Reader’s ride #1 Coventry to Italy | FEATURE
We asked SLUK readers to help the ‘war’ effort by knuckling down and writing about their scooter trips, stories, tips and builds. We’ve had a few articles and ideas sent in already, thanks to those who’ve got involved. We need some extra content for the site whilst rallies and events aren’t taking place. We’ll give you details on how to help at the end.
Remember the days where you could just jump on your scooter and travel pretty much anywhere in the world? It’s not too long ago and hopefully, before the summer is over we’ll be able to get out and about again. Anyway, here’s a reminder of how things used to be in our first ‘Reader’s Ride’ (please don’t send photos of your semi-clad partner in, we’re not that kind of magazine). This one was sent in by Steve Rushton…
Steve’s scenic route from Coventry to Italy included many gems, from empty French avenues to the wonder of Switzerland, power-sapping mountain passes, stunning lakes and Italian hospitality.
My wife’s family are Italian and every summer we visit their home at Pedemonte near Aviano in Friuli Venenzia Guila, northeast Italy. Inspired by other people’s scooter adventures, in 2018 I decided to make the journey by Lambretta, whilst my family let Easyjet take the strain.
After many weeks of planning, the basic, but flexible itinerary was:
Friday: Coventry to Reims (or Saint Quentin)
Saturday: Reims to Colmar
Sunday: Colmar to Lecco (at the foot of Lake Como)
Monday: Lecco to Pedemomte, via Lake Garda & Trento
With the Sat Nav programmed with N & D roads through France, and non-motorway roads through Switzerland and Italy, the scoot loaded with spares, fuel and clothes I set of at 5:30 am in the warmth of the summer Friday morning. The M40 was clear, the M25 busy and the M20 like a third world road – massive potholes and the worst surface I’ve ever ridden on.
The scooter didn’t miss a beat. Two stops for fuel and arse break, 4.5 hours and 183 miles later and I’m waiting at the terminal. On the way down I’d said hi to some bikers at a petrol station. They fuelled up and zoomed off – funny that when I arrived at the Eurotunnel we were waiting for the same train! The hare and the tortoise story springs to mind.
If you remember 2018, instead of Coronavirus, we had a heatwave to cope with… the Eurotunnel trains had issues with the aircon so my crossing was delayed by four hours, pushed back until 3 pm…. with the extra hour for France and the enforced wait, I knew I wouldn’t make it to Reims by the evening, so I just decided to ride on until I found a suitable place to stay as far into France as I could manage. I used the enforced break to check over the GP – I was pleased I did as the carb rubber had split. Luckily, I had a spare.
The sight of a lone Lambretta loaded up with luggage prompted many bikers to ask where I was heading… most could not believe my destination was northern Italy, almost all of them left grinning and shaking their heads as if I were a tad ambitious/deluded!
Arriving in France, my next issue was a closed road that my sat nav tried to send me along repeatedly. I took a chance and managed to get around the blockage and came across a scooter (and lawnmower) shop that had its own petrol pump in the wall. The owner filled the GP to the brim and off I headed again. The sky looked black and angry and it wasn’t long before it started to rain. Heavily. Very, very heavily! As soon as the rain hit the ground it seemed to evaporate – the paths and road tarmac were actually steaming! The downpour must have cooled the air temp by at least 15 degrees – the scooter was running much better in the colder air.
With lightning in the distance and no sign of a let-up in the weather I decided to stop at Arras. I found a hotel in the grand square but the only parking was underground in an immaculate public car park. It gets locked at night, so I secured the Lambretta to a post and just hoped it would be OK. Even though I had chained it to a pillar, I must admit I was not that happy about leaving it there.
After a sweaty, broken night’s sleep (the budget hotel had no aircon!) and a great continental breakfast I returned to the car park to find my scooter still there. Although a litre of 2 stroke oil had leaked all over the pristine car park floor…oops. After clearing up as much as I could, I set off toward Colmar via Saint Quentin, Laon, Reims & Bar-de-Duc. Things didn’t get off to a great start as my Satnav packed up immediately – a broken power connector. I reverted to using Google maps on my iPhone which I found much better. Riding through spookily empty roads, strangely deserted towns and villages without seeing any signs of life was strange – it was just like the film 28 Days Later (or most places in the UK and Europe right now).
