Lost lost

It is with great regret that I have to announce the sad loss of a genuine friend, companion, colleague, assistant, soul mate, and true love… my Vespa is being taken away from me. “It is all for the better” I have been told, but I still have to be convinced, can it ever get better than the Vespa?

When Franco at the Valley Road outlet of M. Demajo & Co. called me in to explain that the company had analysed the amount and type of mileage I was putting into my two-wheeled friend and had decided to let me experience a different model in their vast range of scooters, I could not hide my surprise, and sincere disappointment. Although this is not my first long-term experience with a scooter and last year I rode a Kymco Exciting 250 for 12 months, something seems to have changed, drastically!

Whereas before, the bike was there to test and write about, today I must admit that it has become an indispensable tool, a crucial clog in my daily routine. Let’s face it, using a bike turns the frustration of parking into a joke and makes traffic jams something you actually look forward to rather than dread. This, added to the savings on fuel and the overall excitement and fun each time you set off even on the most mundane journey, is reason enough to get addicted.

Having covered close to 4,000km in the few months that I have been running the Vespa, I have had the opportunity to experience every aspect of it in many different circumstances and can therefore give a reasonable account of my likes and dislikes, so I will start with the latter. When petrol was more expensive, a dry tank could take exactly €10, but since it became cheaper, it now only takes €7 to fill it to the brim.

This means that you cannot use the automated machines as the only one I know that takes €5 notes is in Naxxar and I would probably run out of fuel till I get there. Not that I am complaining about cheaper fuel, but you have to remember to fill up when the pumps are attended. The fuel inlet is located under the seat close to the under seat storage compartment and it is not the first time that a distracted attendant causes fuel to overflow resulting in the contents of the compartment smelling of petrol for ages.

Once on the subject of the compartment, another drawback of the Vespa is the limited storage space. The under seat compartment is designed to take two proprietary helmets, however the one I had on order never made it on time and since none of my Nolans fitted, I was forced to carry my helmet around with me.

The obvious option, which I pondered at length, was fitting a top box on the rear carrier. I acquired an original unit which was colour coded from the factory complete with a back-rest for the pillion in the same material as the seat, as well as replacement handlebars with added weights to compensate for the increase at the rear. I never got around to having it fitted primarily because I was afraid of losing the nimbleness and agility that I loved so much about the scooter.

One accessory that I did add was the set of chrome protection bars that also make the Vespa look great. I was a bit disappointed that the stoppers at the edges of the chrome piping started showing signs of corrosion, however these could easily be replaced. A rather more serious inconvenience is the fact that the bars can get slightly in the way of the pedal that you step on to operate the centre stand and this new obstacle takes some getting used to. The side stand is, in my opinion, superfluous and I hardly ever used it, opting for the steadier centre stand instead.

In reality, though, the Vespa is otherwise absolutely out of this world. First of all, it is a perfectly balanced scooter, giving the rider a constant sense of control and making you feel one with the machine. Handling is impressive and after some time, I found myself being able to balance on it without putting my foot on the ground even when virtually at a standstill.

cceleration is amazing and you literally fly off at the lights leaving the other vehicles fade in your rearview mirror. The 250cc unit propels the scooter to 140km/hr and beyond, and I realised that after the first service at 1,000km and progressively as I covered more mileage, the engine loosened up further, improving performance and reducing consumption. The latest calculations showed that the Vespa was covering 198km with €7 of petrol giving an average of over 26km/lt and I am convinced this figure will improve further.

Build and material quality is impeccable and the constant battering it endured at the mercy of Maltese roads proved what a durable bit of equipment the Vespa really is. It was 100 per cent reliable and apart from the mandatory first service, I never needed to give this aspect a second thought.

The Vespa’s class distinguishes itself from all other scooters. It is the ultimate fashion accessory with timeless classical styling, and whether stationery or in motion, people simply stop and stare. ­It is better as a weekend runabout than an everyday workhorse and there are a number of other more powerful models in the Piaggio Group’s range of scooters that will be better suited for overland travel. These were the primary reasons for the decision to move on to a new scooter and although I am truly sad to see the Vespa go, I am getting quite excited to see what is in store for me.

This article was first published on Times of Malta on May 4, 2009
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