Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The end of era (for me) .... the start of one for someone else?

I never thought this moment would come.
I love my Vespa - My very first motorcycle.  I learnt a lot with her and on her, and we had some fabulous rides together - why on earth should we ever be parted?... Im still asking this question now...... even now that she has been sold and belongs to someone else

I have to admit that the Vespa hadn't come out of the shed for nearly 2 years;  Now that I have the Royal Enfield I much prefer to ride a bigger bike.  But nevertheless, it is fun and cool and just 'easy' to jump on the scooter for a little buzz around, and so I imagined that I'd always keep her for those special moments when only a scooter will do.  However, in recent months my mind has started to wander (again) and despite not yet finishing the Trike (although it is making good progress) I am starting to yearn for another project...... a big one this time (but more on that another day / another blog).

It started to dawn on me that if i was going to start another project,  i would need both cash and space, and as much as I love the Vespa, it was nuts to have her just sitting idle in the shed - and so I put her up for sale.
I started with eBay - I put her up several times - got load of watchers, and several offers, but no buyers.  Eventually I decided to try Gumtree instead (eBay was charging me each time she didnt sell, whereas Gumtree is totally free) With Gumtree I got quite a few offers, and a handful of genuine people actually coming out to see her.

Saturday 12th July 2014
Paul - very nice chap - and his mate turn up, ride her up and down a couple of times, have a cup of tea, hand over cash and load her in the back of his van - simple as that!
It was all over and done with within the hour and I didn't even have a moment to pine / doubt / cry!

I did manage to pat and say 'goodbye' to her - i'm not ashamed to say that I always talked to her - particularly to say 'thank-you' for a nice and safe ride - and although I was sad to see her go, I think Paul seemed like he was going to look after her and enjoy her :-)

So in conclusion;
She came to me on 5th May 2010, and left me on 12th July 2014 .....
thats 4 years, 2 months and 7 days together...... 1529 days
and in that time, I rode approximately 3760 miles on her
I sold her for £1350.  (I lost track of how much she cost in the rebuild, but I don't think I've profited other than from the experience and pleasure)

..... Next project?.... watch this space

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Awesome - 'nuf said

Couple of interesting points to come out of this first drive;
1.  It really is a fucking awesome feeling
2.  She seems to start well - does this mean i could start her on a small motorcycle battery?
3.  foot positions - on the chassis tube, without pegs or boards - feel good
4.  the steering is not nearly as heavy as id worried it might be
5.  the increase in steering rake doesn't feel as bad when rolling as it does when stationary
6.  the reach on the tiller handlebars isn't as bad as I'd worried it might be on full lock

So, all in all, its all pretty fucking awesome! :-)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Distributor drive shaft alignment

Reliant, Rialto, 850cc, Distributor, Distributer, Driveshaft, Positioning

I put these tags in above to help someone one day find this post in an internet search, and benefit from my learning process, and not have to learn the hard way..... as I did.

I have been using an old Haynes manual to help me rebuild the engine (its actually a Robin and Kitten 1973 - 1979 manual - I cant find a Rialto manual - but it does give a nod to the 845cc engine).  Its a pretty simple engine and there isn't much you can get wrong really, but nevertheless, I carefully followed the step by step reassembly instructions.  But I have to admit a bit of head scratching when it came to trying to understand the instruction for inserting the distributor / oil pump drive shaft.

Once the crank and the cam shaft are in place and positioned with the timing chain, its time to drop the distributor shaft in from the top of the engine to engage with the cam shaft..... this is what the manual tells you to do

I found this simple instruction rather ambiguous  (it becomes more so, as the shaft rotates as it drops into place - so are we talking about a position before or after it drops down?) - but I thought it through and made my interpretation of it.
A few weeks later, when the engine is all rebuilt, back in the frame, all wired up with a jury-rigged ignition circuit - I tried to start her. No joy :-(  After a couple of nights tossing and turning, it occurred to me that maybe my distributor was firing at the wrong moment - there was yards of spark at the plug, and plenty of fuel in the cylinder.  So I decided to see if I could 'reinterpret' and reposition the distributor drive shaft - this involved jacking the trike up, dropping the sump (complete with oil) removing the oil pump and driving the roll pin out of the shaft retaining collar (or as Haynes likes to call it, the "Thrust Muff" which sounds a bit saucy to me)
I reassembled it all again - tried to start her...... Still, No joy :-(

