Riding Safe: Scooters, Wheelies and Broken Teeth.

November 30th, 2006 by William

lambretta.jpg
Series II Lambretta, sketch by David Irving.

As some of you know I have vintage Italian scooter, a 1959/60 Lambretta LI 125 (series II). I bought the little scoot right after I graduated from college. The 1950’s styling and amazing patina spoke to me in ways that shiny new motorcycles never could, so I plopped down $1200, loaded it up in the back of my friends Toyota pickup and headed home. Having never ridden scooters or motorcycles before, I fired up the Lambretta and went about teaching myself to ride. I had one close call that involved too much throttle and a parked car, but soon enough I was competent and comfortable on the scooter.

I bought myself an open face helmet on Craigslist and began riding the scooter to work. Not long after that two of my good friends got Lambrettas as well and we began going to vintage scooter rides in San Francisco. On one of these events while doing some scooter drag racing I accidentally figured out that my little 125cc two-stroke scooter could pull a wheelie under hard acceleration. I was stunned at first but soon my shock turned to confidence and confidence to arrogance and… well it lead to an expensive accident.
wheelie_lam.jpg
This one’s not me, but you get the idea.

While riding our Lambrettas to dinner one night my friend and I pulled up to a stoplight and saw some little kids waving and pointing at the scooters. I got really fired up that they were into our Lambrettas and I decided to try and put on a show. I pulled up to a 15 mph speed bump and goosed the throttle popping a pretty good sized wheelie. But when the antiquated front suspension hit the ground the scooter went completely out of control. I knew I was going down so I tried to lay the scooter on its side but it bucked me off hard. I smacked the ground with my left shoulder first followed by the side of my head, then I rolled forward and my face hit the ground. It felt like all my teeth had been knocked. In a state of shock I hopped up and ran to the nearest car mirror. To my horror I had a massively split lip and had seriously chipped two of my upper front teeth off, amazingly enough the scooter kept idling on its side all the while.

When I got home I tended to the road rash on my elbow, knee and ankle (asphalt will rash you right through a leather jacket). I got checked out for a concussion, and then went in to have my teeth worked on. Months of fitting and refitting, a painful root canal, a self conscious smile and thousands of no-dental-insurance dollars later and my teeth look just fine. I now have a gold front tooth with a porcelain veneer and it looks better than before.
scootercrash2.JPGscootercrash.JPG
Chunks of my teeth may be missing but I still flash a smile.

As soon as the accident happened I promised myself I would buy a good full face helmet. Don’t get me wrong, I know the big lesson is “don’t stunt on your scooter or ride it recklessly”, furthermore I know that the open face helmet saved my ass by taking the initial impact on the ground, but I also realize that my face could have been much worse than it was after this low speed accident.

That was three years ago, and I still have an open face helmet. I also have dental insurance, but I’ve been feeling really guilty about not coming through on my promise to myself. Yesterday was my birthday and my girlfriend came through big where I could not. She bought me a nice Nolan N100 flip face helmet, the one I told her I was eyeing months ago, but never caught on that she was listening. All I have to do is go pick out a color and size and bring it home. But don’t worry, I won’t tempt fate and ride my scooter to pick it up.
nolan-n100.jpg
Nolan N100 flip front, full-face helmet.

After my accident I highly recommend full face helmets to anyone riding a motorized two-wheeled machine. While there are other lessons to be learned about safety and arrogance from my story, buying a full face helmet is a no-brainer. It’s like using your seat belt; you may be able to drive safely without one, but if you put it on and have an accident that isn’t your fault it might just save you from serious injury or death.
Keep two wheels down.

-Bill Mertz

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One Response to “Riding Safe: Scooters, Wheelies and Broken Teeth.”

  1. Boo Says:

    wow…what a cool gf

Leave a Reply

About William

I am a twenty something car enthusiast. I spend most of my days working in a small restoration shop in Northern California that specializes in vintage Alfa Romeos. I also manage to do some freelance writing for a handful of automotive publications. When I'm not at the shop I can usually be found working on one of my own project cars, out driving on a good windy road or good jeep trail. Despite what my girlfriend says cars aren't what defines me, they are only what I do. When I have a chance I also love to go camping, play sports or generally do any type of outdoor activity. I don't take myself to seriously, so I hope you don't either.

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