Some men (and women) like to conquer mountains, others like to set themselves other personal challenges, like riding unsuitable machinery to places they shouldn’t reach and fighting against time and the constraints of life. This story is about two of those people. It stars SLUK ambassador, Shaun Hodgkin and London cabbie, Wookie as they set out to attend both Vespa World Days in Hungary and Euro Lambretta in Poland.
The original idea for this feature was for them to compare their respective Casa Performance engines along the way, Shaun on an SST 265 and Wookie on an SSR 265 Scuderia. In the unusual world of two-strokes though things don’t always go to plan and Wookie managed to break his Lambretta the day before he was due to set off. A lack of compression didn’t bode well and he had no chance of diagnosing or fixing it in time. His trip looked like it was over before it began and as he sunk into depression the scootering family rallied around and lent him parts to put his Vespa T5 Millenium back on the road instead. Martin McGowan lent him an ignition (lighting coil had gone down), the T5 was fired up, loaded up and the trip was back on. His Casa engine is still on the naughty step awaiting the time to have it looked at.
Meanwhile, Shaun was facing last-minute challenges of his own. After playing eenie, meenie, mynie, moe at Rimini Lambretta he finally opted for the slightly tamer touring version of the Casa 265. His shiny new engine arrived in a box on the Tuesday leading up to the weekend he was due to set off. He fitted it but realised he’d not got a regulator for it and had to get RLC to ship one over pronto. He got the scooter fired up for the first time the night before he was due to leave, that gave him a few hours on Sunday to sort any niggles out and get packed up.
Here’s how our two last-minute heroes got on in part one of a three-part tale of two scooters, two events and many miles…
I’m one of those people in life that likes to set myself a challenge and then not be happy until I’ve exorcised that demon. The seeds of this challenge were well and truly sewn whilst we were at EuroLambretta in Spain last year when I realised that the 2019 Vespa World Days was in Hungary, almost next door to the Euro Lambretta rally in Poland, close enough that it would be rude not to attend both.
Given that there wasn’t enough time to pop home in between the two rallies to change scooters I decided that my choice of steed would be my trusty (getting rusty) Li. 2019 is my half-century year so the perfect time to test a 50-year-old body on a 58-year-old scooter on a few thousand mile ride around Europe.
I’d been umming and arrring over a new engine for some time and finally took the plunge, selecting the superb Casa Performance SST265 power unit to breath new life into my Li. In turn, the engine would also prove to breathe new life into me as well, it’s a thing of beauty!
I had opted to have the expansion exhaust, however, unfortunately, the new SST expansion wasn’t ready for me to use on this trip so I had to use the SSR Protti (loud) expansion. I’d also decided to try the new CNC manifold (as if it needed any more power) and was honoured to also have the all new Casa Ducati ignition fitted.
I have to say a massive thank you to Dean, Micky Boy and Lorenzo at Rimini Lambretta Centre for getting the engine sorted for me just in time for me to set off, literally!
As I deliberated for ages over the full-fat SSR or mildly mad SST engine the clock was ticking, so full credit to the lads. The crate arrived the Tuesday before the weekend I was setting off. The final ignition components followed on the Friday so a few late nights meant that I was only able to fire her up for the first time on the Saturday (she started first kick!). I just had to adjust the cables etc. spray and fit my toolbox, then finish the build and fit one of Anthony Tamb’s Intelliconvertors so I had power for my sat nav and Gammatech CHT and rev counter.
After loading up my kit I finally set off at 15:30 on the Sunday afternoon to have a leisurely bimble down to Folkestone to catch the Chunnel. As this was a box fresh engine I would be taking things steady for a while, running her in before the fun really began.
At the car wash
I got straight on the train at the Chunnel and arrived in French France at 21:15 and had decided to ride until I felt tired. As I was enjoying riding the SST, an effortless 250 miles later I was in Charlesville-Mezzieres near Luxembourg. Not a bad first day, 400 miles in total. Being an old school scooterboy and used to dossing in bus stops on the way to rallies in the 80s I went upmarket and made do with a car wash for my home for the remainder of the night.
“So how far are you going?”
“But that’s more than we’re doing in 8 days!”
“That’s only tonight, then I’m off to Hungary”
And that’s pretty much how the short but sweet conversation with the two guys on £16k+ bikes went as I stood there chomping at the bit next to my T5 on the 5 am Chunnel crossing from Folkestone to Calais.
Poking my head out into the daylight from the train, it was a quick top up with fuel and time to get going. France quickly changed to Belgium, Belgium soon changing to Luxembourg, these were miles that were dealt with swiftly as there was a bigger picture here to be realised. With the tiny country situated at the bottom corner of Belgium now dispatched as well it was time to leave the motorways behind. Upon reaching Ittenheim, my small town destination in the suburbs of Strasbourg, after nearly 500 miles of heat soaked riding, I was greeted by my AirBnB hosts in a wonderful centuries’ old farmhouse.
The next day I had planned a bit of a detour through some scenic parts of Belgium and across Luxembourg into Germany and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
I often find riding in Germany can be a bit boring, however, the roads my sat nav found this time were brilliant, twisty, rollercoaster roads on decent tarmac led me south-east, before jumping on a main road for the final push to Pforzheim and a hotel for the night.
I always look for a hotel with secure parking if possible on our Euro trips as it means you can leave the camping kit strapped on to the scooter. This one ticked the box as it had a little courtyard so very soon it was panniers off, showered, changed and local beverage in hand. The bonus of this hotel was the very fetching toilet seat?!
