Thursday, 31 March 2011

We ought to start thinking about maps (Tim)

Today is the last day of March and it's proper April weather here.  A mix of sunshine, rain and blustery wind.  Its lovely weather for walking in - really blows the cobwebs out the the head and gives you hope for a lovely summer to come.
Its not the best weather though for riding a scooter.  The rain I might be able to cope with but I really dont like the blustery wind - it tends to leap out at you and catch you unawares and makes you swerve all over the road.  I find this sort of riding very tiring.  When we first started talking about this trip, we were in the middle of winter and the vision of taking a sunny spring scootering sabatical was distant and compelling.  Now we are here, the reality is that the weather is not necessarily as lovely as we thought it might be.  We had a glorious week last week - and that bought hope and excitement, but this week its not looking so good.  And so with reluctance I dashed out this morning to an Army and Surplus store to buy an all-in-one waterproof suit.  It looks a little 'industrial', but at £15 I cant complain and I hope to never have to wear it.
While I was there, I got a text message from Scott;
"Have been fretting over Holland route.  Any ideas?"
He made me think.  Ideas?  I hadn't even thought about route plans yet.  I was kind of thinking we'd work it out as we went along.  However, Scott had got me worrying a little so Ive just had a quick look at google maps.

Of course Ive looked at the rough plan before.  Hook of Holland, dead early in the morning to Dusseldorf dead late in the evening.  Its about 3 inches on the map. Easy, but I thought it might be a good idea to get a bit more specific.  Hmm - those are busy towns - they will take some concentration and care.  I typed into google maps some specific addresses, selected to avoid highways and tolls, and viewed their suggested route

View Larger Map

164 miles.  We have approximately 10 hours available to us to make this journey so my intuition is that it should be a breeze..... however, the nagging grown-up in me made me get my calculator out - just to check.  Bearing in mind that this leg of the journey will be the first for both of us on scooters on the wrong side of the road, AND the first time we will have ridden together (I'm not sure what added complications or benefits this might bring) - At an average of 25 mph, this journey is going to take us 7 hours.  Which means we will have 3 hours of slack for essential things like coffee / pee / warm-up / petrol breaks AND the inevitable getting lost AND heaven forbid, repairs and maintenance.
This leg of the journey is going to test us

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

One week to go (Tim)

This time next week I will be on my way.   Currently I am still no further advanced with the planning or organisation of this trip than I was 2 weeks ago.
I have been (still am) working away from home, and its been virtually impossible to make any progress.
My panic of a couple of weeks ago, is slowly dissolving into a rather liberating 'hopeless submission' - what will be, will be.
Bring it on :-)

Monday, 28 March 2011

Scooter Vs Motorbike (Tim)

I woke up this morning at 5am, tossing and turning about all this trip.  There are so many things we haven't thought about, or prepared, or tested, or tried.  We are 10 days away from the start, and yet we are as prepared as if we have 10 weeks to go.  We are idiots.

I am confused and frustrated with my unease over all this.  Surely this isn't such a big deal is it?  We are simply pottering over to the continent on our little scooters for a few days.  Many people have done far bigger adventures than this; and without all the flap.  Take my friend Hugh......

thnx to Mags for the pic
Hugh is setting off on his own continental trip at about the same time as we are; only he is going by Motorbike - a Yamaha TRX850 to be precise.  He is off with 4 others (A Gilera Saturno, A Cagiva Raptor 650, A Honda NTV 650 and a Honda GB500) on a 6 day, 1300 mile trip to Northern Spain.

I asked him.  What tool kit are you taking?  Apparently his mate has "a great kit, spanners, adjustable, couple of screwdrivers, spark plug spanner, small mole grip that's about it."
What about luggage? "A small sports bag strapped to the bike plus most of us have a small rucksack on our backs or a tank bag"

He seems very relaxed and prepared about the whole thing.

While Scott and I will be averaging 25 MPH, Hugh and his mates will be averaging 50 MPH (with not a great deal less on their MPG than we will be getting)
 “We tend to stick to A and B roads chosen for their beauty rather than straight line distance” - By contrast, Scott and I simply cant afford to choose anything other than the shortest distance (in the hope that this is the minimum time in the saddle)

Hugh did offer some advice;
“Spare inner tubes, forget it.  The likelihood of getting a puncture is so remote to be almost negligible.” Hmm I hope we aren’t going to be the exception to the rule
He goes on...
“Earplugs can be helpful for both the journey and for sharing a room with guys who snore badly”  Oh God thats a whole other issue about this trip I havent even thought about yet.  Does Scott snore?  fart? scratch his things?  I shudder at the thought

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Getting priorities right (Tim)

