Scooters from a different perspective
I’ve never been in with the in crowd… more like an outsider looking in. Like a dirty peeping Tom peering through your windows on a dark winters night. Admiring the scooters, the clothes, the comrades of the scooter club and the ‘scene’. I read the printed scooter magazines and was in awe of custom and modified street racer type scooters.
My first experience of a scooter rally was in 1985. Redcar to be precise. I’d lived a fairly sheltered life and as a young mod I was desperate to see some scooters. So I got the train from Middlesbrough to Redcar to see what the fuss was all about. My experience of all things scooter related and the ‘scooter scene’ came to an abrupt halt when some random scooter boys pinned me down, pulled my fishtail parka hood right over my head (effectively disabling me) and forcibly removed my Jam shoes to throw them as far as they could into the North Sea! Ohhh what a laugh they had. I had to walk around for the rest of the day with no shoes on. This pissed me off just a little bit. An impressionable and passionate young mind thwarted by some Cnuts!
In the intervening years between then and my late 30s I bought and rode any number of P range Vespas, P200Es, T5 Classics and PXs of varying different colours but mainly standard for reliabilties sake. I didn’t and still don’t have a clue about engines. I was always mindful of the fact that I didn’t fit in with the scooterboy community and kept myself to myself, riding my scooters for commuting to work or just riding locally. I just loved to ride but not to scooter rallies. I kept my distance. A quiet and retiring personality, I kept it that way for 25 years but always with a passion for scooters.
IOM scooter rally
I had obviously read over many years about the exploits of young lads getting the ferry over to the IOM for the scooter weeks during the sixties and seventies. The likes of Jon and Norman Ronald with their AF ‘S’ Types, Ron Moss with his Supertune scooters, whilst Neville Frost’s iconic sideways Druidale water splash aquaplaning photograph and numerous other images filled my head and interest for the sporting side of Scootering. These meetings and annual events have all been documented in the scooter press over the years. And they held my fascination.
At the age of 40 and having worked my arse off over the years to build a business and provide a home for my family I decided that I needed another interest, an outlet, some focus and some therapy. The stress of achieving these goals had taken their toll. And scooters were my saviour, or ruin – depending on how you look at it! The inception of the Internet and all the free information and ability to communicate with people around the world captivated me too. There was a lot of information about team ‘S’ Equipe readily available on the forums, the dedicated websites and other media also. I began to communicate with people from all over the UK about scooters. Predominantly Lambrettas. Soon that web of communicative ability started to stretch further afield. It extended to Europe, the Americas, Australia and the Far East. The diverse nature of scootering around the world became apparent and I decided that I had to break out of my cellular scooter sphere of experience and existence.
Doing it my way
Over the last five years, work permitting I’ve tried to do something different each year. Different international scooter events, meeting loads of interesting genuine people. I’m still not into riding to the national scooter rallies but prefer to pick and choose the destinations and experiences I have. This led me to the IOM scooter rally 2016. I had made the acquaintances through different avenues of people interested in the sporting side of the IOM. One particular person lived only two miles from me. We had struck up a friendship through our interest in Lambrettas and he also had not previously had any experience with the ‘scooter scene’ as such. A coincidence perhaps! We became good friends. We had a different outlook to other scooterists and began to ride our Lambrettas in the local area of North Yorkshire. Never really venturing more than a 40 mile radius. Riding within the relatively small area, not in order to reach any particular destination but just to ride on twisting scenic lanes (no major intercontinental destinations for us) this gave us the security that if anything went wrong, it wasn’t too far to get home. Call us pussies if you will! This limited riding distance meant that our scooters were built for these distances i.e. not long-range tourers. Now don’t forget that I am approaching this scootering lark from a different angle and everyone has the right to enjoy scootering in their own individual way.
With this in mind… Also taking into consideration other factors, which I’m not prepared to justify, we became ‘van wankers’. We loaded our scooters into my van and made a quick and painless journey to the IOM. The intention to get there, and then enjoy riding our scooters on the island. We arrived on the Friday in Douglas and immediately got our scooters out of the van for a ride in the sunshine along Douglas promenade and along up the coast for a good few miles before the thirst for beer and the hunger for Chinese food got the better of us. Back to the hotel for a quick wash and brush up and off to the hotel bar for a few Peronis. A few messages sent to friends from around the UK and other European countries saw us meeting up in the Queens Hotel for a few more scoops. It was a great atmosphere and we met lots of lovely genuine people. The allure of the official rally do didn’t really enter into the equation as we enjoyed an evening of banter. Some of the great lads we met discussed getting up at 5.00am for a 6.00am meet up to ride the TT course whilst the roads were free of the hindrance of superbike power rangers and would be Stigs in hot hatches.