Tuesday morning and a decent breakfast, with a couple of extra ham and cheese croissants made up for my lunch and I continued south-east with the next stop being SIP scooter shop in Landsberg am Lech.
A great part of travelling abroad is the chance to bump into fellow Euro riders and it was an honour to bump into Nick Jolly, Dickie and John from Junction 13 SC in a service station on their way to Hungary. Nick was instrumental in creating the rallies that we know and love in the UK today, but is now facing a new challenge of his own and so he was raising sponsorship for this trip for a very worthwhile cause, as featured on SLUK, please take a look and spare a few pounds to support one of our own.
Once at SIP I picked up a few spares and changed the jetting to try to clean up the carburation. It was here Ralf, co-owner of SIP came out for a chat and uploaded a photo of me on their social media accounts, fame at last! I even managed to gain a stalker who couldn’t understand why I’d chosen to ride a Lambretta to a Vespa event, completely ignoring the fact that I was actually en-route to the Euro Lambretta rally via VWD?! I politely invited my “number 1 fan” to have a chat over a beer at VWD, however it appears that the cable on his keyboard wasn’t long enough for him to leave his bedroom and he didn’t turn up.
Nobody likes a show-off!
He actually said that I was “showing off” by using the Lambretta, make of that what you will, but this was very quickly picked up by those that know me who dubbed this the show off tour.
Austria – Stoffi’s Garage
Next stop after SIP was a blast to the Austrian border and another doss down in a service station. The weather was becoming hotter and hotter and the carburation on the SST was becoming a challenge with the new mix of components, so after a quick chat with the team at RLC we decided to go back to the standard SST manifold and then we’d have confidence in the base jetting for the rest of the trip. A planned visit to Stoffi’s Garage just over the Austrian border gave the opportunity to make the change & give her a check over after close on 1000 miles since she was pulled out of the crate. Credit to the RLC lads they sent the parts by 24-hour delivery, giving me time to relax and enjoy the unbelievably generous hospitality from Stoffi and his team whilst I camped out the back of the workshop on the Wednesday night. They went out of their way to make me feel welcome and I owe them a huge thank you.
If you ever get the chance to visit Stoffi’s then do it. It’s a tardis of a place and has several showroom areas, being a Vespa main dealer there’s a shop, stockroom and workshops, plus a real gem in a separate building that houses Stoffi’s own personal museum and collection of some weird, yet wonderful scooters from all over Europe and beyond. In fact Stoffi and Vittorio Tessera must own between them pretty much every scooter ever made!
Amongst the collection were also a few Vespas and Lambrettas, including the first fully legal Lambretta chopper in Austria (no mean feat given their strict laws) and a gorgeous original paint TV1 that Stoffi uses as a runabout. That was sitting alongside a couple of Austrian KTM scooters, Stoffi’s team have shoehorned a modern KTM bike engine into one of them. To be fair I was like a kid in a sweet shop and there is so much there it warrants a separate feature.
Unfortunately, the delivery companies’ idea of 24 hours started with a 5 and ended with a 2! The delayed delivery meant a second night in my tent and a chance to enjoy more time at Stoffi’s to check out some of his mechanics own impressive collection, also catching a few rays and recharging my batteries for the big push ahead to Hungary, etc.
Once the parts were delivered I was soon back on the road, but as I was now a day and a half behind schedule I decided to ride into the night on Friday to ensure I arrived as early on Saturday as possible at Zanka.
So onward across the Rhine and into Germany, my destination tonight would signify the furthest from home I’d travelled on two wheels.
Miles and miles of smooth tarmac through thick, dense woodlands flowed beneath my wheels as I aimed further south-east towards Miesbach, a very small village where my host for the evening told me they’d never seen a Vespa there. The next morning was a hot one, a common occurrence for this trip and was to take me through the city of Salzburg, my entry point into Austria. The next few days of my journey saw me working my way across this spectacular country.
It was into Vienna on a slight detour from Graz to finally meet up with more Brits at last for a well deserved drink and a bit of a regroup. After a positively typical British Scooterist evening out in Vienna it was time to make our way across the Austrian-Hungarian border and down to the Vespa World Days 2019 destination, Zanka. Arriving into Zanka through the rather plain Hungarian countryside we were then treated to something rather extraordinary, Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater body of water in Central Europe. A perfect signpost for confirming our arrival in the town had a bit of a queue forming as many people wanted their photo next to it to commemorate their own journeys to a part of the world not usually synonymous with British scooter travel.
Born in a barn
After riding up into some twisty forest covered hills in the darkness, despite the improved lighting from the new Ducati ignition I realised I was missing some lovely scenery so decided to stop riding for the night. This time I had an upmarket doss after finding a barn with wide open doors next to the road with a load of straw in it… and no animals, so I checked in for the night. What a cracking view I woke up to, (no it wasn’t a cow’s arse) which put me in the right frame of mind for the final push on to Lake Balaton.
Another service station and another group of scooterists, this time three Russian lads heading home via Austria, etc. They headed north displaying their new ScooterLab.UK stickers with pride, I raced down south to join the fun.
Saturday morning and I pulled in to the Vespa World Days registration area. I got a few strange looks on the Lambretta, but I was made very welcome. A quick call to track down my mates and usual riding partners and I was guided to our accommodation block. The scooter was parked up and unloaded, I was showered changed and out, out in double quick time. I finally caught up with Nicky Murray (Wookie) who had also had an epic ride to Hungary and would be joining me for the rest of our trip to Poland, showing off on a Vespa this time.
Part 2: Vespa World days, coming up on Monday July 8th
Shaun’s Rallery – the journey so far
Wookie’s Rallery – the journey so far
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