Scootering classics: Learning the hard way

Life with scooters doesn’t always run smooth. Gav Watson learned the hard way, as this classic feature from the Scootering archives reveals…

There are two types of custom scooter: the all-out show stopper in its clean, sparkly, glittering glory, and the road going custom which has a distinctly used feel about it (and so it should have). Gav’s scooter falls into the latter category, but it was no easy journey getting there.

All scooterists get that ‘bad luck feeling’ at some time or other, usually while waiting for breakdown recovery in the rain. But for Gav, I swear… if it wasn’t for bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck at all. All Gav wanted was a simple touring tune to his TS1 — not too much to ask for is it? He was dropping off an engine case for a new crank to be supplied and a top-end tune. No bother, a bread ‘n’ butter job this.

During the visit he told me about his recent misfortune with his van being stolen, Gav was actually standing in his dad’s driveway opposite his house when he saw the van (his van) screeching up the road. The result was an immediate and crazy police chase to apprehend the thieves. This was closely followed by another story about blowing his scooter engine a week earlier at Santa Pod. I did think at the time… stolen van and a blown engine? How unlucky.

Gav got his engine back and I had a call just after his first run out; he was delighted with the power delivery. I wasn’t expecting to hear much from him after that, but the next day the phone rang again and this time it wasn’t good news. Gav had fired up the engine to let the scooter warm up before he set off to the Whitby rally. The scooter was still on the stand, not even under load and as Gav gave the throttle a blip to clear its throat… BANG!

That would be the stomach churning sound of the con rod snapping and then skewering its way through the engine case and freshly ported TS1 cylinder. That was gutting, literally. Not being one to give up easily, Gav unpacked his scooter, herded the wife, dog and kids into the car and off they went to Whitby together.

Unfortunately Gav’s time at Whitby didn’t go well either, on a family campsite where Gav was staying with his family and poodle, a local man decided in a fit of drunken rage to stab Gav several times. Gay recovered from this horrific ordeal, and the perpetrator was jailed for seven years. But when Gav rang me to tell me the story, I remember thinking… knackered engine AND a stabbing? How unlucky!

While Gav was in recovery, I thought the least I could do is crack on with his engine, and after various communications with the crank manufacturer, it was established that this ‘race crank’ was in fact not fit for purpose by their own admission. No shit Sherlock! We received a new uprated crank by way of compensation, but that did little to make good the damaged case and kit.

It’s a nightmare in these situations, I’m often too soft for my own good, but I couldn’t see the customer carry the cost of this; it just wasn’t his fault. Having said that, it wasn’t mine either! But the manufacturer didn’t want to know and Gav was in a bad way, so I got a new kit for him at cost, and I carried the remaining expense of the case welding, machining, fresh porting job, bearings and build.

No point moaning, just crack on is my ethos. I reused the old ignition that Gav had supplied, and when he was well enough he brought the scooter back for a dyno. Unfortunately the ignition Gay had supplied was faulty and we didn’t have sufficient spares on site to remedy the unit, so it was a wasted journey for Gay. I did think as he drove off… knackered ignition? That is unlucky.

Now I wouldn’t necessarily say Gav is an irrational chap prone to making a knee-jerk decision or changing his mind at the drop of a hat… but Gav is an irrational chap prone to making a knee-jerk decision or changing his mind at the drop of a hat. No sooner had he recovered and received his tour-tune engine, he decided touring was not for him. Gav’s new passion was scooter sprinting! So at his request, I tore down the barely used engine, and reincarnated it as a 35bhp sprint engine.

Gav wanted dual purpose if possible, so when fitted with the PipeDesign exhaust we had a track setting of 35bhp and 22lb-ft at hi-revs, and when fitted with the TSR Evo exhaust we had a road setting of 30bhp and 25lb-ft at low revs. Perfik. Maybe Gav’s luck was finally changing? Maybe this was the start of a new era for Gay?

No, his first ride out resulted in smashing his downpipe on a speedbump, severely denting his new pipe. And then his kickstart bump stop snapped off, locked up his engine and twisted his crank. When my phone rang and the caller display flashed up ‘Unlucky Gay’ I knew it wouldn’t be good. I remember thinking as I ended the call, knackered pipe and twisted crank? That really is unlucky.

Rebuild number 4: With a new pipe, new ignition, welded crank and a fully rebuilt engine this was it. We were there, the engine seemed to be holding up, Gav had fully recovered from Whitby, and he celebrated with a full respray at KB paintshop, they did a lovely job and didn’t seem to encounter any real issues. The scooter was now coming together after this arduous and sometimes harrowing journey.

Gav was so pleased, he went all out and splashed the cash on a new front end set-up, a shiny disc brake kit and super-duper forks. Sorted. Off Gav went smiling all the way to the sprint track, where he nearly crashed on his first run and puckered up tight as he came to a swift halt. After significant time spend fault finding, the camel-like handling of the front end was traced back to a faulty wheel spindle… bent as a nine bob note. Thankfully the supplier was very apologetic and sent Gav a new spindle free of charge, but I do remember thinking at the time, a bent spindle? That’s just downright unlucky.

So that brings us up to date. Gay’s scooter is painted, preened, plucked and primed. It’s now ready to roll and I wish him every success for his sprinting season ahead. As much as I would like to think that Gay’s extensive streak of bad luck is over, I have to laugh and say that I doubt it. But I will add this, during the short time I’ve known Gay, and during all of the above events, not one time have I heard him moan, whine, complain or say ‘woe is me’.

We all have bad luck now and then, Gav seems to have more than most, but like every positive thinker I know, he is grateful for the good things in life and thankful for all he’s got. Onwards and upwards.

SCOOTER DETAILS

Name: Gav Watson

Age: 31

Town: Belper.

Scooter club: Groanin n Moaning.

Job: Builder.

How did you first get into scootering: By mistake.

Favourite style of scooter: Street racers.

Favourite model of scooter: GP.

First scooter: This one.

First rally: Beat the bikers

First sprint meet: Santa Pod.

What keeps you interested in the scene: Sprinting/music.

What would you like to see change at rallies: More child-friendly

 

Model: Lambretta GP

Tech spec: Frank Sanderson fork set-up with twin disc, SIP speedo, TT thumb choke.

Engine spec: TS1-225, VForce4 with TT inlet, MB head, MB piston 58/116mm race crank, 34mm Dellorto, LTH seven-plate clutch, Electrex Ignition, Scooterotica porting and build.

Power output: 35bhp and 22lb-ft hi-rev sprint set-up, or 30bhp and 251b-ft low-rev road set-up.

Top speed: TBC at the next meeting.

Paint: KB Paintshop.

Advice to others: Buy quality bits, avoid eBay, use a decent and reputable engine builder. Cost: Can’t say the missus might read it!

Worst part ever purchased: Allegedly reputable ‘race crank’ and the rod was made of cheese.

Best part ever purchased: TT thumb choke.

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