I'd always had a fascination for tiny scooter/sidecar rigs for some reason. So when I came into some extra cash, and since I had a shifty vespa (a PX125E kitted with a DR177 kit) I decided to look around for a sidecar to throw on. Cozy and Inder (among others) had sidecars that were reportedly a "bolt on kit"
Now I should have realized this was a bad idea - we'd had reliable P series vespas before, but we'd also had some bad experiences. Like the PX125 that broke down on the starting line of the Mad Bastard Scooter rally - and then on the next rally managed to have a throttle malfunction that caused it to be either racing or just stalling outright.
This is that culprit.
The Vespa sidecar ended up being obtained from Fada scooters, who installed the thing one evening and being the first of its type they had installed, soon found out the "bolt on kit" required quite a bit of adjustment to get to fit. (But they persevered, and did a great job and didn't charge me extra - great service from them.)
The Vespa got attached, then I spend the rest of the summer riding the thing around. It actually did fairly well, topping out about 80kph and handling Toronto traffic well enough.
But early the next year, the motor.... ended. I took it into be fixed and it would have needed a new top end, plus the rotary pad was scratched so a reed valve kit would have been necessary to get it back on the road - all together too much work when you combined it with a complete rebuild.
I found a P200 that the owner promised was in "running shape" with a primer body, and bought it cheap.
Turned out it needed several things as well.
After that, the wiring harness needed work. Then the lights. Then the tank lining starting degrading.
And to top it all off, the frame broke.
It ended up with a huge bill (probably more than the the scooter was worth) and it ended up looking like this after a lot of work.
I took it into the 2015 Mad Bastard Scooter rally - 600km over a maximum (For my CC class) of 18 hours, with puzzles and challenges.
And that was a punishing experience.
But apparently not punishing enough... because I decided to answer the question nobody had every asked.... could you make a Vespa into an offroad bike?
I decided I'd take it on some rail trails near my cottage as a proof of concept.
And it turned out to.... work pretty well in fact.
Of course I have to admit... I had some prior history to go on for this.
In 1980 a French team entered in 4 Vespa P200 scooters into the Paris-Dakar rally. they crossed 10,000km from Paris all the way to Dakar Senegal - with 2 of the team finishing. (out of 90 motorcycles that started the race, only 25 finished... so they beat the odds by far.)
so I knew the P200 could in theory handle the abuse. And indeed, the playing around I did in the dirt went quite well. The Vespa had 9 inchs (just about) of ground clearance, which is better than a KLR650. It was lightweight, had a sidecar so it wouldn't fall over, and had manual gearing that would allow me to more easily adjust my speed and play with the clutch when needed.
We were going to do the park to park trail (a 150km off road trail in Ontario) - but first I decided to take it on the Overland Adventure rally.
And thats when things went wrong... yet again.
The exhaust stub - the little round piece that the exhaust bolts into, fell off. Midway through the rally.
Which was kinda bad - as I didn't have quite the right tools to put it back. I limped it back to the hotel, but to make a long story short - I decided I needed a break from 40 year old machines for a bit - and the "Lucky 13" got put up for sale.
Weirdly enough, part of me does miss the tempermental little machine - I did have quite a lot of fun blasting around the rail trails on it.
But I'm thinking one day... again if budget permits.... I might build another street scooter/sidecar rig.... and try it out on the trails.
Hmm... elite 250 takes 10 inch tires.... which you can get knobbies for.....
Ok my wife might kill me for that one.
So in this overly long, overly detailed and occasionally outright rambling introduction - where does that leave us?
Probably with more of a cautionary tale than anything else... but despite that I'll end with the observation that sidecars get into the blood after a while.
They're a strange sickness, neither car nor motorcycle and combining the best and the worst of both.
But they're one I wouldn't give up for the world.
Next on the Webmaster's Blog: What I am doing to prepare for the Mad Bastard Scooter rally, and how a Burgman 400 is being transformed into a Star Trek shuttle. (And why.)
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