Having done the previous three Vespa World Days events I thought it was time to check out the other side of the fence this year. Although to be fair Euro Lambretta in Northern Spain didn’t really get the juices flowing. It was only 155 miles from Bilbao, or 185 from the Santander ferry so could be done in six days if you were short of time. The other option was a long ride down through France. Thankfully Trevor, one of our regular Euro adventurers hatched a cunning plan to make the rally a small stop in a bigger trip and tie it in with a ride down to Ibiza for a few days. This sounded much more appealing.
Scooter places on the Portsmouth-Bilbao ferry are limited but we bagged ours as soon as the ferry timetable for 2018 was released and set about planning the first leg of the trip. Our motley crew consisted of five Lambrettas and two Vespas, ridden by four lads and three girls (I’ll not call them ladies). We set sail on the Wednesday boat, a 24-hour crossing that is quite pleasant really. You can swim in the outdoor pool, watch dolphins and whales from the top viewing deck, or have a drink or two. We boarded at 10:30 am and got carried away with the latter and ended up face down in a curled up ham and cheese sandwich much earlier than planned. Not to worry, it made the crossing go quickly (early night, not curled up sandwich).
Riding off the ferry into bright sunlight on Thursday afternoon was a welcome relief (although for one of our party it was the push of shame after his GP failed to start below deck). Naughty scooter sorted it was time to set off across the mountains to our first port of call, Borja, an 80-mile ride from the ferry. Meeting up with a few more friends when we got there, including some fellow Monsters club members, Shaun Hodgkin, a few from Manchester and the Kettering posse we’d met on the ferry. The Li 150 Eibar I was riding actually came to me from Borja so we chose the town for sentimental reasons and a lovely place it was too.
We had 80 or 90 miles to ride on the Friday to Abejar and we were all in good spirits as we set off. I let nature help to keep my right wrist under control, the altitude in the Pyrenees was killing power, making the scooters run really boggy and meaning I wasn’t as likely to blow up my very recently rebuilt scooter, despite fellow Quattrini owner Dave Loveday trying to entice me to race… He’d also blown his up during the running in stage, another impatient owner like me.
The rain in Spain?
We’d been worrying about the weather for the month leading up to the rally (tales of flooded out Gijon in 2010 made us nervous). My other half loves to get her apps out and every forecast for the previous month showed rain in Abejar so we expected the worst. As it happens the weather wasn’t bad at all, it was overcast but other than a decent shower the weekend was otherwise dry and bright.
Arriving at the rally site we were greeted by plenty of scooters of various nationalities (mostly British) and were handed our goody bags, including a t-shirt, legshield banner and the new heavyweight 2018 Casa catalogue (just what most of us wanted to cart around Europe for the next week or two but it’s a lovely tome). Vespa riders Ali and Trev, weren’t going to the rally so we waved our goodbyes through the chain link fence that separated us as Lambretisti threw rotten tomatoes at them. We’d meet up with them again on Sunday after the rally.
Le Sun holiday
As campsites in Spain go ‘Camping El Concurso’ was probably the Spanish equivalent of a DHSS holiday centre, usually set aside for €9.50 Le Sun family holiday breaks. The site was set on a sloping hillside with various dilapidated caravans, complete with ‘extensions’ knocked up out of scrap pieces of wood, pallets and various materials. We managed to find a bit of space for our tents amongst the shanty-like shacks, with a nice mattress of pine cones and tree roots, fortunate really because we didn’t have space to take an air bed with us. I love a good root to lie on.
Other than the camping area being a bit rough and ready the actual site was very good with a bar, shop, outdoor pool, decent shower blocks and enough space for the huge marquee which would be used for the evening events and meals. It also had a few (few being the operative word) trade stalls inside it.
Pothole of doom
No sooner had we set the tent up than I received a call from club mate Shipo to say he’d ripped his exhaust off on a massive pothole (we’d been warned about it the previous day). We saw and avoided it but at least four or five scooters were swallowed up by it. Whilst in the hole, exhausts were systematically ripped off by the tribe living within it. This was bad news for the riders but good news for Andy Francis who was the only person at the rally selling exhausts, he sold out on Friday afternoon. Thankfully for Shipo I got one put aside until he was brought to the site.
On a much sourer note, Andy Francis also had a cassette clutch stolen from his stall on Friday afternoon, Andy was fuming “Some absolute *unt has robbed me.”