I think I've fucked up.
I messed about too long thinking about where to buy the best priced luggage racks from.  I found a really helpful chap on eBay (shop name; Classicorama), who was in Vietnam and could supply stainless steel racks at a good price.  Time zone differences and work commitments meant that our negotiations were drawn out and by the time it came to agree a price and send the money, we were already on the critical path for delivery.
"Delivery to the UK can take 3 - 4 weeks"
"OK, lets do it!"
I calculated the time we had left before departure - 3 weeks, 2 days.  And I havent even worked out yet how to get Scottys racks from my house to his 100 miles away...... and then we have to fit them (assuming they are the right ones)..... and it would be nice to do a little test run round the block fully laden before setting off on a long journey.
Oh, what a cock up :-(

I generally have a fairly optimistic view on life, and have often gotten away with sailing close to the wind, but as I sit and write this now, the cold reality of this hopelessly thought out purchase is starting to sink in.
I think we might have to revert to plan B (Hastily worked out as I type) - I reckon we are going to have to take the hit and purchase full price racks from our friendly neighbourhood  scooter parts suppliers, and get them fitted asap.  Then when the 4 racks from Vietnam arrive, I will have to simply sell them on ebay - My challenge is do this without the wife finding out (we could do without the additional cash-flow burden)

I am away now working for a week, so I have no time to get things sorted.  Its all a big fuck up that is starting to stress me.

On the upside,  I did buy a pair of sunglasses off ebay in the early hours of this morning while laying wide awake in bed..... so its good to see I have my priorities in order

Every midlife crisis should come with a nervous breakdown... (Scott)

T minus 11 days, and panic has set in. Since Joanie doesn't want to hear about anything about it, I figure that the internet is as better place as any to have a little cry.

I'm just back from two weeks in New Zealand for work and the poor old Vespa is still in the paint shop, probably back on Wednesday... Aaarrggghhhh. The longest run I have been on has been 35 miles of round town stuff, I have to do at least an 80 mile trip on open roads to see if the scooter will actually last that long at cruising speed, and that all my clothes etc are comfy enough, I want this to be fun, not a trial, to add to this I am super busy at work, and trying to pretend to my family that I am a good husband/dad, so 3 hours out of the time I have left seems like a luxury/waste, but a shake-down cruise is a necessity. Especially after the little bugger has been sitting for three weeks.

My coat has a big hole in the elbow from being knocked off. The model is out of production, which is a pain, so I have to find another brand which is plain enough for a 38 year old, and in a size big enough to go round me. And I like my old coat.

My tool collection is painfully weak. I was in the shed yesterday, and everything seems to be for fixing computers, or doing painting, not scooters. Must upgrade to some proper stuff, but to what budget (money and storage size) should I go for, where does overkill start. I found this good website so will take the lot excluding torque wrench. I am also worried about the first 90 miles to Harwich, especially with a time constraint, I have to be there by 10:30pm at the very very latest, what time do I leave London? If I get a flat tyre, how long does it take to change it? If I break the clutch cable can I ride it OK in 3rd. If I break something else like the cruiciform, how will I get it to the ferry? I am going to leave central London at 4:30pm, so allowing 6 hours for 80 miles is 13mph on average. Though would like to get there in daylight. Maybe 3:30pm is better. Must take some WD40 as well, seems to fix anything!

Luggage, Tim is now worried that the racks won't arrive in time. I am now petrified that the racks won't arrive in time, and the type of bags I buy are dependant on what carrying devices I have... and no racks = backpack and small bag across back of scooter, which means less stuff than I was going to take before. Which means after taking a MacBook Pro, SLR, extra lense and flash, there will be no room what so ever. When on the Westway and hitting indicated 55mph (indicated 30mph is 26 according to the local radar gun, I'm assuming that 55 is about 48/49 in the real world) the backpack seems to be pulling me backwards, as the wind comes over my shoulders, So was hoping to have everything strapped to the scooter. Oh well, we'll make a plan.

The first Euro ride is a long one, 163 miles, and we have to make it there before 5pm, after docking at 8am. I always find the first couple of hours driving on the wrong side of the road requiring loads of concentration, which is tiring, so would like to have a break at least every hour, even for just a few minutes of stretching and de-numbing my arse. We have been talking about communications and navigation (talk about scooter-nerds) Tim is taking his TomTom, but will be stashed. I have an iPhone with maps, but you have to stop to check things, which adds to time. I think that writing the route on the tool box with a whiteboard pen might be a good idea. If something happens we can phone each other, but you can't hear a phone at speed. Do I just wear my hands free head phones? I had planned on earplugs. Do we use the 1000m range walkies we use for work on voice sensing.... what happens if Tim starts to sing? What happens if I start to talk to myself (I think I do it sometimes on the scooter!)

