Scoot Commute

Commuting on a scooter in the winter in New England

Posted in Daily Commute, Gear Review, Gloves, Helmet, Pants by sbahn on 2010/12/02

Prologue

A lot of folks visit this blog from a Google search because they’re looking for information on commuting with a scooter. I thought I would post up some of my thoughts because there’s not a whole lot else to be writing about at the moment. When it is cold and dark out, the commute goes like this: ride to work, ride home, happy no one ran me over. I actually think it’s easier commuting in the winter because average car drivers, after they see me and their brains register “person on scooter on the street” assume I’m a complete nut-job and give me a wide berth. That said, and with little to rant about in the way of bad driving, on to the Commuting by Scootah!

The Commute

I commute all year on a motorized two-wheeled vehicle in Providence, Rhode Island. It’s about 4 miles each way on congested city streets with a lot of stop signs, traffic signals and turns. The posted speed limit in the city is 25mph. Keep all these details in mind as you read on; it takes some really brutal weather to make me not ride because, seriously, how cold can I get in 4 miles.

The Rides

In the winter I can almost always be found on a Genuine Buddy 150cc International model (the Saint-Tropez, so fitting for the snow-streaked streets of New England). The first few warm days in spring I’ll pull out one of the motobikes because I like to take off in the middle of the day for a ride in the sunlight. By the time April rolls around, a high of 40F is t-shirt weather because it gets so frigging cold here. Throughout the summer I switch up the scooters and bikes. I try to take the Vespa P200e at least once a week. I will also take the Honda CT90 if I don’t have to stop on the way home (I don’t like kickstarting it in the grocery store parking lot) and I want to have some fun. I usually take the DRZ400SM once a week in the summer and into the fall because it gets so busy at work and I like to take a long ride in the middle of the day. There’s nothing more refreshing.

The Buddy: it’s my winter ride because it always starts no matter how cold. Around 20F and under, the electric start needs an assist, so I will kick it three times, then open the throttle and press. It usually starts. If not, I do it again until the electric start engages. It has never left me stranded.

The Vespa P200E: it’s my “real” scooter because it actually requires some skill to ride. It wasn’t reliable last summer so I didn’t ride it much. It has the most comfy seat of any bike I own. It’s beaten to hell and won’t win any beauty contests, but I love it.

The DRZ400SM: It’s pure hooliganism. I ride it when I’m tired of people saying I don’t ride a real bike.

The Honda CT90: It’s just so freaking fun. My little Dominican motorcycle.

The Honda CB350: I still haven’t ridden the 350 to work. We need to work out all the kinks and this just may become my summer commuter.

The Gear

Gear is, obviously, weather-dependent. However, I am an ATGATT girl even when it’s 95F and we’re suffering in the middle of an HHH weather spell (that’s hazy, hot and humid for those of you who live places that offer “a dry heat”). I will ride in torrential rain with 40 mph wind. I will ride in the snow if it’s not yet sticking to the tarmac. I will ride on a sunny 70F day.

The vast majority of my gear is either used, gotten off eBay or a closeout. I like a good deal, but my size is difficult to fit so sometimes I have to pony up and pay full price. I actually think most women are difficult to fit because the manufacturers don’t actually make clothing specifically for women. It doesn’t help that I’m 5’11” and am thin with no hips. The closest local shop to me offers virtually nothing for women so I don’t feel bad not supporting them in my clothing purchases. I do go to them for some parts and service we don’t do ourselves.

Helmet
I wear an HJC CL-16 full-face helmet. I’ve tried on more expensive helmets but I haven’t been convinced that they’re worth the extra $200 to $300. I get that the wind noise is less and the appearance of quality is better, but for 99 bucks I have a new Snell 2010 helmet that doesn’t weigh that much more than the Shoei or Arai. It was important to me to upgrade as I wear an extra small (I know, can you believe it?! all these brains in such a petite head!) and the new Snell ratings affect the smaller shell sizing.

The helmet also came equipped with a Pinlock for fog and man, does that thing work or what?! It’s better than my Respro Foggy. I will never have a helmet without a Pinlock.

I’ve plastered the thing with reflective pink and black checkerboard patterened stickers that match the DRZ400SM colors. The black reflects white at night. It looks pretty badass.

Rain Gear
My only true rain gear are my Rain-offs, lobster claw looking rubber-like overgloves. I swear by them. Never, ever have wet gloves again. I prefer them to dishwashing gloves because they only have three “fingers”; one for the thumb, one for the index finger and three for the other fingers. They’re roomy, easy to get on and off, and simply do not leak. Stop wasting your money on waterproof gloves and get yourself a pair of Rain-offs.

Winter, Spring, Fall

Olympia AST jacket, FirstGear TPG Escape pants, Oxtar boots in Vermont

Olympia AST jacket, FirstGear TPG Escape pants, Oxtar boots in Vermont

Olympia AST jacket
I really like this jacket. It’s extremely comfortable and it works great by itself or with layering because of the cinching system on the arms and sides/hips. I have the hi-viz version and I think it makes a huge difference when compared to other colors (black, grey and white in particular) when riding in the rain or at dawn/dusk. Because my commuting is urban, anything to help me stick out from all the distractions of buildings, people, signs is ok in my book.

I’m not convinced it’s waterproof but my commute is so short, I’ve never gotten wet. On long distance trips, I don’t trust it.

I also don’t have a problem with it getting dirty like some of the complaints I’ve read. I guess I don’t mind the black specks. I wash it once a year.

The liner is very good at blocking wind so I do wear that in the winter. It’s hideous, though, so I keep it hidden in my office. If you liked the David Dinkins / Members Only look, then this is the liner for you.