A relatively early night saw us up at stupid o’clock the next day to meet up with our new riding companions. We had managed to shoehorn ourselves into their group of experienced IOMers to tag along for the ride. Up to the TT starting grid and an impromptu sprint start from us all on our Lambrettas and down the hill, along on to and around the course. Various stops along the superb TT course were made due to us wanting to see specific sites and also thanks to thick fog up on The Mountain. Various photo opportunities saw us in our element and totally oblivious of the early start time. In completing the TT course we made our way back to the hotel for a full English, then back out to do what we came to do, ride our Lambrettas and explore. 11.00am was the time for the official scooter rally ride out. Gathering in the TT pit lane we chatted and marvelled at the assembled scooters. In our element and no sign of any shoe thieving swines, to my relief. Many photographs were taken and once the majority of the scooters left for the ride out the remaining few Lambretista set off with our own agenda. Climbing up to Creg-ny-Baa for a coffee stop and more photo opportunities. We chatted about the proposed route to find the Druidale section of the course. The appeal of riding the hallowed Druidale section was awe-inspiring having seen so many images of the Montpelier water splash (sadly now made safe with concrete and pipes for the water to flow under the road). Doug Miller led the way, having ridden and competed 45 years previously. We followed through the fog. Along a twisting gnarled road, torn up by rally cars knocking lumps out of the surface. Eventually to open out into the hollow of the Montpelier water splash location and a clearing sky to allow the sun to shine down upon us. A totally amazing and immersive experience being there amongst such wonderful company from far and wide. Again the obligatory photo/video opportunities were had and eventually we set off again along the Druidale section.
Messed it up
On this continuing section of Druidale I made an error. As previously mentioned the road surface left a lot to be desired, thanks mainly to rally cars tearing up the Tarmac. I wanted a spirited ride along the course and being at the back of the group of riders I was a little frustrated at the lack of pace (call it experience, call it wisdom, call it not riding like a dick) I dropped back a little to allow myself space to take a section of Druidale at speed. With a twist of my wrist I propelled my TV200 up to the brow of a hill, a left hand corner and a section of loose road surface. My front wheel lost traction on the gravel and luckily I managed to catch it before I was dumped on the hard surface. Regaining traction on the solid surface I braked. Heading for the grass verge at the side of the Druidale track, I eased off the brake, as I knew that hurtling into the grass with the front brake on would be disastrous. Over the grass verge and down a grassy incline the front wheel gave way on the wet organic path I’d happened upon. I hit the deck like a sack of shit. A definitive CRACK as my elbow dug into my ribs and I knew immediately I was in for some pain.
Did you see me on TV?
As luck would have it my ’65 TV200 was virtually unscathed, bonus! My body took the brunt of the impact. I jumped to my feet, adrenaline kicking in. And tried to push my scooter up the grassy incline back to the road. Thankfully my good mate Jon was behind me and just caught a glimpse of my inadvertent scooter dismounting acrobatics. He quickly helped me back onto the road with my scooter. In agony with my ribs I tried to put on a brave face saying I was fine. No sooner had I restarted my scooter than I was met with the surreal experience of none other than Norman Ronald in fully focused race mode billowing down the track towards us. In amazement we turned our scooters around and followed him back towards the Montpelier water splash. A good number of others returned to the area to catch up with Norman. None of whom really believed I’d binned it on Druidale and thought I was taking the piss whilst I complained about my painful ribs.
What a bizarre afternoon, one that lifelong memories are made of. After spending a short while chatting with Norman we headed off to Peel, location of the Peel hill climb and a beautiful place to sit in the sun and soak up the company and surroundings. The pain in my ribs was growing as the adrenaline began to wear off.
The ride back to Douglas, not to mention simply pushing my scooter off its stand was excruciating. Every little bump in the road felt as though I was being stabbed in my side, so much so that I had another close call again, narrowly avoiding a Tarmac tumble. I won’t go into describing the pain and difficulty sleeping that night, nor to loading the scooters back in the van and driving home, or the next few days at work before I finally saw sense and went to the local hospital to get checked out… 2 cracked ribs being the diagnosis. All in all it was an absolutely brilliant weekend spent in the presence of some top people (not one pork pie hat was observed). I’m thankful to have overcome my shoe theft mental blockage and I’ll look forward to more UK scooter rallies in the future… not everyone is out to steal your shoes!
Text & pics: Kirk St Moritz