Balloon Repair Station

Tale of two ping-pings – upgrading your scoot

Our idea of new and modern is probably at variance with yours. Or maybe not. A few years back, and some more, in a bid to stop having to drive our Mary on a twelve mile round trip, twice a day, we bought her a scooter. It was one of those co-incidence moments. An old acquaintance of mine had taken over a motorcycle shop in Chesham and so that is where I headed one desperate afternoon. As luck would have it a 1987 Yamaha Jog Stylish Sensation had just come in on part-ex. After I’d stopped laughing at the name a deal was struck, helmet and gloves chucked in and it was on the pickup heading home. To say Mary was delighted at the prospect of having to make her way to work without the benefit of a heater for the foreseeable future was not exactly true but she did enter the spirit of the thing and it became her trusty friend. She claims it would do 35mph if adequately beaten with a riding crop and not directly into wind but did over a 100 to the gallon, the capacity of its tank. Most pushbikes ate its dust. On the few occasions I was daft enough to ride it, it proved a right little tearaway up to about 20mph and, if attention wasn’t paid to the twistgrip, would happily pull wheelies. Eventually she passed her test and proceeded to destroy my Golf but that’s another story. Today she has an HGV and fearlessly steers Frank the Lorry to and from various events laden with numerous horses. A fine grounding we think.

Over the next few years it was neglected but fired up from time to time filling the shed and garden with smoke until it warmed up. On one glorious occasion Dicky the bike gave it a make-over, put an old Craven topbox on the rack, chucked it in a van and took it touring in Scotland. It was then lent to a bonkers woman working for the Luvvies whereupon someone stole it. Clearly not impressed it was dumped in a ditch and recovered by Chesham plod somewhat bashed about and worse the wear for the experience. Old Chesham police station was sold off when the new one opened and re-named Copsham House, but I digress. Undaunted we decided that we would pay the recovery fee, collect it from somewhere north of West Wycombe where it was taken, for some reason, and in due course it was mended. Both Alice and Pete were offered it as alternative early learning transport but, after a few trial runs, declined so it went back in the shed until Alice’s boyfriend was persuaded it would be a great form of transport for him. The topbox meant there was room for an extra gallon making it even more reliable and doubling its range! Well, so it was until the throttle cable broke a few months ago. Old and Rustiness creeps up unawares and when we tried to get the spares for it (which now included a speedo cable, couple of gaskets and headlight bulb) it seemed they were in decline. At 25 years old it has now, apparently, entered the grey area before becoming a classic. This was bad news for Alice who now had to go back into taxi-for-boyfriend mode

Clearly this wasn’t a very desirable situation so we started to scan the ads for a suitable replacement ahead of getting the spares sorted. We checked out various slightly more modern Yamahas and Hondas but to no avail. Too expensive to run and insure and the ones for repair were silly money then, completely out of the blue, a thing called a Piaggio Hexagon appeared on eBay. I trawled the Interweb but found little in the way of praise, revues or reports or anything otherwise, except someone who loved hers to bits but was sad that she couldn’t do more than 30 on it as she only used it for getting round Central London and wanted to keep her licence. Couldn’t be that bad then. This one had been stored in a garage for several years but was a ‘genuine’ one owner ‘R’ reg (1997/8) low mileage jobbie. In metallic red it looked a bit ‘Thunderbirds are Go’ cross ‘Joe 90’. It had a 125cc two-stroke engine, a boot and looked jolly comfy. I left a bid on it and went to the pub. Long story (very short) we ‘won it’ and I headed off to Swindon to collect the rascal the following day. The chap selling it was great and knocked £50 off when he realised we weren’t buying it for the engine, a lovely gesture. Never have found out why the engine is popular? It had all the paperwork including the manuals, the tool kit was there and despite having been a little bit dismantled and hung back together it looked in clean-upable, get-go-able condition ‘as described’. It wasn’t small and certainly had presence. Loaded up, Dot the dog and I headed home feeling quite jolly and shared a Marathon (bit white round the ends) we’d found behind the seat when digging out the rope.

It was a couple of days before we got a chance to have a go at it but soon enough, back in the other workshop, it was laying in quite a few bits. The previous owner did admit to trying to get it running prior to selling it but had given up. He’d had all the plastic off, that was clear enough, and at sometime it had ‘fallen over’ judging by the broken plastic clips and slightly different colour one side to the other but apart from that it seemed pretty straight. The fuel lines were blown through and cleaned out, a dollop of WD40 liberally sprayed down the bore and into the inlet and it was cranked over, courtesy of the spare lorry battery . It had plenty of compression, all seemed well. We blew through all the lines again, cleaned out the carb and refitted it. Poured some fuel into the tank, 2-stroke oil into the separate front tank, stuck the plug back in and spun it over on the spare lorry battery. Pop, bang, clatter and away it went, clouds of smoke filled the workshop as it blat-blatted and ping-pinged away through everywhere except the exhaust pipe. Eventually the smoke cleared and it ran quite steadily with a clean but extremely noisy bark. Fortunately the silencer separated from the downpipe at a flange so was easy enough to saw the bolts off. After application of the welding torch, freeing off the back brake and lever and resealing the flat rear tubeless tyre it was running like a bird. Half a day was spent sorting out and screwing together the plastic panels and getting the back lights to work and with a new battery fitted it was booked in for its MOT.