Is two stroke oil cheaper in Holland? Do they have two stroke in Holland, should I take it all? I work out it's 1.3l ish for 1000miles, the reservoir is 1.5 litres.

How the hell are we going to find the Dusseldorf train station while grumpy and tired after slogging across Holland?

This list of questions is about fifty long, such a good idea at the time... the reality is petrifying though.

Can't wait to ride the Vespa again, that will settle my nerves/push me over the edge.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Good MPG, Poor MPH (Tim)

I've been intregued by Scotts question about fuel consumption.  I have no idea how much my scooter drinks.  To tell the truth I still havent got over the novelty of it only costing a fiver to fill her up.  I couldnt squeeze any more in even if I wanted to!  To put this in some context, it currently costs me £75 to fill up our car, so running the Vespa is pocket money :-)

Making an accurate fuel consumption measurement is actually more difficult than you would imagine on a Vespa.  Unlike a car, the Vespa fuel tank does not have a long filler neck into which you can thrust purposefully the petrol pump nozzle and "fill 'er up" until the machine senses 'full' and automatically switches off the pump.  The Vespa tank instead, is not unlike a petrol can - you can look right inside, and I would imagine that if you wanted to you could probably touch the bottom of the tank with the end of the petrol pump filler nozzle.
The top of the Vespa fuel tank is flat, and the filler cap is right in the middle of it, so if you were to fill the tank right up, the petrol would be sloshing right up to and around the petrol cap seal and seeping out and over - very messy.  So I prefer to fill up to within about an inch of the top to minimise this.
Using the very scientific method of 'up to the first knuckle of my forefinger' I filled up and off I went.

According to our taxi driver last night, today was going to be the nicest day of the year so far.  And he was right.  It has been a glorious day and so I took (all in the name of fuel consumption measurement) a long and very enjoyable ride out to the countryside, along the way calling in to see an old friend and his 1920's Fowler steam roller.

The scooter ran well and consistently, even at the almighty speed of 70kph (44mph) for long stretches!  I am sensing now and then a little quiver in the bike.  is this those wheel bearings that im fretting over?  maybe my tyres need pumping  up? or is it the lousy road surfaces that my wheels keep being pulled about by?  Whatever - she ran beautifully.

So at the end of a lovely ride, what are the findings of the fuel consumption test?
Once again I filled up to the first knuckle, paid my £7.20 and sat down with my calculator.
Calculations show that I'm getting 71.6 mpg.  Not bad I guess (and certainly better than Scotts 60mpg)

So at 71mpg, our 1000 mile trip is going to require 14 gallons of fuel,  and cost me approximately £85 (and perhaps 16.5 gallons at £100 for Scotts 60mpg gas guzzler)

Friday, 18 March 2011

All tooled up (Tim)

Its a bit of a predicament really.  Vespas are known, indeed accepted, as temperamental and in need of constant adjustment and maintenance, and yet they are bereft of space in which to keep all the tools and parts you are likely to need while out and about.  I suppose Piaggio did make an attempt to address this with the 'tool box' mounted inside the legshield - but surely this is for keeping your curry safe while on the way home from the takeaway.

I have 2 piles of essential stuff that needs concealing safely and efficiently somewhere on the scooter for this trip.
- Pile 1 - Essential vespa spare parts (as seen earlier in this blog)
- Pile 2 - Essential tools for fitting essential spare parts

I bought a 'Vespa tool kit' off ebay for £9.99 - it apparently has everything you will ever need to fix your bike on the move.  I wasnt convinced though, so ive also added, a small adjustable spanner, a small multi screw-driver, a scalpel (you never know!), a pair of long nosed pliers and failing everything else, a medium sized pair of mole-grips.
All wrapped in 3 pieces of clean rag and slipped nicely into the blue nylon pouch with 'Vespa' printed badly on it.
Wrapped up, its about the size of a large cornish pastie (the sort from Cornwall, not Greggs the bakers) and weighs about the same as a pint of beer (again proper southern beer, not that aerated fizzy stuff that some places produce) - so its no insignificant piece of luggage to pack.
This I have decided will go in the bottom of my tool box - though as my tool box is far from water-tight I shall wrap it first in a good quality Marks and Spencer plastic bag (5p, 'no thanks I don't want another bag-for-life)

Have I forgotten any essential tool? (other than Scott)

I shall have a look at spare parts storage this weekend

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Vive Le Revolution (Tim)

