Long distance scooter touring doesn’t always have to mean a trip overseas, especially when you have stunning scenery within the confines of your own nation. It also doesn’t have to be spread over a couple of weeks, not everybody has the time to use a fortnight’s holiday for a trip away with their mates.
Stuart Gentry has been making a name for himself with his SG Engineering ‘Works Edition’ Vespas and this year he’s been putting the miles in to prove their reliability. This latest jaunt covered 1600 miles in just five days on three SG Engineering built and tuned Vespas. From left to right we have lad and dad, Liam and Tyrone Power (both riding 22bhp SG 230s), with Stuart Gentry (on his Works Edition 40bhp 260) holding up the northernmost sign in the country. Here’s how they got on earlier this month.
Day one – Norfolk to Elgin
Sunday, September 9th was the day that Stuart Gentry, Liam Power and myself set off from Weeting in Norfolk to ride to Elgin in Scotland and what a ride that was. Time wise we did really well until someone decided to take a detour around the Pennines, well at least we got to see another part of the country on our trip but as the day wore on petrol was becoming an issue so we went off the main road and into the unknown to find petrol stations. As luck would have it a petrol station appeared. We still had a long way to go to reach Elgin, so off we set again, fighting against the strong winds and heavy rain, only to run into that wonderful thing called darkness. Riding in wind, rain and darkness is not the ideal scenario but we carried on only to get split up. We all knew that we were heading for Aviemore, so in true Top Gear style we all made our own way there.
As you can probably guess, time was not on our side and we had been riding for nearly 16 hours solid, with the only breaks being taken for a fuel stop. Our next stop was to be in Inverness after we all met up at Aviemore to refuel. We were soon on our way again, low and behold we reached Inverness altogether. The rain and wind still hitting us, so we carried on for the next 28 miles with a smile on our faces knowing that we had a bed for the night at a previously booked Premier Inn.
Breaking and entering
We could see it in the distance yet it seemed so far away, finally, we made it, parked up and were ready to enter, only to be greeted by a woman brandishing a broom and a man looking very solemn in the doorway. Had we stumbled upon a domestic? No the poor bloke (who was the receptionist) had locked himself out, so after a minute of talking I opened up the toolbox on the scooter to find the biggest wrench I could and hey presto window smashed and we were in, only to be given a free pint for our efforts. Thanks for that Elgin Premier Inn, it was just what we needed after 19 hours of being strapped to a two-stroke shopping trolley. On the plus side, it cheered us all up to travel all that way and have to break into our accommodation for the night, pint downed we trundled off to bed. Now if anyone ever told me you’re going to ride a tuned geared Vespa that far in one day I would laugh at them but they did us proud. That was just day one and if I remember correctly we had covered 578 miles.
Day two – Elgin to Argyle
Today we travelled from Elgin to a place called Argyle Castle. After a nice breakfast it was time to load the scooters up. Stuart doesn’t do early mornings but low and behold he was wide awake and raring to go (not). Eventually, we set off. Back to Inverness to start the route of the NC 500, this was to take us on many small and curvaceous roads. We had a good start to the day, just a bit of wind to batter us as we munched the miles away, the roads were out of this world and the scenery was just breathtaking. So along we plod, without a care in the world and then the rain hit us… it was kind of fun – so we kept going, then it stopped. Time for a nice bit of dry riding for a change. The wind dried us out pretty quickly too. Time to refuel and grab something to eat, so we were refuelled, fed and raring to go again. Off we set to try and reach our next port of call, Argyle Castle.
We finally hit Wick and refuelled again, Stuart had a quick look on his phone as to where the castle was and as luck would have it was just outside of Wick about two miles away, so off we set. The room Stuart had booked us was not ‘just a room’ but a complete house, we were in our element. The scoots were unloaded, a quick trip to Tesco’s in Wick to load up with some food and ciders for the night and sit down to something to eat and drink and chat about our journey so far while watching TV. As the night went on Liam and me headed for our pits for the night, we left Stuart to carry on watching telly only to find out that he had watched the film Deliverance, how appropriate, considering we were in quite a remote part of Scotland and staying in a castle.
All in I think we had covered about 160 miles on day two.
Day three – Argyle to Garve
On day three of the epic journey, we covered about 300 miles. Awakened by the sea lashing against the shoreline we were up, showered and ready for breakfast, so off we trundled into the main banqueting hall where we were greeted by servants to attend to our needs of a hearty breakfast. It wasn’t a full English but a full Scottish breakfast, in other words, it had haggis on it, now if you have ever eaten haggis and like it, I am sorry if I offend you on this but it was like eating papier mache, enough said. With breakfast eaten and being made to feel like royalty, we left the banqueting hall and said goodbye to the castle. Our next stop was to be John ‘o Groats, yeah we made it, souvenir pictures were taken, stickers stuck on the sign and a quick look around.
