This is the first a series of posts dedicated to living with the Vespa GTV 250 i.e.
I’m so glad that I had a “separation” between riding big bore motorcycles for weeks, then going through a very nice maxi-scooter, before picking up the Vespa GTV 250 i.e. for an all-too-short week of riding and evaluating. I was able to learn more about myself and why I rode before riding off on this Vespa, and believe me this scoot is a BIG jump from a Cruiser like a Moto Guzzi California Vintage. The Piaggio I had tested previously is a “bridge” scooter — some very nice scooter characteristics and some very nice motorcycle characteristics. The Vespa GTV 250 is all scooter.
The Vespa GTV has strong retro features. The exposed handlebars are a throwback to the pre 1958 Vespas that are really too finicky for daily use. The Headlight in the fender is another styling cue that is reminiscent of the original 1946 VB1, taking the modern rider back to the initial spark that set scootering in motion. The speedo and fuel gauge have a nice “warm white” light, giving them an extremely vintage look, especially with their retro-styled fonts and shapes. The modern idiot lights, clock and other necessary conveniences are nicely integrated and don’t take way from this look at all.
Chrome accents and touches abound. A very functional rack and passenger grab bars integrate into the body perfectly. The chrome edging, bars, mirrors are also well built and give this bike a fit and finish that shows attention to detail and nothing but quality. The passenger footpegs are really a neat engineering solution, too. This is no “bling” bike with stuff bolted on for the sake of looks. It’s all there for a reason, but the engineers decided to make damned sure that it was good looking, and it is. This is one stylin’ scooter, but it really exudes form and function, like the engineers had veto power.
My GTV for the week is coated in a fascinating grey/pearl metallic, throwing off a blue/periwinkle color in sunlight. There isn’t a spot of orange-peel on the paint anywhere. No buff marks, nothing. The body itself is A LOT of metal, not a steel-frame-over-plastic affair. The saddle-leather seat is soft, comfortable and well made, thick and pliant, but will age beautifully. I believe that PIaggo’s engineers knew what many of their customers wanted from a 250cc scooter, and they delivered in spades. The GTV 250 i.e. is everything Piaggio has learned about building Vespas, executed.
So I’m smitten. But if you’ve read through my other reviews, I’m pretty much smitten by everything. What impressed me about this Vespa is this:
It already had 4500 miles on it.
I had a choice between a “dealer mile” 250 and one that had miles that were racked up in a daily commute ritual from a Vespa Tech in Orange County. I jumped at the chance for the higher-mileage example, because I want to impart what it’s like to own and live with everything I review, and having the ability to spend a week with a 5000 mile scooter, I believe that I’ll be able to dig around and really expose the flaws that will bubble to the surface during this time.
I found a chip in the paint from riding and some nice patina in the seat. Period. The paint held up beautifully, the tires still have tread, there’s no rattles, loose bolts, road rash, cracks, tears or rust. Riding the bike doesn’t give you a bunch of weird vibrations or fill your ears with funky noises. It feels more like a car with 5000 miles on it than a bike with 5000 miles on it.
The First Ride
You don’t just get on a Vespa, even one as big as the GTV 250. You kind of “put it on”. The rider/bike relationship is more intimate than on motorcycles or maxi-scooters. Moving around on it affects the balance very quickly. Removing a hand from the bars on anything but the smoothest surface requires focus. Turning, accelerating, braking and even cruising are more, well, immediate. The low-set front end, 12 inch wheels under a more-aggressive geometry and nothing-in-your-face but two mirrors give the impression that you’re moving through space in some kind of half-egg, exposed from the waist up.
What blew me away about this forward-exposed riding position is that I wasn’t getting blown away. There is a small plexi wind-deflector that is mounted handlebar-high. It works extremely well, protecting your upper body from wind, deflecting it to the top of one’s helmet to give enough feedback without having to hold on for dear life at freeway speeds. I initially told friends that were interested in the bike that they should think about the larger windscreen option. I don’t know if you need it, especially if you ride with a full-face helmet like me.
I’m not going to try to fool anyone and say that the 12-inch tires that are mounted to this Vespa make it as stable as a battleship, because they just don’t, and I’m not sure that it was the intent of the engineers to make this bike a long-distance runner anyway (they have their Piaggio maxiscoots for that). You definitely feel the surfaces of the road more. Gaps and lines in the freeway contribute to tracking that requires a relaxed and confident hand at speed, and potholes can definitely get your attention if they’re big enough.
But Piaggio’s engineers knew this and took 60 years of experience to create a chassis that is well-suited for it’s urban envrions. The suspension is heavy-duty and supports my 240lbs wonderfully, even over speed bumps and road-divots. The big grips on the wide bars allow for confident maneuvers and high-speed stability. Then the engineers did something very cool; they gave it brakes with excellent feel, modulation and power, and they really, really work well. In the city where a scooter jockey is constantly asking, “does that guy see me?”, having really predictable and dependable binders is not a luxury.
So I took my usual “get used to the scooter route” home from Torrance to Northridge, which involved a long ride up Sepulveda Blvd. Uneventful, but the Vespa gets “looked at” much more than other scooters. The styling cues bring out smiles from people; perhaps long-buried memories of a vacation or perhaps a missed opportunity at love. I don’t know for sure, but the Vespa rider gets a free pass from many motorists simply because of what it is, and the GTV 250 is quintessential in this department.