A non-hipster shops for a scooter

Gladys and I have been spending a fair amount of time in Austin recently, and it kind of came up that perhaps Gladys would like to have a scooter.

The city fathers of Austin are obviously extremely opposed to parking convenience, as a result, it immediately strikes one that perhaps a vehicle with a smaller footprint, more favored by the management, would make life more convenient.  You can park a motorcycle or a scooter lots of places in downtown Austin where it is essentially impossible to park a car, and parking is not infrequently free for motorcycles and scooters.  Enrico already has the Ninja 650 in hand for this purpose.

So, I set out to procure a scooter for Gladys, as a Christmas present.

The first thing I learned was that you need at least a scooter with at least a 250cc engine to be able to legally venture onto the freeway.  A 250cc scooter is perfectly capable of doing 60 mph, and you can get scooters with larger engines, capable of doing 90 mph or more.

However, these larger scooters tend to be kind of stylistically indistinguishable from a motorcycle, with big fairings and a more aerodynamic body, as obviously you need for a bike that’s going to be doing 70-80 mph on the freeway.  I knew that’s not what Gladys would want.

I knew she would probably want something like the classic Vespa, as below, a Vespa 250 GTS:


Now, this is a modern Vespa, actually made by Piaggio, as they have been since introduced in 1946.  It has a 244cc engine, with fuel injection, and automatic transmission, a belt-driven continuously variable transmission.  So, it is just twist and go, with front brake on the right handle and rear brake lever on the left handle.

I looked at quite a few makes:  Kymco, Aprilia (owned by Piaggio), the Yamaha scooters, the Honda scooters, and the scooters from SSR Motorsports, which I happened across in Waco, of all places.

I really liked the SSR scooter I tried, which I think was the Marina model.  However, the SSR scooters are not fuel injected.  The day I happened by the scooter dealer in Waco, it was pretty cold, maybe 35 F, and it took the salesman a good fifteen minutes to get the scooter running.  It was peppy, handled well, and had a classic look, and it was priced significantly lower than the other comparable scooters from Piaggio and Kymco.  But this experience made me decide that fuel injection was an indispensable innovation.

I tried the KymCo Like 200i and the KymCo People 300i.  The latter model was getting too far away from the classic look of the Vespa, as befits its status as a real highway bike.  I “liked” the Kymco 200i, but there was something about the geometry of the front wheel setup and the riding position that felt unstable to me.  The dealer wouldn’t let me take it out on the street, so, I was reduced to doing laps around the parking lot.  Maybe it isn’t fair, but I just didn’t like the way it handled.   It felt like I was right over the front wheel.  It doesn’t look any less raked than other similar scooters, but it sure felt less raked.

I didn’t actually drive the Yamahas or the Hondas.  I couldn’t seem to find a dealer for Honda scooters in Houston, and the used ones I saw on Craig’s list were just not very appealing.  For the Yamahas, I couldn’t locate a classic-looking Yamaha with an engine bigger than about 100cc.  I also had trouble locating an Aprilia to try.  There’s a Vespa / Aprilia dealer right in downtown Austin, but it just hasn’t been convenient to go try one there.

After buying the Ninja 650 from an ad on Craig’s list, I went back to Craig’s list to try to find scooters.   I really recommend this.  You can often find lightly used motorcycles and scooters for sale on Craig’s list at big discounts to the new price.  I think a lot of people buy motorcycles and scooters, and just find they never really use them very much.   You  can benefit from their over-enthusiasm.

I found a 2007 Vespa GTS 250ie for sale, with only about 2000 miles on it, for an asking price in the 3s.   A test drive and a little negotiation put it in Gladys’s garage for a very reasonable price.

I hope she likes it.  But, if she doesn’t, it didn’t cost very much, and someone will ride it!

The law says you need a motorcycle endorsement to ride a scooter with an engine bigger than 50cc.  I’m certainly going to urge Gladys to take the motorcycle course to get her license.  It’s a weekend, and it’s well worth it.  But, in practice, I’ve never been asked by a cop to show my motorcycle license.

How will I get it to Austin?  I’ve invested in a hitch carrier for the Yukon, the Rage Powersports SMC-600R.  Also will work for hauling the Ninja, a bonus.

Update:  Gladys liked it!  But she still hasn’t taken the motorcycle course.  I’ve been riding it a bit, and it is really fun.  It is surprisingly peppy.  But, then again, my first motorcycle, at age 16, was a 106 cc Bianchi sold by Sears.