When I first got my Vespa I didn’t think about riding with a group of other riders. I needed to feel comfortable riding on my own before I could even imagine riding in a group. It didn’t take long to find out that there are other scooter enthusiasts in my area and for me to be interested in joining in on rides together.
My local Vespa dealer has a couple of groups known as Scoot Jockeys that meet up for rides and then there is ModernVespa.com. ModernVespa.com or MV as it’s known, is an online community of scooter enthusiasts with an emphasis on Vespa. I stumbled across MV before I bought the Vespa and through it I learned a lot about scooters and scooter riding. It didn’t take long to get to know another Wisconsin rider by who goes by the name of fledermaus.
Fledermaus had posted announcing “Wisconscoot” coming up at the end of summer and I messaged him with some questions about it. As I hadn’t ridden in a group ride before he suggested a closer one day ride and said that he’d let me know when he organized the next ride.
A few weeks ago the email came with the thought of a local ride for those of us who couldn’t make it to Amerivespa this year and finally a date was agreed upon by a majority of riders. As you can imagine, getting a group of people together is a challenge due to everyone’s busy schedules. The weather cooperated although there was a threat of rain storms most of the day. We met up at fledermaus’s mother’s farm. For once I wasn’t late! It took me about an hour to get there as I avoided major highways driving through “Lake Country” in Southeastern Wisconsin. Something about the sight of a group of scooters gathered together for a singular destination is moving. As I rode up the long winding driveway I saw them parked by the farmhouse.
It was nice to meet the guys I’ve come to know through the MV forums: fledermaus, gitder and his wife, and Madison Sully. Mike and Roger from the Scoot Jockeys Milwaukee Chapter were there as well. Everyone got a chance to chat and there was plenty of scooter/motorcycle discussions. I had the pleasure of meeting mother fledermaus – a remarkable woman who greeted each of the riders and enjoyed sharing with us all of her home baked treats. It was so nice of her to offer her homestead as a meeting point for us all to gather. Then we made our preparations to head out on the road.
As I was putting on my helmet and gloves everyone had their motors running and kickstands up! I rushed to not keep them waiting and we all headed down to the road. Fledermaus had mapped out the ride and led the way.
I had prepared for the ride by reading up on the MSF basic guidelines of group riding which includes knowing the meaning of the common hand signs used on a group ride. I knew studying paid off when I realized I could anticipate turns and stops coming up signaled by those riding ahead of me, plus understanding when & how to stay in information and keeping proper distance between scooters when riding. This is all important for safety’s sake. It’s also important to keep up with the group and pay attention to the other riders actions. After all, you are riding in a group, not just out there on a joyride by yourself!
It’s hard to describe the feeling of riding in a group. It’s thrilling, to me at least, when we all would take off on the road. With a 150 cc engine, my Sprint had the least amount of power, but kept up well enough except on some of the starts and when going uphill on long stretches. I did alright zooming around twists and turns on the backroads. Even on slower sections of our adventure when we headed down a gravel road along side a river the Sprint handled just fine. One thing I noticed that is different about a longer group ride on two wheels is that I didn’t find myself site seeing nearly as much as I would in a cage on four wheels. Glances of rivers, hills and old farmhouses and barns are about as much as I could take in. We stopped a few times along the way including twice for gas, once to take a tour at the Lake Mills Aztalan Historical Society, and a stop at the Tyranena Brewery in Lake Mills where some of us had their house root beer that was very good while the other riders enjoyed a beer.
After our ride we gathered again at mother fledermaus’s farmhouse and had some lunch together. The clouds were threatening rain again with thunder was coming from the not too distant storms to the north. We bid farewell to one another and headed our separate ways. I was lucky and didn’t have any major rains to deal with on the way home even though I was prepared for it with my rain gear in the top case. There were only a few raindrops that hit the helmet although the roads were soaked in many of the small towns I rode through.
On longer rides like this I’m glad that I used my Rever app. I haven’t found it useful as a true GPS for guidance to get from one place to another, but it’s great for tracking where I’ve been with a convenient map showing the route taken, total time length of trip, and giving your average and maximum speeds along the way. I especially like that it automatically pauses on long stops and starts again when you start your ride again. On this trip I logged 162.8 miles (includes to/from the meeting place/home) with a max speed of 64 mph and average speed of 25 mph (time includes brief stops). It took about five hours total.
I use the Waze app for my actual GPS. I change the navigation settings in it to avoid highways for scooter riding and it works great for me. Running two GPS enabled apps at the same time really drains the iPhone battery fast. I was glad that I had a UBS port installed in the glove box recently to charge the iPhone while I’m riding. I don’t have a Bluetooth interface for my helmet yet to hear the GPS well. That’s on my wishlist. Earplugs are a must on rides like this as the wind noise really is bothersome.
If you’re new to scooter riding and haven’t joined up with others for a group ride together, I definitely recommend looking into it if you’re ready for it. I really enjoyed this ride. Thanks go to fledermaus for inviting me! It’s a very different experience than commuting around town for sure! I look forward to many more group rides in the future.