Created by Dietrich Limper
on March 21, 2022
Text and photos: José Antonio Fernández "JAF" López de Ochoa and Javi Zabalza.
For a Vespa 300GTS, a winter trip to the North Cape, on studded tires and at -25°C, may be normal and even easy, but for a Vespa PX200 from the 90s it is a big challenge.
Javi Zabalza with his PX200 and who knows how many km, and JAF Fernández with a 2012 300GTS with 325,000 km, climbed last February to the famous "ball" of the North Cape. It was almost 10,000 km on a round trip of which more than 4,000 km were shot on icy roads. All the inconveniences and breakdowns, always in the middle of nowhere and at extreme temperatures even below -30ºC: falls, punctures, clutches, shock absorbers, cables, ignitions, spark plugs, light bulbs, bearings, exhaust, batteries, etc., could not with the determination, energy and passion that these two vespists demonstrated during the 25-day journey to the northernmost geographical point of the European continent, located more than 500 km above the arctic circle.
They left on February 11 from Pamplona (Spain) to Kiel (Germany) where they took a ferry to Göteborg (Sweden). They took the scooters to Germany in a van, thus avoiding the 2,000 km of highway that serve only to wear out tires on highways and ultimately lose time they did not have.
From day one the PX had problems: first the fuel line came off and emptied the fuel tank on the ferry itself. And already during the first stage, the ignition got wet with the incessant rain and had to be changed in the middle of the road. That day they arrived at night in Nyköping (400 km).
First problems with the Vespa PX
The next day the stage would take them to Sundsvall (450km). The PX again had problems with the spark plug that had to be changed at a gas station. On the other hand, the spikes of the PX, more suitable for use on bicycle tires, were worn out by the asphalt routes of the previous stages and no longer gripped enough. They had to be changed upon arrival at the hotel.
On the other hand, the GTS began to have problems starting (engine failure), and several times a day the control unit had to be reset. This "problem" was a common denominator throughout the trip.
From Sundsvall to Umea (275km) black ice suddenly appeared and caused both Vespists to fall. Later the PX had another crash due to ice and snow accumulation on a section of the road, but fortunately without serious consequences. Already in Umea we looked for a place to buy more and better-quality spikes (Best Grip) so that the grip on the ice was greater.
From Umea to Pitea (225km) already with more studs in our tyres, we started the stage but after a few km the PX punctured its rear wheel because the new studs were too big for its tyre. Javi, once again, demonstrated his good work as a mechanic and his permanent good humor, repairing the puncture in the middle of the road, and removing part of the spikes placed on the tread.
The GTS already in the afternoon, suffered a fall again, although without consequences, due to the great accumulation of snow at the entrance of a small town.
Falls, snowdrifts, ice and cold
The next stage, Pitea to Rovaniemi (Finland) (300km), the PX began the day soldering several cables (voltmeter, electric grips, etc.) that had been damaged in some way. On the other hand, the GTS had to unfreeze the rear trunk lock. Later, on the border with Finland, the PX towlines (change and gas) began to freeze due to water entering their covers. Also, the rear brake on the PX froze up and could only brake with the front brake. At night we had to start putting on the battery maintainers and, in addition, in the case of the GTS, plug in the heated silicone plate installed in the motorcycle's crankcase to prevent the engine oil from freezing.
From Rovaniemi to Inari (325km) There was a considerable decrease in traffic, especially trucks, which made driving our scooters more pleasant and less stressful. At 100 km from the start and in the middle of nowhere, the PX showed signs of fatigue again, breaking a part of the rear shock absorber. A cabin in the distance and its kind owner allowed us to fix the shock absorber using a tractor part he found in that good man's garage. Once again, the skill and ingenuity of Javi Zabalza was evident and in two hours we were already rolling towards our destination.
However, a few hours later, already at night, on a detour to a gas station, the accumulated snow and the icy ruts that were under it caused a new fall of the GTS that had to be towed with a strap by the PX to its own fuel station. There Javi discovered that the spark plug pipe had come off. It was to place it and start the motorcycle again. We arrived late to Inari but satisfied with the day. Upon reaching Inari, Javi found that he had a punctured front wheel and had to repair it. It is curious how at low temperatures punctured tires, especially the front ones that support less weight, can endure km and km without problems. Again before going to sleep we put the battery maintainers and heater plate on the GTS.