Finally, this weekend, I was determined to get this sorted.  I methodically went through everything, and still she wouldn't start.  Hugh came over and we scratched our heads together... then my neighbour came over and we all three scratched and shook our heads - we are becoming Umarells (and i rather like it)
My neighbour looked at the manual, and said "but what about if you were standing looking at the engine from the front? then '5 past 7' would be in a different position" He was right!  '5 past 7' could be anywhere depending on where you looked at it - I had assumed it was from the side of the engine.
We played with this idea.... but still weren't completely convinced about where the 'large D section' was going to end up.  The sun was shining, it was mid afternoon, and I needed a beer - so I gave up for the day and planned to go the following day to see a man who might know the answer.

Reliant Services are great.  Not particularly cheap, but full of knowledge and advice (and you cant put a price on that) - I took my manual with me, and asked Jim to tell me how to interpret the instructions.
"I dont do it like that" he said...... so I asked him to explain his method..... So, for those people who are new to assembling a reliant engine, here is the clear and simple method for getting the distributer shaft in the right position, first time ......
  1. Rocker cover off
  2. Rotate engine until BOTH tappet rods - of cylinder No.1 (thats at the fan end of the engine) can be 'twizzled' (this indicates TDC/compression stroke) - personally I simply put my finger over the sparkplug hole and feel when compression is happening.... but I like the 'twizzle' method better)
  3. Make sure the timing mark (on the timing chain cover) lines up with the 2nd notch (for 850cc engines) on the pulley
  4. Drop the distributer shaft into position so that when the distributer is in place, the rotor arm points to cylinder No.1
Simple as that - forget about big D's and little D's - I'm sure these are good references when you know what you are doing, but the bottom line check is to put the distributer loosely into place and see if the rotor arm points to No.1... if it doesn't, withdraw the shaft and move it round until it does.  And when it does, then you can fix it in place with the roll pin and 'muff'

So I came home, and within 2 hours (jack up, sump off, pump out, muff removed - reposition shaft - muff back, pump back, sump back.... distributer in, leads on)..... I tried to start her again.

Joy :-D

Nearly 7 years since she last ran..... she came to life :-)  Oh boy, that is a good feeling :-)

Silent progress

I haven't written on here for ages.
I quite like writing up my notes but 2 thoughts occurred to me;
1.  my time is tight enough - surely if i have any spare time to write, then wouldn't it be better spent actually working on the trike??
2.  I cant imagine people are particularly interested in the minute detail of procrastination I make, and each hole I drill..... people want to see step changes. (it always amazes - and frustrates - me when I see in magazines, a complete project / ride across a continent story told in 3 pages, including photos and a good 1/4 page of title and 'witty' introduction :-( I can only assume that the readers dont want detail)

So I haven't written much, but I have been working on her

And I have given the engine a complete rebuild too.
I wasnt intending to, but when I actually looked under the rocker cover - I was worried by what looked like evidence of either running with no oil, or running with no water - things were pretty burnt in there.

So I stripped her down, de-carbonised pretty well everything (it was all baked on the inside of the crankcase too!), put new main bearing shells in and new piston rings.
Im loosing track of how much this is costing me now (probably a good thing) but the engine rebuild is probably in the region of £200

And then I did a carb rebuild too - jet and needles (£50 from SU Carbs UK)

So all this has taken me a while, and while I have lots of photos to show my slow progress.... its all a bit boring to show here.  Suffice to say, its all back together again now - and much more pleasant to man-handle

Oh and I did have another engine project on the bench at the same time (making a coffee table from a Renault Clio engine) No wonder this trike is taking me such a long time to do - I should learn to not be so distracted!

Monday, October 14, 2013


How many times have I said "I'm back!"?
I seem to limp on with this project with little spurts of energy and enthusiasm every 6 months or so, and each time I do manage to get a bit of work done on the trike, I announce that "this is it!"
For this very reason, I've not mentioned anything about progress for a few weeks - just to see if its just another flash-in-the-pan of energy.

In truth, I have never lost the enthusiasm for this project.... I just seem to never have enough time.  However, the last couple of weeks have somehow gifted me some 'free' weekends (I say "free" because they come at the cost of my wife now moaning at me for being 'selfish'!  I agree with her - I am being proactively selfish, and if she is going to moan at me anyway, then the best place for me is in the garage!)

