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Scooter Girl Musings

If it weren't for my memories of India - riding around behind my beloved host sister - I would never have gotten a scooter. I loved the wind in my hair, the fact that we never went super fast, the independence of it combined with the mobility. We would weave in between cars and Diya would put down her feet and walk the scooter if she had to in order to get forward between those tight spaces.

Now that I have one of my own, my appreciation is even greater, but I am just as happy to leave the crowded chaos of Bangalore behind as I learn to drive. In the U.S. cars stay in their lanes and this is fine by me. Even after riding a bicycle for more years than I can count, scooter maneuvering is a steep and costly learning curve.

First of all, I notice that balance and steering is a lot different. Scooters weigh more than bicycles so are much more susceptible to the sway in the seat. I rarely move my upper body at all, instead swing my butt this way and that and make all kinds of graceful swerves. It is kind of like the opposite effect of those punching dummies. Using your arms is only for really tight steering. Speaking of which - when I first started riding all corners were wide and slow. It has been interesting watching how I gradually expand my comfort zone and am able to easily decrease the dimensions while increasing the speed of turns. I just hope that my attempts never exceed my ability in this area.

Another thing that takes me by surprise is how much wind is a bitch. Perhaps motorcycle riding is easier, but on a day with ten mile an hour gusts, I have to fight to keep that thing straight. I notice if the wind is at my back I can get up to 45 with out even blinking but if I am biking into the wind I feel nervous at 30. I can see why people compare bikes to horses - throw in the effect of the elements and it really does feel like riding a beast of some sort.

So far, knock on wood; I have been fortunate with people seeing me. I am not sure if this is because as a regular bicycle rider I am always prepared for them not to see me, or because I have a bright red scooter with the dorkiest helmet that ever was. I swear people in cars are giggling at me all the time, but perhaps that is just my ego talking.

The cut off, depending on the humidity, seems to be about seventy degrees. Any colder than that and the wind-chill requires a windbreaker unless I want to arrive at my destination a shivering block of ice. Any warmer than that and I don't even need long sleeves. When dealing with wind there is no in between. Long sleeves don't matter - the only thing that helps is a windbreaker. This does mean that when it is 68 degrees and I am stuck at a stop light I will start sweating but that is the price to pay.

Riding in the rain is difficult and shouldn't be done. Aside from the slippery road and the fact that other drivers are dealing with their own visibility issue, going thirty miles an hour with rain hitting your face and keeping an eye on the road is pretty much impossible. So far every time I have done it I felt quite suicidal.

To my great joy, smells carry over just as well when going thirty as they do when going fifteen on a bicycle. True, I can't enjoy the sights as much (but that has already caused me enough trouble while cycling) but this spring I am delighted to report and abundant crop of lilacs flowering in the city. This also means I am sucking exhaust pipe fumes often too but... well at least I don't smoke.

Although this mode of transportation is undoubtedly quicker than cycling anywhere (though it only shaves five minutes off my three-mile work commute) I suspect it is slower than driving. This is pure suspicion of course because yours truly never actually drives anywhere, so how would I know? Also, my lack of going on the highway probably doesn't save me time either (except during rush hour). To be fair, as my comfort level increases, my speed does as well.

Interestingly enough, as of yet, I feel no need to push myself. Just by riding this thing I seem to be improving. So far I ride about 80 miles a week. Now I can swerve, stop faster, adjust my mirrors, change lanes easier and remember to turn off my turn signal, all of which I was unable to do two short weeks ago.

Sadly, no matter what I do, my butt seems to go numb after about ten minutes of riding. Perhaps it is just this model, but this would not do for long distance rides.

Despite the long distance rule, having a scooter enables me to travel to all kinds of exotic places like St Paul and the suburbs. I have only started this exploration and hope to post any interesting finds I stumble upon.

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