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The switch has been flipped

September 17, 2011
GTS iced

Not yet, but soon...

About a week ago, it was almost unseasonably warm and sunny in Bellingham. Wonderful weather, for riding or anything else.

Now? Uhh. It’s fall. The Autumnal Equinox doesn’t happen until Friday, but the skies are gray, the wind is blowing, and there are strings of little rain icons on the weather sites. I hate fall.

While I ride in less than perfect weather when necessary, today it wasn’t necessary. Still, this story on Forbes.com is timely. Michael Lee, a product manager at Piaggio USA’s New York City headquarters, offers much useful advice about riding in NYC (or any urban area), no matter what the season. Oh, and his advice applies to all scooters, not just Vespas.

What I like most is his emphasis on thinking, not only about what you’re doing, but on what’s going on in traffic around you. Always be thinking of an escape route, based on what a car, truck or other rider might do. The corollary is avoiding distractions: your phone has voice mail, and you can listen to the iPod later.

As Mr. Lee points out, tires require particular attention, since there are only two of them. Follow the recommendations in your owner’s manual. Twenty bucks and a trip to your local bicycle store will get you a good hand-operated pump and an equally good tire pressure gauge. If you’re not sure how to use either, have someone at the bicycle store show you. You will discover bicycle stores have much to offer the scooterist in the way of tools, clothing and accessories. But NOT HELMETS!

On the subject of Piaggio, Reuters reports Chairman and Chief Executive Roberto Colaninno sees half the company’s sales coming from Asia in 2014. The company’s recent expansion in Vietnam, India and Indonesia, and its achievement of Asian sales goals well ahead of schedule has sent Piaggio’s stock price upward amid a decline in the Milan Stock Exchange’s blue-chip index.

It shouldn’t be surprising Piaggio is doing so well in emerging markets: like Italians after World War II, people in most parts of Asia need personal transportation but either can’t afford cars, or live in places that have such bad traffic congestion a 2-wheeler makes far more sense.

And yet I’ve met people who are profoundly offended that Piaggio even does business in Asia, never mind—horrors!—building Vespas there!

Telling these people it’s not 1946 (or 1964) any more really doesn’t do any good. But the world has changed. Italians generally find the Honda SH (which is built in Italy) a better, more cost-effective scooter choice than a modern Vespa, and EU air-quality rules now prohibit operation of vehicles not meeting Euro 1 standards in many places. That will surely be cranked up as time goes on. Besides, most Italians can afford cars, though these days they’re more likely to roll in Kias and Hyundais than Fiats.

For Americans, scooters, and especially Vespas, are still among the stuff White People like. Favicon

Most of this stuff was originally tweeted by Eric. Credit where it’s due…

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