Travel – Ibiza and back on classic scooters | FEATURE
Let’s introduce you to the team. From left to right we have, Ali ‘Bongo’ on her trusty PX 150, she’s our chief ‘Bongo Tours’ booker. Then we have Julie on her stage 4 GP 200, a scooter she had previously only been to one rally on, to her right is husband Phil (stood by my Eibar Chiselspeed Quattrini M210, just rebuilt and still running in after blowing the top end just before the trip), Phil is riding a freshly built GT 240 GP. Then we have Linsey on her stage 4 200cc Series 2. She’s a relatively new rider, Linsey only passed her Direct Access in October 2016 after a very public battle to overcome her anxiety (you can read and be inspired by her story on SLUK).
Then we have Gordon on his hastily thrown together Series 2 TS1, a scooter none of us expected to even make the ferry, it sounds like it’ll cut out at any second. He seized it on his way to Portsmouth and the exhaust note constantly sounds like the start of the chorus from Blue Moon, baa, be, de, baar, baar, be, de baaar… a soundtrack you couldn’t get out of your head for two weeks. Finally, we have Trev on his battered PX 200.
Sunday 190 miles to Teruel (including detours)
Having left the rally and headed 30 miles in the wrong direction (albeit to a very pretty Spanish ski resort) we finally met up with Vespa riders, Ali & Trev on the outskirts of Soria. They’d exiled themselves (voluntarily) there for the weekend, rather than risk being segregated by the Lambretta Mafiosi at the rally.
Scooters fuelled up and we were off, the temperature slowly beginning to rise after a fairly cool Spanish weekend. We hit the ‘A’ road heading towards tonight’s stopover in Teruel. It’s a mountainous Province 3,000ft above sea level and scene to one of the bloodiest battles of the Spanish Civil War, claiming an estimated 140,000 casualties. Not that we’d know much about its history whilst we were there.
Most of this trip was left ad-hoc, booking accommodation and deciding on towns to stop at along the way. For the first night though we’d already booked an apartment (or chief tour booker, Ali Bongo had). The ride was going well, although I noticed during the afternoon that Julie’s GP was bouncing around a lot, the rear shock was definitely on the way out. Before the trip we’d been sorting spares out and decided as a group not to take a spare shock, luckily a couple of days before we left we saw the Oily Hands Gang had needed to swap one, so we decided to take a spare. Just as well really.
Later that afternoon I looked behind me as we exited a roundabout and saw Linsey grass tracking across the middle of it and heading on to the grass verge, she said “I’m not sure what happened there” over the intercom. I let her go by me and noticed after a while her rear end was sinking lower and lower. We were only a mile or so from town so I kept my eye on it without worrying her unnecessarily. As we got to town we took a left turn and Linsey’s undercarriage was virtually on the floor (it can happen to a lady of a certain age), we pulled into a fuel station and her scooter couldn’t go any lower if it wanted to. The standard Escort shock had snapped in two and wedged itself against the fuel tank, she’d been lucky to stay on. We were counting our blessings that we’d bought a spare, albeit a second-hand 1960s original shock that had been on my Eibar before I uprated to BGM when I had the Quattrini done. Five minutes later we were back on the road and heading for a cool beer in town before finding our apartment.
One thing we try to stipulate when booking accommodation is secure parking. This apartment was just off the main town square and had a huge drive/ride in lift to a hidden car park. Very safe. Scooters stowed away we were soon able to shower off the dust from the day’s ride and head off to check out the lovely town, complete with Unesco-listed Mudèjar architecture, a mixture of Christian and Islamic influences with terracotta bricks, ornate ceilings and glazed tiles.
The previous week our friends had stopped over there and ended up bull running through the streets, our entertainment was a less barbaric free open-air live theatre, performed in the Plaza del Torico just down from the bar where we were drinking. Very cultured.
Monday 156 miles to Denia (more like 180 by the time we got there)
Before leaving Teruel the following morning, Phil swapped Julie’s knackered rear shock for the new BGM they’d bought at the last minute before leaving home. Julie had been excited about it during the trip “It’s gorgeous, even the packaging is beautiful…” We also wanted to do the tourist thing and photograph our scooters near the aqueduct. Linsey was complaining that something wasn’t right with her scooter when we got there. I had a look and thought at first the clutch just needed adjusting, I did that then took it for a quick spin and something definitely wasn’t right. When I let the scooter tickover you could hear the kickstart still meshing and the scooter wouldn’t move backwards at all, even in neutral. We quickly realised we had a problem and rather than wasting time with tourist photos set about stripping the scooter at the side of the road next to the fancy bridge.