From Inari to Honningsvag (350km) As soon as the day began, Javi realized that he had frozen the carburetor of his PX (the guillotine did not open). With his welder he heated the carburetor until he could start it. After a few km he suffered a fall without consequences and then the problems returned with the wire ropes freezing, forcing him to stop every few km and try to solve it by manually stretching the aforementioned wire ropes.
The destination of this stage was located on an island that is accessed through a tunnel under the Norwegian Sea, 6 km long, and which has a steep slope both at the beginning and at the exit of the tunnel. And it was precisely at the exit of the tunnel caused by the slope of more than 15 % that the clutch of the PX finished breaking down and the GTS had to tow the PX to the shelter located a few km away.
At night Javi tried to repair it by tightening the clutch springs, etc. We're late, again.
At the final destination
From Honningsvag to North Cape (30 km) And the long-awaited day arrived: the arrival at the North Cape “ball”.
On the way up, the problems of the towrope freezing continued with the consequent stops to stretch them manually. The clutch continued to have problems and finally Javi had to start his PX by hand with a ratchet from the crankshaft. With the kick-start of the PX it was impossible. We got to the "ball" with great difficulty, but the excitement of the place made us forget for a moment the mechanical problems we had. On the way back to Honningsvag the clutch finally broke down and after trying to fix it for more than two hours, in the middle of nowhere and very cold, already getting dark, we had to call the insurance company so that the tow truck would tow the PX all 15 km that was to Honningsvag.
At night the engine had to be removed, and it was then that he realized that the rivets had popped off the elastic, leaving a cover exposed. With basic tools, everything could be riveted in addition to repairing the clutch using spare discs that had to be filed down the inside diameter so that they could be used. It was a long night for Javi, a true phenomenon of nature that absolutely nothing can resist: hats off!
Honningsvag-Inari (350 km) A few km after starting the stage, Javi realized that he was carrying a replacement for the accelerator cable with its corresponding cover and proceeded to change it, so that the related problems were over for the time being and we were able to continue the route. It was quite cold (-30ºC). JAF's heated helmet visor continued to have problems with freezing mist on the visor causing poor visibility which made the already tricky ride even more difficult. We arrived at Inari at night and, as in previous days, we put the maintainers on both vespas, in addition to connecting the silicone heater to the GTS.
Inari-Rovaniemi (325km) As soon as the day started, the GTS's lithium battery showed signs of exhaustion and a second lithium battery had to be used as a reserve. BTW, during all the stages, Javi warned me that he was driving "inclined"... I told him it was due to the unbalanced weight of the luggage. The truth is that if I straightened the direction, the GTS went to the right...
This day we had a long section with a lot of blizzards which made us slow down and be very careful.
The long way back
Rovamiemi- Skelleftea (375 km) This day dawned with a heavy snowfall that slowed down our trip. We take advantage of the passage through the city of Santa Claus to make the necessary purchases and continue moving towards our destination for the day. There were no crashes or breakdowns in our vespas.
Skelleftea-Sundsvall (400 km) The journey to Sundsvall had no special problems. The road was quite clean which made it easy to reach the destination at a good time. Once at the lodge, we take the opportunity to clean the scooters with a Karcher and remove most of the salt accumulated during the previous stages.
Sundsvall-Nyköping (500 km) The previous afternoon's washing caused the failure of the discharge coil again, which got wet and was definitively damaged. Fortunately, Javi had a spare one and once it was replaced, we were able to resume the trip. A few km later, the PX gave unmistakable signs of a flat tire in the front wheel, which forced us to go to a gas station and take advantage of removing the spikes since the road was already clean and no snowfall was expected in the coming days. The GTS also took the opportunity to remove much of the spikes from its tires. Arriving at his destination, Javi noticed that the PX exhaust was loose, and he had to spend time fixing it with wire as well as repairing the flat tire in the morning.