As we get closer and closer to this monumental adventure, I am starting to feel a little anxious about a few things - not least, the reliability of my scooter.
Now I have absolutely no evidence to say that my scooter is not reliable.  I have not yet been let down by it (*touches wood as he types*), but I have only done only a few hundred miles on it since a major rebuild..... by an amateur.
And so it was with a sense of urgency that I serviced the front brake this weekend (actually I was also keen to get the back-plate painted - it was the only remaining task from the rebuild project)
Once stripped down I was interested to see the condition of the stub axle.  It certainly showed some signs of wear (slight pitting on the bearing surfaces) but the bearings seemed good.  I wondered what the acceptable level of wear is for a stub axle - According to Haynes;
"If this is worn or indented it must be renewed or the new bearings will be rapidly destroyed.  Unfortunately, the stub axle is integral with the suspension link, renewal of which is a job for the dealer"
Was my axle "indented"?  What if I'm NOT renewing the bearings?  How rapid exactly is 'rapidly'?  Do I really want to strip out the whole suspension and get it to a dealer?
I made a decision (based on an assumption that there must be hundred of thousands of vespa front axles worse than mine running perfectly happily in India) to reassemble with lots of grease and be done with it.

[I also noted with interest that Piaggio in their infinite wisdom decided not to put any grease nipples on the Vespa, where as Innocenti in their infinite wisdom did on the Lambretta.]

That night, I tossed and turned.  Had I done the right thing?  what if it all breaks up in the middle of some Tuscan mountain pass?  I wondered how long I needed it to stay together for,  and I made some calculations;
Wheel outer diameter = 16.5"
One wheel revolution = 1.44 yards
Wheel revolutions per mile = 1,222
Wheel revolutions for this trip (approx 1000 road miles) = 1.2 Million

Oh crivens! thats a lot of revolutions (*touches wood with crossed fingers as he types*)

Monday, 14 March 2011

What does normal feel like? (Scott)

I bought my PX125 unseen off eBay, on a complete whim. Sometimes I push my luck, but it's lovely when it pays off. When I saw little X159XAL for the first time, I was stoked. However the drive up to pick it up I was actually feeling sick with worry.

When I pressed the 'make an offer' button, I realised I had no idea on what a PX should feel like, and how to tell if it was sorted or not. I was lucky, by the condition of the scooter I knew that the silver beast had a very pampered 4300 miles in the last 11 years. My first ride was very interesting, my knowledge gathered from YouTube videos like (Joanie calls it scooter porn) and talking to Tim. The second-hand knowledge gathered obviously did the trick and my first ride was fun, no wheelies, and not many bunny hops. I still only know what my Vespa feels like, and is it right? I have limited mechanical skills, and we are going on a 1000 mile trip on strict transport deadlines. Hence my concern.

To add to my worries, the scooter has had some modifications too, the eBay description was:

"PX125 very low mileage, fitted with Malossi 166 kit, with T5 carb and uprated clutch and gearing changed for cruising, fitted and tuned by Diablo moto in Nuneaton, last year, performance stainless Scorpion exhaust, michelin S1 tyres (new) and 2 used VERY good tyres for spares ( not on rims), comes with spare wheel and working electric start., Small dent on front mudguard"

So, what does the Malossi do? What are it's drawbacks? (I haven't broken 60mpg yet, but it has amazing pickup at high revs, even with a 100kg of downforce from the saddle), the Scorpion exhaust, is it any good (On a PX150 gives an 8% power increase on a dyno, but at what cost? Low mpg again?) It sounds loud, and pops and crackles like a dirt-track racer when engine braking (sounds awesome IMHO), but I had to ask Tim when he was in London if it was as loud as his, which has a 200cc lump, and he was unsure, until he got home and did the same revving I did. MIne was louder. Uprated clutch? But the bite is quite soft, this feels way different to the CBT bike I had, and will it last 1000 miles dragging me about? Especially after some fists-of-ham riding round central London for the past 600 miles. T5 Carb? It's an old carb off a different engine, uprated how? The T5 was a standard 125cc scoot but more powerful than a normal PX. Gearing changed for cruising? No idea what this means, it seems to like 40-45-odd mph. What does a normal PX gear box feel like? 

So many questions, I had planned to do the maintenance and servicing myself on the beast, but I am very glad that I got it serviced a couple of weeks ago, at least I know that someone who has touched multiple PXs had had a crack at it. I still worry, all those panicky clutch slips in London traffic when I forget to move it down to first at the lights, and stall it. The clunky gearbox, the effort it takes to change gear, and many other things.

I think it is just me being a nervous Nellie, all the modifications were done professionally, the previous owner was an enthusiast,  and it has given me great performance so far, give or take the poor fuel economy. A lot of the websites reckon 80mpg, but nowhere near that for me. There is always a pay off with any form of performance modifications, and then with a porky bluff fronted rider, in stop-start awful traffic to the West End, and for the extra acceleration, it's probably a fine pay off. I rode next to a stock PX125 last week, and it was considerably quieter, but the noise adds character I think, and I especially like the way the scooter takes off when it passes half throttle, it's awesome.