We couldn’t have found a more public spot for it and before long we’d become a local tourist attraction ourselves. Spanish scooter fans were turning up after being told about us by friends, one man went and polished his Vespa then rode down to meet us, he gave us a Vespa poster. The girls were getting knowing looks in the local supermarket when they went for refreshments. We’d inadvertently became celebrity visitors.
Whilst the others were busy signing autographs myself, Phil & Gordon performed open heart surgery. Once the side casing was off we could quickly see the problem. The kickstart plunger bolt had come loose, jammed against the kickstart ramp and locked things up. We didn’t have a spare and the bolt was knackered so after a bit of deliberation we decided to remove the damaged bolt and plunger, rebuild the engine and tie wrap the kickstart up so it couldn’t move.
Within an hour it was all back together and we bumped it into life and I took it for a quick test ride. The good news is that the bodge had worked so Linsey could carry on. The bad news was that the shock I’d put on the previous day had no damping whatsoever, it was like riding a pogo stick. Ah well, at least the scooter was back on the road. None of us wanted to not ride our scooters on to Ibiza and if it meant bodging things then so be it. Because we’d lost quite a bit of time we decided to jump on the motorway to get some miles covered.
Microwave riding ability
This was quite a worrying time for Linsey (and me), she’d just watched us performing roadside surgery on her Lambretta, then rebuilding it minus a few crucial bits that Ferdinando Innocenti thought were useful and we were heading straight for the motorway. She was also riding a scooter with a knackered 1961 Spanish shock absorber (or no shock absorber as it happens). In my defence I like to think that although she’s not been riding for too long that I’ve helped to give her a microwave course in advanced scooter riding and bodgery. She’s fit 30 years or riding into just two.
As such this 160-mile trip down the motorway was going to help her gain extra confidence and progress her riding skills to the next level. To be honest I was a little bit worried for the first 30 miles or so, after all I’ve got my girlfriend riding a scooter I’ve just put back together at the side of the road, minus a few essential parts. Plus every minor undulation in the road makes the scooter look out of control. Even so, and despite having a strong side wind to contend with as well she took it all in her stride. She weighs about eight stone wet through, so gets blown about a lot and moans about the wind but after being overtaken by a girl on a big bike (in a skimpy bikini) she gave herself a talking to and stopped complaining. Much to the delight of my bleeding ears through the Sena intercom.
Her words after seeing the bikini babe were, “Come on wind, blow me, blow me again…” I’d say this particular day was a turning point in her riding ability and confidence.
Aside from the mechanical issues, the ride to Denia was an important and worrying one, if we made it there then we’d all make it to the Ibiza ferry the following morning. A failure now would ruin the holiday, we didn’t want to leave any scooters or people behind. About 50 miles from tonight’s stopover we pulled into a truck stop at the edge of an industrial area to fill up. It was a bit disconcerting to find all the truckers sat in the kiosk necking shots from the top shelf before jumping back in their big trucks. We stuck to our ice creams, the temperature had been rising throughout the day and it was starting to feel like a Spanish holiday.
Diesel – man down
After refreshments we pulled out of the garage, Gordon was last, me in front of him. Exiting the first roundabout I lost the front end, quickly followed by the back. Feet slammed to the floor to save the fall and I managed to ride out of the other side, by luck rather than Rossi like skills. It felt like both tyres had just blown out. I looked behind to give Gordon a ‘Did you see that?’ look, only to find him in a heap behind me. There was nothing visible on the roundabout but there must have been diesel on it. Gord was already being picked up by the time I got back to him, local factory workers ran out to help and luckily Gordon wasn’t hurt, other than a banged elbow and a couple of abrasion burns through his textiles.
Scooter friendly country
All the factory workers and truckers were soon getting mobiles out to show us their own collection of old mopeds, bikes and scooters. That’s a thing we noticed for the entire trip, everybody in Spain wants to tell you about their own machines. They’ll show pictures in fuel stations, restaurants, or whilst stopping to admire the scenery. It’s the most bike friendly country I’ve ever ridden in and that is evident with how respectful other car drivers are to you on the road as well. We could learn a lot from Spain.
After dusting Gord off and bending his kickstart and exhaust back into shape we set off again, shaken but not stirred. His scooter giving out the soothing baa, baar, dee, baar, baaar whenever it was in earshot. We skirted around Valencia, getting closer and closer to our hotel, finally catching Trev and Ali up (they’d missed the earlier drama and carried on). Heading down a long avenue we began to notice young ladies seemingly excited to see us, I waved at the first couple before realising they were actually trying to earn a living. They weren’t your usual skanky dogs you’ll find lurking on dark street corners in Britain either (not that I go lurking around street corners at night).
