Tag Archives: Skins

How Vespas, music, anti-racism and braces make me want to ride again.

Reflections Scooter Society, approximately 7 or 8 years ago (as cited by another rider)

So, I get quite a lot of comments when someone hears about me riding a scooter, and get tons of the same comments over and over: “Don’t those only go 25mph?” “Oh, those are good for students and grandmas as commuters, but not a REAL man’s bike” and my personal irritation… “What’s so great about ‘scooter clubs’? They’re just for hipsters!”

Seriously? I mean, I know most people in the United States are sheltered and rarely leave their den of fast-food-laden, Wal-Mart furnished comfort and conformity.  But, there is some serious negative image typing going on.  Granted, most of it is perpetuated by the media and by companies wanting to sell Americans more expensive, less useful and less fun bikes.  But, Take a look elsewhere and you will find out that the REST of the civilized world has taken a different view, and that view is growing in the US, and how the scene started WITH scoots, but only because they were a gateway to a larger sub culture and the bikes were machines that enabled.

I grew up in between two cultures: Redneck-istan (Arizona/Arkansas on the American side) and Lower-class English (ex-Navy mum with that side of the family from the UK). We bounced around a lot and by the time I was a teenager, I was attracted to three things: Theater, mechanics and scooters.  Eventually, I found out about “Skinhead” culture, and no it’s not the kind that wears bedsheets and is stuck in the American Civil War.  We’re talking about SHAPRS: Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.  English Skinheads are working class scooterists, gearheads and hooligans who were known for mixing “below their class” with blacks from both the US and the Caribbean, adopting their Motown and Reggae music and mixing in English punk and motoring.  Sort of a militant Liberal labour class if you will. It’s always had a presence in the US, but usually is lost in the “Punk” world.  Emo bois today are scared of them since most of us are older, bigger and angrier by default.  That and the constant mistake that Nazi types are in the same vein will get you bashed up pretty well.

But, it’s their love for modified scooters that make them stick in the US.  The Vespa in particular was a bike that EVERYONE could afford, and like the Mods, Skins picked up these bikes too.  But, rather than go with flashy bits and tons of mirrors, they kitted the engines out to insane specs during the off time at shops they worked at (since many Skinheads were industrial workers, hence the close cropped hair, clean and well kept simple look, workboots and no-nonsense labour attitude). They cut off bits that added weight, ported and re-sleeved engines, upfitted carburetors and generally did very wrong things to small bikes to make them go VERY fast! While some had flash, it was all about the business of going fast!

(this one has a bit of fluff in the form of Horns, but aside from that you can see this Lambretta has been cut down and tweaked to get the most speed with the least weight)

Funny part was, the older I got, the more “Geek” I became.  I also wasn’t able to get a scooter until College.  It took me a while to balance my highschool attitude with my grownup development in the more “nerdly” field of the arts.  It was a weird mix that some found unsettling.  So, the geek side won out.  But, it’s not to say I don’t have a hard time keeping down the attitude towards bigots, bikers and generally any conservatives.  Especially when I get shit about my scooter. Yes, awkwardness still prevails, but luckily in today’s society it’s cool to be geek, so I can let that side fly and not worry about hitting the weights so much or having the fastest bike in the group!

And, I suppose that’s one reason why this gang appeals to me: To, in part, bring that skinhead back.  He’s not a bad guy, loves wrenching and ready to get back on the road.  I’m sure there’s other blokes like me out there who have “blended” in, but I think it’s time we found some bikes, dug out those braces and came back to where we belong.  I myself may have other reasons, but the bikes do help!