Friday, July 18, 2014

Ride to the land of fire

It's time once more to share some correspondence with a reader.  I think you'll find this interesting.  I know I do.  I've edited it only to correct typos from our fat-fingered typing, and to add links to make the references easy to follow.

Ralph writes:
I have been viewing your blog now for couple of months.

You have a very clear and unique prose style that makes for easy and enjoyable reading. Plus you do an excellent job in describing changes, additions and upgrades.

I would like your opinion on my consideration of riding a Vespa to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

This is not a new or novel idea as it has been done a number of times from what I can determine. The Germans have been running around South America on their high powered motorcycles.

I have read the following publications:
What Vespa would you recommend for such a trip? I noted your recent experience on the Vespa three wheeler. Is that one for such a trip?

I have been riding a 1996 Vespa for years and now have more than a hundred thousand miles on it. I changed the original engine for a  LML unit that has an electronic ignition system as an upgrade.

Any comments or feed back on this email?



Hi Ralph,

Thanks for the kind words.

A trip like that is truly an adventure. I don't have any experience with that sort of tour, but I have read accounts of long distance touring on Vespas.

If it were me, I'd choose the Vespa you've got, or something similar. Vintage Vespas or their more modern counterparts like the P200, have the advantage of being much simpler machines mechanically, and parts are more readily available.

I've read accounts of riders who have gone that route and those that rode motorcycles went for something light and mechanically simple like a Kawasaki KLR or a Honda XR or another relatively simple dual-sport bike.

With any of the modern Vespas you'll need to change tires and belts for a trip of that length, and you are unlikely to find the parts you'll need in many places in Mexico, or Central or South America.

The vintage Vespas are similar in terms of being a) very reliable and b) relatively simple to work on. Check out the Cannonball links on the right side of my blog page. If you go to the official Scooter Cannonball page, you'll find the blogs of some of the vintage Vespa and Stella riders.  See if you can get in touch with some of them. Riders of two-stroke scooters have basically rebuilt their vintage bikes in their motel rooms on more than one occasion.

My other advice is to join the forum, and go to the Not-so-Modern discussion group. That's where all the vintage Vespa owners hang out. You'll get excellent advice there.  You'll find links to the ModernVespa Cannonball threads for 2014, 2012 and 2010 in the sidebar.

Also check out Ken Wilson's Cross Egypt Challenge page in my links in the sidebar.

Finally, there are some South Africans who have ridden from Cape Town to Dublin. See

On their blog they list the reasons for selecting their scooters (4 speed manual, two stroke, LML scooters). One word of caution though, read the official 2014 Cannonball thread on ModernVespa. There is a link to the thread on my blog. Someone in the 2014 Cannonball was riding a Stella (LMLs are marketed in the US as Stellas) and I think they ran into some issues.

If you could reliably get parts for a modern 4 stroke CVT fuel injected Vespa along your route, my recommendation would be the Vespa LX150. It's been as reliable as the day is long. That said, you'll have a hard time finding parts, and changing the rear tire will be a colossal pain: a) because you have to take the exhaust off first (not easy) and b) because it's a tubeless tire and breaking the bead will be a chore all by itself. The LML, or Stella, or Vespa P200 have split rims, and the rear and front tire are interchangeable, plus you can carry a spare.

The Vespa P200 will do a maximum of 120 kph (75 mph) which should be plenty on the roads you'll be traveling.

Finally, I strongly suggest that for that kind of trip you get a Spot Messenger satellite transponder beacon. That will allow your loved ones and support team to track your travels, plus you get included search and rescue if you buy the search and rescue insurance. All told it's not that expensive and the peace of mind to know you can call for help literally anywhere on the planet even where there is no cell coverage is priceless.

Last but not least, with your permission I'd really like to post this e-mail exchange on my blog, but I won't do it without your permission. I don't need to mention names, I usually just say "a reader asks".

Whichever way you decide to go, please keep in touch. Also, If I were you, I'd start blogging about it now.

Oh... one more thing. If you decide to use a Vespa, a) raise money for charity, and b) get in touch with Piaggio, they might find a place in the Vespa museum for your scoot when you're done.



Greetings Dave,

Thank you for your comments and suggestions on my possible trip to the end of the Earth on a Vespa. 

As usual, you covered the subject in a very thorough and complete manner addressing some of serious considerations for a trip of this length and nature.

I think your comments should be made available to other people that follow your Blog so I have no problem with you releasing this and my original message to you.

As I indicated, I am at this point still in the stage of investigating all the problems and situations that I may encounter if I go forward with this idea. Should I make the go head decision after further discovery work I will get back to you on this. 

In the meantime continue with your excellent blog as I am sure there are a lot of other scooter riders who benefit from it and your descriptive writing style.

Best regards,


PS: My longest trip to date have been Cleveland, Ohio to Buffalo, New York. Not much distance in comparison to the ultimate trip I am looking at.

Bradley Timm added:

Good day David.

Once again, a very insightful read. I was glad to see you made mention of the CapeTown-to-Dublin ride by my scooter friends here in South Africa.

We rode regularly under the "Scooter Addicts" banner both before and after their long ride.

I was devastated to hear when I was in Paris last month that Chris (the guy in the red T-Shirt on the first picture) has gone blind as a result of a virus he picked up in middle Africa somewhere. I am still in regular contact with him, but his riding days are over.

Maybe an additional consideration is ensuring updated anti-viral shots/injections (and other prophelactics) relevant to countries being toured.

Keep up the interesting blog.




Hi Bradley,

How tragic.

We often think the modern world is a playground. It's sobering to hear that someone has paid so dear a price for venturing on a road trip.





Dar said...

I hope he blogs about his trup, would be very interesting to follow.

SonjaM said...

What a great adventure! I would also side with a PX for the trip, and carburettor over fuel injection. I wonder if Ralph is going to pull through with the plan und sure hope that he will blog about it.

David Masse said...

Dar I couldn't agree more.

I'd love just to see the route plotted out.

Going through Brasil you'd want to look as much like a local as you could. I'd want a well beaten up bike with no appeal to thieves and I'd want to disguise my gear as a collection of trash. You'd need stealthy armor. Maybe more Kevlar. A police vest under a ratty jean jacket might be just the ticket.

David Masse said...

Ralph mentioned that he would keep in touch.

It's a lot to think about.

A practice run of a few thousand klicks before heading into Mexico is what I would want to do.

Conchscooter said...

Google Stergios Gogos

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

Thanks much for sharing David's planned trip as well as your advice (very sound by the way). I knew about some of the rides/books that you mentioned but I now see that I'll need another rainy evening to do some more online exploring of your mentions.

Dar said...

As much as I like adventure, I think I will leave gat to people who are braver than I am. Not sure I'd want to ride somewhere that I needed a police vest. Little too unnerving for me.

David Masse said...

Thanks Michael, the YouTube videos are very compelling. I'll come back and post a few of them.

David Masse said...

Doug, as this post and the comments evolve lots of interesting information is layering on.

Bradley's message provides a sobering backdrop.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.