Joanna Daines has dipped in and out of the scootering scene for nearly 40 years, taking breaks to go raving in the mid-90s, and later to get involved with family life.
But with the sound and smell of a two-stroke in her blood from her mid-teens, she’s always been drawn back into a scene that’s been a constant in British culture since the 1960s.
“It’s a scene that, if you’re not involved, you miss it and you start wanting to get back on two wheels,” says Jo, whose scootering friends have turned up en masse for our photoshoot.
“If you hear a scooter, you always turn around to see what it is and if you might know the person riding it – I’ve always done that!
“Generally a male thing”
“I don’t know what the draw is to me, because generally it’s more of a male thing. There are not many single women into classic scooters – it’s usually a girlfriend who gets introduced via the guy, and leaves if they split but, although that’s how I originally started, I’m still here.”
An inveterate event planner, Jo organises a yearly charity ride out every May, the Great Yarmouth Scooter Weekender in October, and co-founded the 2 Stroke ‘N’ Smoke Scooter Club, all with best friend and fellow scooterist Howard Timony.
She also runs Northern Soul events around East Anglia, and has been asked to take over the longstanding Mods and Rocker’s May Day invasion of Great Yarmouth in 2024.
“I really enjoy organising music and scooter events, it’s just a thing within me,” she says. “I got into it by accident when I was young, and it’s just something I love doing.”
Originally, Jo was one of the girlfriends introduced to scootering by her boyfriend Mark who, along with their school friends, were scooterists in the mid-80s.
“I remember going on the train to Yarmouth with my crash helmet for my first scooter rally,” she says, “so I must have been around 15. Mark passed his test after that so I could go on the back of his Lammy.
“We picked up a Vespa Primavera 90 in boxes for cheap. Mark rebuilt it and we rattle-can sprayed it purple and added white pinstripes – I loved it.”
After leaving school, Jo attended Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design, where she met and made friends with a wider group of teenagers.
“They were more into alternative music than the people I had known at school, so I got into the psychobilly music scene,” she says, ending up running some events at the famous, but now defunct, Oval Rockhouse on the outskirts of Norwich.
“It was a rock music pub, but it was my local and they let me start psychobilly and punk nights. I had a little black book full of bands from all over the country, big bands at the time like Demented Are Go and The Long Tall Texans.
“I also worked there as a glass collector when the heavy metal bands were on, so I was there when Iron Maiden came and played as The Nodding Donkeys. I used to hang out with all the bands in the bar afterwards. It was a cool place to be.”
But back to the scooters, and Mark and his friend Phil started a scooter club called the George and Dragon.
“It was meant to be in the George and Dragon pub, but we didn’t always go there because a lot of members were still quite young – so we met in people’s sheds,” says Jo.
“We used to go for ride-outs and to rallies in fairly big groups. I remember on one occasion we went to Skegness and some people were only on their 50s, so it was a long slow journey.
“One scooter ended up just being left in a garden when it broke down. The guy just jumped onto the back of someone else’s scooter with his bin bag of stuff and carried on – no AA for us then. “We just looked after each other and still do, it’s one big family.
Having also studied photography at college, Jo would sometimes take a camera to the rallies, and she shows me an album full of photos of the scooters and riders from the late 1980s.
Scooter rally photographs
“I took a lot of photos of custom scooters, but my favourite picture is actually that of a policeman bending down admiring a ratty chopper next to a skip,” she says, smiling.
“I’ve always loved the scooter rallies and the sense of achievement when you got there. We went all over the country back then, from Wales to Scarborough, Whitby to Santa Pod, and obviously the local one’s including Yarmouth.
“That feeling has never gone away and I still ride for miles on a classic scooter, having never taken the decision to buy a more modern machine.”
“In the early days, I used to like getting drunk, jumping about to bands, and dancing to Northern Soul and Ska for hours. It was easy to ride for miles, party all night and not sleep, and then ride back again ready for work on Monday.
“That’s changed a bit now, I’m older, take longer to recover and I don’t really drink so much, so it’s more about the social aspect – going and meeting up with friends from all over the country, friends you’ve known for donkey’s years but only see at rallies.
“We all go way back. Some have stayed on the scene all the way through, but many have dipped in and out like me. I still love the bands and the music and all the other elements of a scooter rally though, from a custom show to the games.
Mersea Island the best
“For me, the Mersea Island scooter rally is the best and the one I’ve been to the most. I’ve witnessed many a ‘victim’ of the beer and banana races.”
Jo’s second scooter was a “pretty” pearlescent white and metallic blue Vespa PX125, bought when the Vespa 90 was written off, rear-ended by a BMW while she was waiting for a bus to pull out.
Next came a brand new, burgundy Vespa T5 Classic, which she christened on a run to the north Wales coast.
“I remember I was still running it in for part of the journey so it seemed to take forever,” she says. “We went all the way to Llandudno on a 125cc 2’s up, and got soaking wet – our thin basic waterproofs didn’t stand a chance!
“At that time, a lot of people just ended up wearing bin bags to try and keep dry, and tents were cheap and rubbish and leaked. We often didn’t even bother bringing them home.
“We didn’t have much money, but we’d jump on the scooters and go halfway across the country with just a list of directions Sellotaped to our headsets, some spare socks and a few quid in our pockets – but we had such an amazing time.”
In her mid-20s, however, there was a dramatic shift away from scooters.
Into the rave scene
“I got completely out of scooters and the music and moved into the rave scene, a weird shift,” she laughs. “I was really into health and fitness, training every day at the gym after work, so then I started kickboxing and met some people on the rave scene.
