 6th of April, this exhibit features 20 works including sculpture, drawings, video and photos. The exhibition is named Hug and the peices titled Nest are free-form sculpted Vespa ETs!!!

If you're a customer of our Des Moines store, you should scoot on down to the DMAC and check it out. If you're stuck in KC like the rest of us, go anyway and take pictures for us!
Check out the artist's website here or for exhibition times and dates, check here.

Scooters = Yay! for Enviornment and Yay! for Traffic!!

Yeah, it's nasty outside, and if your car is like mine (equipped with summer performance tires), getting around in this stuff can be a drag if not impossible... Makes ya wish for the riding season doesn't it?! Well, teasing aside, its business as usual and we're here with some new info to help satiate that two-wheeled hunger while the snow is present.

Posted on Yahoo! in the Business section yesterday, it seemed that New York City has been trying to figure out ways to reach that goal they set to reduce the city's emissions by 30%. Guess who is coming to the rescue!!

Using the Synchro/Sim traffic modeling system, a simulation of downtown Manhattan traffic, mixed up with 80% cars and SUVs with 20% scooters yielded the following results:

  • A total decrease in delay of more than 4.6 million hours per year -- which translates to time savings of nearly 100 working hours per person
  • A reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by over 26,000 tons (52,000,000-pounds) per year
  • A decrease in fuel consumption by over 2.5 million gallons per year
  • A total savings for New York City of more than $122 million per year in fuel and labor productivity

Now thats modeled for a year's span of time, but man, those are some amazing numbers! A few things are very important to note here too:

  1. This proves (as if it needed proving), that scooters are NOT more polluting than SUVs, which has been argued rather weakly by those in the car industry (someone's getting nervous eh?) and so-called "greenskeepers."
  2. Scooters really do save you $$ on gas! Imagine if all of New York were to adapt to the European lifestyle and say, 20% of the populace rode to work instead of driving their cars.. Heck, what if all of Kansas City did the same?? Not only would that be a big step in descreasing our addiction to fossil fuels, it would help the enviornment, save us money, and we could have much more fun doing it; how is any of that a bad thing?!?

The report also goes on to say that the simulation was still conservative on the impact of scooters in that it didn't take into account that two scooters can occupy a lane in side-by-side riding (as permitted by NY law) whereas you can only fit one car in the same space!

To sweeten the experience, Piaggio's CEO, Mr. Timoni is quoted in talking about the effect of scooters in general.

"Throughout the world, scooters are recognized as a smart transportation alternative, and this traffic simulation underscores the tangible impact that two-wheel vehicles can have on a major urban area like New York City," said Paolo Timoni, President and CEO of Piaggio Group Americas, which sponsored the modeling project. "The impact of this kind of shift has already been seen in London, which instituted congestion tariffs for commuting cars. That policy led to a significant increase in vehicles like scooters being used for commuting. Research is now validating that even small behavioral changes, like using scooters for a portion of one's commuting, can benefit the economy and help address critical environmental issues like global warming."

Check out this great article HERE.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The new Spring-Fresh hotness for your scoot

Yeah, its supposed to snow all weekend long, but that doesn't change the fact that in a few weeks, it'll be time to ride once again!!!! New spring weather brings out everybody and that means, your vehicle of choice needs to look the part. No point in cruising by Sheridan's to wave at the hotties when your scoot is in need of a wax (or paint job in my case)!

There are a lot of ways to freshen up the ride before it officially becomes show and tell on the mean streets of KC, but one way in particular is excitingly clever: Enter Pimp my Scoota!

The site says that it exists to turn Vespa PX scoots into "funkafied showponies." Awesome. As of now, this artist-scooter collabo exists for PX owners, but you never know... Check out the awesomeness!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Vespa Resurrection: Bill B's Allstate

Bill B from Missouri Valley, IA personally restored this '64 Allstate to original showroom condition with some help from VKC. He even respray'd it the original Coca-Cola red.

Nice one Bill! He's now restoring a mini-train like the one you rode around the park in as a kid.

Thanks for thinking of us Bill. Send us photos of that train once it's done.