If you feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu with this article don’t panic. It was actually published remotely last week whilst I was on holiday but some kind of website gremlin ate half the feature and swallowed the photos. Unable to restore it from my poolside retreat, the offending article was removed. I’m back home now, luckily the gremlin wasn’t feeling well and spewed its contents allowing the article and photos to be restored to their former glory.
Remember a time when you enjoyed ‘bimbling’ along at 30-35 mph? You were 16, on your 50 Special/PK/Lui, carefree and you had wheels – the world was your seafood crustacean. Roll on (cough) 35 years, and most of us find ourselves with the stress of work, parental responsibility, lack of time, Brexit etc. Some find relief by cramming more into their lives; more events, greater distances across the world, tuning/customising, migrating to modern scooters so they can ‘twist & go’, even 24 x 7 social media posting.
There are a growing number, however, who have found a cure for modern life with a form of regression therapy (resolving significant past events believed to help with your present mental and emotional wellness). The regression process, in this case, means owning, maintaining and riding a shaft driven Lambretta (Model A to LD) or a 3-geared Vespa on 8” wheels.
Oooh, la, la…
My personal ‘shafting’ journey started a couple of years ago when I took ownership of a 1957 French LD complete with beautiful patina paintwork and a seized engine. I started slowly collecting parts for it and my eyes were opened to a secret world of other enthusiasts, rare parts and engine components that resembled a Swiss watch. The LD languished at the back of the garage until a chance conversation with Tony Higgs and Matthew Philips, whilst touring Normandy in the summer of 2018.
They had a ‘cunning plan’ to unite the ‘Shafters’ and the ‘8-inchers’ for a weekend culminating in a ride from London to Brighton and back; the format was to hark back to the golden era of scootering in the late 40s and 50s, and was open to riders and vehicles that fitted the specification mentioned earlier (period attire was strictly optional!).
The plan became firm, adverts and Facebook pages were created, sponsors secured, word spread, and a load of owners went to their respective garages to prepare their scooters. Matthew (Surrey Vintage Vespa Club) and Tony (London Lambretta Club) went into overdrive, organising a venue for the Friday night welcome. They planned a route through the Surrey and Sussex countryside that followed the traditional journey taken in the 50s and took in some of the stunning views on route. They also plotted suitable stopping points to recongregate on the way.
By the April 27th event date over 100 likeminded souls had signed up to the event, which was way and above everyone’s expectations; especially Tony and Matthew, who also had to stuff the ‘welcome packs’ in the pub on Friday night. Special mention to the sponsors who provided support and ‘goodies’ for the packs, Awfully Pleasant Scooter Association, LCGB, SIP, Scooter Centre Koln, ScooterNova and SLUK.
Riders had signed up from far and wide so there was a good congregation from Birmingham, Doncaster, Manchester and Belgium, as well as the south and south west at the Friday night meet and greet. There was a real buzz of excitement and expectation for the gathering and ride with so many likeminded individuals.
Bat out of treacle
Saturday morning arrived, and after a Travel Inn breakfast, I headed over to the meet point at Epsom Racecourse and any fears I had about the weather forecast putting people off were misplaced as there was already a large number gathering in the car park. The format was to follow the given route but make your own way at your own pace in your own groups, and meet at given stops on route. Once all assembled, Tony gave a few words, over his newly acquired loud hailer (complete with siren!) and an advance party set off. I hooked up with Marcus from Medway SC, on his bright yellow Model D and off we set like a bat out of treacle.
Smell the flowers
What followed was a fantastic day of cruising through the countryside, enjoying the views, the company and holding up traffic as the various batches of scooters wound their way towards Brighton at speeds ranging from 50mph down to 5mph (with a push) through the Surrey Hills. There is a saying in scootering circles that sums up the joy of the ride to and from an event and that is ‘take time to smell the flowers on the way.’ It’s not all about getting there in the fastest time possible, it’s about the experience of the journey that matters. Riding a three geared 50s Lambretta you certainly have time to think and find your inner karma.
After a couple of scheduled stops at a café for bacon butties, and Devils Dyke – a lookout for panoramic views of Brighton, and of course the obligatory group photos, we re-grouped and headed for Madeira Drive in Brighton en masse. Once there we parked along the front and spent a couple of hours chatting, eating and sharing stories of the journey down. Tony (aka Tannoy Boy) thanked everyone for coming, especially those who had travelled from mainland Europe to be with us, and we had a prize giving for best Vespa, won by Paul Diamond (who was resplendent in Tweed) and Best Lambretta, won by Jurgen Fatta from Belgium. The trophies were specially made by Peter Kent and the recipients seemed very pleased with them.
Once suitably rested we made the return trip to Surrey, via the same route, making plans for some well-earned beers that evening. I’m not aware of many breakdowns during the day which for some circa 70-year-old machines running on points is an achievement and puts a lot of the new fandangled Series 1, 2 & 3s to shame. Thanks again go to Andy Vass for manning the backup van for the day.
I hope this event grows and becomes a regular date in the diary in the future. Happy Shafting
Words: Tommy Tomlinson
Photos: Tony Higgs
Rallery by Tony Higgs
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