A few weeks ago Hugh came over to have a look at how things were progressing.  Over a cup of tea we debated the best position and layout for the foot pedals - I have decided to put the throttle on the handlebars, clutch on the left foot, rear brake on the the right foot, and front brake up with the throttle (there are many options, but this one felt best for me)
I desperately want to keep this machine as bare as possible, so the idea of foot rests and pegs doesn't appeal to me, even if they are practical, safe and comfortable (I am sure I will eat my words eventually, but the time being - its going to stay as simple as possible) 

Rightly or wrongly, I am utilising the original Reliant Robin foot pedals - I figured that I didn't need to reinvent the leverage ratios, and with a bit of bending and cutting & shutting, they would be perfectly acceptable to get me started.  To keep things tidy, I am keeping all the mechanics inboard of the frame..... but I do wonder if there will be a problem with some of it hanging low - is that an MOT/DVLA issue?  I am trying to keep everything above sump level.... but even so, thats pretty low!

Much to the horror of proper engineers (including TVOR) I am doing very little 'design' on this trike - I have loads of thumbnail sketches to facilitate my thinking of options, but I rarely use a measure, or make a prototype/cardboard mock up. Everything is made up on the go.  The upside to this approach is that I keep my focus on what 'feels' right, the downside is that I have had to throw away a fair amount of metal that I've welded up before realising that the idea wont work in practice - The bearing pins for the pedals is a case in point - that was a lot of wasted filing energy getting those original 1/4"discs made up, but hey ho! it was good exercise for me, and anyway I rather like the process of creating and making complicated brackets - its a shame people wont get to see the complexity of my design to hold the brake cylinder in place!

The original vehicle - Reliant Rialto GLS - was fitted with a duel master brake cylinder that mounts on an incline - its big, ugly and awkward.  So I bought a much simpler single cylinder that was advertised on ebay as a 'Reliant Brake/Clutch' cylinder.  I have fitted it, and yet have no idea if its suitable for the job.  I only need it to brake the 2 rear wheels, so I am sure it will be fine (*famous last words, as he ploughs helplessly across the busy crossroads junction*).  I have read some interesting articles about how difficult it can be to get the brakes right on a trike (so many variable to mess with), so I am preparing myself to have to experiment..... but I cant experiment until I have some practical data to work with.... so lets get it running and see what we've got.

The handbrake was another worry that I mulled over for a long time.  I wanted it to be unobtrusive, and rather fancied it at 90 degrees to the original with straight pull-rods to the rear brakes, but it was Hugh who helped me think this though and I have finally opted for using the original device on a newly make platform with very short cables - it doesn't look too bad and hopefully relatively easy to operate (i wont know until I have serviced the brakes, and even then I will need to get the cable professionally made up)

As much as I am loving doing this, I am aware that my original vision (of 'clean and simple') is slowly being compromised as I have to bolt on necessary accessories (pedals, brake handles, fuel tank, battery, electrics etc) - I have come to realise that the designers who are the real genius', are not those who make the sweeping line sketches of concepts, but those who can incorporate all the necessary mundane stuff with understated simplicity.

Next step - service the brakes, make some handlebars, think about fuel-tank and battery.  Once I have most of the bracketry tacked in the right place, I can strip the engine out, roll the frame over and weld up proper

By the way - if you are looking for special or odd sized nuts and bolts, in any manner of material, then I thoroughly recommend E.C. Pitcher in Walsall.  Thats were I got my shoulder screws for the pedal pivots

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A few of my favourite photos

For me, these summarise my weekend.....

A massive thank-you for the skills, enthusiasm, support and fun, to Hugh, Jo and TVOR - i am now indebted to you and obliged to finish the project :-)

Hugh, Tim, Jo (photo by TVOR)

She Rolls!

Can you imagine how exciting it is to see your idea come to life as a real rolling chassis?
This engine, rear axel and front forks have all been bolted to my kitchen worktop jig for more than 5 years! gathering dust in my garage and buried under other projects.  And it was quite a strange feeling when we all finally agreed that she was tacked/welded together enough to release her from the jig.

