This page gives some basic information of what we found useful when touring and what to check before you start a tour. This is by no means a comprehensive list and we look forward to your comments on other checks and items that you have found useful.
Firstly, and most importantly is your scooter. Having ridden many scooters over the last 35 years and knowing many scooter owners I can categorically say that everyone has their own preference and I’m going to sit well and truly on the fence here. So instead of saying what’s the best scooter to tour on, I’m just going to give my own personal advice on what I have found from our tours on both a Lambretta S2 and a Vespa Rally 180.
Equipment on the scooter
It goes without saying that you should be carrying a spare wheel on any tour and also a small tube of tyre weld just in case you are unlucky enough to get a second puncture before the first is repaired. Furthermore, always get the puncture repaired at the earliest opportunity. Just use the Scootering Britain website (which is smartphone friendly) to find your nearest scooter workshop or mechanic that stocks tyres or can repair them. A must is a good seat for both yourself and your pinion. A bad sprung seat is not very comfortable on a 800 mile plus tour, so splash out on a new one even if it’s just used for touring. I have two seats for my Vespa and have adjusted the seat bolts for easy removal, on the Lambretta I have single seats which both my partner and I find extremely comfortable. A good strong back rest is essential if you want your pillion to still be on the back by the end of the tour and make sure it’s strong enough for the weight of the pillion and luggage if it’s a combined rack and back rest, and check all welds and fixings prior to the tour. I’ve had a weld break mid tour and it’s a pain in the neck trying to adjust luggage and asking my partner not to lean back until it’s fixed (thanks to Velocity scooters for welding this up for me last summer).
Racks and luggage
Work out how you’re going to carry your luggage, front or back? Too much luggage on the back, as well as a pillion, can make your Vespa very light front end, which isn’t very nice if it’s a windy day, Vespa riders will know what I mean. I tend to go with two racks on the Vespa one front and one back and just a rear rack on the Lambretta as the rack tends to sit on the frame on a Lambretta and so can take more weight. Distribute the weight evenly and make sure it’s securely fixed. A lockable bag and a security lock fixing your luggage to the scooter allows you to wander around without too much worry. We tend to use a rucksack on the Lambretta, which allows for all the zips to be locked together and two sports bags on the Vespa, which are secured to the rack. We find that parking in a busy square or on a main road seems to be the safest. In most of the villages and towns we have visited the majority of parking attendants have been very accommodating, but always worth asking first if you’re not sure. If like me you tend to carry a tool kit for every eventuality then having a small tool case works a treat. I use a Makita drill case, which takes all the tools I need and tucks securely behind the back rack and seat or between the legshields and a front rack on a Vespa. Again a small lock securing this to the rack or elsewhere on the scooter is useful. Below are some pictures of the tools I carry and the case I carry them in, which you might find useful.
Coverings and locks
A waterproof covering also comes in very handy for two reasons. Firstly, due to our unpredictable weather it’s handy to keep everything dry and secondly, it increases security as in ‘out of sight out of mind’. We have used bin liners in the past, but they tend to rip and blow about when riding and offer little or no protection. You can pick up a good waterproof cover from any outside camping shop for around £15. Another useful idea is to carry a long thin cable with hooped ends that can take a lock. On those gorgeous hot days its nice to get out of your protective clothing and not have to carry it with you while looking about. We just put the jackets and trousers inside each other and run the cable through a sleeve and a trouser leg and lock the whole lot onto the scooter. The cable will put off most opportunists and we generally pop back to the scooter frequently anyway. Similarly, threading the cable through the visor on our full face crash helmets or fitting a helmet lock under your Vespa seat (as long as you can lock the seat) also gives you a bit more freedom to wander about. However, remember everything is safer when you have it with you or when you can see the scooter.
