This is the fourth in a series of posts dedicated to living with the Vespa GTV 250 i.e. The third article is here.
Takin’ the long way on the GTV250.
I made two trips to Santa Barbara on my daily commute to my (now former) job there. I decided that the 160 mile round trip daily ride would put the scooter to many tests. Top speed, endurance, mileage, handling over different pavements and conditions, scootering in Santa Barbara, and finally the attitudes of the people that I have coffee with in Ventura, lunch with in Santa Barbara, and a cup of tea with in either place on the way home.
Top speed and freeway driving.
Those 14 inch tires just disappear underneath the Vespa. I didn’t know what to think about them. Even standing at idle on the bike, there is no way, without contortion, that you can see the rear wheel. I didn’t expect much with respect to riding on the freeway, but I’ve seen lesser rides on the road with me, and the 250cc engine is freeway legal.
As I accelerated down the onramp from Reseda Blvd to the 118 freeway west, I was shocked how fast the GTV got from zero to “I’m not going to be killed doing this” speed. By the time I hit the end of the relatively short onramp, I was speeding past 60 and on my way. Signals and visibility are without question awesome, and I safely maneuvered into traffic, still accelerating even though I was going slightly uphill. I topped out at an indicated 84mph, which, translated through an Italian Speedo, is either about 75mph, or, if you’re used to them like I am, that would be “fast”.
The first obstacle in the path between Northridge and Ventura’s salt breezes is the Susanna Pass road, which is quite steep uphill. The Piaggio 250 that I had tested previously made it up this hill with very little drop in top speed, so I wanted to see what the Vespa, with slightly smaller tires, much more frontal area and a little more weight would do.
Not bad, about what I had expected actually. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was running about 71 indicated, 62 or so actual (italian translation: medium fast). As soon as it flattened out, there was no doubt that the scoot would go back to top speed. The engine, even with 5000 miles on it, just ran like it was new. A rev-limiter is attached to the engine that limits top speed to an indicated 87 or so. I was able to bump up against this limiter on the flats, so the bike is geared just about perfectly, the CVT works as advertised, and if you are skeptical, spend a week with one and you’ll be hooked.
The trip to work and back, taken twice, took about 15 minutes longer than it would have on my bigger motorcycles. Two things stick out though. I found myself taking side roads more often, enjoying the view, smells and textures of my surroundings, and generally relaxing along my ride. I had come to accept the lower speed potential of the scoot, and found some very nice ways to entertain myself and enjoy my ride, especially on the way home.
Endurance, or, how does my butt feel after two hours on this scoot?
So I spent four hours a day on this scooter — two each way. That is a test for any mode of transport, and it is undeniably enough to vouch again that, with 5000 miles of sitting, the seat is like new, comfortable enough to sit on for long periods, and, somehow, the leather just looks better over time.
Other things stick out in my mind. The grips on this Vespa are just the best I’ve ever felt on any bike. I don’t know who specified them for the GTV250, but they did a spectacular job. They are soft but not so much, perfectly grippy, and gave super feedback through my Held Phantom gloves. Bombin’ good grips. Wow. Need them on my bikes.
Then there’s those mirrors. Piaggio’s engineers continuously impress me with their mirrors, from their Moto Guzzi motorcycles to their scooters, but their scooters are what sticks in my mind. The mirrors fit the look of the bike, and they are ROCK SOLID STABLE — CLEAR! all the way up through top speed. I could read the license plate numbers in cars behind me.
About the only thing that I ding here is the instrument cluster. You have to really really look down to see the information, and after that it takes a few seconds to process. I don’t recommend doing much of this at speed. The design of the bike is such that this is just going to be part of running on this scooter, so you just accept it and move on.
So, just how economical is this thing?
Near as I can tell, I got about 55’s in the MPG department. More in the city, less running full-out-top-speed on the highway. I had a love-hate-relationship with the filler cap for the 2 gal tank. It sits up high at the rear under the seat, easy to get to and very convenient. Bad news is that if you overfill your tank, gas is going into the under-seat compartment. No way around it. Takes a little getting used to to prevent spillage.
Handling over different pavements and conditions.
The smaller tires are compensated for by the sterling ABS braking system. Again, Piaggio’s engineers were really thinking here. ABS is not an option, its a necessity. With the smaller contact patch comes great responsibility in the stopping department, and I never felt uncomfortable with the Vespa GTV250 under me.
Extremely comfortable in all conditions, I was surprised that I wasn’t able to completely kill the suspension over rough roads, speed bumps and any other obstacles. Even sandy pavement was taken with ease, although abated ease. Freeway grooves and normal encounters were not an issue, although I spent much more time looking for the tire-swallowing gaps that gave me some scares on my motorcycles, and would surely leave me puckered on a scoot.
I spent a great deal of time scanning the road ahead of me. Pot holes are going to be a little “bigger” than an encounter on a bike, and unscheduled objects like gator-backs, mattresses and animals should definitely be avoided at all costs. High speeds on the freeways and large objects could be disastrous on a scoot.
Running around a beach community and “tribal judgement”.
This is a beach bike. Perfect for running errands or just going through your daily routine and sucking up ocean breezes. You’re friends will already have a scoot, why not have the best of breed? You can easily live out your entire life in Santa Barbara and see only 100 days of serious rain during any decade. The distances are so short and the air so clear, I cannot see the need for a car once you become an “empty nester”. Go ahead, buy that coffee house, get your scoot and retire at the beach.
Oh yeah. One thing about Santa Barbara. It’s really, really expensive. If you didn’t already have this idea 30 years ago, I hope you have some serious up-side in your stock options.
My “tribe” is now used to seeing me with just about any given motorcycle on any given day. The Vespa got the biggest smiles, most “can I sit on it” questions, and definitely the most conversations from people that I had never met. People will just walk up to you and ask questions about your GTV250. It’s the ultimate conversation starter. You’re approachable on a scooter. People have secret desires to own one and participate in the freedom that they represent.
No other vehicle that I’ve tested put utility and pleasure so tightly wrapped in a single package. The GTV250 allows you to do the things that you need to do, and puts a smile on your face while you do them. It takes tasks that would be pure drudgery in a Suburban, and makes them part of the joy of life.
For the price of admission, carbon footprint and ability to change attitudes, owning the Vespa GTV250 can be a life-changing experience.