This year’s Tranz Alpine Scooter Safari was about 5 years in the making for me.
Friends had done it going back to when it started, in 2009. Every 2 years the event runs from Christchurch to Hokitika, via Arthurs Pass. In the past it’s conflicted with other things I had been doing, but since my career change the motivation has finally arrived, and this year was mine!
The event is limited to 250 scooters. Theoretically they are all 50cc or less, with a top speed of 50 kmh. Of course, the event is now attracting all sorts, with 300 cc Vespas, a variety of 50 cc motorcycles, and a load of other “things” which loosely fitted into a vague category of scooter.
This year it set out from Ruapuna Raceway instead of the normal departure from the airport. 4 laps of the track sorted out some degree of pecking order. 250 was the largest number of powered vehicles ever to travel around the track at the same time, according to the Canterbury Car Club.
The ride then set off out West Coast Road, split into stages that made the 250 km trek more achievable. The first stage was one where people basically found their feet, and became accustomed to riding in close quarters with lots of other scooters. Bunches formed, and separated, as the speeds and capabilities of the bikes was sorted.
My Adly Silver Fox was flat out at an indicated 65 kmh on the flat, and I seriously doubted the moped-ness of those who went past me like I was stopped. For most of the day my throttle was wide open, and the gradient decided how quickly I was to be going. Uphill I dropped to 20 – 30 kmh (Porters Pass was a beast) but on the downhill with full throttle the speedo wound off the 80 kmh clock. I should have had my GPS on board as I doubt the speedo, but for sure my Silver Fox is high geared.
Stage 1 ended at Sheffield, with a hot pie and a coke. Real scooter food.
Stage 2 was through to Lake Lyndon, and that was when the real “race” began. By then we had some idea of who was faster
than who, so it played out all the way to the top of Porters Pass. Its fair to say that my tall gearing was a serious problem going up hill, and a serious weapon going down.
Stage 3 was through to lunch at Arthur’s Pass, and I ran out of gas as I putted into the carpark there. Whew !! Nice lunch, and the best stage of the day then started.
I caught up with tow guys on bikes with very, very similar performance to mine. I was faster downhill, one was faster uphill, and the other was faster on the flat. We were swapping and changing position at 65 kmh or so for around 30 km to the Kumara Racecourse. I had an insight into what the Moto GP guys do, but at far, far lower speeds. On hills we swapped positions, slip streaming each other, but mainly without the oomph (a technical term) to leave each other behind. It was actually a bit deflating to finish that stage, it was a real highlight for me.
The final stage was through to Hokitika, where the evening function was held. The evet had raised over $160000, and since 2009 it has raised over $750000 for the Cancer Society.
If you are looking for a challenge, and a great couple of days with some other enthusiasts, this is a must-do event. It’s next on in 2018.
I recognized lots of folk I had worked with over the last year on various license and Ride Forever courses. What a great crowd to spend the weekend with.
Pete – Instructor (AKA Scooter Survival Grand Poobah)