Iggy Grainger has been involved with scooters since the 1980s, attending rallies and then going on to write for magazines such as Scootering, MCN, Twist & Go and Classic Scooterist Magazine. He was one of the co-founders of ScooterLab UK, where he is now the main man and gets to test all sorts of bikes, gear and performance parts to help us decide what to spend our hard-earned cash on next.
He’s also written a book about the scene (available here) which is sitting on the bookshelf in front of me as I write this post!
Iggy is a regular rally-goer, both in the UK and abroad, including this epic adventure to Ibiza last summer. Here is the story of how it all started for him, and how it became a way of life…
Iggy Grainger – My First Rally
How did you first get into scooters?
It was whilst I was at school in around 1983-84 when I noticed a few older kids wearing parkas. A few of us wondered what it was all about and before we knew it we had a gang of 12-13-year-old wannabe mods.
Before long we’d formed a scooter club with 40 members (but no scooters at the time though) and were set for a life of two-wheeled addiction.
What was your first scooter rally?
I’d been to a couple of rallies before the first one by scooter. DISC ’85 was the first and we hired a 53-seater coach and filled it with schoolkids.
At Weston ’87, I got there in the back of an Escort van and slept by a campfire in some polythene sheeting on the rubbish tip, with no sleeping bag after my stuff got locked in the van.
By Margate ’87 I was 16 and on the road on a 50 Special but I travelled down there through the night in the back of a box van with 22 skinheads from another local club, Out of Control SC. We arrived as dawn was breaking over the old railway side campsite, as smoke hung in the air and the place seemed to smell of dog shit.
Whilst there I witnessed my first glassing incident, felt the effects of CS gas for the first time in the Old Kent Tavern and watched a bloke drink a pint of piss for a few quid. It didn’t put me off though, this was the lifestyle for me!
The first rally I rode to though was at Easter 1988 to the Isle of Wight.
How did you get there?
It’s around 200 miles from home and I was two up on my brand new red Vespa T5 which I’d bought on HP from Midland Scooter Centre on my 17th Birthday in December 1987. I’d not passed my test at the time (although would do one month later) but you could take a full licence-holding pillion back then. I had Gray Gee on the back, and he took over riding for the motorway part. I travelled down with the Mansfield Monsters, although at that time I was still in the Notts Warriors. We had Jeff Smith with us as well and he’d got loads of High Court injunctions against him and the rally after the previous year’s IOW riots.
We got pulled over before even leaving Mansfield and were asked by the copper if we knew we weren’t welcome on the island and whether we realised there were injunctions out against the organisers. Quick as a flash Jeff piped up, “Yeah I’ve got them here do you want to have a look?”. We got pulled over a couple of other times during the journey and when we finally got to Portsmouth in the middle of the night the police were searching the scooters and confiscating any tools they deemed to be dangerous. They had big ‘sin bins’ set up on the docks, but I never did get my machete back…
What job were you doing at the time?
Back then I was working at a motorway services on the M1, cooking, cleaning, serving etc. I reckon I was on around £65 a week and had the HP on my T5 to pay every month (which seemed like a fortune back then) plus my board. I can’t imagine I took much money with me, probably about £30.
Where did you stay when you were there?
We had a back-up van driven by Alf, and we’d all chipped in towards it. When we got off the ferry we lost the van, it was the early hours of the morning and we ended up in Sandown. It was early April, freezing cold, and he had our tents and sleeping bags. We ended up finding a public toilet and slept on its roof on the seafront. Or should I say, spent the night shivering on the seafront.
The following morning we rode off to find the van and campsite, but it was on a farm and the place was like a quagmire. We decided to find something a bit better so rode to Ryde and ended up spending two nights sleeping either under the van on the tarmac of the car park, or for a change of scenery inside some big concrete drainage pipes that were waiting to be laid. It’s fair to say we didn’t get much sleep though. The police were chasing and arresting people across our makeshift campsite during the night. During the day I made my first visit to the King Lud and no doubt threw up again later that night.
