Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Warning: Scooterbore

Owning a geared Vespa is like a secret handshake. A club without rules where every owner is a member. Wherever you are, Vespa owners always want to talk about their scooters - waiting at the lights, in the pub, in A&E. Doesn't matter. The copy of Scootering you read on the train might get you an upgrade to first class if the guard owns a GS, as happened to my mate.

Germany
This bloke dribbled to a halt right in front of us as we were waiting to cross a street off Berlin's Kurf├╝rstendamm. In my Tarzan German I asked him if he wanted any help, though it turned out he just needed to switch his fuel tap to reserve. He'd just picked up the scoot - a spotless and immaculate Rally - from the restorers, and was clearly as pleased as Punch with it.

Spain

This example is also a Rally. I think it is, anyway. It's a licence-built Spanish MotoVespa with a Rally body but has the trapezoid headset found on early Sprints. MotoVespa scooters are something of a mystery to me. They often seem to have been built with whatever was in the parts bin at the time.

The scoot was parked photogenically outside a cafe in downtown San Sebastian. The owner was inside sipping a coffee, and when he saw me sneaking around with my camera immediately rushed out and moved his bags so I'd get a better shot. His face lit up when I showed him a photo of 'Bella', my beloved Sprint Veloce. His Rally (if that is indeed what it is ) was thirty years old, and he'd owned it from new. Then he plonked his old plastic helmet on my head and told me to have a ride while he finished el desayuno. So I did, and I didn't stop grinning until teatime.

5 comments:

James said...

I'm just back from Italy and me and my family loved the millions of vespas. I've been thinking i should buy one. Should I?

TIW said...

Hi James,

Well, I'm biased - but I'd have to say yes. What kind of riding would you do? The Vespa is the perfect city/urban transport for daily use, but good for longer trips too. My olde Sprint will do a 70 mile round trip without blinking. They are totally practical in all weathers (except snow or black ice). You don't even get wet in the rain with a lap cover. Very cheap to run, too (about a quid a day for everything).

Do you want gears or automatic? Geared - something like a PX125 would be good. Auto - something in the order of an ET4 (which are now very cheap but still perfectly reliable).

In my experience, the 'proper' Vespa scooter (as in the Vespa range made by Piaggio in Pontedera) is in the minority in Italy. Apart from some enthusiasts, most Italians seem to like the generic 'motorini' mopeds made by the likes of MBK , Peugeot or Honda. A lot of the old geared scoots have been sold to the UK.

If you want any advice, just get in touch. I can talk for HOURS about scooters.

Camilla Jessop said...

There was a picture in (I think) the Daily Mirror this week (look - it was on a bus seat, right?) of Pete Townshend riding his 'classic' Vespa. Alas, it was a ghastly late-build pastiche, so James:
BUY THE REAL THING!!!!

TIW said...

Hi Camilla,

The scooter Townshend was riding is actually a 'real' Vespa - made by Piaggio in Pontedera with the classic monocoque steel body. They have a lot of fans, and I quite like them too. Although yes, a purist would never be seen dead on one!

TIW said...

oops - meant to say: "and it's an automatic - there are no more geared Italian Vespas, although clones of the much loved PX are still made by LML in india and sold under either the LML Star or Via Toscana names in the UK (and Stella in the US)"