This is the fifth in a series of posts dedicated to living with the 2009 Piaggio BV250 Tourer. The previous article is here.
Overview of the Piaggio BV250 Tourer
The Piaggio BV250 Tourer occupies a very nice space among two-wheeled transport. The BV is not a small urban scooter, but also not a big, long-distance mega-cc Maxi Scooter as well. It doesn’t try to be a motorcycle, yet has many motorcycle-like characteristics. It’s definitely a scooter for the modern, sprawling United States City, more so than the smaller-tired, smaller engined and more compact traditional scooter. For someone looking for storage, light weight, comfortable seating and weather protection that scooters provide, but freeway power and distance-eating capability, it is a viable, almost obvious choice over smaller scooters and the small-displacement motorcycle:
- It doesn’t weigh much, and the riding position is extremely tolerable for long distance. On a motorcycle, you’re going to be in a very different position, with various degrees of weather protection and any storage or carrying capacity will probably need to be added on and in some cases might not be available.
- Traditional motorcycles have different maintenance needs. Oiling chains, adjustments, and maintenance seem to be more intensive. The Piaggio shows itself as relatively maintenance-free, with little to do but check air pressures, oil levels and go. Maintenance should be cheaper.
- Smaller traditional motorcycles require a lot of sawing through the gearbox to keep them at highway speeds, especially when topography is added. The BV250’s CVT transmission is just “twist” and “go”. No thinking needed. This may not be appealing to some, but real city conditions are not re-enactment opportunities of the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca. Living on a day-to-day basis, it’s nice to have more attention to put towards the input given to you by your surroundings. The BV keeps it simple and allows for this.
- The Piaggio’s 250 engine allows for easy cruising, and the 16-inch tires make it extremely stable at freeway speeds. I commuted 80 miles each way to my job three times, and found the trip downright relaxing. The big windscreen channelled the weather around me to the point that I was more relaxed than on some of the big-bore cruisers I had run over the same roads.
- The lightness of the bike, the low center of gravity and amazing brakes breed tremendous confidence in the rider. Bikes require a different mind-set in traffic than the Piaggio. The upright, high sitting position of the scooter with it’s divine chassis means safety in traffic.
- Up until this point I’ve never mentioned visibility off the BV250 Touring. The mirrors on this bike are the best I’ve ever seen. I can read an eye-chart with them at full speed. Just no vibration whatsoever. Big and convex in the “right” way, you can create complete situational awareness around you at all times.
- The Piaggio is built to be urban transport. It’s meant to take a rider to the store and back and hold “stuff”. It’s the world’s smallest pickup, and the designers created a platform that allows someone to travel up to 200 miles round trip, enjoy the day and bring back souvenirs, and if need be, groceries.
- City acceleration is amazing. Zero-to-thirty in, uh, NOW. You’ll need a Porsche 917 to beat me across an intersection.
A few nits to pick
I looked long and hard to find things that I really didn’t like about the Piaggio. Frankly there are a few that I’m calling out here, but it’s more like buying a house and deciding that you don’t like the welcome mat or the doorknobs in the bathroom. Most certainly not deal-killers and more than likely things that are overlooked with time (which I did, easily), or fixed by adding the right accessory.
- The speedometer reads about 10mph optimistically. I tested this time and time again, and while it’s close at lower speeds, once you’re over 50mph it’s about 10mph too fast. You’re not going to get around this by purchasing another Italian ride. They all do this from Ducatis to Moto Guzzis to Vespas, etc. Even the early 60’s Maseratis I restored did this. I’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t have a high degree of importance in Italy. I just do as the Italians would — “eh, I’m going about 70. Close enough”.
- The fuel gauge isn’t very linear. I fill up, drive 10 miles, then it shows 3/4 tank. It stays between 3/4 and 1/4 forever. Then it slowly descends to empty. The reserve light comes on correctly and is very lenient. “eh, abbastanza vicino.“
- I also have a love-hate relationship with the fuel filler. It was obviously made for regions without vapor traps on fuel lines. The low placement in front is nice in that it is away from the storage compartments and spills just vent to the ground, but then again, I’m never sure if I’ve filled the tank all the way up (see above).
- The US vapor trap is the size of a beer can. It is under the seat, and a panel has been inserted in the compartment to cover it, taking up about 25% of the under-seat space and diminishing the carrying capacity. If I actually owned this bike I would probably take the panel off and just live with the trap exposed, giving me more room under the seat. A pox on the engineers for not doing a better job here. Not a deal breaker again. just a “meh” — I get it; the rest of the world doesn’t use vapor traps so this is a border condition.
That’s all I found after 10 days and nearly 800 miles. I spent hours at a time on this bike and found it to be perfect for the sprawling city. If you live more than 20 miles from work, this is your ride — I would choose it over a small-bore motorcycle instantly. If you like to go to an adjacent city that may be 80 miles away, this is just absolutely perfect for that. If you ride two-up, there’s plenty of power. If you’re big, like me, this bike will not disappoint. This is a Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver bike. This is the bike you buy to ride from Oakland or further out into the San Francisco daily. You get around on the PIaggio BV250 Touring.
And you can Tour. From LA I have no hesitation to bop down to Orange County. I would go to San Diego, or I might see if it can handle the trip to Big Bear. Get on it and just go somewhere on the weekend. Stick your swimsuit, a towel and some flip-flops under the seat and hit the beach.
Don’t forget a few things
Accessorize. Get the back box, especially if you have a laptop to tote around. The rear luggage point is not good enough to haul anything on, and frankly, the rear box is big, handy and nice, giving more storage and capacity.
Wear proper gear. Don’t be fooled by the fact that “it’s just a scooter”. If you fall off this thing at speed without good clothing on, you’re not going to walk away unscathed. Most likely you’re not going to be riding like Valentino Rossi, so skip the full leathers. A nice protective leather jacket, good motorcycle gloves, competent shoes and a full-face helmet were perfect for me.
If you’ve never ridden before and considering this bike, I’m telling you it’s a great idea. Now get some training from MSF and get one. Seriously, don’t forget this step.
Ride it. Just get out and ride. The more you ride the Piaggio, the more you want to ride it. It will sit in your garage or driveway, always on standby, ready to bow to your wishes and needs. Think of the lowered carbon footprint, the insane mileage, and the fact that it’s got the very latest pollution-reducing gear integrated beautifully into the system. Ride happy, ride clean, and well, just a little smug…
How’s the weather where you live?
The rainy “season” hit LA while riding the Piaggio around. The tires slice through wet road conditions with no issues. Weather protection meant that I really didn’t need to crawl into a hefty bag to stay dry — but LA isn’t exactly monsoonal. The bike itself isn’t going to get in trouble parked outside, and Piaggio thoughtfully includes a seat cover to keep your tushy dry. Nice in all conditions.
800 miles of observation reveals…
The PIaggio BV250 is a great scooter, urban/suburban transport, mate-magnet and grocery-getter. I would highly recommend it as a first scooter for someone that hasn’t ridden much. The big tires and brakes allow for a novice rider to build confidence and muscle memory quickly and safely, and there’s enough power to keep oneself out of trouble in their first few thousand miles, but not enough power to get into trouble, either. You can go the distance, then just whip through traffic like a blender chopping avocados. The swiss-army knife of urban motion.
The cornering characteristics and steering geometry are more motorcycle-like, so if a rider wants to transition into something more substantial, there’s a clean path to do so. I believe that even with a big bike, you’ll still find the Piaggio in the garage for the short trips and less demanding excursions. It’s not so small that you’ll get tired of it, and just so damned practical that you’ll never want to be without it, either.