With the aid of Jo's overhead lifting gear, she rose like a phoenix as one solid and complete vehicle.  It was a momentous occasion.  And then, there she was.... on her own 3 wheels.  And I could push her back and forth.
We all took turns to sit on the seat (balanced on a plank of wood) to make "vroom vroom" noises

Note - those pipes sticking out the back of the frame - they're all going to be chopped right back - I want that diff very exposed!

It was getting late in the day, and we had lots of tidying up to do yet, so there wasn't much time for self congratulations, and I quickly stripped everything off the frame so that Jo could (at his leisure over the next week or so) weld up the bits that we couldn't get to while the engine was in place.

For interest sake, the frame weighs 36 kilos (it will change a bit as i cut the tube ends off and add pedal brakets etc

We set about tidying jo's workshop up.  I was going to throw the kitchen top jig away, but Hugh suggested keeping it...... just in case he fancied making a trike too!  And who wouldn't? it is a beautiful looking thing :-)

Saw, Bend, Grind, Weld

The whole process was much slower than I had expected.  
After we had worked out and perfected our bending and fishmouth techniques, I was hoping it was going to be a simple case of "just do it!"   But it turned out that every step of the way was just as tricky as the step before.  We seemed to keep kidding ourselves that "once we've done this bit, it'll be easy!"
Nothing was 'easy', but we did have an increasing skill to sort out each problem, and I did find it increasingly more exciting to see the whole thing starting to take shape (albeit slowly)

This whole weekend was supposed to be as much a pleasure as it was to build a trike frame - and it was - but I was always slightly pressured by the ever decreasing time we had available.  I certainly didn't want to be leaving Jo on sunday evening with a half-finished frame on his bench that he couldn't move out of his way ready for work on monday morning.  And so I did feel a slight growing tension on sunday to get this thing as a rolling chassis - and yet at the same time I wanted to enjoy the chatting and cups of tea and general flopping around that you do when you are relaxed.
Jo seemed relaxed about it all, and so I tried to also.

"Good Enough"

We had previously agreed that our manta for the weekend was "Its Good Enough"
We all suffer from procrastination and wanting to do our best, and this is why our projects have been taking so long to progress.  But with some friendly nudging and jibing, we seemed to make progress simply by reminding each other now and then, "Its good enough" and "Just do it"

Fish Mouths

One of the things that i had been steeling myself for (over the past 6 years!) was the tremendous effort I was going to have to make in creating the tube joints and interfaces.  With limited facilities at home I was preparing myself for cutting and filing each tube joint by hand.  Actually, I find great pleasure in using hand tools, and I'm not bad at it either.... but man, its a slow job.
Added to this the fact that I was planning to weld this frame with my TIG welder which requires much finer fitting tolerances, I imagined that shaping the frame was going to be a log slog.

However, now down in Jo's forge with space, tools, and skills on tap, I was able to re-evaluate this whole process.
Firstly, I decided to ask Jo to do the welding for me.  He uses MIG welding (and he is good at it) - some custom bike builders scorn MIG welding as not being strong or neat enough for bike frames, but as my tubes are larger than most and my design is heavier than usual, we decided that a well executed MIG weld would be perfectly acceptable for my frame - and with Jo doing it, he would be fast, accurate and get a proper penetration.
Secondly, As MIG welding can be a little more forgiving on the fitting tolerances of the tubes (particularly heavy ones like mine) I didn't need to be so fussy about the shaping of the tube interfaces - the fishmouths.

There are many ways to design and make a fishmouth in a tube - including hand filing/fitting, drilling with a hole cutter, and using software to print out a cutting template.  Jo introduced me to a very simple method of 2 single straight cuts on a table saw.  There is a great explanation of this process (and much more tube fabrication information besides) on this site.  With a table saw and a hand grinder we were able to create perfectly acceptable fishmouths quickly and easily

Another important decision we made was to not try and make 2 bends in a single piece of tube - so that we wouldn't be faced with having to write off a perfectly accurate bend because we'd cocked up the second or third.  Instead we simple butt welded the single bend sections together (with the use of a tight fitting box-section stub for alignment).  This made it so much easier in the design/assembly/tacking process as we were able to rotate the bends relative to each other to create the perfect shape - and consequently reproduce the exact mirror assembly for the other side of the bike.  With Jo's expert welding on my thick tubes, we all agreed there would be no worries about the strength and integrity of the frame

Subsequent bends

After a little bit of research, it was apparent that packing sand tightly into a tube would support the tube walls during bending.  Some people use heat in the process, and some people warn against using heat.
We decided to do ours cold.
We welded an architectural steel ball into the end of the tube, inverted the tube and filled it with silver sand.  The trick in doing this is to pack the sand down as tightly as possible (we rammed, hammered and tamped with vigour).  Once completely full, we hammered another architectural ball into the open end and welded it in place.
Now our tube was ready to bend.