I am getting nervous about the trip, and just fretting away. It never hurts to be wary of these things. When I'm at a bike stand with another PX in it, I look around furtively then sneak over to it and squeeze their clutch and brake levers, just to check they are like mine. And they feel similar. I just feel like a weirdo when I do it!

The latest update on equipment. My helmet (a Box BX1) always fogs up, which means riding with the visor cracked open, which is fine around London, in sub 30 minute journeys, but 6 hours on the trot may get tiresome, so Tony from Harry Nash recommended an Oxford Anti Fog liner for the visor, which works well, but the application was a pain, and the sides didn't stick properly. However being able to exhale makes for much better riding. I give it 6.5/10.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Silly boys scooter adventures and marital harmony needn't be mutually exclusive - Unless I have anything to do with it (Scott)

[Good Wife... Bad Husband]

It was never going to end well. And it didn't.
Long ago when I first mooted this idea to my lovely wife, Joanie thought I was talking rubbish. I have a lot of half-witted ideas that never come to fruition, which I think she thought this was one of them.
Then I got the Vespa, I saw alarm bells in her eyes, oh well everything will be OK. She originally suggested a scooter to minimise my commute to central London since we moved to suburbia, so I took this as a green light to buy a scooter and do what-ever-I-bloody-well-like on it. I underestimated this green light by just about completely. Oh dear. Joanie had calmly and rationally explained that driving across Europe after having just bought an 11 year old example of a notoriously unreliable 40 year old design, after only about 500 miles in the saddle, with two young kids at home, that I'm self employed and thats 4 non-earning days extra, riding on the wrong side of the road, dealing with Italy's special approach to traffic safety. Was indeed slightly foolish. I'm paraphrasing here. It was actually 'I don't want you to go'.
So being the caring, sharing, new age guy I am I chose to ignore this polite request. Something I now wish I had chosen to explain why I wanted to do this, and justified it until Joanie gave in to shut me up. But I didn't. I am a fool, and a terrible husband. When Tim said that we have to book now, I said "that's fine". Tim said it's non-refundable, I said "I'll just check with Joanie". Actually I didn't. Instead, like a complete arse I said "that's fine". I now see the error in my ways.
Also for the record I would like to say that thinking Joanie wouldn't read this blog, and I would have time to broach the subject gently was also stupid. I emailed the link to my family in New Zealand, and my sister replied with one of her pithy comments, and cc:d Joanie in. D'oh. I admire Joanie for not telling me she had seen the blog and merely stored it up as ammunition for later. I have taught her well!
So to cut a long story short, when I got knocked off the scooter, and still in shock, and not thinking straight. I told Joanie about the crash. She said, "well that stops the Silly Boys Scooter to Sestri Adventure™ then", I said "Of course, you are correct my love. It was a silly idea anyway", except I didn't. The power of hindsight is amazing. Instead (like an eijit) I said "No, I have to go, I've paid already, and it's non-refundable" I still blame the shock. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it's because I'm more than a little bit of a dick.
So to my lovely and long suffering wife, I take this opportunity, publicly, on a rather esoteric blog, to whole-heartedly apologise for being a terrible husband. I would also like to thank you for putting up with me, and resigning yourself to the fact that I'm going on this silly trip. You are one of a kind.
There is a moral to this story/grovelling apology if you are planning an adventure across a large distance on some dodgy Italian engineering, tell you significant other everything. Or you will get rumbled, and you will feel awful about it. End of moral. Back to scootering.

Should we train for this trip? (Tim)

It occurred to me last night as I walked in the rain and darkness, I've never ridden my scooter at night time nor in lashing rain.
Our trip to Italy has a number of fixed deadlines (trains, ferries etc) so we are not going to have any choice about the conditions we ride in - I'm having a bit of a worry now about running late in Germany and having to ride in the dark, in the rain and on the other side of the road!
I wonder if I should get some practice in? Its probably not wise to practice riding on the other side of the road til we get there, but maybe I should do some night riding before we set off, if only to see if my headlight works.
How do you keep your helmet visor clear while you're riding in lashing rain?
Of course it might just be easier to put a cosmic order out for sunny weather and no delays

Friday, 11 March 2011

28 days to go

Blimey its only 4 weeks to go now til we set off on this trip and weve done pretty well NO preparation.
I'm usually quite cool about these things but judging by the dreams I was having last night about bits falling off scooters and near miss accidents accidents, things are clearly starting to play on my mind.

