31 August 2012

One Vespa = One Life

We have all heard the never ceasing rhetoric "air pollution is bad", and despite forming part of 'modern' humanity since the Industrial Revolution, it doesn't appear to be decreasing at any significant levels.

Ok then, what is the major source of this air pollution? Car ownership has to be right up there as one of the primary reasons. Did you know that this planet has approximately 1 billion cars on its surface? No? Well, that equates to roughly 1 car for every 7 persons alive today! That is amazing, if not down right tragic.

I know that we could debate the merit for having several types of vehicles in our driveways, until the cows get home. I'm sure that we could justify (as eloquently as OJ Simpson's lawyer) why we need a 4x4 SUV vehicle (for that once a year trip to the Kruger Park) and a shiny new BMW 3-series (its for my work you see) and the 80's Toyota Hilux (for taking out the trash and garden refuse) and the VW Polo (that is Janet's university car). Do we really need all of these oil-burning vehicles in our lives?

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the oil burning internal combustion engine. I would most probably not be writing these words to you without some contribution (indirectly or directly) of its power and influence. Again I ponder, do we need so many vehicles circulating around our planet? Consider the fact that by burning up fossil fuels, we also burn up oxygen and produce countless tons of carbon dioxide. The key word here is OXYGEN.

It requires about 22 trees to produce the equivalent oxygen consumed by an average person in one day. An acre of apple tress will sustain 18 people for 24hours. Do you see where I'm going with this? If an acre is required for 18 people, then how many trees are required to sustain 7 billion? The 'lungs' of the earth are its vast natural forests. The greedy businessmen and corrupt governments of our world, stand-by, assist and then watch as millions of m2 of forests are cut down and vanish from the face of the earth every year.

This is certainly a multi-faceted world problem and not easily solved or explained by a simple article appearing on The Posers blog. What I believe is that we can all make a positive contribution in some small (sometimes perceived insignificant) way. I remember coming out to Africa from Europe in the 1980's. Then, it was quite normal to finish your Sparletta (pine nut), crush the flimsy can, and toss the whole thing out of your car window. With time, government advertising campaigns, the little "do not litter" logo, the "keep your country clean" engraved into the top of your can, all began to take effect and change the mentality that littering was simply not acceptable. Today, its rare to be driving down the N1 and get hit on the helmet with a half empty can of Coke (though I did have a near miss with a Chicken Licken 'Taxi 2' combo).

My point is that by simply better utilizing your vehicle, purchasing the correct vehicle for the purpose intended, exploring alternative forms of transport and opting for fuel economy and efficiency instead outright performance, this will in the long run be kind to both your wallet and the environment! Was it not a rather young Ewan McGregor in the movie Trainspotting that said "choose life"? I go one better, I say "choose Vespa"!

(Posted by Paulo)

23 August 2012

Vespa LX 150 3V and Vespa S 150 3V

Excitement mounts as news arrives that the new Vespa LX 150 and Vespa S 150 with the new 3 valve engines is on it's way and will land at Vespa South Africa mid September 2012. This next generation engine was first in introduced to the world powering the Vespa 946 Quarantasei at the EICMA 2011 Milan Motorcycle show in November.
Although this engine from the outside looks very similar to the previous 150 model, there have been vast improvements. At 155cc this nimble three valve engine (2 intake, 1 exhaust) is claimed to produce 12.7hp at 7,750 rpm with 30% improvement in fuel economy.

With service intervals extended to 10,000km and super low operating costs what more can you ask from a Vespa.

18 August 2012

Sophia Reloaded

On the 21 June 2012, Sophia my trusty Vespa ET8 broke down leaving me stranded on the side of the highway. I was travelling at speed when suddenly she lost power with a large bang. At first I thought a wheel had burst but Sophia was stable as we coasted to a stop. I then suspected that she broke her drive belt. So I called for help.

On the 10 July 2012, the sad news came in that I had broken a valve which then had fallen into the piston and made a hole in the piston itself. I was devastated. Sophia was officially dead at just over 47,000km. Looking that the piston itself and the head, I notice a lot of potmarks and it seems that this damage has been occurring for some time and it finally snapped. Poor Sophia must have been suffering for a long time.

Soon afterwards news came in of a Vespa LX150 with only 2,487km on the clock that ran into the back of a vehicle. I went and looked at the bike which steering column was badly bent but the rest had only superficial damage. The owner wanted R10,000 for her but by the time I had made contact with him he had already informed his insurance company to write the bike off. So I then contacted the insurance who then offered the LX150 to me for only R5,800. So the LX150 became mine, now was the discussion of what to do with two broken Vespas.

In the end I decided to take the spanking new LX150 engine and gearbox and put it into ET8 body as it was a close match. I also took across the instrument panel, the larger front wheel mechanism and the seat to Sophia. But it wasn't Sophia so I called the new bike a Vespa LX8 with the name Anastasiya which means resurrection.

My first ride on Anastasiya was into a snow storm, as if hell had just frozen over with the hybrid LX8, Sophia reloaded. So as the phoenix arose from the ashes, the spirit of Sophia brought the snow to cool the fires as Anastasiya took flight from Hades into a new life.

10 August 2012

In search of the elusive Mozambican Vespa

One would presume that since the arrival of the Portuguese in Mozambique in 1498, their long stay until 1975, and the years leading to the present; sufficient time would have passed to cultivate and instil upon this land the culture of owning Vespas. Portugal, like the rest of Latin Europe, is a country where owning motorcycles has always been popular. This has been also been so due to the low purchase price, insurance costs, simplicity of maintenance and the general practically of ownership. Therefore, by "exporting" this understanding of motorcycles to the colonies early on, one is not surprised to see present day Mozambique teeming with Chinese motorcylces and scooters. Let's say that it's simply in the blood now.

Now, I know that loads of Vespas, Lambrettas and other popular brands of the time, were exported to Mozambique. I remember my father speaking fondly of the Lambrettas of his era in Quelimane (central Mozambique). The was a story of a local couple that used to go about feeding and taking in the stray dogs of the little city. They were able to train a puppy into sitting contently on the footplate of their Vespa. For many years to come, it was a common sight to see a big dog riding "side saddle" at his masters feet, as the owner meandered down the street on his Vespa. Looking directly at this spectacle, one would observe the head to one side of the leg shield, and the tail to the other!

So where are these machines? Sure, this is not Cuba and I'm not expecting to see something resembling a Vespa, held together by fencing wire and old sardine cans, smoking its way down the street. Some of these machines would be almost 50 years old now and let's face it, this is rural Africa – nothing will take that sort of punishment for ever! I suspect that some have long since disappeared into the dense bush, others have been taken apart and their components and parts transformed into simple implements and tools (that is the spirit of the Vespa, always giving, giving, giving), still others have been sold for scrap and melted down – today perhaps living as the left rear door of your shiny Toyota! Who knows these things, what I can say is that I've yet to see one.

Because I haven't seen one, does not mean that there are no Vespa's or Lambretta's long forgotten in the back of somebodies garage or basement. Once sporting perhaps a shiny lime green colour and a spanking new set of 10' Dunlop tires, today, bearing the scars of time and abuse, it lingers under a thick coat of brown dust under a rotting tarpaulin, next to the long forgotten VW Karman Ghia, still waiting for the engine transplant. Yes, I believe that with a bit more time, poking and prodding about, the elusive Mozambican Vespa will be found! Watch this space folks!

(Posted by Paulo)