We said farewell and got back on the scooters and started to head for our next stop which was Garve. As soon as we left the rain and wind started, with gusts of up to 40 mph and driving rain, so we kept plodding on, the miles ticking away but the riding was out of this world. A couple of stops and pictures taken of the outstanding scenery, a chat about what we had achieved since Sunday and then on our way again to find a petrol station. At the first petrol stop, we were told: “Sorry we’re sold out, I’m waiting for a delivery”. So we filled our tanks up with our fuel cans and off we set again to find an elusive petrol station, which we did and refuelled, had a quick smoke then were on our way again.
The roads seemed to be getting steeper and the wind and rain worse but we carried on, people shaking their heads at us as if to say ‘nutters, what are you doing this far up in the country on them hairdryers?’ But in true British spirit we carried on. At this point a massive gust shot across the road and all I could see was Stuart being blown and him fighting against it, then it was Liam’s turn, now if you know Liam he ain’t the heaviest of people and how he stayed on I don’t know but he did, so we carried on. The roads at this point all seem to be going downhill but the wind was coming at us, so 50 miles later we reached the hotel we were stopping at, checked in, up to the room, a quick change and back down for a couple of pints and some food, followed by some evening entrainment with a Scottish singer doing 60s hits and telling jokes.
We took our pints into the function room with and sat down to listen to the music. It seemed at this point that Stuart had caught the eye of a very young 75-year old called Margaret, so in true style, me and Liam left him to it and hit the sack. We found out in the morning that this lady was getting any man up to the dance floor. Stuart left the room and sat in the lounge, or so he says but that’s a different story…
Day four – Garve to Cramlington
I bet you are all wondering what Stuart Gentry got up to that night, well all I can say is that when he came down for breakfast that morning he looked really refreshed and happy but you will have to ask him about it. Day four of our journey started after we changed the rear wheel on Liam’s scooter as he had worn the tyre out. Tyre changed, load the scooters up and on our way. We left Garve to complete the last stretch of the NC 500, so off we push to head along the route back to Inverness. By now the miles we had covered were just a blur but in true scootering style we had a destination to get to. The miles just seemed to fly by it was like we were going downhill all the time, the odd bit of rain now and then and the wind blowing from all directions but we kept on going, munching the miles away only stopping for petrol and a quick chat. We soon arrived in Inverness and headed for the castle, pictures taken, a quick rest and then off we set to reach our stopping point for the night, The Premier Inn in Cramlington.
We didn’t want to miss any scenery so we travelled most of the route back going through the towns and villages that we had only seen in darkness. I’m glad we did as the sights were very pleasing, still being blown by the winds but at least the rain had stopped and we were enjoying the ride. We soon reached Edinburgh, rode over the bridge and were on our way, opening up the scoots every now and then we soon arrived at our destination after several fuel stops. Check-in, bags up to the room and off to the pub for some food and a couple of pints. Food and beer consumed (alas no cheesecake for Stuart) and off to bed we trundled, after a good day.
Tour of Scotland gallery
Day four – Cramlington to home
It’s Thursday morning and Stuart is still moaning about a lack of cheesecake on our trip, oh well not to worry. A small matter of about 270-miles to ride today. The familiar routine of breakfast, load up, fuel up and get on the road was bittersweet today. We sat on our scooters ready to go with a smile on our faces, was it the thought of getting home or the fact we were going to ride through the Tyne Tunnel. No need to answer that, Tyne Tunnel it was and what a noise we made going through it and coming out the other end, still grinning and thinking let’s do that again just to see the faces being pulled by car drivers. It was priceless, three fast two strokes blasting through that tunnel.
Well enough of the games, time to put the miles behind us and get moving. One of our party decided to take the lead and was intent on getting home before we had even left. He must of been on a promise, or was it your Xbox calling you Liam? We will never know but the miles were being eaten up and we arrived at Sleaford in no time at all. A quick refuel and on our way again grinding through the miles. We were soon fuelling up at Kings Lynn, waiting for Stuart to do some dodgy deal on the forecourt over a speedo for a Vespa, so he says (or perhaps it was hush money he was paying someone to stop printing the photos of that night in the Garve hotel). Refuelled and on our way for the last 35 miles and we would be home, back at the point we had started from just five days ago.
We rode off, getting caught in the traffic heading out of Kings Lynn then on to the open road. We could all sense we were nearly there and low and behold we made it back to Weeting. After roughly 1600 miles we were home. Not bad considering our route for this epic journey was only planned the Wednesday night before we left on the Sunday.
I would like to thank Stuart Gentry of SG Engineering for inviting me to do this with him and Liam Power for being told “You’re going to Scotland on your scooter, no excuses”. Just to let you know that no Vespas were hurt during this epic trip, only the riders after being battered and soaked by whatever the weather could throw at us. Would we all do it again? Hell yes, watch this space.
SG Works outing
New products always in development…