“So my intentions to get healthy ended up changing my entire lifestyle and friendship group. It was at this time when I met my daughter’s father.”
The Vespa T5 was at a friend’s when Jo was told it had been stolen.
“I thought there was no chance of getting it back, so I claimed off the insurance,” she says, “until about two years later when the police came around and said ‘we’ve found your scooter – they’ve souped it all up, do you want it back?’
“But I wasn’t into scooters then, although it was quick, and in hindsight, I should have kept it – but we all say that about all the scooters we sold years ago for next to nothing.
The raving went the way of the scooters when Jo gave birth to her daughter, Katie, in 1998, and for the next decade or so, she focused on work and her daughter.
Then in 2011, she started a new marketing position, working for a local insurance broker that covered classic scooter insurance.
“My job meant working on a trade stand at rallies, and I was straight back in love with the scene,” she says. “I saved up and bought a new black PX125 at Moonrakers, which I still ride. I met many new friends including Al and Michelle from the Jackass Scooter Club, and Michelle and I still meet up and go to rallies together when we can.
Naked charity scooter calendar
“I helped with a ‘March of the Mods’ event and a ‘naked’ charity calendar around this time, helping to raise money for some great causes.”
She also joined the Sidewinders Scooter Club, helping to restart the Yarmouth Scooter Rally at the racecourse in 2013.
“The nationals had stopped a few years before when apparently it snowed, and no one liked the venue,” she says. “It cost us thousands to put it on – a big risk as we put all the expenses on our credit cards. It was bloody hard work but a successful event. However, after a couple of events, I moved away and left the club to continue to run it.”
In 2014, Jo bought the Vespa 50 Special you see in these pictures for Katie, who had turned 16.
“I received a small inheritance when my nan died, so I bought myself an orange PX125 with a 166 Malossi and her the 50cc scooter, but then she passed her car test and lost interest, so she only rode it a few times,” she says.
“A friend with a respray shop took it to paint and, as I was asking a favour, I said ‘whatever car you respray, spray it with the same paint’, and it came back a purple metallic.
“It’s literally then sat in boxes ever since until small frame fanatic Jamie volunteered to finally rebuild it. It’s a 50 special with a 110 kit on it, but it is still slow compared to other scooters on the road.
“Excited to try it”
“I’m just waiting for it to be registered in the UK and then it will be on the road. Katie wants the money towards a house, so I will ride it for a bit as I’m excited to try it after all this time, but then probably will sell it. There aren’t that many around now so hopefully it’s worth a little more than I paid for it.”
With Covid halting events, and the Sidewinders deciding to retire from running the Yarmouth rally, there was a vacancy for someone to start it up, again…
In stepped Jo and Howard.
“Howard had also been a Sidewinder, and we got chatting and said ‘let’s start up a new event now the rally has finished,” says Jo. “We ended up doing two, our scooter ride out and music afternoon in May, plus the end-of-season weekender in October.
“The ride-outs are great. Not everyone wants to go camping or even go to a rally, so it’s good to get a lot more people together for just the ride-outs – we have the one in May and one on the Saturday at the October event.”
Jo, now 53, says she is well and truly back into the scooter scene.
“This year I’ve managed to get to a good few rallies,” she adds. “I thought I was going to be too old to sleep in a tent again, but we’ve had good weather this year and it’s been nice. I’ve been lucky so far, I haven’t had to sleep in a wet or cold tent.”
In 2023, she’s been to Scarborough, Skegness, Run to the Rum at Leiston, Mersea Island, plus ride-outs to places like Hunstanton and the Mods and Rockers weekend in King’s Lynn.
“I was running late for Mersea so I rode down on my own, got stuck by the tide and ended up in a pub with strangers for two hours,” she says. “But it was a laugh and now I’ve got some new friends. It’s one of those scenes you can dip in and out of, and then pick up where you left off.
“You can also go on your own and feel comfy. When I was younger, I didn’t feel so comfy going on a lot of things on my own, but I can do it now if I need to.”
The black PX125 bought in 2011 has taken most of the strain this year, but Jo is building up a small collection of scooters – a sign that, this time, she plans on staying in the scooter scene for good.
“I’ve dipped in and out, but I’m now in it, because I’m buying up lots of scooters, and Michelle’s got a camper van, so if it’s really awful weather I can stay in that,” she says.
As well as the black and orange PXs, and the 50 Special, there’s also a recently acquired cream and burnt orange Spanish import T5 she describes as “a little rusty”.
“I’m going to keep the barn find look,” she says, just waiting to register the bike with DVLA to get it on the road.
When Jo and Howard started up 2 Stroke ‘N’ Smoke, some people with newer, four-stroke scooters wondered if they were allowed to join.
“We couldn’t find a name,” she laughs. “We looked everywhere for a name that hadn’t been used. Then everyone’s going ‘but I don’t have a two-stroke’. It’s fine – you can be in the club.
“Personally, I’ll never have an auto – I like my classic, geared, old-style scooters, although sometimes on the way to a rally the newer ones are whizzing past and I have a moment…then, nah.”
We’re coming to the end of our interview, and Jo’s friends are leaving the car park we’ve chosen for our photoshoot, that familiar two-stroke buzz filling the air.
“That’s why I love it,” she says. “The sound and the smell. When you’re all riding in a line and you’re looking after each other – I love my scootering family.”
Scooter stories is a series of articles exploring the lives and experiences of different types of scooter riders and collectors. Click on the Scooter Stories category link to read more.