September 26th, 2009 — I love autumn in Minnesota. I started riding scooters in November two years ago and this time of year re-energizes my love for riding. Perfectly on cue, the leaves started changing right on labor day this year and though a lot of green remains, this weekend was the first time the weather turned just slightly chilly and truly autumnal. Such a great time to ride.

The Mrs and I headed out for a lovely late afternoon ride through Mendota Heights, St. Paul, across the river, around Lake Harriet and back. I’ve spent so much of this riding season commuting the 34 mile round trip back and forth to work that I’ve almost forgotten how to ride for the sheer joy of it. Autumn is renewing that for me. Some new rubber is helping also.

A week ago, Scooterville installed a pair of Heidenau K61 sport tires on my Vespa GT. The OEM Vespa tires are simply awful. Their cross-tread pattern is noisy, wears quickly and unevenly, and puts a hum through the whole bike because there are so many little patches of rubber and tread to push through. My rear had also worn almost completely bald down the center in less than 4000 miles. Even worse, the tire had cupped very badly. This shook and shimmied the bike at various speeds and now I understand just how much tires had to do with the wobble I dealt with earlier this season. That’s all over now. These new Heidenau K61s are amazing! My Vespa is now silky smooth and amazingly grippy in the corners. What’s more, the smoother tread pattern means noticeably less rolling friction. So my Vespa is actually now quicker with these new tires, or so it seems. More than anything, the change in handling is outstanding — at least once I got the tire pressure figured out.

The GT series Vespas are actually very sensitive to tire pressure front to back. The rear tire is supposed to be at about 34 psi and the front at 26 psi. This differential is actually critical to how the bike handles. When I first got the bike back from Scooterville, both tires were at about 36 psi and the bike was alive. The front end was especially twitchy. But once I adjusted the tire pressure up front, the handling was just butter. In fact, where the Vespa was a bit tentative in corners on the old rubber, now it turns in eagerly and holds a deep lean with no trouble at all. This increase in grip has made a profound difference and I’m falling in love with the Vespa all over again. Just in time for autumn.

High points
When The Mrs and I swapped scoots at an empty parking lot. She rode the GT around for a while and I zipped after her on her pink Buddy. Very fun to appreciate the differences in character and performance between two scooters that at first glance might seem very similar. She’s now interested in the NCY suspension upgrades available for the Buddy. Can’t blame her — that Vespa is very comfortable.

Low points
None really. We rode into the setting sun for a while and had to divert around some road construction, but that’s all part of urban adventure riding!

Nathaniel Salzman