The process worked like a dream!  With a hydraulic pipe bender like this, you dont need heat.  And although I am sure that flushing the sand through with water would certainly pack the sand tighter, we found that we could hammer the sand down perfectly tight enough to give us minimal flattening during bending. 

First bend

3 men for 3 days equals a lot of manpower, thinking capacity, labour and enthusiasm (even more so when you add a good contribution from TVOR who popped in on a couple of days for moral support and sensible suggestions)
With the component parts all lined up and fixed in place we set about doing a first bend on the chassis main rail.  Jo's hydraulic bender made my own 16 tonne bender look like a childs toy.  We made a quick adapter to enable us to use my filed out die to fit his press..... and we gave it a go.

Disaster.  Even with Jo's superior mandrels, the device wasn't man enough to hold the tube taught enough to avoid flattening the tube on the bend :-(  It was getting late in the day (of our first day) and this kink in the tube, kinked our enthusiasm until Jo teased us with an idea;
"I've heard of a technique for bending tube using sand.  I've never done it myself, but I've heard about it.  I've got some sand - we could try it!"
And with that we agreed to call it a day and return tomorrow with excitement to try an experiment.

That night in bed, on my iphone, I looked for some evidence that tube could indeed be bent smoothly with the aid of sand.  And sure enough, there is a technique.... though details do seem to vary from person to person


Friday, February 01, 2013

We've got this far before...

But this time it's so much more pleasurable. This time I'm working on a proper work bench with lots of space.
Lining up and fixing down still took a good couple of hours

Parts all ready for assembly

There was no way I was going to get this done in my pokey little garage so we hired a van, threw all my trike bits in, and Hugh's bike too, and took it down to Jo's workshop

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Its ironic that to create leisure time seems to be harder work that actually doing work!  It would certainly be an easier route to keep going to the office, doing email, and moaning that there isn't enough time for leisure activities.
It seems to require a huge amount of effort to break the pattern, and get some leisure time started.
One week ago, I was of the mood that was might easily have made me back out of our plan to work on our project bikes.  Could I really afford the time off work?  Can I really afford the money that this is going to cost me?  How on earth am I going to get all my bike parts down to Jo's forge where we planned to spend 4 days of intense metal bashing and welding.  Shouldn't I be helping my daughter open her shop?  etc etc

However, making the opportunity to have fun appears to be a bit like being a competitor in one of those strong man competitions where you have to pull a double decker bus with your bear hands.  It is almost impossible to get it started, and is only with incredible effort and strain that things start to move... and once they are moving, it gets easier... maybe to the point that actually, it's rolling on its own!

We havent started anything yet, but I am already very proud of myself for just believing that we can!

Another restart.. again.

Crivens!  Have I really let this original project slip so much??
I started this blog on November 8th 2006... over 6 years ago!  At the time I thought I was going to build a Trike within a year for less than a grand...... How nieve can a man be?
Reading back on some of my older posts, it looked like I made a good start - sourced lots of the parts, and prepared to create a rather neat looking frame..... but somehow, things seem to have got in the way and despite numerous blog posts stating "A new start", or "We're back", or "This time I really, really will finish this - promise!", I just haven't made any real progress beyond laying the parts out to look like a trike with an invisible frame.
I'm not proud of my poor performance, but in my defence, I have in the interim years rebuilt a Vespa scooter (and riden it to Italy and South of France), nearly completed the resurrection of a 1958 French Manurhin scooter, and bought myself a Royal Enfield 500 efi electra Bullet.
However, the Trike has never been totally forgotten - I still love the idea of creating my own machine, and much to my astonishment I am about to make a major step forward with this project.

