I’m Rebuilding My Vespa P200e… By Myself. I’m Sure It’ll Be Fine.
Yeah, I took my Vespa apart. But here’s why, though:
One of my closest nearest/dearest buddies is a mechanic at Vespa Motorsport, and the problem with that is that he will actually take a wrench out of my hands to fix something I’m working on, and with his next breath will tell me that he gets tired of working on everyone’s stuff. Even though I wanted to work on my projects myself, I started feeling like our friendship was becoming unbalanced, and that was making me feel tentative and nervous around him, further getting us off track.
My solution was to rebuild my Vespa myself in my own garage.
That thing had been leaking for years; the only time it stopped leaking is when it ran out of oil. It was taking more kicks to get started, and it felt like it was running a little weak. I tended to ride the Vespa pretty hard, and i had concerns about having taken it on the 650-mile ride through Mexico.
Michelle had just rebuilt her Vespa with a more experienced mechanic looking over her shoulder as she worked, telling her how to do it step-by-step. That meant that she’d be a great resource: fresh memories, reinforced from hearing and doing at the same time. I had a Hayes manual, and the scooter shop put together an amazing tutorial video. The shop mechanics would be available if I got really stuck. I had the time, the space, the tools, and the audacity to make this happen.
- Take the bike apart with the smallest amount of input possible: Hayes manual only, relying heavily on the exploded views. That would make my brain work hard, and hopefully I’d be more likely to remember how the pieces fit together.
- Be determined. If a bolt is stuck, unstick it. If a screw is stripped, figure it out: carve new notches, use vicegrips, whatever. Use breaker bars (lengths of pipes fitted over the handles of tools to elongate the handle, providing more force to turn the stuck part. This is when that math/science I thought I’d never use came in handy.).
- Don’t be stupid. If something is really hard, fussy, or has a super-low tolerance for error, bring it in to the shop and pay for shop time. For example, I didn’t have a way to test the runout on the crankshaft, so that’s definitely a shop project. Checking gears and bearings for wear was be beyond my skill set, too.
- Ask those with more experience for tips, but don’t let them touch the bike unless it was absolutely necessary.
- No rushing allowed. It takes as long as it takes to do it right. Enjoy the process. Think and learn and meditate. Be patient. No getting frustrated. No belly aching, no tears.
- Bring the bike in to the shop for a final check before riding it.
So I hemmed and hawed and stalled for a few weeks. What finally got me started was signing up for the Lake Tahoe TT (hosted by The Motor-Scooter International Land-Speed Federation) and promising myself that I’d take my own rebuilt Vespa through the 320-mile race. That meant I’d have to finish the project with enough time to break in the engine: 1000 miles going between 25 and 45 miles per hour. That would take time, a month at a reasonable time commitment each week. That gave me two weeks to do the work.