The scooter rally season has begun, your classic Italian shopping bike is all serviced, full of petrol and fresh oil and ready to go, and you’ve even remember to pack a spare pair of underpants! But what must you not forget to take with you on your adventures this year? Here’s our list of essentials to help you enjoy the ride…
Okay so most of us know that Scarborough is on the North Yorkshire coast and Weston-super-Mare is in the south west just below Bristol, but do you know how to get there? In the old days a Little Chef map could be procured at numerous locations around the country to at least point you vaguely in the correct direction, but times have changed.
Many today rely on a sat nav but what happens if you lose power or suffer a technical malfunction? Our advice is get a proper old school map, plan your route in advance and if need be either tape some basic instructions to your handlebars or carry the map somewhere that’s easy to reference while you’re riding.
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Spare wheel/puncture kit
It may sound simple, but it’s the basics that you sometimes forget. And it’s not just always remembering to carry a spare wheel, but making sure it’s useable too. How many of you use a ‘slightly bald’ spare tyre, only to discover when the time comes that there’s only about 50 miles of tread left on it? And how many of you check the pressure of the spare wheel that’s been fitted for the last six months but not been used?
For those with tubeless tyres, remember to pack a puncture repair kit with enough glue, plugs and gas to fix at least two tyres, while those with tubed wheels might want to consider a spare inner tube as well. Belt and braces, and all that.
A common problem and easily fixed, yet if you don’t have a spare cable you’re immediately plunged into the world of ‘bodge’ or ‘pushing’ to get yourself home.
If you’re really stuck for space then clutch could be used as a front brake cable most of the time, and depending on nipples gear and throttle could be used as either. That said, if you can carry a full set, then why not?
Always carry a little pot with nipples, cable ends etc. too, as these always go AWOL when you least need them to do so, and the right spanners to tighten them up.
There is no worse feeling in the world than having to put your hands into a pair of cold, wet and smelly motorcycle gloves. It’s a fact. Even the Japanese endurance shows of the 80s deemed such a task too distressing for their contestants! That’s why I carry—and preach about—spare gloves.
You can only wear one pair at a time so while the initial outlay may be more than you’d planned, they’ll last just as long. Remember to pack them in a waterproof bag of sorts (double bagging with carriers will do), then revel in the warmth and dryness of them the next time you’re facing a long ride home on the Sunday morning, with your first pair still sopping wet from the ride there on Friday night. Lovely.
These rather insignificant looking plastic strips come in all shapes and sizes, and can prove essential in certain situations. At the very least, they’re dead handy at keeping your wiring and cables neat and tidy. When it comes to roadside emergencies then these include securing the clutch arm for one-person cable change. But the real skill of cable ties is their ability to secure various parts when original fixings have broken.
Depending on size, length and number of ties available they can be used to hold on a broken exhaust tail can or keep a snapped centrestand up (both tried and tested personally!). Panel lug snapped on your Vespa (yes, that’s happened to me too)? A cable tie can help. I’ve even seen them hold a snapped rack together.
Yes sure you have luggage straps too, but aren’t they already securing your bag to your bike? A handful of cable ties take up very little space and don’t cost a lot either, so are well worth packing.
It’s a well-known fact that lightbulbs only blow around dusk when you’ve got at least another two hours of riding to do. That’s the first reason to make sure that you’ve got some spare light bulbs with you as they are easy to replace at the side of the road (well, on a classic scooter at least), and a good headlight is essential for seeing your way home.
At the back, having a brake light is also a vital piece of kit when it comes to letting the numpty in a car behind you know that you’re stopping. And if the weather is bad, a good tail-light helps warn other motorists that you are ahead.
In short, bulbs are not big, but they are clever.
Spark plug and spanner
In the olden days of LDs and 42L2s, scooterists suffered from their spark plugs ‘whiskering’. These days spark plugs can get equally fouled, and generally the cause is either the incorrect grade/temperature of plug, or wrong fuel mixture. Either way, a quick solution if your scooter refuses to start, or stops running properly is to change the old plug for a new one, a simple fix that can have you back on your way within minutes. But only if you are carrying a spare spark plug. And a spanner to remove the old one.
At first I thought I really shouldn’t be stating the obvious, then I cast my mind back to amount of times I’ve come across fellow scooterists, miles from home, in nothing but jeans and a light jacket— in the pouring rain. One was even in Europe on the way to a rally in Holland!
Another fact of life is that the probability of rain increases when there is a scooter rally taking place, and with an events calendar so full these days I’m surprised Noah hasn’t started stockpiling wood and animal feed again.
If the thought of splashing out on some purpose-made riding wear that features warmth, protection and waterproofness doesn’t appeal to you, then there is always the army surplus shop for some secondhand oilskins, or even our preferred favourite of Nano pocket-sized over trousers and jacket that take up little space but do the job of keeping you dry when the heavens open.
Phone and Power Bank
These days most people have breakdown recovery, either purchased from one of the well know specialist companies, or free with your insurance (check the smallprint of the latter though, to make sure it does actually cover you and your scooter on each particular journey!).
What differs from 30 years ago is that today, rather than walk or push your scooter miles to the nearest public telephone box, you can call them from where you ground to a halt with your mobile phone—but only if it has a charge. I was given a free Power Bank charging device when I entered the Tre Mari last year, but they can be purchased from as little as £8-£10 and could prove very useful indeed if you’ve spent the whole weekend using up your telephone’s battery.
Trust no one. That’s my philosophy. That’s why my shed is triple locked and alarmed, and my scooter inside is also double lock and secured to a ground anchor. Granted it’s not always practical to concrete in a ground anchor on every scooter rally campsite, or in the front garden of every B&B you stay in, but the next best thing is to take a hefty lock and chain and find something else to secure your scooter to. Another scooter will do fine, a tall metal lamppost is even better.
A good lock and chain is not light, and it is quite bulky, but the alternative doesn’t really bear thinking about. If you can carry a bike cover to disguise your pride and joy upon arrival too, then even better.
And… don’t forget your toothbrush!
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