For the past few years, around about october, I've taken off for a long weekend with a couple of friends, Hugh and Jo - the general idea is to do something fun and stay in a B&B so we can take the opportunity to have 'one more beer' than we might otherwise have if we were driving.  We didn't get the chance to do it last october, and we missed it, and so it was while sitting over a beer (only one this time, as we were driving) that we came up with the brilliant idea of taking a long weekend of not only having fun, but also helping each other make some progress with our respective dust-gathering projects...... and wouldn't be fun if we could actually get them on the road ..... and ride them to a rock festival? ;-)  We put a date in our diaries there and then.  And that date has finally crept up on us!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A slightly new direction

So the rebuild is complete, the test runs are successful, and the story comes to an end......... well, not quite!

When my Vespa arrived in its sorry state several months ago, I decided to document its resurrection via this blog - A blog that was initially set up to record the creation of a Trike.  I guess the flavour of this blog has always been about nuts and bolts, solving problems and creating stuff, blood, sweat & tears and good old fashioned hand skills.  With this in mind, I'm hoping that maybe I will get back soon to continuing the Trike project and writing about it here.

But now that the Vespa is pretty well complete I'm not sure that its story should continue here.  The story about the Vespa now is not so much about its revival, but more about its travels - and so a new blog is born. www.2vespas2italy.blogspot.com
With only a couple of hundred miles of Vespa riding experience, and fueled by mid-life angst I appear to have got myself into an enthusiastic commitment to ride, with a friend (another Vespa virgin) our scooters from England to the Italian riviera.

Heroic or foolish?  Interesting or boring? Scotty and I are going to blog about our adventure - its only a 2 week trip, and we dont go for several weeks yet - however, the 'journey' starts now


Thursday, February 10, 2011

My first Epic Journey

Im pretty confident now that my scooter works.  And I very 'grateful' that I appear to have an engine/electrical/carburetor setup that is reliable and consistent - I always worry about those sort of intangible 'physics' aspects of an engine.  I hate spluttering engines or erratic idling because they always seem to be difficult problems to trace; unlike a snapped clutch cable that is obvious and fixable. 

And so after a few local runs to prove that she runs reliably, I needed a journey to test durability and endurance (of me AND the machine).  I'd been planning for a while to go down to see mum and dad on Sunday (110 miles away), and as the day approached I started to wonder if I could go by Vespa.  The weather in the proceeding week was pretty rubbish and i was paying close attention to the forecast for the weekend.  Come Saturday night I still wasn't decided - the wind and rain was on and off all the time.  It was literally a last minute decision as I got dressed on Sunday morning and looked out of the window.... sky was grey but dry, wind was blowy, but not harsh..... i decided to put on my thermal vest.

I was on the road by about 8.30am and i felt good.  In my mind I had about 4 mental milestones that plotted my route.  I'd checked google maps earlier for a walking route (id figured this would be most direct and would avoid motorways) - as it turns out the exact mileage this way would be 101 miles.  The four stages were, Warwick, Milton Keynes, Dunstable and Welwyn - if i could tick these places off in turn, I would feel like I was making progress.
Unfortunately I didnt make a print of the google map route, and so once past Warwick and into farming country, villages and lanes I quickly became lost.  I had to stop on numerous occasions to check on my phone which villages I should be aiming for.  And when I couldnt get a GPS signal, I had to resort to the inbuilt compass on my phone and simply head south.
The journey went well.  it stayed dry, I felt comfortable on the saddle, and the engine ran without hesitation.  I often became aware that the pressure of my helmet on my cheeks was making my jaw open slightly and my tongue slip between my teeth; if i thought about this too much i could feel a sort of sense of panic come over me - to distract my mind I would sing to myself - which sounded quite nice inside the little cosy world of my helmet.
I stopped for fuel twice - Im not sure of just how much fuel i have when the gauge gets close to showing empty, so rather than find out the hard way, I made sure I kept full (and fuel stops are also a welcome stretch)  Even with the gauge showing empty I appear to only be able to put 5 quid of fuel in the tank - which makes me feel like a rich man when I compare the experience to filling the car for £75.
At one garage the attendant asked about the scooter, and was rather surprised to hear of the distance I was intending to cover that day (his surprise worried me a little - 101 miles? surely thats not such a big deal is it?)  He also went on to tell me of his friend who found a Lambretta in a shed AND of the last time he visited Luton - his stories were a perfect opportunity for me to linger a little longer in his warm shop.
Once out of the Warwickshire farming country and bound for Milton Keynes, I had to face an hour on the A5.  This was both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand cars and lorries are moving very fast here, but on the other hand when it was duel carriageway, they passed me with a wide birth.  On the one hand whilst it is quite a direct route, it was on the other hand monotonous - at 40mph without the pleasure of Radio 4 to entertain, these long dull roads are VERY long and VERY dull.  I was pleased to enter the metropolis that is Dunstable.
It was in Dunstable that I had my first 'fright'.  I was riding through some road works and was approaching a temporary repair to a channel dug across the road.  I wasnt traveling fast, but I quickly became aware that this was quite a deep trough that I was about to go over.  I reduced my speed (but i dont think I was actually braking as I went over the trough) and as I bounced over the road repair I had a significant wobble.  All was well and I carried on but it was a few moments later when a cold shiver went down my spine as i thought about how that might have turned into a spill.
Dad (aka TVOR) gives the Vespa a once over
From here on I was in familiar country and the Vespa seemed to pick up some spirit and drive like it wanted to get to its destination - The song 'Space oddity' by David Bowie came into my head and I found myself singing inside my personal sound booth "... and I think my spaceship knows which way to go".  I was 3 hours into my journey and I was becoming both; more and more comfortable in the saddle, and more and more mad by the solitude
I arrived finally at Mum and Dads in time for a late lunch.  4.5 hours after I had set off from my home 101 miles away.  I was delighted to see mum and dad, delighted to have achieved this epic journey, but slightly disappointed in my slow performance.