They ride amongst us I’m afraid. If you have an inkling who may have lifted it, please feel free to drop us a message. Thieving on a National is bad enough but you don’t expect it on a low key Euro.”
Saturday was also marred by thefts of the Lambretta club of Spain’s banners for the event. While some people try to pass this off as sport, or souvenir hunting, at the end of the day it’s simply theft and no better than if someone stole your scooter as ‘a keepsake.’
Everybody was in jovial spirits, telling tales of adventure, hardship, oil and grease. Some friends had received €100 on the spot fines along the way for crossing solid white lines, others had €50 speeding tickets in the post. Breakdowns, engine failures, cracked casings, engine swaps, piston popping, exhaust snapping fun. Typically, these traumatised arrivals did not participate in the first well-attended ride-out to the city of Soria.
Don’t be shellfish
Paella is the Spanish national dish and, as you’d expect, the Friday night meal (Friday & Saturday evening meals plus breakfasts were included) was provided by two 12ft paella pans. A mile-long queue meant we waited as late as possible before we went for ours. You could tell we were late because they’d chucked a load of crabs, shellfish and other marine life in to jazz the rice up a bit. To be honest I’m not big on seafood but was hungry, despite devouring half a pig and loads of tortilla during our tapas session in the bar in the afternoon. Once I’d stopped a crab from eating my rice it was quite tasty.
With molluscs and crustaceans munched the marquee came to life with a very good disco, interspersed by live music – or barely alive by the looks of the old crooner who appeared on stage. He turned out to be 85-year-old soul legend Tommy Hunt. Tommy and the band created a fantastic atmosphere and went down a storm to a packed dancefloor, he’s still got the magic despite his advancing years, hats off to him. That atmosphere gave the DJs something good to work with after the sprightly pensioner was wheeled off. The dancefloor and well-staffed bar remained busy all night.
How come you hardly ever suffer a hangover abroad? They must sell beer with fewer bad-datives in. Either way, I felt fine and wandered around the site looking at vintage shopping bikes, watching the ride out assemble (then ride out of a trick secret back door so I missed the procession), watched scooters being stripped and rebuilt, checked out the custom show and drank a few beers. All in hazy sunshine, not hot but pleasant enough.
35bhp LTH small block
I was expecting a much larger selection of dealers, Andy Francis and the LCGB club shop were the main two for spares. Plus Robbospeed/Tino Sacchi were there on Friday.
LTH were showing off some of their exotica, including a 35bhp Vespa small frame Quattrini conversion for the small block Lambretta casing. A very clever use of a billet packer gave the casings some extra meat around the transfers and offset the studs to suit the external-stud Quattrini barrel. ScooterNova were there, as well as the Spanish National club and a couple of others.
It’s the gala dinner and around 1500 people are seated for a five-course meal, with wine on tap. The meal was very good, hot, tasty and gaps between courses weren’t too long. The mood was light-hearted and songs and chants from various countries could be heard around the room. Paper planes were fabricated from menus and launched at rival nations, followed by the odd bread roll hand grenade. All in good fun though.
After dinner speeches were kept to a minimum (thankfully) and various Lambretta clubs were photographed around the stage in national costumes or club colours. The LCGB contingent was a little too big to fit on the dancefloor for a photo though, with 651 British scooterists getting tickets through the LCGB and an estimated 100 more gaining them through other clubs worldwide we outnumbered the rest of the world. 1250 tickets in total were sold for the event.
With dinner over it was time to party until the early hours once again. The Spanish clearly prioritised top class musical entertainment for this rally, with Barcelona-based soul outfit The Excitements going down well on stage. Once again the evening was finished off nicely with a fantastic mixture of classic tunes. I listened to the last few hours from the tent after an early night suffering the excesses of too much tapas followed by a big dinner (and a few beers).
Time for adventure
There were a few forlorn faces at breakfast on Sunday morning, not just because of too much exuberance the night before but also because for most it was time to say goodbye to friends heading in different directions back home. Holiday all but over.
For our little bunch, the adventure was just about to start. After packing the tents away we were ready to hit the road, to collect our two ostracised Vespa riders from Soria and go off for another 10 days of small wheeled fun seeking. I’ll tell you about the rest of the trip in part two soon…
All in all a very good weekend, well organised, friendly and a welcoming host nation. Well done Espania.
Words: Iggy Photos Iggy & Sticky
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