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Tool time

March 28, 2007

One way or another, the PX and I will be leaving for Portland on Friday. The question at this point is whether I will be riding it, or towing it in a trailer.

I’m hoping to be riding it, but that’s going to depend on the weather. The forecasts say “showers,” which is better than “rain.” But we’ll have to see what the weather gods have in store for the next 24 hours.

While I am a pretty fair mechanic (I did own a race car for many years), when a vehicle is under warranty, as the PX is, it usually makes your life less complicated to let a dealer handle mechanical issues. There are Vespa dealers in Seattle and Portland, but none in between, at least on the route we’ll be taking. The odds of anyone working in a motorcycle shop knowing anything about a Vespa PX 150 are mighty long, so when undertaking a 200-mile road trip, it’s best to be prepared to deal with a mechanical issue yourself.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to upgrade your AAA membership to the level that gets you motorcycle towing.

My toolbox weighs about 100 lbs. and contains everything I needed to keep an SCCA Showroom Stock car running. This would be a bit much to carry on a scooter, and isn’t necessary… an old-school Vespa is a pretty simple device, designed to be maintained by its owner.

The most important thing to keep in mind about any manufactured device is this: the manufacturer wants the process of assembling the thing to be as simple as possible. One way to do that is to keep the number and type of fasteners to the absolute minimum.

Essential tools

After careful study, it appears any nut or bolt on the bike’s frame can be dealt with by a 10, 13, 14 or 17 mm wrench or socket. So, a combination wrench, regular socket and deep socket in those sizes should have you covered. One of those quick-change combo screwdrivers that sell at your favorite hardware store for five or six bucks should take care of any screw or small nut the bike’s likely to have. Throw in a couple of adjustable wrenches, a couple of pairs of regular and needlenose pliers, a set of Allen wrenches, and maybe a couple of tiny screwdrivers (Philips and regular). Finally, a roll of electrical tape and some nylon tie-wraps may come in handy.

What to put this stuff in? A lot of scooterists carry tools in those zippered bank pouches you might have had to use when you were, say, delivering pizza at some earlier stage in your life. They’re cheap, and in my case only came in packages of three, so you can give the remaining bags to two friends, or keep them for when this bag disintegrates, as it surely will.

Of course, you’re bound to discover you have every tool except the one you need when something goes wrong. That’s the way these things work, and you just have to go with the flow and think of it as a teachable moment.

Speaking of which, a lesson from racing has stayed with me always: Prepare to Win. That’s a book by Carroll Smith, and it means bringing your race car to the track ready to race. Check the car (or in this case, the bike) over thoroughly, fix what needs fixing, replace what needs replacing, at home, at a relaxed, leisurely pace. When you get to the track, you can therefore concentrate on racing; when it’s time to ride to Portland, you know (or at least have good reason to believe) you’re going to make it without having your trip interrupted by a mechanical problem.

I suppose you could also just put your bike on a trailer. But what fun is that? Favicon

  1. March 28, 2007 4:29 pm

    May I also suggest just a tiny wrap of duct tape? I got 1/2 way to work on Monday and my face shield flopped away, broken tab on one side. Nothing under my scoot seat to save it. At work I applied packaging tape for the ride home which didn’t hold too long. Small piece of duct tape held it much better for the ride cross town to where I’d bought the helmet.

  2. tom permalink
    April 23, 2007 8:49 pm

    may i suggest a “4th hand tool”?
    it’s a bicycle tool that holds a cable taut while you tighten whatever it is that holds the end in place. bike (and scooter) shops have them. (not a “3rd hand tool”–that’s for holding bicycle brake arms)

    extra cables too–cables are the most likely thing to break.

    and a spark plug socket and extra plugs
    and spare fuses

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