Spare wheels and tyres
If your carrying a spare wheel in a rack then I would suggest a small lock to keep it there. Unfortunately there are still people who will have your nice new tubeless wheel and tyre away if it’s not locked to the scooter. Speaking of tyres, I would always recommend tubeless rims and tyres as these tend to deflate at a much slower rate than a set of split rims. This was evident two years ago riding two-up back to Sutton Bridge in the pitch black on the A17 when I hit a pot hole and had a front wheel blow out. The tubeless tyre gave me enough time to decelerate and bring the scooter under control before stopping, anyone who has had a similar front wheel blow out with split rims will tell you you’re pretty much on the tarmac before you know anything about it. Also if you get/have tubeless tyres fitted then make sure you buy the valve extensions. Many forecourts garage air compressors do not fit the short valves on tubeless rims. The valves are now included when you buy rims from SIP, but can be bought separately from SIP for around £7 or from MB developments for £5 or on Amazon at AP Automotive x5 for £10. Or you can pick up four plastic ones from Halfords for £5, although I can’t speak for the quality of these. It should also go with saying that you need to check your tyre pressure and tread before you start any tour, wrong pressure will eat up the fuel and not help with handling, especially two-up with luggage and a bald tyre can earn you three points and a fine or could cause a serious accident.
Tools and Accessories
Before I go through the tools I carry it should be noted that I’m no scooter genius, but I do know my way around a scooter and have restored and rebuilt a few of my own over the past 35 years. Therefore, I’m going to explain what I generally carry, which has got me back on the road in a few hours and which will get you out of trouble if you have a reasonable understanding of a classic scooter. Firstly, always carry a set of inner cables, clutch, throttle, and a couple of gear cables. It is also handy to carry spare cable nipples as well just in case you lose one at the edge of the road while making a repair. Make sure you change your spark plug, especially if you use your scooter mostly around town. Cambridge Lambretta recommend a cold plug, either a NGK B9EG or Champion N2 for longer journeys for a Lambretta and a B9 or even a B10 cold plug for a Malossi 210, but always worth checking with your local scooter workshop and explaining your engine set up and that you are touring regarding the correct plug. And obviously not forgetting a spark plug spanner. Make sure you have plenty of decent 2 stroke oil, I usually buy in bulk from SIP and go for a 3% mixture not 4% as today’s oils are far better than they were 20 years ago. Three bottles should cover a 800 mile trip, if like me you do around 50 MPG.
Always carry a set of bulbs for front and back and make sure you have the right voltage 6v/12v depending on your scooter electrics, you don’t want to be riding down a country lane with no lights, been there done it and it’s not nice. I also carry some spare wire and a few connectors in case of any small electrical repairs. I also carry a small rechargeable torch that has a cigarette lighter attachment as well as a plug. Very handy if you need to make a repair in the dark. Another useful item is a woodruff key for the flywheel and a flywheel puller and locking tool. If you know what’s wrong and you can’t fix it and there isn’t a scooter workshop close by then sometimes a motorcycle shop can help, but chances are they won’t have either the flywheel puller or locking tool. I’ve sheered a woodruff key on Lambretta flywheel and was stranded just because I couldn’t get hold of one. A must is a spare clutch/front brake lever. Should you be unlucky enough to come off or your scooter falls over and you break your clutch you are going to be in trouble. Yes you can switch with the front brake and just rely on the back brake until you can get another lever, but that’s not ideal especially if you have a front disc set up and it’s much easier just carrying a spare lever (thanks Sacha for bringing out a spare on a Sunday afternoon in Oxford). I now carry an awful spare lever which reminds me to buy a new one, and stick that back in the tool box again once it’s fitted.
Tool wise, I carry a roll of spanners and a few spares as you might want to double up on a couple of spanners where you need one to hold the bolt/nut while the other is undoing/tightening. A set of sockets is a must with an extension arm for the sockets, make sure you have correct size ratchet for the sockets. A small set of allen keys and an array of posidrive and flat ended screwdrivers is also a must. Make sure you’re tools can cover small repairs like removing headsets or lens to change a snapped cable and a small enough socket or spanner to fit a Vespa cable nipple bolt or allen key for a Lambretta nipple allen screw. This all fits into a small Makita drill case, which slots between my front rack and legshields on the Vespa or behind the seat in front of the back rack on the S2.
Lastly, I invested in a MOD charger. This is a great little piece of equipment that allows you to charge up electrical items like phones, torch and Sat Nav. This little item is very easy to fit, and nice and cheap at less than £20 +P&P I used this with a Sat Nav a few years ago and it made getting places or finding the nearest petrol station so much easier. I would also suggest getting a sat nav motorcycle/scooter velcro carrying case just make sure you remember to take the Sat Nav with you when you leave the bike.
I hope you find some of these ideas useful and if anyone has any other suggestions of things they’ve found useful on tour, please let us know.