The following morning I was off disguised in a full-face helmet in case I was spotted. I’m not into scoots, not even true rusty Lambrettas and the like, although Erik Darby once had one which zoomed quite well until you came out of the slipstream and tried to overtake something, but I have to admit it went like hell and, with a screen and the streamlined leg protectors, it was remarkably comfy although you did get the impression you could treat the back rest as more than it was and possibly drop off in more ways than one. I didn’t even get that wet. With its wide 10 inch tyres and hydraulic front disc brake it handled relatively well and stopped abruptly if needed, no engine braking with a two-stroke a lesson I’d learnt early in bike-riding! The strong gusty wind buffeted it about, however, on arrival the front tyre was found to be a bit lower on air than when we’d left! Now with ticket in hand and pumped up tyre I bade farewell to Dave and Co and headed back. With air in the front things were much better but a mile later it stopped. Well I wasn’t really expecting it to go smoothly first time out but this was a bit disappointing. There is a kick start as well as the starter so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it didn’t go straightaway. The starter whirred over and it crackled into life again. This time it did about 500 yards. This had to be petrol. After three more refusals and restarts it was finally coaxed back up the workshop. What I hadn’t realised that, being an automatic gearbox, once power went forward motion could not be employed to get it going again and there is no clutch to allow freewheel.

It didn’t take long to find that a fuel blockage at the tank end was the problem. Sadly this meant that all the plastic had to come off again. Eventually the petrol tank, which lives under the running boards just above the frame tube, was out. There are pickups on both sides of the tank with a cross-pipe that runs under the frame. That was blocked and broken. The take-offs were both completely blocked and the pickup on the offside with an extended pipe that acted as a reserve was not only blocked but had been virtually destroyed by the petrol that had been left in it. It was quite a revelation that it had run at all. Modern petrol is seriously corrosive to some materials if left to muse. It had been noted that the fuel gauge had also packed up so the sender was taken out and found to be crusted in petrol deposits. Fortunately the sender comes to bits so it was simple matter dismantle it, clean it all up and reassemble it. We cut the old pickup pipes and filters off and cleaned out the tank and, figuring there was an inline filter just before the pump, decided not to worry too much about replacing them in the short term. It was noted at the MOT that the lower frame and some of the underbody steelwork appeared rather rusty (surface) but a poke about with a sharp object and wire brush hadn’t revealed anything serious so now being in bits a large helping of Hammerite was applied and that covered in sealant. Later that same evening it was all back together again and running like a well-oiled Italian sewing machine. Next morning a blast around the block had it checked out and ready to rock. Sadly the repaired boot light had packed up…again.

Insurance sorted, with only an extra £60 or so to on the insurance upgrade and all the levels checked a rather cautious Jamie took it for a spin round the yard. Reassured that it wasn’t as racy at the bottom end compared to the Jog, but still wary of its size, he departed into the darkening evening clearly quite happy with his lot. All went well until a couple of weeks ago when it came to a grinding halt in Amersham. Had the fuel gremlin returned? A quick look under the seat (Undo the locking bolt in the boot and slide forward) revealed that the vacuum pipe from the engine case to the pump had broken. We should have changed that. Back at workshop a new pipe was soon fitted (we used a bit of flexible injector pipe reckoning that would never fail!) and within a few turns of the engine it was sounding as right as rain which is what was falling outside!

So, as a ride goes, this has proved to be a simple reliable scoot. It is very comfy and with 30 odd psi in the tyres it rides well and is quite stable despite its apparent bulk. The back rest can be pushed flat allowing a pillion passenger to ride in comfort. I’d say if I needed a cheap run-around this would do. In town it would pass as a two-seater and out of town it will bash its way quite quickly up to 60mph and keeps with the traffic on A-roads quite well, its distinct presence making it quite visible. Mileage-wise it seems to be doing 75-100mpg and the separate two-stroke oil tank (synthetic) seems to see out two tank fulls. There is a very stable centre stand which can be used from either side and rather irksome sprung-loaded side-stand (best left alone). It will only start on the starter if either of the brake levers are pulled. Its water-cooled, the radiator in the front cowling with a fan which seldom cuts in. Apart from the usual, on the simple clear dash there is a fuel and temperature gauge along with low oil and fuel warning lights. A sensor won’t let you start it if the oil is low. In fact if the sensor wire falls off it won’t start as we discovered having struggled the tank back in after unblocking the fuel lines and pulled the connector apart. Rather irritatingly we had to have most of the front off to reconnect it. There are large well-placed indicators on the corners but the switch seemed a bit fiddly to use at first but there is a push cancel which, once I’d been shown how to use, made it simple. The boot is huge and is fitted with a very unreliable internal light which we disconnected in the end. It easily takes a helmet, sandwich box and a few spares (like fuel-hoses). The only downside is the fiddly and somewhat complicated necessary removal of the side panels if you want to get at anything service-wise. If you don’t take care it would be easy to break the clips. Captive screws are used for most of the fittings and if these corrode they will need cutting off. We replaced most of them with 8mm stainless nuts and bolts using penny-washers. Corrosion could be a problem if the underframe and fittings aren’t kept clean, painted and sealed. We certainly had an advisory which on further investigation was only surface so as a precaution this would be a thing to do. Changing bulbs is straightforward and reasonably easy. The large headlight unit is removed by undoing two screws behind panels in the back of the legshield and adjustment is by a long screwdriver through a hole under its beak. On this model the rear light bulbs are accessed by removing the lens secured by a couple of screws. Spares still seem readily available and are common to some of the later models. All in all a great little scoot which would seem to be well built and reliable requiring little in the way of maintenance. The silencer has to come off to get the rear wheel out but tubeless tyres means that you can at least chuck a tin of tyre seal in the boot! I’d think about one for suburban commuting but anything more and I’d be on a bike. As for the Stylish Sensation, it is all back together and another has been found for spares so it lives again.