This is the third in a series of posts dedicated to living with the 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer. The second article is here.
The 160 mile commute
For a few more weeks I will be commuting from Northridge to Santa Barbara, California. I’ve been at this job since mid-April, and the 80-mile-each-way ride has acted as a “firewall” between my family life and my work. If I had to make this trip through the city streets and freeways of Los Angeles, it would definitely not be as much fun, but I get to ride Highway 118 through the farmlands of the Santa Paula Valley and then along the Ocean for about 30 miles on the 101 from Ventura to Santa Barbara. Only about 12 miles of “regular freeway rush hour” traffic is encountered around my house along the freeway section of the 118 over the Santa Susanna pass and Simi Valley.
The nice thing about this ride is I get to wring out the Piaggio BV250 Tourer in just about every commuter condition that could be encountered, along with a seriously long mile commute to judge just how practical it is to sit on this bike for more than 2 hours a day.
The morning was crisp and the sun was just coming up as I strode out the door and mounted the new Piaggio. I love riding to work on days that are just slightly cool. The air is bracing and you feel like you’re riding something. As usual, the BV250 starts within seconds and runs like a sewing machine. Never any problem and the solid build of this product inspires confidence in long-term reliability. Out the driveway and onto the familiar streets around my house to the freeway onramp at the top of Reseda Blvd. I had taken a few short trips on the freeway the day before to get an idea of how fast the scooter would come up to speed and handle the undulating surfaces of Southern California’s multi-lanes.
I was shocked at how fast the BV250 Tourer comes up to speed. Just about any on-ramp in the nation will afford the rider enough runway to launch safely into traffic. I figured that I would just stay to the right and see how I could pull with traffic, but found that I was able to easily accelerate to higher speeds and cruise further left than I expected. As I saw an indicated 80mph on the speedo, I decided to move to the HOV lane and cruise through the Santa Susanna Pass, which is slightly steep. I accelerated further to an indicated 85 and awaited the 250cc engine’s bog as it hit the slope, except I only lost about 3mph during the steepest part, and the motor itself made no protest as it moved my bulk up the hill. I gained speed as it flattened out, leaning beautifully through the high speed downhill sweepers on the west side of the pass as it drained into Simi Valley.
The Piaggio seems to shoot a current of smile voltage across my face. It handles like a small sport bike through the turns, yet the weather protection, riding position and ease of use are miles ahead of this. I’m wondering if I’m going to be tired after the first 80 miles, but I’m confident already that this bike’s going to handle the trip.
The 118 freeway though the Simi Valley has some “construction issues”, and the road can get a little rough. The suspension of the BV just soaks up the bumps and keeps the scooter extremely stable. As the traffic bunched up, I was able to split lanes and weave through slower cars with confidence; even the bumpy reflectors couldn’t upset the Michelin shod 16 wheels. The CVT transmission is always in the right gear, and I’m not using full power for cruise, so I have a “little extra” to get around as I need it. The Los Angeles Street exit arrives, and I prepare to ride the scooter through Moorpark and the country roads of the Santa Paula Valley to Ventura.
Highway 118 through Moorpark is a wide parkway with about 6 intersections that slowly funnel 6 lanes into two as it heads into the farmlands. Large produce trucks litter this road as rolling chicanes, backing up traffic at the lights as they head to the thousands of acres of farmland in the area.
The fields were full of cilantro and green onions ready for harvest, filling my helmet with wonderful odors. On the two lane road which stretches around 20 miles, the traffic backs up and slows down into the fifties. The ample power of the BV250 Tourer allowed me to pass in the openings with an ease close to the big-bore motorcycles I normally take down this route. The Piaggio’s brakes gave me confidence as well, since there are many cross streets filled with cars that might pulling into traffic. The huge headlight on the scoot throws a big beam even in the daytime which also gives an extra margin of safety.
There are a couple of turns on the road that I use to work on my cornering technique. I didn’t expect much from the BV Tourer, yet found that the large tires gave more than enough clearance to support a great lean, and the CVT always put the torque to the road as I accelerated through the apex. Even the big 270 degree banked turn that returns me to the freeway at the other end can be taken at surprising speed — I wonder if I can do a lean off turn!
Back to the 101 and I stop for coffee. Friends that I meet there all ask questions about the Piaggio. I can’t say enough nice things about this bike to them, as it continuously exceeds my expectations. The retro look of the BV with the modern engineering is just a wonderful combination and the solid construction, storage space and thoughtful ergonomics impress everyone that I talk to.
The final stint to work is on the 101 from Ventura to Santa Barbara. The old highway is battered by salt air, ocean and an unstable crust to create bumps, ridges, pot holes, divots and gaps that outpaces a deficit-riddled state economy. Thank God for the 16 inch tires and compliant suspension. Even in the fastest sweepers, flat out, the Piaggio “takes a set” and just holds beautifully. Wind blast from other cars is noticeable but not a nuisance. I ride with the visor on my full-face helmet quite open with no issues as the windscreen directs the air at the top of my helmet.
Santa Barbara is made for scooters. The streets have many intersections and are often one-way, and parking is definitely a premium cost. Bikes park in most lots for free, so the scoot allows me to zoom around economically and efficiently from the beach to State Street faster than any other form of transport. The weather of course, just makes this even more enjoyable.
After work I looked forward to the ride back. About 2/3 of the way down from Santa Barbara, I found myself diverting to Highway 1 for a more relaxed ride just off the beach. I’ve gone down this road more than 150 times in the last year, and the first time I even thought about taking this trip is today. The sun began to set along the ocean, and I decided to stop, watch the sunset and take some pictures…
The next post will address the scooter culture, and how the Piaggio BV250 Tourer fits in.