Enthusiasts share their love for Italian motorcycles

September 23, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Some of the beloved Italian motorcycles like those being shown at the third annual Mid-Atlantic Italian Motofest Sunday near Shepherdstown are so special to their owners that they are referred to as "trailer queens" because they are rarely used in routine traffic conditions.

That was not the case for Tony Tessier.

He drove his tiny 1966 Lambretta scooter all the way from Reston, Va., to participate in the motorcycle show at Morgan's Grove Park.

Because Tessier's scooter uses a two-cycle engine, he has to mix oil and gas for its fuel. Its wheels are about half the size of a motorcycle tire.


But it's no slow poke.

It can zip along at 65 mph and one of its biggest advantages is its fuel economy, getting up to 60 miles to a gallon of gas.

And what about all those motorists out there driving vehicles that dwarf the pint-size Lambretta?

Just a little defensive driving is all Tessier needs.

"I've just learned to beware of stupid motorists. You've just got to watch out for yourself because they won't watch out for you," Tessier said.

Tessier was one of about 250 motorcycle enthusiasts and motorcycle owners at the show. The event also included a driving tour on Saturday.

Italian-made bikes are considered the Ferrari of motorcycles because of their high performance in handling, stability and braking, said Bill Freeman of Shepherdstown, organizer of the motofest.

The higher performance in bikes made by manufacturers like Ducati, Moto Guzzi and Moto Morini is achieved by characteristics like longer wheel bases and unique engine valve design, Freeman said.

"A lot of people at this event won't run just any bike," said Freeman, a long-time Italian motorcycle fan.

Freeman came up with the idea for the motofest to raise money for the park, which is owned by the Shepherdstown Men's Club. Improvements such as tree trimming and new playground equipment have been needed at the park recently, and the motorcycle show has raised at least $1,900 toward the upkeep of the park along W.Va. 480 south of Shepherdstown.

Italian motorcycle owners were able to enter their bikes in four different classes for judging competitions.

Tessier was competing with a handful of other motorcycle owners in the scooter class.

His black Lambretta was typical of scooters that were produced in Italy shortly after World War II.

The vehicles, with their simple design and sturdy construction, were an economical form of transportation for factory workers, Tessier said.

The scooters also are popular in Southeast Asia, and Tessier's Lambretta came from a company in that region that acquires the scooters, restores them and exports them.

"I used to ride them back in the 1960s and I decided I wanted to get into owning an old one again," Tessier said.

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