I think I might give my brakes a service this weekend

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Vespa + Transit luton van + Driver not looking properly = Surprised Kiwi (who was very grateful for Kevlar body armour) sliding down the Hammersmith Road (Scott)

A wise man once said it's not if you have a motorcycle accident, it's when. To cut a long story short, it was a warm day, good visibility, I was properly attired, the scooter was at it's noisy best. I was passing Blythe Road off Hammersmith Road at a stately 20mph or so (3rd gear at least) when I saw a luton van move forward, looking to turn across my lane to where I had come from. Tense up, hold breath, ready to brake, as a cyclist, everybody is dangerous. See him stop. exhale breath and continue on looking towards the next junction and all the other potential hazards. Next thing I see in the corner of my visor, a van windscreen, then heard a bang, and before I even had a chance to swear, I was on my left hand side sliding down the road with the scooter in front of me, and the unhappy sound of wafer-thin Italian steel crunching and scraping.

It all happened so fast, I'm not sure of the exact order, I didn't see my life flash before my eyes, I just thought this is it. Bloody hell. After what felt an eternity of sliding (approx 5 or 6 feet in actuality) I'm lying in the road not sure of what to do next. Rush of adrenalin. Fuck! I'm lying in the middle of Hammersmith road, alive, seemingly unharmed and now if I don't get up sharpish I'm going to get run over by someone else. So in a quite unusual fit of athleticism, I was up, saw the stalled Vespa on it's side, and hobbled, after checking for cars, to the far kerb. To the pub to be precise. As I was getting up I heard the van driver apologising to me, I even managed to point out that his lack of observance had indeed ruined my day, and a few other words to that effect.

Quick stocktake.
1 x Sore Leg. All moving just felt sprained
1 x Heartbeat running at twice normal speed
1 x Scooter lying in road.
1 x London arterial road stopped in both directions (never happens)
1 x I'm not dead.
1 x big bloody hole in my jacket elbow
1 x pair of water proof trousers ripped and holed
1 x no blood or anything

Off with helmet, and gloves on pub table, and see a couple of people going over to move the scooter out of the road, I was quite shaken up and my phone was inside my jacket, so no pics. It was in gear, and tricky to move if you don't know Vespas, so I hobble off with them to move it to the kerb.

Everything then speeds up again, I can't for the life of me think what happens next. No idea. I double check the van is still there, and sit down. I still can't come to any lucid thoughts, when I worry about me momentarily, and ask if my head hit the ground, for concussion, and it didn't apparently (Big shoulders have some use.) Then insurance pops into my head. This was slightly flawed as I couldn't remember my broker's name. This was pointless as I only had third party. Anyway, I finally got sense and shouted 'Details' at Barry the at-fault van driver. Barry looked at me blankly. I got a pen out of my pocket, and thrust it towards him, then went for my iPhone expecting glass everywhere, but it was all fine, so photographed the van, the location and the scooter. Still shaking. Barry comes back. 'I can't remember my insurance broker's name, it's a new company. Alarm bells go off in my head, and the shock has gone I am back to normal. Brain instantly in gear. Right Bazza, show me some ID. No ID on him. Alarm bells in my head replaced by air-raid siren. Walk to his van, take a look at the front. 1 x cracked number plate. Grrr. Photo. Sneakily took a photo of Barry. He was being very good, and very apologetic. I then Google mapped his post code to make sure they matched up, and rang his mobile number on the paper with his details on, he pulls two phones out of his pocket, Air-raid siren and alarm bells going off together, dodgy geezer alert. Saw his van actually had a road tax disc, and in the UK, you can't get road tax without insurance, so was slightly relieved, took photo of tax disc, and he hadn't taken the Chiswick Van Hire stickers off from when he bought it, so wrote that down, he even said that he had bought it only three months ago and I could phone them to check it out. All of that I was quite amazed, as I was in a state of shock, and I remembered most things. There was a witness also who was making sure I was OK, so I got his details as well. Then everybody went away, and I noticed that my witness then hopped in the van with Barry. D'oh. Didn't see that.

Anyway, there I was sitting alone outside a pub with a dented scooter (2 x dented rear cowls, from leg shield scratched, and chrome strip ruined, and the front mudguard was also munched up and wonky) a mild case of shock. And wondered what to do next. So I cancelled my next client. Then phoned Tim to ask him if he knew my brokers name. You may notice Joanie hasn't appeared on this list yet. I wanted to feel a bit more normal before I called her as she is a natural worrier. Then I pulled out my laptop from my backpack. No broken screen, bloody amazing… I should be in the next MacBook Pro ad! What to do next. Spot double yellows under the Vespa, all I need is for one of these automated ticket givers snapping me, luckily De Agostini, a client with a private car park was about 750m down the road. So hop up and limp to scooter. Try to start the motor, and fires, and is all OK. KIll motor and twist front guard away from wheel, and start to push. Leg hurts, more. Sit down and ponder options, call RAC, does it cover scooters? Call Joanie? Won't get it in car. Call De Agostini and see if someone can push it for me? Then I thought I should try to ride it. Get back on the horse and all that. Fire her up again, and after checking my blind spot 4 times take off very slowly along the road.