Half a mile down the road we were all waved into a police checkpoint, expecting a document check we parked up only to be waved off again by one of the officers. All of us except Julie and her husband, Phil (who insisted on waiting) had to ride off. We found out afterwards that she’d been fined €100 for not having her headlight on. Daytime headlights are compulsory in Spain and unlike the UK, the laws are enforced. As quite a few Brits found out during the EuroLambretta trip. Fines for speeding, crossing white lines and no headlight were fairly common.
Zero tolerance works
Although it seems harsh, this zero-tolerance approach works and you don’t see any Spaniards flouting rules, they’ll sit patiently behind another car (or group of scooters) for miles rather than cross a solid white line. Something we could learn a thing or two from. What made Julie’s fine seem a bit hard to swallow was that just 20 feet away from the police was one of the young prostitutes, happily flouting her wares.
Up until this day our road trip had been quite straightforward and boring but the odd crash, breakdown and police roadblock all helps to build a story. It was quite a stressful day one way or another. We’d all been looking forward to getting to the hotel early and having an afternoon around the pool but that didn’t quite pan out. Eventually, we arrived at our hotel around 7 pm. It was located just ½ a mile from the ferry port in Denia. We’d all made it and would ride on to Ibiza the next morning. As it happens this hotel turned out to have a Michelin star chef running it, the place itself wasn’t anything special but the food was out of this world.
Tuesday – Ibiza
We were all up before sunrise for the early morning ferry to San Antonio, a two-hour crossing. When we first looked at doing the trip we all assumed the ferry would be a cheap and easy crossing. Once we tried to book it a few months before we left we realised it was actually going to cost £778 for two scooters and a couple (we’d already paid a similar amount for the Portsmouth/Bilbao return. Even so, we had to get over there so we paid the Pirates of the Mediterranean in pieces of eight. This cheap touring holiday wasn’t quite as cheap after all.
Riding off the ferry at 9:30 am into the hustle and bustle of San Antonio was a great experience, Brits on the piss, clubbers heading back to apartments, holidaymakers grabbing the best spot on the beach, or poolside and seven travellers riding classic scooters on British plates, all of us feeling pleased with ourselves. Whatever happened from now on was irrelevant, we’d made it to Ibiza.
Rest and relaxation
We’d booked a beachside villa with a pool over in Santa Eulalia, a quieter, prettier side of the island about 13 miles from San Antonio. As we got close to the villa we had another mishap, this time we came upon a strange roundabout that almost made us all ride into oncoming traffic. I braked and stopped myself from overshooting, Trev was behind me. He braked, lost the front end and ended up on the floor. Luckily no major damage to man or Vespa, just wounded pride. The villa pool was certainly inviting when we got there though and the view was sensational.
Three days of rest and relaxation followed, a mini holiday. Good food (Gordon is a chef), plenty of drinks, swimming in the sea and pool, plenty of sunshine, splendid. One day we decided to explore a bit and all went out on the scooters in shorts and T-shirts, Trevor with famous last words “What’s the chances of crashing again…” Yep, you’ve guessed it, Another crash for Trevor on the exact same roundabout as when we’d arrived, albeit this time from the opposite side. Once again nothing more than a grazed leg and a smashed headlight, plus a few tears from the girls who saw it happen and realised it’s daft not to wear your proper riding gear. No harm done but it ruined the ride and we ended up back at the villa.
Friday Ibiza town to Valencia
Having packed two weeks’ worth of clothing, camping gear and spares back on to the scooters it was time to say goodbye to Ibiza and head back to the mainland. This time we were travelling from Ibiza Town to Valencia. Pulling up on the harbour side for a quick photo with the old town behind us we were once again surrounded by friendly locals, all wanting to see these strange travellers. Then Pedro turned up on his ochre skelly Lambretta Li, complete with moddy flyscreen and wooden footboards, proper Spanish cutdown in a shabby chic style.
We waved goodbye after a few photos and headed off to board the transport ferry for the six and a half hour cruise. A trip made all the more enjoyable thanks to the helipad surrounded by artificial turf and comfortable chairs, where we sat soaking up the sun and eating leftover pizza and sandwiches we’d brought with us from the villa. Inside the ship, noisy truckers partied and played games, the din was too much to bear so we stayed out in the sunshine, watching the ships go by. As we neared Valencia we watched a tugboat pull alongside our fast-moving ship and a harbourmaster jumped off the tug, waves lapping at his crisp white trousers. He jumped on to a long vertical rope ladder dangling in the wash from our boat, no lifejacket, no safety equipment. He climbed 50 foot or so to get on board our boat, cool as you like.