I might not have had a spare clutch cable, but I had smartly packed a toothbrush and clean pair of underpants in my rucksack when I set out that morning - there was no way now that I was going to attempt a return journey on the same day.  And so we enjoyed a lovely afternoon (dad even getting to have a ride on the Vespa up and down the drive) and evening together.  I slept remarkably well that night :-)

I woke early the next day - I needed to get back home in good time for a teleconference meeting.  As I lay in bed slowly waking up, it occurred to me that I was in a rather different situation to the morning before.  Yesterday when I woke up I had a choice.  I had a choice primarily based on the weather conditions as to whether I would travel down to see mum and dad by scooter or by car.  This morning however, I had no choice whatsoever.  Regardless of whatever the weather had in store for me, I had to ride home, and so it was with a little more intrepidation than excitement that I set off that morning.

preparing for the journey home
I was on the road by 8.45.  it was overcast and gloomy, but the little Vespa seemed happy to be buzzing along the country lanes again.  I took the same route home as I did coming.  It was uneventful. The weather was variable; I was grateful for my waterproof over trousers when it drizzled, and I was grateful for my black jacket when it captured a little of the warmth from the sun when he popped his nose out now and then.  The biggest battle was the blustery wind I faced as i came into the Midlands.  This invisible force seemed to want to test me by springing out on me at any moment causing me to lurch across my lane.  It was at times quite stressful both mentally and physically, but easily cured by simply dropping speed down to 25 - 30 mph.
I arrived home just in the nick of time for my teleconference meeting after 5 hours in the saddle - this had indeed been an epic journey for me.  And one I look forward to doing many more times :-)

I love my Vespa.

The first 100 miles

True to form, the chaps from Redditch Shot Blasting were slow with the delivery of my painted wheels BUT they had done a great job when i did eventually get them back (£10/wheel).  They look great once all assembled and refitted to the bike (It was Hugh who taught me about the magic that a nice set of wheels can add to a vehicle)

With the wheels back on the bike the weather was particularly encouraging for a man with a shiney new scooter, and so I had the perfect excuse to take a run out to buy some gloves (that might provide a bit more protection than the snowboard gloves that I'd been wearing up to this point)  I had some Christmas money from mum so was delighted to spend £30 on a pair not too flash, not too stiff, and not too thick.
While I was out and about I thought I would take the opportunity to pop in to GranSport Scooters to show Dan (who had been particularly encouraging for me as a noobie) how the scooter had turned out.  I was slightly embarrassed to go in and say 'do you want to see it' but once again Dan was very gracious with his enthusiasm and kind words.  I felt rather proud of my achievement :-)

So now with a completed bike and an appropriate set of garments, I needed a proper run.  And where else could be a more perfect destination than Hughies! And so it was decided for the following morning.  The weather was dry and crisp (I really dont want to ride in the wet if I can avoid it) So off I set.  It wasnt long before I realised that actually the weather was dry, crisp AND frosty!  If id have foreseen some of the ice patches along the country roads that morning I wouldnt have set off.  However I was now on the roads and heading to Stratford Upon Avon so I simply had to ride with extreme care.

