You can’t keep a good man down. Regular Manx based contributor and all-round self confessed Lambretta nut shares his wealth of experience on handling and how to avoid the usual pitfalls.
Off your trolley
Does your scooter handle like a shopping trolley? Does it feel as vague as a Theresa May Press Conference on the front end? Does it not give you the confidence you need to chuck it in to corners? Does it feel all ‘nervous’ at the front ? Or even makes knocking and banging sounds when you brake?
Well, here are a few basic checks that I have found helped me transform my shopping trolley back to a scooter.
With any handling problem the first thing to check is your tyres, check you have the correct tyre pressure – varying this to suit heavy luggage and/or a pillion, accordingly. Next, check the condition of your tyres do they look in good condition?
Although your tyres can look in good nick, make sure the tyre walls haven’t collapsed especially if you ride two up or with lots of luggage. The only way you can check this is by taking your tyres off and if the tyre walls have collapsed you will be able to bend the tyres quite easily. I have found it is worth buying a tyre with a high speed rating such as a Dunlop ScootSmart for touring, or Golden Tyre GT070 – a genuinely soft tyre for the “tarmac terrorist”.
Next thing to check is your front wheel bearings. This is a check which should be done on a regular basis, for example when you clean your scooter. Check by placing your hand on top of the front tyre and rock the wheel from side to side, or even, lift the front end off the ground slightly, which allows you to put a hand on the top and bottom of the tyre and rock back and fore. What you are looking for here, is any movement in the wheel bearing – if there is a lot of play it might mean the bearing is worn and needs replacing.
Make sure you check your front wheel spindle/axle, this however means taking the front wheel out and rolling the spindle on a flat plate or very flat surface to determine if the spindle is bent. If it is, then a replacement is needed and this will make the world of difference to the handling of your bike.
Sit on the ground in front of the scooter and grab a fork leg in each hand and gently pull towards you and push away in a rocking motion, see if there is any movement or play. It might mean your headstock bearings have come loose and need tightening. Do not, however, over tighten the headstock bearings or this could cause other handling issues.
(Editor’s tip: another way to check for loose headstock bearings is to sit on the scooter with the front brake one and rock the bike front to rear. If you keep a finger on the gap between the headseat and the legshield you should not feel any relative movement between the two.)
If the front end feels like a pogo stick when you are going down the road the chances are you have standard fork springs, or the fork springs are very well worn and may need replacing. A set of progressive fork springs cost as little as £15.00 and go up to as much a £40.00 but even the £15.00 ones are a major improvement and these can be bought at most scooter dealers.
Round the Back
Grab the back of your rear tyre and rock back and forth to check for play. There is always a bit of play in the wheel but anything excessive could mean your gear box end plate has come loose. In turn this could, in the worst case scenario, wreck your gear box and potentially snap your lay shaft.
Mounts and Shocks
It’s well worth checking your engine mounts. Look at the mounts from the side and check that your engine bolt is central and that the rubber itself, has not collapsed. If you are running a high-power motor it’s worth considering the Casa Lambretta engine mounts, which have extra strong rubber in them or AF extra wide versions as these tend to keep the engine straight in the frame. With good engine mounts, when you come to a corner the scooter will naturally turn in. I had some standard Indian ones I had intended to use and were frankly, not up to the job and had a desire to push the scooter straight on, rather than corner, which lead to some very hairy moments!
Also check your rear shock absorber by bouncing the back end of the scooter whilst it’s still on the stand. If it continues to bounce after you’ve let go, the shock has had it and will need replacing. It’s important to do this, as worn out shock absorbers have been known to snap with disastrous consequences. You’ll also need to check your ‘sag’ (check Nick’s suspension set up guide), as this can also effect the front end handling.
It’s normally a process of elimination to find any problem, however each scooter is individual and some scooters will handle brilliantly and you can do just the same to another and unfortunately, it will not handle quite as well – like their owners they are unique!
Words and Pics: Nick Prince