Were you in a club at the time?
As I said, I was in the Notts Warriors, the club we’d formed at school which was going well with around 40 members. Almost all had either a 50 or 125 by this stage and we were loving our new-found freedom, the buzz and excitement of it all. The average age of our club members was 16 but they were fantastic times.
We’d go to as many scooter dos as we could, and the Calverton Hornets were always putting stuff on then. I can still feel the atmosphere as I walked into the Lakeside Pavilion, classic tunes and the heat of sweaty scooterists packed into the venue in Nottingham. Within four years pretty much everybody in the Warriors dropped out of scootering, although a couple have come back into it again recently and are like teenagers again which is good to see.
Do you have any memories of the rally itself?
I remember riding down some pitch-black A-road in Oxfordshire when a Mark 1 Escort sped towards us with its full beam on. The car spun around and drove really close to us at full pelt, intimidating us, then turned around and made a couple more passes. It was terrifying at the time and I was glad when the dickheads got bored and left us alone.
Another memory is being on the M1 and seeing a recovery truck, which as we got closer to it we could see the car it was towing, which was facing the road and had its two front wheels on the motorway had a family of four sat in it, just sat there like it was normal. Weird!
Was the journey home eventful?
The only part of the ride home I can remember was one of the lads, Parker’s Lambretta exhaust dropping off. He bodged it back on using a cable inner, which lasted for a bit but it dropped off again on the M1. He ran the exhaust over and fell off! He wasn’t hurt though.
What was your favourite rally anthem?
By 1988 I was mostly into psychobilly, and I had a daft horseshoe haircut (or flat top depending how I felt at the time) and listened to King Kurt (still my favourite today) and The Meteors.
Wreck a Party is still an anthem today.
What was your favourite custom scooter of that era?
For me Jeremy Howlett’s Spirit Walker was a firm favourite. His customs were always done to the extreme, especially at a time when most of us could barely afford to keep a scooter on the road. His were a class above. I actually saw him riding it as well at an MSC open day.
If you’d like to revisit the full DISC 86 Programme then you can see it here for a major dose of 80s scootering nostalgia!
Do you still have a scooter now?
I’ve never been without a scooter since I was 15 when I bought my 50 Special. Currently I have a Lambretta Series 1, Eibar Quattrini powered Series 2, a PX 210 (on the naughty step), a T5 172 engined Vespa 152 L2 (also problematic), a 172cc Italjet Dragster and a Yamaha TMAX 530 on long term loan.
What do scooters mean to you now?
I’d say they mean as much to me now, if not more than they ever did. If I’m not riding one then I’m thinking about riding, or fixing scooters. If I’m not doing that then I’m writing about them (it’s my full-time job as well as a passion). The rallies have changed quite a bit in the last few years, so they aren’t quite as important as they once were, but the people I ride with, the friendships I’ve made, the places I’ve visited and the memories I’ve made will never leave me. I get my kicks riding unsuitable machines to far off destinations with undesirable people.
When we were young people thought we were daft, getting into some cult movement, wearing weird clothes and riding hairdryers. Thirty odd years later they all want a piece of our scene. Everybody has a scooter in their adverts, we’re swamped with tribute acts in pubs, they all want to be like us. As it turns out we were the clever ones, we can visit anywhere in the world, or break down on any road and have a fellow scooterist to help us out. We have hundreds of friends, the most active social life. Scooters may have cost us dearly but we’re rich in many other ways.
Thanks so much to Iggy for this interview, and the support he has given with my website too! If you’d like to buy Iggy’s book then click the link below.
You can read more of the recent My First Rally series using the links below, or look under ‘Interviews’ in the scooter menu at the top of this page for the full collection. Other featured scooterists include Norrie Kerr, Sticky and Iggy Grainger.
More My First Rally stories
I have a comprehensive 2019 rally list and it includes plenty of tips for accommodation and what’s on at each event. Click here for the lowdown and you can also see a listing of northern dos, bands, scooter club nights and alldayers here.
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