This is the second in a series of posts dedicated to living with the 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer. The first article is here.
Beautiful looks and quality wrapped in a wiry, effortless package
“Haute couture (French for “high sewing” or “high dressmaking”; pronounced [oːt kuˈtyʁ]) refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted fashions … In modern France, haute couture is a “protected name” that can be used only by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. However, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing, whether it is produced in Paris or in other fashion capitals … Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.” — from Wikipedia
I never cease to be amazed at how well-built the Piaggio BV250 Tourer scooter is, how much fun it is to ride, and how easy it is to just get wherever you need to go. You get there fast, you get there looking good, and no matter what the traffic is like, you get there with no effort. It’s just easy to go places.
There are so many articles in the major motorcycle magazines addressing the “Ultimate Streetfighter”. These are bikes that have had all the fairings stripped off, very aggressive-looking and very powerful. They are evolved from the cafe racers that ran through the streets of London in the 1960s.
At the risk of being flamed by my riding friends, I’m going to go out on a limb here. What good is a stripped down, powerful and agressive-looking bike on the streets for actually getting places fast? Through my experiences, getting around fast means being seen enough to be avoided, but not incurring people’s ire by telling them to avoid you. It also means being wiry and quick, rather than big and fast.
Getting through real traffic means getting through traffic. Ride thin, to pull between all the stopped cars at a light, and ride snappy, to get across an intersection when the light turns green. Getting to 90mph in seconds is totally fun, but getting to 45mph faster than the car you’re stopped inches away from at an intersection is priceless.
When you arrive from all the traffic at your location, it’s nice to have a parking place. The Piaggio is well-dressed an diminutive, with Roman roots. You can park just about anywhere, and nobody’s gonna get ruffled. I find myself parking on sidewalks, in small spots in front of cars, in areas that are left over when the mall-lot stripers ran out of ideas. Thin is in. You always get to park close — The BV250 gives you unlimited Parking — if people don’t have to trip over it or squeeze around it, you can park it there.
Finally, it’s great to reach a destination calm and happy. The BV is all about this. I won’t hesitate to jump on it to get somewhere around town. Easy on, Easy off. Helmet, jacket, gloves, kickstand, key and twist the wrist. The low procedural overhead, well-integrated systems, automatic controls and great handling make it easy to live with the scooter for the long-term. Piaggio sells thousands of scooters all over Europe as primary transportation to people; easy, practical, rock solid and good looking are just as important in the old country as they are here.
Lacing through traffic with the Tourer is amazing. I ride a lot of big bikes, and in heavy traffic there is often just not enough room to get between the cars when you approach controlled intersections. Even if there’s enough room, the big bike can attract the ire of other drivers, and I always worry about whacking mirrors or having to brake suddenly and violently.
This scoot’s size drops this factor by less than half. It’s just about as narrow as Twiggy on a diet. If you think the cars you’re winding between are too close, they’re probably already swapping paint. Normal traffic is a breeze.
Scooters are also much less imposing in traffic than big bikes. The crankiest people in the world don’t hate scooters, or at least don’t hate them much. Once you’re weaving around in traffic, people let you in. It gives the rider confidence and a sense of safety. An experienced rider can do amazing things with the BV250. An inexperienced rider just isn’t going to get into trouble — it’s safe and easy. (Ok, if I had a boilerplate disclaimer, I’d put it here!)
If you’re new to two wheels, this is a bike that’s not too small or too big. It’s not hard to ride, and it’s tall tires, big brakes, conservative geometry and upright position give you confidence without hubris. If it’s your first scooter or even your first ride, you won’t “grow out of it” or get tired of it. It’s just damned fun to have sitting, nose pointed out in the driveway, waiting for that errand to run.
Northridge to LAX — surface streets in 45 minutes.
I needed to get down to LAX on the second day that I had the BV250. I’ve accepted a new position in Chicago and had to take a drug test, and the closest center that my new company could find was 30 miles south of me (Just to be clear, I’m 47, married with an eight-year-old daughter as long as “Old Pogue” doesn’t show up on the tests, I’m good to go).
The time was 5 minutes to 1pm on a Friday. I live in Northridge, and the traditional route in a car would be to get on the 405 South, sit in gridlock and call every friend that you have while you slowly get to LAX. At this time of day, it should take about an hour. The biggest challenge is to keep from scratching that itch in the roof of your mouth with a revolver.
Not so with the Scoot. I had travelled the 405 recently in a big Guzzi, and it was just rough as hell. I was still getting used to the BV250 as I only had about 50 miles on it at this point. I decided to motor down Sepulveda Boulevard. I had low expectations of getting there quickly, but I decided I would have fun doing it.
I got there quickly.
The surface streets in the San Fernando Valley are quite navigable as long as you stay off the major North/South roads like Reseda or Balboa. With the Piaggio, I was able to get from the north to the south end of the valley in 15 minutes, much faster than any car. The climb over the Sepulveda Pass’ hills crossing Mulholland and running past the Getty Center was amazing. The steep but wide and windy road was gobbled up by the BV250. I expected the 250cc bike to really struggle under my 250lb bulk, but I might as well have weighed 90. It just accelerated all the way up the hill, and the rough spots were completely sucked up by the highly compliant and competent suspension.
Running downhill on the other side, the brakes were never taxed to control the speed or stop at the lights. As I approached West LA, the traffic picked up, and I just sliced and diced it with every light. Front of the line each time. Green light, across the intersection, and the cars disappear behind you until the next light. Just like a shampoo bottle’s instructions, lather, rinse, repeat. With the Piaggio BV250 Tourer, it’s accelerate, weave through stopped cars and stop, repeat.
So I get to LAX in 45 minutes. No hassles, nobody pulling in front of me, no angry drivers yelling at me, no close calls, no stress. The BV Tourer is the “Ultimate Streetfighter”, simply because it never has to fight, and if it did, it’s the right kind of fighter for the modern urban streets. A big bore, naked aggressive motorcycle would not get where I did any faster and probably with a lot more drama. It would be like sending in a SWAT Team to clear out an illegal Girl Scout rally. Firepower like that just gets you in trouble.
I got back in even heavier rush-hour traffic in just under an hour. I can carve safely, comfortably and happily through heavy city traffic on my Piaggio, even on long commutes.