SCOOTER PREPARATION NOTES FOR RIDERS
By Mr Richard 'ScooterPerv' Parsons
In general this was quite hard to write, as I don’t want to seem patronising. There are a couple of riders going who are a lot more mechanically adept than I am! So this is aimed at being a light-hearted reminder, not a set of instructions!
Change your engine/gearbox oil the week before we go. That’s all there is to it. It’s easy, cheap and you’re taking an unnecessary risk if you don’t. I don’t care if you changed it last week, flush the engine and change it again. If your drain/filler plugs leak, change the sealing washers or at least take a spare bottle of oil with you. In fact, taking a spare bottle is a good idea, in case you have an oil seal start to fail on the way round and start burning gear oil. If riding an auto, also change the filter or clean the strainer and remember the separate oil in the gearbox, just the like the previous owner of mine didn’t. I’ve just flushed a ¼ litre of something that looks like a mixture of slurry and Marmite out of the rear hub.
Most people are riding stinkwheels, and 2-smoke engines are a pretty hostile environment for a spark plug. Carry plenty of spares. I recommend at least three, and a plug spanner, because they can be difficult to change without one. For the 4-stroke boys it’s easier, drop in a new one and take a spare. Fit the brand and heat rating that your scooter runs best on, based on experience; this is not the time to experiment with radical new timing and ignition settings. Try to resist the temptation to take a handful of used/oily/corroded ones that you found down the back of the workbench; back in the mists of time, you replaced them for a reason.
You know you need it, but nobody really knows how much you need. If running an autolube, fill the tank and take a couple of bottles with you. If running pre-mix, take loads (Kai). As an example, a scooter running a 2% mix, and assuming 40mpg (lots of hills and gearchanges, remember) will do about 9 miles per litre (very roughly 4.5 litres in each gallon). Each litre requires 20ml of oil. Assuming a total mileage of 1750 miles, that’s 195 litres of fuel. Each 1 litre bottle will last for 50 litres, so you will need just under 4 litres of 2-stroke. If running a 4% mix, double this quantity. If assuming 30mpg (Kai), increase by a further 25% (note to Kai, you need about 10 litres of oil!). Take the oil you usually use if possible; brands can usually mix OK, unless using super-flash stuff, but why take the chance? 4-stroke owners, look smug.
Take a look at them. Will they last 1750 miles, especially the rear, loaded, on poor roads? I’m betting not. A 3.50x10 tyre can easily be killed in 1500-2000 miles. Ideally I’d change all three, and the tubes, but realistically that’s not strictly necessary. Look at the general condition of all three tyres, including cuts, tears, cracks in sidewalls and the rim itself. Lose any that won’t last the distance and fit a new tyre and tube, preferably of a decent brand rather than a DiYung Ditchfinder, Telfon special. Check the inside of the rim. Do flaky, rusty, scabby or any of Snow White’s other dwarvish helpers appear to have taken up residence? If so scrape ‘em off and repaint, or replace the rim to reduce puncture risk. Put the worst one on the spare. Include another replacement tube in your kit, so you can afford 2 flats on the way round. BTW, if you’re not carrying a spare, then carry a can of tyreweld. Check that the rim-rim and rim-hub nuts are secure, have spring washers and haven’t chewed halfway through the hub studs.
Wash in petrol, check for internal tears or other loose material that could end up in the engine and replace if needed. If riding an auto, re-oil the foam filter, clean and drain the airbox, and also check the air filter on the belt case, if fitted. If it looks anything like mine, you need a new one.
If they’re loose, adjust them, if they’re frayed (at either end), sticking, chafing or otherwise a bit rubbish, replace them, including the outer if it isn’t tip top. Check that all your adjusters are in good shape and not seized. Lubricate them to greased pig levels, unless they’re Teflon or nylon lined, in which case do exactly the opposite. Carry at least one complete replacement plus another inner for each control cable, and a spare speedo cable, Don’t forget to include cable trunnions, as they’re easily lost, and fiddly little spanners and allen keys to change them.
If you’ve adjusted your cables and your clutch still slips, sticks or requires an Ironman grip to operate (Kai), sort it out or start exercising your left hand. Your clutch will take a fearful kicking on this ride, and I’d go in with everything tip top. If you reckon its OK but want to cover yourself, buy some new plates, take them out of the packet and soak in oil until we go, then drain and clingfilm them, so at least they’re wet and ready to go straight away, and bung a packet of springs in the toolbox for good measure. Don’t forget the clutch puller and compressor, because not having them and trying the change the plates will result in everything going “SPROING!” over a cliff, across a river or into your left eye. Auto pilots should pull the belt case off and check the centrifugal clutch, and fit a new belt if there’s any suggestion that it might not be “like new”. Bring the old one with you as a replacement.
Brakes are a major contribution to road safety, especially when you’re planning to cross ten of the highest mountain passes in GB. See comments about cables. Check shoes/pads. If they’re thin, glazed, contaminated, ridged or corroded they have stopped being a major contributor to road safety, but may just prove a major contributor to you ending up in a hedge/ditch/shop window/the radiator of an oncoming truck. We want everybody to have the ride of their life, not the last ride of their life. If you ignore everything else, please sort out these bits.
If you want to be able to see after dark, advise road users behind of your presence, that you are slowing down, or wish to change direction, check that your current lighting works in a fashion that supports this aspiration, and bring spare bulbs. If you don’t want to do some or all of these things completely ignore this, and we’ll simply relegate you to the back of the convoy where you can indulge in random unsignalled variations in velocity and heading to your heart’s content. Thank you.
Are your wheel bearings loose/crunchy, headstock bearings similar, brake pedal sticking, clutch and brake levers flapping around on worn pins, bike leaping out of gear (like mine), piston hammering a tattoo on your cylinder as it somersaults on slack bearings? Your ride will be more relaxed and relaxing without these worries, but it’s up to you. If you have a points ignition set up, carry spare breakers and condenser, plus a soldering iron; even better is to prepare a complete replacement stator in advance, and bring a flywheel puller. These are not difficult machines to work on, and there are LSD-ers who can help you, but you have to shout up and request assistance; they’re good, but they’re not clairvoyant.
Do the basics, carry service parts (plugs, cables, tubes, bulbs), lubricants and basic tools (spanners, pliers, a couple of screwdrivers, plug spanner, and I recommend a big adjustable as an all purpose beating stick). I also carry a small tin with wire, jubilee clips, cable ties, repair washers etc.
On the Van:
If the back-up van is to fulfil the purpose of backing up the ride, as the name suggests, it will be reasonably supplied to do so. The van will be carrying a selection of used tyres and tubes, a selection of special tools and decent basics. It will have a stock of oils, cables, bulbs, consumables, fasteners and small parts, but NOT plugs (you know what you bike likes, so get them yourself). The van stock will be available to purchase at discount rates for riders, but please don’t rely on it too much. There’s no guarantee it will have exactly what you need, although we will try!