It was a lovely ride and the scooter hopped along beautifully.  It has a lovely buzzing sound, vibrates comfortingly and smells great!  The white smoke pretty well vanishes once warmed up and she doesnt hesitate for a moment either in long open runs or in idling at traffic lights.
Like a bit of an idiot I was under the impression that I had found a comfortable speed of about 60mph (and for a number of days following this run was reporting this to friends who appeared to be impressed with the power of this little machine)  However I have since realised (and only after counting seconds as I rode between road mile markers) that Ive been glancing down at the speedo and reading the KPH scale instead of the MPH scale which on this foreign designed bike is the less obvious scale.  So instead of a comfy cruising speed of what I thought was 60mph - Ive actually been doing 40mph.  I was interested to reflect on just how much I'd fooled myself - I had a completely misguided sense of what these speeds felt like - exposed to the elements, that 40mph FELT like 60mph to me.  Dan tells me that I should be able to get 60mph out of a 200cc engine - but the idea of going 50% faster still positively scares me!  Especially now that I have a new-found awareness of pot-holes - I never saw them when driving the car, but on a scooter with piddly wheel diameters, they look (and feel) like chasms waiting to tip you off at any opportunity

The other interesting fact that arises from being exposed to the elements on a clear and frosty day is that you get extremely cold.  Even with my new proper gloves, i lost all sensation in a few fingers on a number of occasions, and only bought it back by vigorous rubbing during welcome traffic light stops.  What I couldn't do though (without being arrested) was the same for my balls - OMG I froze my balls - now I know what brass monkeys feel like.  That really was quite painful

Hughs house is approximately 35 miles from mine, but it took nearly 2 hours get there.  I'm not entirely sure why I made such a long job of it.  Im certainly being cautious (new rider, reconditioned bike, frosty roads) but I thought it would be quicker than that.  Coffee at Hughs has never been more welcomed.  I was pretty well chilled to the bone by the time i got there but it was a good exercise in understanding what is the appropriate number of layers you need to wear while riding a scooter.  Before leaving Hughs I borrowed (and he can have it back if he wants) an A4 jiffy envelope to fashion a cod-piece from - stuffed down my trousers, it really did make a big difference to the pleasure of the return journey.
All in all - It was a great first proper run.  I love the scooter (and so do others judging by the turning heads), and I love the riding it.  It appears to all be working well, and my rebuild is a success.

The following day, with growing confidence and excitement for my scooter, I leapt at the opportunity to get the Vespa out again - Ukulele practice at a friends house.  It was to be only a short journey, But Horrors!  two miles from my house, the clutch cable snapped!
Can you imagine how much of a freekin pain it is when you are out and about and your clutch cable snaps!  I can see what that tool box is for now - to fill with spares!..... if only I had :-(
I managed to limp home by crashing the gears without a clutch - but i winced every time at the thought of my brand new gear selector mashing its edges off - grrr
It turns out that the nipple had just sheared off the cable at the handle bar end - It was a brand new cable and hadnt even done 100 miles yet!  I was pretty pissed off (and worried that this was to be a fact of life - since this moment I have heard from a number of sources that with a Vespa I'd be wise to always carry a spare clutch cable!)
I think the cause of this snap was me overly tightening the clutch cable adjuster - in an attempt to minimise the 'clunk' that happens each time I changed gear.  However on reflection now, I have concluded that the clutch adjustment will never stop the gear-change 'clunk' - this 'clunk' is the natural noise of a gearbox without synchromesh.  I felt a bit of an idiot, but for a £3.50 cable replacement off ebay, I think it was a cheap and relatively painless lesson to learn

I have since wondered about what i would do if the same thing were to happen it in the middle of the Tuscan hills and I couldnt simply crash the gears home.  I think i could have temporarily bodged a solution to get me to the nearest piaggio dealer (which of course in Italy is never more than 400 yards away)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Scooter on wooden blocks.
All wheels off.
Rims separated.
Tyres, and tubes removed.
Rims now ready for shot blasting and powder coating.

Theyre pretty rusty! I was quite surprised - though I shouldnt have been, judging by the state of the rest of the bike.  Im guessing that they are salvageable