After the peace and tranquillity of our hideaway in Ibiza the hustle and bustle of Valencia at rush hour was a wakeup call. Before we hit the traffic Phil had to push his scooter off the ferry and bump start it (it seemed to have an aversion to being ridden off a ferry on the whole trip).
We ended up filtering for ten miles or so until we got to the Ibis. We’d booked this hotel a few days before and I’d had a new kickstart plunger and BGM rear shock delivered to the hotel by the helpful people at Scooterist Factory, the parts were waiting in our room when we got there, fantastic service. Although we’d got used to bumping Linsey’s scooter by now and it started easily enough so we decided not to bother mending the kickstart. We did fit the BGM shock though and it transformed the handling for the rest of the trip.
Saturday Valencia to Aragon (127 miles)
We had 127 miles or so to ride up to Aragon, vast expanses of desert, accompanied much of the day, although a fantastic mountainous pass was well worth riding, Mirador de las Costes d’Ares, a stunning set of twisties snaking high into the mountains.
We’d spent much of the road trip high above sea level, making most of our scooters run very rich, “It’s boggy” seemed to be the catchphrase of the holiday. We arrived at the hotel in the heat of the late afternoon, parked in the underground car park and enjoyed a few cold beers and food in the old town.
A local celebrity appeared in the town square as we sat eating tapas, an old guy with beautiful vintage Vespa and unique matching sidecar came trundling through the town. He was gone too quickly to catch a photo but half an hour later he appeared again and this time we were able to flag him down for some photos. He didn’t speak a word of English (ignorant lot these foreigners), but we showed him photos of our scooters and I think he got the gist of it.
Sunday Aragon to Olite
Although we’d covered quite a few miles by now we’d still had very few problems, Linsey’s kickstart plunger (bodged and bumped) and rear shock (replaced twice), Julie’s rear shock (replaced), Phil snapped the kickstart shaft on his scooter (bodged and bumped), Gord had a snapped exhaust bracket (bodged) and I lost the rivets out of my end can (bodged with a jubilee clip). Other than that it was all plain sailing.
Olite is one of those unheard of gems, a beautiful place with the quaint town, Disney-like castle and lots of character. A lovely stop off. The hotel was beautiful as well, hidden down a tiny back street, typical stone buildings towering on either side. We managed to do the full tourist bit here, walked around the castle, took in a bit of culture, had a few beers then a meal back at our hotel where Trevor was chastised by a grumpy old man for us all being too loud, him and his wife had been dining a few tables away and weren’t too happy at the seven of us enjoying the evening.
Booking stuff as you go is great for the flexibility it gives you but beware of booking whilst intoxicated. Ali had booked our Saturday night apartment whilst we were around the pool in Ibiza, after a few too many drinks. It turned out that she’d booked them for the wrong day, at a cost of €400. Booking.com and the apartment owners wouldn’t change the booking or refund the money (even though it was only a few hours after the booking was made when Ali realised) so we had to book another hotel. Ah well.
To be honest, though we’d all been very close to changing the trip altogether that night, we were all up for sacking Valencia off and booking a ferry to Barcelona until we remembered the scooter parts would be waiting in Valencia once we got there.
Olite to Bilbao
You could tell we were getting to the north again, sunshine and heat were replaced by cloud. Other than a few nice twisties and missing being pulled in by a police roadblock for speeding by the skin of my teeth, today was fairly uneventful. Running repairs meant myself and Gord were having to bodge our exhausts at every fuel stop but other than that and the stunning prehistoric looking valleys either side of the toll road as we headed into Bilbao this was just an ordinary day. We were all feeling a bit sad knowing tonight would be our last proper night of the holiday.
Bilbao to the ferry
We’d covered over 1200 miles in Spain over the previous two weeks and the 10 miles to the ferry port were the first we’d ridden in rain. A damp, miserable heavy drizzle. My sat nav was set and everybody followed me, time was a bit tight to catch the morning crossing and as we got close to the port we realised we were on the wrong side of the estuary, meaning we might have to ride ten miles back, then ten miles up the other side. The roads were as slippery as hell and my back brake was hardly working so I was reluctantly having to use mostly front brake, leading to a couple of small slides. I really didn’t need the extra pressure of a 20 mile quick ride if we’d got it wrong. Luckily the sat nav isn’t daft and we happened upon a river crossing where you simply ride on to what looks like a piece of road.