Luckily the bus lanes were out of restricted hours so I could travel kerb-side, and that was the longest 750m in my life! Finally got to De Ag drove down the side of the building and parked up, and had the sudden major desire to sit down on a couch, so hobbled into the building, still in full, slightly ragged attire. Went into office, took off bike gear and sat down with a can of Coke. Sat there for quite a while. Then phoned Joanie. I was still in shock so was probably none too lucid. Then Tim called back, and then went to my desk and did some work. Quite bizarre. Though apparently I wasn't quite myself, but pleased to have something to take my mind off it. One of my colleague Bradley is an ex-scooter rider, after two written off scooters, one from a slide on oil, and one from t-boning a moron doing a u-turn from a stopped line of traffic without indicating or looking, offered me a lift home as he lives further past Petersham in Esher, which was gratefully accepted.

Now the strange stuff started to happen, we got in the car pulled out on the road, next thing there was a motorbike, seemingly from nowhere appeared at the front drivers side. I got all panicky like Bradley hadn't seen him (he had). Then round Hammersmith one-way system we got cut-up by a moron. This happens every time on this road, so it isn't unusual, but Bradley caught me braking using the imaginary pedals in the passenger footwell! I was quite jumpy. Which is very unlike me. When I eventually got home, I was quite relieved. My leg hurt (I had terrible nights sleep), but luckily Barry had phoned with his insurers details, which was a major relief. The next day I intended to take the scooter to ScooterWorld to get a quote for fixing it up, so took my riding coat and the other bits were still at De Agostini, so headed to the bus, with a very sore leg. By lunch time, I decided that an A&E visit would be in order, as my leg wasn't feeling any better, and also a good delaying tactic not to get on the scooter! So 4 hours at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith (though I must say the receptionist, Orthopaedic doctor and radiographer were all awesome, and considering the flotsam and jetsam of West London in the waiting room, I was amazed at their good humour!) I had a couple of Xrays and nothing was broken, so I was was happy, and the doctor said I didn't even need to strap it up, which is great as I am flying to NZ on Tuesday.

So that was was late Weds, so I went home on the tube and bus, and went back to De Ag on Thurs. Today my back and shoulder hurt as well. I had two calls in Chelsea to make, both miles from the tube station, so I decided that this was it, get back on it and stop being soft. As I walked down the drive I felt physically sick. And I was about to ride past ground zero in 3 minutes. I passed Robin, another scooterist, who wished me luck, which was nice, and I knew I had an audience which didn't hurt. Unshackled and started up the beast, still sickly. Rode down the drive, and got to the road. It was empty so took off gingerly and carefully, lucky not much traffic. Passed the accident spot and then felt alright again. Jumpy, and too quick on the brakes, but OK, it was nice to be back in the saddle, picked up the keys for the next job and rode there, all through busy South Ken and Knightsbridge and it was great.

[huge sigh of relief considering I am still going to Italy!]

I took the Vespa to Ahmed at ScooterWorld ( who went through the options for the Scooter. Barry enquired about an off the record fix, and it would come to about £360 including VAT for the fix and £130 for the ruined jacket. If it was an insurance job, it would be written off, and I would then have to buy it back and then get it fixed. I just want the bloody thing fixed and back to lovely again (including fixing the rust on the front guard) so gave Barry the options, so it looks like it's a fixer upper.

I went to Max's school book night on the way home, and was running late for a change so had to park at the school, so Max was running about with my helmet on, and then I gave some of his classmates rides up and down the footpath of our cul-de-sac, the kids loved it, and so did I. Did 40miles on Friday, 15 on the A40 at 50 MPH. I do love the noisy little blighter. Italy here we come.

Updates as they happen, and happy scooting. And lets be careful out there. No other bugger seems to be.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Dented Morale (Tim)

A long, long time ago (30 years, 2 and a half months ago to be precise) when I was just 18 and having only recently passed my driving test, i had a car accident.

Many years before that (perhaps another 30 or so) my dad, as a young lad also had an accident (actually I think he had a few) - but in his case, he was riding a scooter - A Lambretta LD150 to be precise (not for no reason is he rebuilding one of these 50 years later)  Those tumbles off his scooter were enough to give him the resolve to ensure no child of his was ever going to have a motorbike, and craftily he went about designing my own youth in such a way that motorbikes never came onto my horizon.
With plenty of fatherly encouragement I bought my first car when I was 16 - a 1967 Renault 4 TL - If i remember correctly, I paid about 60 quid for it (and that included delivery to my home).
Although it was running, It was in a very sorry state and so began a 2 year project (that came to be known as the “Renaultvation”) orchestrated by my father as a way to keep me occupied while the ‘motorbike phase’ passed me by. 
I (and he) dedicated all spare time to that car.  Together we stripped and rebuilt every single component, from floor pans to piston bores, door posts to dynamos.  I can genuinely say I touched every single nut and bolt on that car.
A project as long and intensive as this built a very special bond between, not only, me and my dad, but me and my car.  I loved that car.