I rode through forests, farms, grassland and mountains, alongside canals, rivers and lakes at my favourite speeds – 45-55 mph. The scooter seemed to be singing! Anyone who thinks French roads are boring must be crazy – it’s as if they were made for scooter touring. The variety of scenery surprised me. Stopping for a great steak fritte at a roadside bistro in Bar de Duc for lunch and then a cheeky thirst-quenching beer at about 5, I was making great progress. I can say it was one of the best days scootering I’d ever had.
After a few accommodation refusals, I found a good hotel in Colmar and when the receptionist saw the scooter she immediately offered to store it in the garage where the staff keep their push bikes. (maybe she didn’t want a scruffy leaky scooter parked outside her nice hotel reception). Colmar is a cool place – a bit like Stratford on Avon, only better and with good cidre I recall… I think.
Sunday saw a quiet ride through Germany into an immaculate Switzerland. Again, the roads are empty and great to ride on. I was paranoid that I wouldn’t be able to find petrol stations open on Sunday in rural France, Germany and Switzerland – I bought an extra 10-litre can, so in total was carrying 15 litres of spare fuel. I needn’t have worried – along the way I found plenty of petrol stations – all open.
Through Zurich, stopping for some pasta (getting ready for Italian cuisine) and then on into the mountains. The roads became busier with big bikes and flash sports cars, especially over the St Bernardino pass to Italy. Some of the zig-zag hairpins were under repair – no tarmac only loose gravel. It was funny seeing the Ducati riders doing 5 mph wobbling along with their feet down!
You’ve let yourself down…
As I reached the summit I could tell there was an impatient queue behind me. I was going relatively slowly myself – laden down with spares and luggage (and 15 litres of extra petrol – do’h!) the scoot was handling ‘interestingly’ on the banked corners, so I decided to pull in at a cafe at the peak to let the racers past. I stalled the scoot in front of an audience made up of bikers, cyclists and walkers.
No problem – my GP always starts first or second kick… but not so at the top of a mountain. As I repeatedly kicked it over and over, getting sweatier and hotter, a slow handclap began. Grrrrr. When I managed to finally start it again I was met with a rousing cheer and a huge round of applause! I did the honourable thing, waved, revved the nuts off the GP and sped off as quickly as I could.
The route down was amazing (Google the SS36 and zoom in on the map) – switch back after switchback, some in tunnels, which was a challenge because my headlight stopped working too. This lead down to Lake Como – I rode the shore side route all the way to Lecco where I found a bargain hotel in the centre and enjoyed a beer with pizza at the lakeside.
The final leg of my trip would see me heading to Pedemonte via Lake Garda and Trento. A Sat Nav error (actually my error) meant I missed the Lake Garda turn and was in Vicenza before I’d realised. Vicenza is another beautiful old town – a cold beer and a panini helped mask my disappointment at missing Garda. I had only 80 or so miles to go and had told my family to have a cold, large Peroni waiting for me at 4:00 pm.
The heatwave was continuing in Europe too – the afternoon’s ride was sweltering on the scooter – I rode with visor open and sunglasses on, but burned my nose. I arrived early, to everyone’s relief and surprise… None of my family shared my optimism or faith in the 50-year-old shopping scooter!
During the trip, I wrote a short blog on the LCGB members page. I was contacted by Cameron, an English Scooterist who lives in Italy near the family’s hometown. A few days later we met for a ride out, meal and a beer at the Vecia Osteria all’Oca Ubriaca (The old drunken goose) in nearby Budioa with a few of his clubmates from Lambretta Club di Fruili. The bar was full of vintage scooter and motorbike memorabilia and outside there are dozens of rusting Vespas, Lambrettas, Moto Guzzi etc. They are a great bunch of guys who I’ve kept in touch with since. We had all planned to meet up again this summer in Libramont, well, never mind, maybe another time.
If any of you are in this area, I can recommend a trip up the mountains to Piancavallo – a glorious climb with great roads. Also, Bruno Pisa’s excellent scooter shop, Scooteritalia is nearby, in San Quirino.
Words and photos: Steve Rushton
We’d like to get more stories about your own scooter trips, rides and adventures. If you’ve done something worth writing about you can get in touch at editorial@ScooterLab.UK and we’ll tell you how to send in your story and photos.
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