FirstGear TPG Escape pants
These would be the best pants in the whole wide world if they only made them in tall sizes. That’s my only complaint. They ride up over my boot and let freezing air onto my lower leg. Grrrr. Otherwise, they’ve held up great to a year of daily riding (both commuting and travelling). With the liner in, they are very warm. I don’t even use my scooter skirt anymore. They’re quite tight with the quilted liner in, but the waist has adjustable straps that I can let out in the winter.

I just washed these pants for the first time (I know, I know, I don’t wash my gear very often) and treated them with a fabric treatment for boat cushions. The rain really beads up now and rolls right off. I’m not convinced these are 100% waterproof as I’ve had moisture get in through the two zippers on the airvents on the thighs. I wish there weren’t any vents because they don’t offer that much relief when it’s hot. I’d rather have them be waterproof than fake airy.

Oxtar boots
I love these boots. I have two pair; one in my regular shoe size for spring and fall and one in a size bigger for wearing thick, wool or fleece socks. The model is not made any more, but TCX bought the company and carries two women’s Gore-Tex street boots.

These boots are 100% waterproof. They have been standing-in-a-puddle-so-deep-the-water-almost-came-over-the-top tested. Not a drop got in.

Teknic Venom gloves
I wear ’em because I have them (they were thrown into a deal on another item of gear from eBay). They’re nothing special. I’ll probably replace them with a pair of Held Steve gloves in the near future.

Rev’It Fahrenheit gloves
I love these gloves. They’re a little big (I got them used), particularly across the palm, but I have no problems on the Buddy because all I need to do is brake. I have worn them on the DRZ and they were fine, but I could imagine getting irritated that they’re a little big. Because I have heated gloves, I usually use those when I’m on the DRZ in the cold.

Gerbings Heated gloves (battery pack model)
Ok, love ’em, hate ’em. These are the new Microwire gloves that can be hardwired to the bike or use a portable battery pack. They have left my left hand frozen, so frozen the pain had no words. Even after I sent them back to Gerbings to have them fixed, and they were returned to me with new battery packs, the left glove still left me frozen. It’s always the left glove so I’m convinced there’s something wrong with it. But I keep wearing them.

This is my second winter with these gloves, so I’ll keep ya posted. I will be royally pissed off it they don’t start working properly considering they cost THREE HUNDRED dollars. That was all the Christmas money from my mom and extra kicked in by my boyfriend. And my hands (make that hand) are still cold.

TurtleFur neck gaiter
I have three fleece neck gaiters, all courtesy of the local Savers. I’m such a cheap bastard that I waited until the price tag color went half price. I picked up each for fiddy cent, and two are pink and one is purple.  Right up my alley. I love my gaiters!

Rukka Windblock mask
I was just given this as a present. It features neoprene fabric that goes over the nose and mouth and windblocker Gore fabric that gets stuffed into the neck of my jacket. I’ve only used it a few weeks now, but boy does that Windblocker fabric actually block wind. It’s amazing.

I like this mask because it’s thin. I can stuff it into the collar of the AST and still snap and velcro the collar. I cannot do that with a fleece gaiter.

What I don’t like is that it fogs up my shield if I keep the fabric over my nose. So I have to pull it down and it sort of sits in my mouth. It’s bearable for 4 miles but will definitely not do on longer rides.

Down vest
I just started wearing my boyfriend’s down vest under my AST. What a difference in both warmth and bulkiness when compared to my multiple layers of fleece. I want to add a Patagonia Nano Puff jacket to my kit because 1) it has arms; and, 2) it has PrimaLoft filling instead of down. It can get wet and still keep me warm. I’ll probably wait until the end of season to see if I can find a deal.

Hi-Viz Belt
Dork that I am, I wear a yellow reflective belt when I ride at night even though the scooter is covered in reflective tape and my jacket and pants have reflective patches. It’s part of the uniform and I don’t want to let the drivers down.

Summer

Olympia Airglide II jacket, Joe Rocket Cleo Mesh pants, BMW Airflow boots on the RI / CT border

Olympia Airglide II jacket, Joe Rocket Cleo Mesh pants, BMW Airflow boots on the RI / CT border

Olympia Airglide II jacket
This jacket flows air like all get out. It’s cut for the female form and fits really well. I got this a size smaller than my AST because I usually wear very little under mesh. A vast improvement over my old mesh jacket. The liner is really nice, as well, and makes the jacket waterproof. Again, it’s hideous even though Olympia suggest one could walk around town wearing it. No way.

Joe Rocket Cleo mesh pants
JR is not the best quality but they make pants in a real inseam, for real-world women with real-world legs. This does not have a liner so I wear the FirstGear Escape pants if it’s raining in the summer.

Joe Rocket Gloves
I have both the Roxie gloves in white, because, well, they’re white and how cool is that, and some red and black perforated things. They’re really comfy and I’ve had them for years. I need to get better gloves. That’s the one area of my kit that needs upgrading.

BMW Airflow boots
My boyfriend got these for me for cheap from who knows where. I never thought I needed “summer” boots, but they are really much cooler than my regular riding boots. This would be the last thing on my list for someone; it’s rare when my feet are sweltering in my regular boots.

Buff neck gaiter
I cannot stand wind on my neck. It can be 90F and I still wear a neck gaiter. I have two Buffs; both the thinner kind. One is supposedly infused with some kind of UV stuff so I wear that one when it’s really hot. And they’re pretty stylin’.

I’ll do another post soon about some of the old gear and why I don’t use it anymore.

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