Scootering with Kent Aldrich
Behold the scooter! Some may say that the vehicle has had a meteoric rise since the humble post-war production of the Vespa in Italy. And Minnesotans love their bikes— be it bicycles on the Greenway on Saturday to Harleys cruising the University strip in St. Paul. This weekend marks a celebration of the scooter, where enthusiasts will embark on rides, mini-safety courses, enjoy live music, and even compete in a scavenger hunt. City Pages took a moment to speak with Kent Aldrich, one of three coordinators of the Rattle My Bones Scooter Rally.
City Pages: So, what type of wheels do you drive?
Kent Aldrich: I’ve got two scooters, one is a 2003 Stella— people may have seen me around town because I have around 46 mirrors. My other bike is a 1964 Vespa VBB.
CP: Vintage vs. newer?
KA: The newer one is flashy, and requires a fun attitude to ride— people smile at me and I smile back. The Vespa is a little older— not necessarily a beater, but it’s lost its shine. And I can be more anonymous riding that one. But really, I have no preference, it just depends on my mood.
CP: How long have you been scootering?
KA: I owned my first scooter at ten. We found an abandoned scooter at Battle Creek Park. We took it home and basically pushed it around the backyard for the summer.
CP: Are there a lot of Minnesotan scooterists? Do you feel that there is a strong scooter community in the Twin Cities?
KA: There is definitely a community. In recent years— all the sudden there are multiple communities! Just like anything else, there are a lot of different kinds of scooters, so people tend to hook up with people that ride the same kinds of bikes that they ride. There’s a large group of us out there. If you’re a scooterist, if you see a scooter broken down, you’re supposed to stop even if you don’t know how to fix a bike— maybe you offer your cell phone, get a soda, let them know that someone is out there keeping an eye out for them.
CP: Why the growth?
KA: In the last 4 years, when I bought my Stella in 2003, I would go the whole summer seeing maybe only 8 other scooters. Now I can ride downtown on the parkway, and see more scooters than that in one afternoon. It might have something to do with gas prices. But people always say, "Jeez— that’s great you get great mileage!" Yeah, I get great mileage, but then I am riding around 3-4 times more than I would if I were riding around in the family van. I’m nor really sure why there’s more— there’s a lot more models that are on the market, there’s some little models with 50-40 cc motors. A lot of college kids ride those. There are also 250cc models out— high speed, you can take them on the highway, and on long trips. And there’s everything in-between.
CP: Do you ever get shit from the motorcycle community? Or is there friendly overlap?
KA: Maybe because my scooter is tricked out and goofy, I get smiles and waves from most of the two-wheel community. Most Harley riders are happy to see scooters show up, there’s some good-natured ribbing. Not any real animosity.
CP: What type of scooter usage do you find that you get in the Twin Cities? It must be hard to ride year round— presumably you only have a certain amount of time riding during the year…
KA: There are some die-hards that ride through the winter. There are contests out there that measure who rode the furthest distance on the coldest day. You get a certain amount of status from it. That’s a status that I don’t seek. But I’ve lived in Minnesota most of my life, so winters are winters. As long as there’s not snow on the ground, I’ll keep riding. It gets a little silly with snow and ice though.
CP: I’ve noticed a ton of biker bars and coffee shops around the city. Are there certain locals that scooter enthusiasts hang at?
KA: There really isn’t just one place. There are a number of different clubs that ride and end up at different places around town.
CP: Is there a type of person that is more predisposed to owning a scooter? Is there a scooter enthusiast stereotype?
KA: That’s one of the fun things about scooters— there’s a huge variety of people that ride them. I can find myself sitting at a table with a skinhead, a 52-year old woman who’s a postal carrier, a clean-cut college kid jock, and a couple guys into vintage bikes. Everyone gets along, and it’s interesting to talk to different types of people.
CP: What are some benefits to using a scooter versus other modes of transportation?
KA: Well, parking is easier. There’s always some little space you can flip into, and some places you can park on the sidewalks. Also, it sounds silly, but when you ride around you can smell the seasons happening. Drive down the street— you can smell what flowers are bloom, what people are cooking.
CP: What are some things that newbies should keep in mind when looking into buying a scooter? Are there certain brands or types of scooters that are more user-friendly?
KA: You don’t to get something too big for you— too much power. Start out with something easy to control. A lot of scooters are automatic, so there’s no gear shifting. Those are nice. Vintage bikes are more expensive and require more fiddling. If you’re not handy with a wrench, then that’s probably not the bike for you.
CP: What are some common safety mistakes you see newer scooterists make on the road?
KA: One of the things I have seen a lot this summer are people riding street legal bikes in bike lanes like they’re bicycles— riding in the lanes off to the sides, then they get to an intersection, the suddenly they’re are bouncing into traffic. If you’re on a scooter and it’s street legal, you need to be in the flow of traffic, keep your eye on everyone else, because they are not keeping an eye on you.
CP: Is there a scooter anthem? Or if not, what do you think it should be?
KA: The Who’s album, Quadrophenia, is based on scooter-themed stuff. It mentions some scooters in a couple songs. That’s kind of the album. I don’t know that there’s just one anthem off of it, but that would be the most scooter-associated album out there.
CP: What are some things you are looking forward to at this year’s rally?
KA: The scavenger hunt is new this year. It’s a nice way to get together with a group, looking at things and looking for things. We’ve never had one before. The big ride, the Saturday ride when everyone gets together. That’s a really exciting event. Lots of different scooters— a swarm of scooters! People come out and stand on their front steps, little kids jump up and down and wave, and people enjoy watching us go by.
CP: So are there a lot of warm feelings towards scooters from the general public?
KA: Yeah, that’s my experience. My bike is pretty tricked out, it’s hard to go anywhere without getting my pic taken. I understand from other people who ride scooters that that is pretty common. People want to know about scooters. They’re cute, they’re more accessible than a big tricked out Harley that not everyone has the right attitude or strength to deal with. Riding a scooter around, it’s a nice way to start conversations with people. I ride down the street, I get smiles from guys with the big cars, the lowriders, the little cars, the Harleys, kids on the street. It just doesn’t matter who you are, people enjoy that type of transportation.
For a complete schedule of activities and locations call 651.291.1454 or visit www.rattlemybones.com.
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