They’re on their way; two-wheeling toward the circuit streets of Asbury Park over concrete and cowpath. Lone riders, hailing from all around the Northeast and then some — classic metal beneath their seats and the briny sea air in their faces. Announcing their arrival with a rev of their engines, and lining up curbside like they used to do back in the days of places like Mrs. Jay’s.
Relax; the Glory Stompers haven’t come roaring back from some home-video graveyard. This weekend, the streets surrounding the Asbury Lanes are owned by the members of the New Brunswick-based Sole Runners Scooter Club — organizers of Ride-On Weekend 6(66): The Mark of the Beach, an event (now in its third year in Asbury) that’s become “the Largest Scooter Rally on the East Coast.”
By scooters, we mean the sleek and spartan two-stroke motoring machines that were such a transportation staple of post-WWII Europe. While the small and speedy vehicles never took hold on the wide-open highways of new-frontier America, their efficiency, facility and old-world street smarts made them plucky performers in rambling villages and decaying cityscapes alike. Perfect for spiriting the microfilm down stone steps and narrow alleyways as the enemy spies crash their Trabants into the canal.
Formed in New Brunswick by Quincy Bright and assembled around a core group of about a half dozen scooterphiles, the SoleRunners (so named because they ride solo — you know, when they’re not riding together) now boast membership in three states, and even an official mission statement — one that involves “riding, working on, restoring and destroying Lambretta scooters (not Vespas).”
See, while the Vespa comes to mind as perhaps the best-known EuroScooter, for the purposes of the SoleRunners we’re talking about the Lambretta — the Milanese marque produced between 1947 and 1971. It’s a line that shares its heritage with such sister scoots as the Serveta from Spain and the NSU from Germany. Other officially licensed Lambretta variants built in places like Argentina, Brazil, France and India are club-kosher too. In other words, the Sole Runners are as passionate about their rides as the most dedicated devotee of the exalted Harley nameplate.
The SoleRunners have their own cinematic icon, too — not Brando in The Wild One, but Jimmy, the conflicted protagonist of Quadrophenia, the 1979 movie based on The Who’s classic concept album set during the mods-and-rockers conflict of the 1960s.
And, thanks in large part to charter member and club president (and, last we checked, Keansburg resident) Nuno Rodrigues, the SoleRunners have an official soundtrack — a club-sanctioned mix of ska, rocksteady, reggae, soul, punk and Oi that reflects their man’s service as drummer with the Brunswick-area ska combo The Hub City Stompers, as well as his club-DJ career overseeing the ska/reggae library of The Steady Soundsystem.
Rodrigues — known for such spiritually sporting riding maneuvers as the Superman, the Jesus Christ, and the hands-free, cross-legged Buddha — will be performing as both DJ and as one of the Stompers inside the kegler’s cathedral and atom-age alternative arts center on Fourth Avenue. Also on the bill tonight and tomorrow are old Shore faves Barry and the Penetrators, Across the Aisle, Distant Enemies and more. Doors open at 8pm and it’s ten bucks to get in.
Red Bank oRBit talked to SoleRunners Club minister of information Stephen Lorincz at his workplace in the Soho part of Manhattan — curiously enough, a shop that sells Vespas.
RED BANK ORBIT: I guess the question that begs to be asked is, I’m calling you at a Vespa shop — have the SoleRunners entered a new phase, and changed the rules to allow Vespa owners?
STEPHEN LORINCZ: As a club, it remains a Lambretta club. If you ride a Vespa, you will never be a SoleRunner.
That sounds harsh. Like ‘lips that touch alcohol, will never touch mine.’
I have a much more liberal view myself. I work with Vespas, and at our event we’ll have people who ride Vespas, Hondas and other makes. We’re good friends with the other owners. It’s just that the club is dedicated to Lambretta. I have three Lambrettas that I keep out in front of where I live.
Where is that?
In Brooklyn; Bensonhurst.
The scooters stay outside? What do you do to secure them?
Actually, it’s a great neighborhood, full of old Italian families who appreciate these things — there are 80 year old Italian guys who used to ride these scooters in their younger days. The neighbors are always keeping an eye on my bikes.
How do you get your bikes down to Asbury Park for the event? Do you get a truck, or do you and some friends ride them all the way?
I’m bringing one of them down with me, along with my girlfriend’s Lambretta, in a truck.
If you rode down yourself, what route would you take to get down the Shore?
I’d go through the Holland Tunnel, get on 1 and 9, to Route 18 — I’d take 18 most of the way down to Asbury.
You’re not able to operate these scooters on the Parkway or Turnpike, right?
No, actually anything over 150 cc’s is entirely highway-legal. They’ll hit 70 miles an hour, so you can keep up on the higher-speed roads.
So this is the sixth annual Ride On Weekend event overall — how many of them have been in Asbury Park?
This is the third — the first three were in New Brunswick, by the Court Tavern. When New Brunswick started going downhill we looked for a new venue. Nuno made the connection with the Asbury Lanes through Mel (artist, car customizer and promoter Meldon von Riper Stultz, who established the Lanes as we know it today), who’s a member of the Rumblers car club. He knew him through the cars and bike scene.
And after six straight years the Ride On Weekend is, I’m sure, one of the major scooter meets in the country by this point.
The biggest one in the Northeast, yeah. There are other big events that take place in warmer states, like Florida, Nevada — there’s a Las Vegas event that happens in February.
So who, to your knowledge, is traveling the longest distance to get to Asbury Park this weekend?
We have people coming in from Rhode Island, DC — as far south as Georgia, and as far west as Detroit. Everybody’s working hard to make it a success. It’s a 100 percent team effort; all of our friends in the bands are playing for dirt cheap, and the people at the club have been great.
One more thing. Settle this for me. Someone told me that even though Jimmy in Quadrophenia rides a Lambretta throughout the film, it’s a Vespa that gets destroyed at the end.
Right. I’ve seen that movie many times. He steals a Vespa, and that’s what goes over the cliff at the end.
Would you feel the same about that movie if his Lambretta went over the cliff?
We would not be watching the film if that was the case.