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A bit of genius, this

October 24, 2006

Vespa shifter

Yesterday was sunny, and fairly warm for the last full week of October. You know what that means…

I needed to find some Halloween decorations for the PX. This weekend the annual Paseo con los Muertos (in English, “Ride with the Dead”) scooter rally, organized by the Los Gatos Gordos SC will take place, and a black bike just seems to lend itself to Halloween decoration better than a white one. I would have to hit a bunch of stores, so what better excuse for a nice long ride?

As I ride along I think, what a genius Corradino D’Ascanio, the aeronautical engineer who designed the original Vespa, was. Especially the manual transmission solution he came up with. You can find pictures of scooters predating the 1946 introduction of the Vespa that show inelegant, and even potentially deadly gear change designs (there’s a prototype Fiat scooter with a long gear lever that you could easily picture spearing your pancreas if you fell off wrong).

Safety was the motivation for the old-school Vespa’s unique gear-change mechanism; the rider can keep both hands on the handlebars at all times. Squeeze the clutch lever, twist the shifter, release the clutch lever. To me, this is way better than a motorcycle because I’ve always had a devil of a time with motorcycle shifters.

In fact, yr. hmbl. & obnt. svnt. just couldn’t get the hang of shifting with my toe. On a motorcycle, I have a devil of a time finding neutral, and on more than one occasion in class ended up dumping the school bike because I grabbed first gear instead of dropping down one.

On the PX, as with all vintage Vespas, the gears are arranged in a linear pattern: 1st, neutral (or if you prefer, dot) 2nd, 3rd, and where applicable, 4th and even 5th. No chance of grabbing first when you want 3rd.

Best of all, it’s easy to learn. Favicon


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