Nyköping- Göteborg (400 km) The last stage was a walk although with a lot of traffic. And it was arriving at the hostel in Göteborg when the GTS gave unmistakable signs that something was wrong with the rear axle. Once in the shelter, Javi verified that the rear swingarm bearing was completely destroyed and only the outer race of the bearing remained. And connecting the dots, we saw that this is what caused my “inclined” driving… The entire trip (about 4,000 km) with a broken bearing and bearing all the weight only on the left shock absorber, Zelioni shock absorbers with more than 300,000 km. In Göteborg we took the ferry that would leave us in Kiel where we mounted our scooters in the van and headed to Pamplona on a non-stop trip.
This trip on a vespa that has meant a before and after for Javi Zabalza and his PX200. A trip in which he has shown all his qualities as a mechanic and above all as a person always ready for anything and with a good humor. It is fair to highlight his enormous determination and resilience to successfully overcome each of the difficulties that occurred during this... white odyssey.
NOTE: Javi brought all the necessary tools to repair all the faults that the PX had (except a radial that he used to repair the shock absorber). He also carried all the spare parts he needed during the trip. All repairs to both the PX and the GTS were carried out by Javi Zabalza.
The best thing about the trip: the people we met along the way and who helped us overcome the inconveniences that we had on a daily basis.
The worst of the trip: how little the trip lasted
The two riders
Passionate and lover of the well-known Sanfermines festivals in which he takes part directly as a member of the troupe of giants and big heads.
Other of his great hobbies are sport fishing and motorcycle racing.
He had his first motorcycle when he was 10 years old, a mobylette, which they gave him with the condition that if he did not start it in a month, he had to return it, with it he learned to drive a motorcycle.
Since then, he has been buying different second-hand motorcycles that he restored until they were perfect. He runs today on circuits with some of them (Ossa Mike Andrews, Yamaha Jog, KTM exc 250cc 2T, Africa Twin 750, Suzuki GSXr750, Sanglas 400, Cagiva Mito 350, Suzuki GS500, Yamaha SR250, Yamaha FZ750, TZR 125, Derbi Variant sport and Vespino ALX).
At 26 years old, and after meeting JAF and his passion for vespa travel, he bought a PK125XL and later acquired a second-hand PX200 vespa that would end up becoming a true traveling scooter. Later came a Cosa 200cc and a 150S.
He currently has several projects, one of them preparing a PK125 to run in the famous endurance race that takes place in Zuera (Spain) in the “proto” category.
In February 2022 he made a trip to North Cape with his friend JAF that would mark a before and after in his motorcycle adventure trips.
Bike rider since the age of 14 and overland rider for over 15 years.
Last big trips: Route 66, Sturgis & National Parks 2014, Scotland 2015, Marocco (2015), North Cape 2016, North Cape 2017 (winter), Dakar 2017, Mongolia 2018, Turkey 2021... Winter Treffen attendance: Elefantentreffen (several times), Tauerntreffen, Altes Elefantentreffen, Krystallrally (twice), Fjordrally, Millevaches (several times), Les Marmottes, Agnellotreffen (several times), Eskimos, Pinguinos, and many more winter Treffen in Spain. Eurovespas attendance: Mantova, Celle, Other vespa meetings attendance: Vespa Alp Days (several times), Vespinga (Portugal), 1000 KM Vespística (Italy), etc Next big summer trip: Pamir, China, KKH, Irán & India (summer 2022) Next big winter challenge: Oymyakon (Siberia) (winter 20??) depends on the current geopolitical situation.
His hobbies are photography, skiing, mountaineering, and climbing, but above all, he is a passionate Vespa rider. His natural state is to be in continuous movement and whenever he is not traveling or practicing sports, he falls sick or makes people around sick. He traveled all over Europe, Asia, part of Africa, South and North America either in Vespa, Honda or Harley and cooperates in different media in travel webs, guides, magazines, radio, and TV.
He is the founder of the CMAC (Classic Motorbike Alumni Chapter) and of the Squadra Vespa Navarra. Member of the Vespa Club of Spain and the Vespa Club Massa (Italy) and Life member of the H.O.G. (Harley Davidson). He organizes every year the Vespirena Extreme, an annual vespa giro through the Pyrenees.