It’s actually a suspended bridge called the Vizcaya Bridge and was the first transporter bridge in the world to be made out of metal. It stands 61 metres high and is linked by a cross beam 160 feet in length. First put into service on 28th July 1893 the bridge is a World Heritage site and is also very efficient at getting late scooterists to where they need to be, in a hurry. Not that we had time to learn any of this stuff as we sat on it astride our scooters during that damp and miserable morning.
We were saved and made the crossing just in time. Another 24 hours on the ferry and we were back in Portsmouth, a brilliant adventure from start to finish.
Preparation is the key to any big trip and working out the spares you may need and the amount of oil you’ll use is important. If you’re travelling in a group you can try not to take too many spares by dividing them up a bit, although it is always a good idea to carry as much yourself as possible.The photo above shows most of the spares and oil carried by myself and Linsey, including the following…
- 9 litres of Putoline Scooter X
- Spare stator plate
- Spare reedblock
- Spare carb rubber
- Spark plugs
- Plug caps
- Assorted cables
- Various nuts, bolts and fasteners
- Tie wraps
- Jubilee clips
- Clutch compressor/flywheel removal tool
- Fuel pipe
- Spare dampers
- Tools and socket set
- First aid kit
To make life easier for my luggage I fitted a large rear spare wheel mounted carrier from K2 Custom Classics, I also used Rok Straps to secure the luggage (the best thing you’ll ever use, forget your bungees). Literally pull two elasticated straps tight over your bags, job done. I also fitted an under panel oil carrier from K2.
Linsey has a Sprint rack on her scooter so she used one of our SLUK Supports, ask anybody who uses one, they’re fantastic. It’ll stop your bags drooping, make loading easier and stops your bags catching on fire on hot exhausts. We do the SLUK Support for the Lambretta Series 1&2 curved racks, also GP/S3/Scomadi Sprint racks, Vespa GTS and PX. It’s £30 well spent.
Another two Lambretta converts
This trip took two weeks and a fair bit of planning. More than anything making sure the scooters were all ready and likely to make the constant riding possible day in, day out was a job and a half. Not to mention trying to take the spares we thought we might need.
The actual distance we covered wasn’t huge in comparison to many trips but remember we had no back up van, no Euro recovery and we were Team No Idea. Our only plan was to ditch any stricken scooters and hire a van to collect them later, or get a courier to bring them home. Thankfully as it happens all seven scooters made it home in one piece, under their own power.
How did our two Vespa riding companions feel about the slightly more troublesome Lambrettas? Well Ali decided to buy a Lambretta whilst we were still in Spain and Trev started looking for ones as well. The couple both bought GPs within two weeks of us returning and are looking forward to heartache and breakdowns next year.
If you have a yearning for adventure and don’t mind getting your hands dirty occasionally I’d recommend a road trip on vintage scooters to anybody. Whether it’s to Ibiza or Ingoldmells it doesn’t matter, just get out there and ride.
Words and photos: Iggy
Additional photos: Trev/Gord
Tips for riding in Spain
Spain is one of the safest countries to ride through, or around. All the locals have grown up on two wheels, they know the dangers and treat other riders with respect. It’s also a country with little traffic away from the main cities, you can ride through deserted villages and miles of unspoilt countryside.
Don’t fall foul of the law though. Respect road markings and speed limits. If you speed into some villages the traffic lights will automatically turn red and you’ll have to wait until they turn green again. The police have checkpoints in lots of places, don’t speed or flout their rules and you’ll be ok. An on the spot €100 fine isn’t good, try and avoid it. Some friends also received speeding fines through the post when they got home.
As we found out, daytime headlights are compulsory and will land you in trouble so make sure your lights are on and working at all times. Carry a spare set of bulbs.
Carry your original scooter documents, V5, certificate of insurance and your driving licence with you.
If you need to wear spectacles to drive then not only should you wear them but you should also carry a spare pair.
You don’t have to ride around looking like a road worker but if you breakdown on a motorway you must put a high-viz on by law.
Like most of Europe, Spain adds ethanol to its fuel, often in higher percentages than the UK – not good for two strokes. Spain is E10, or 10% ethanol. We took a bottle of Miller Oils VSPe Power Plus Multishot-Ethanol-Lead & Octane Fuel Treatment with us and used it at every fill-up. None of us suffered any top end failures on the trip, which could be a coincidence (lots of others did). At £26.99 for a bottle that will treat 500-litres of fuel, I’ll be using it all the time from now on. You can also buy it from Halfords and various bike shops online.