If, like me, you’re someone who ‘lives to ride’ in an Easy Rider way (minus the shotgun incident or tassled jacket), then it might be fair to say that the aesthetic and need for pleasurable experience may outweigh the knowledge base required to keep your beloved mid-century lawnmower on the road.
First things first – if your scooter is going to be in the garage for a few months over the winter you may want to turn the engine over to keep internal components lubricated and free moving every couple of weeks. But before you pack it all away over the winter it pays to do some basic checks and make sure it’s in the right condition to be stored.
Wheels & Tyres
Check your tyres. Do they look flat? If so check the pressures using a gauge and pump them up to the manufacturer’s suggested pressure (for solo riding, this is usually around 20psi on the front and 30psi on the back) with a hand/foot pump or compressor. Flat tyres left unattended can split over the winter and are unsafe if left in that condition for any length of time then re-inflated in the spring.
Remember that low tyre pressure doesn’t necessarily mean a puncture. Top ‘em up and take the scoot for a spin around the block (after you perform the rest of the checks of course!). If tyres remain inflated, then all is good.
Also, check the nuts while you’re down there (Mrs! – Ed). If you can move the wheel from side-to-side then it’s time to check the nuts are all tight, followed by tightening up the hub if necessary. This varies for both Vespa and Lambretta but here are a couple of handy links explaining removal/tightening of the entire rear wheel (obviously don’t go that far unless you’re comfortable to do so… in which case you shouldn’t need to read this article).
Check gearbox oil levels. A dead easy way to see whether you may have a leak is to look for a big puddle underneath your scooter in the spring. Better to check now. A leak usually means a loose or worn threaded ‘sump’ bolt or rubber washer that provides the seal. What you don’t want is a seized gearbox when you turn it over the day before your first run of 2014. Follow the steps via the relevant link below to top up/replace your engine oil. You will note that it is easier to check the levels on a Lambretta (but easier to get anywhere on a Vespa – Ed).
If you have an oil leak that you can’t trace, and you’re not about to change out of your white jeans and driving shoes, then perhaps at this stage you book it into your mechanic.
Batteries do have a purpose! Not relevant on all scooters, but most British market Lambrettas and some Vespas including and especially the GS/SS models were produced with batteries to conform to government regulations at the time. They usually power the horn and rear light/brake light, with the main light and spark provided by the flywheel. Unless of course you have the pleasure of the aforementioned Vespa Sports models, which, much to the credit of Piaggio engineers at the day, require a battery to power the entire electrical supply, including the spark for ignition. Dead battery = a long walk home at 3am.
Over the winter remove the battery and store safely out of reach of children. Unclamp your battery from the tray and look at the unit. Motorcycle batteries are usually translucent and you can see the levels in the ‘cells’. There should also be a black or etched mark on the unit indicating the full point. If any of the cells are low, wearing proper eye-protection, not your Gucci specs, grab some distilled water and pour gently via a funnel into each cell to top up to the full point. Remember to wipe up any excess on the battery or funnel using a cloth that you’re happy to discard immediately.
Health and Safety Executive advice: hse.gov.uk
Arguably the most annoying component of any scooter. My advice to avoid regular replacement of snapped cables is invest in a set of nylon outers for your bike. Especially throttle and clutch cables. Of course this may be moot if you’re reading this while standing in your garage next to your scooter that suddenly can’t change gear.
Check how easily you can change gear, engage clutch and use the throttle, rear brake and front brake. These are all cable based functions. If any of these are loose/not working, here are a couple of How To links:
This one sounds bloody obvious but even the most experienced scooter rider can forget with the passage of time. Check that you have enough petrol and two stroke to make it around the block a few times as fuel evaporates, even in a tank. Some oils can settle at the bottom of the tank and clog up the carb so give you machine a wiggle at the same time as you turn it over as above. I’ve found that straddling the scooter gripping the handlebars, placing your feet on the ground (stand up), and rocking the scooter from left to right a few times helps to mix the petrol with the two-stroke.
In the spring, when the cover comes off and before you disappear into the country lanes to reacquaint yourself with your metal mistress, remember to tighten up any bolts/nuts/washes on your rear carriers/flyscreens/accessories. The last thing you need is to lose that chromed Ulma under an 18 wheeler. (That’s from experience, by the way). See you in the spring, and if you’re an all-weather rider, wrap up well and watch that black ice!
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