The ‘Renaultvation’ had been on the road for 6 months, and as I set off for college on that fateful frosty morning of Tuesday 16th December 1980, I was glad to be in my warm car and not on a chilly motorbike.  As I pulled out of our sleepy village and rounded a corner, I hit a patch of ice.  I remember veering heavily to one side of the road, and I remember worrying about scratching the paint on my new front wings, and I remember a lot of noise........
The next thing I remember, I was halfway walked back to my house - and I was swearing - a lot.  I explained to my mum that I had crashed the car (but I had no recollection to the extent of the damage.  In fact I still have no recollection to this day of the the crash itself or how I got out of it).  We phoned dad who decided to come straight home from work.

It wasnt until a little later that morning when I returned to the crash site with dad that I saw the full extent of the damage to my car.  From the imprints of the sides of the car in the frosty grass we could see that the car had turned arse about face and done a complete roll over - the roof and wings were squashed over one way and the rear wheels squashed under the other way, the bonnet ripped off and doors all distorted out shape.  I have no idea how I got out of the car (but I do know I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in those days) or the field that I had rolled into
I saw my car and I cried.  I was shaken and shocked by the experience, and I was so bitterly saddened to see the love of my life so battered.

and so the point of this story?
At the same moment, Dad saw my car and simply said “Ok, lets tow it back home and get started on repairing it” - As I remember it, there was no panic, no anger, no hesitation in his voice.  I remember being both surprised and comforted by his calm response. 
It wasn’t until a long time after that I realised how important that moment was.  I was in total despair but dad had just the right words to make me believe it would be alright.  They made all the difference between giving up and getting up.
I got up. We hitched the car up to his car and gingerly towed it back home - and there and then started another 4 months of renovation of the Renaultvation during which time we removed all the body (again) and pushed and pulled, stretched and shrunk the metal work back into some recognisable shape again. I was back on the road by summer :-)

That little Renault 4 never did become the custom show car I had originally dreamed it would be.  It lived on for many years after as a wrinkly fun car that made people smile where-ever it went.  I never loved it any less for being not-so-perfect, In fact I think I loved it all the more for the character that my accident had created (in me and my car)
I loved that car

Bringing the story up to date.  I was sitting in a coffee shop with Laurie today when I got a call from Scotty.  “Ive just been knocked off my bike” he said - There was a shaky mix of shock and I’m-alright in his voice.  “I’ve scratched and dented up my lovely scooter”
I was taken right back to that moment of my own accident in a vehicle that I loved; shaken, gutted, and dazed, and I wished I could have been as comforting to Scott as dad had been to me.
I think it had only been within the hour that he’d had the accident and I wasn’t quite able to keep up with Scotts trembling recount of the details.  He was clearly all in one piece, but clearly quite shaken.
Having established that he was not seriously injured, how could I help?  What words are right at that moment?  What actions?  We shall have to see over the next few days how Scotts bruises and confidence develop.
I hope he recovers well..... and secretly I hope he doesnt regret (or blame me for encouraging him) buying his scooter.
Maybe I might be seeing another Vespa in the garage soon - I’ll get my hammers ready - its what my dad would do.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Whatever the weather (Tim)

Thanks to Hugh for the heads up on some reasonably priced thermal wear.
I was up early to pop over to our local Aldi supermarket, where I was delighted to get some proper motorcycle trousers (up until now Ive been wearing jeans and sometimes some camouflage overtrousers - which look a bit rubbish and the jeans are just too thin to wear in this very chilly weather)
So this is what I bought;
motorcycle trousers (thermal, waterproof and armoured) - £30
Compression thermal top and legs - £16
10mm welded chain and lock - £10
rain/dust cover for the scooter - i wondered if it would be useful when out and about on rainy days - i dont fancy having to climb back onto a soaking wet seat - £8

I thought these seemed like jolly good value for money, but I cant help wondering what I might have gained if I'd have bought similar stuff from a motorcycle store for 2 or 3 times the price?

I also bought a neck tube for £5 - but its pretty rubbish - i think ill take it back.  And accidentally i picked up a pair of wind cheater trousers instead of top (£10) - again i will swap these

So I now feel much more weather prepared.  Though I would like to think that when we get to Italy we can ditch all this bulky stuff and cruise around in the sunshine in sharp Italian suits (or as hugh suggests, harrington jackets)

5 weeks to go! :-)