Scoot vs Guzzi as a First Bike?

I’m a fan of your blog, from north of the border in cheesehead country. We’re about the same age, though I obviously started the family a little earlier, as my daughters are now 17 and 20.

And, given that, I’m now thinking about getting a 2-wheel vehicle for which I’m not the motor. I’ve be riding bicycles thousands of miles a year for 30 years. I’ve had the itch to get a motorcycle since I was, oh, 12 or so, when my brother had a Yamaha 60. Put it on hold while I either didn’t have the money or had young kids to think of. Now that I have money and pretty-much-grown kids, the motorized 2-wheeler itch is like a bad case of poison ivy.

My tastes run very classical – air cooled twins, round headlights. I’m very small – 5’6, 120 pounds. My riding will mostly be my 10-mile commute to downtown Milwaukee from the north shore, along Lake Drive, but I also plan to get out into the Wisconsin countryside to explore a little farther than I can typically get in a morning of cycling. Ever been to Holy Hill? The roads around it are to die for. I also have in mind riding out to Minnesota, where my older daughter is at college, once in a while.

So, I’m thinking the Vespa gts 250 (or new 300) would be great for commuting, the Breva 750 ideal for fun rides and travel, and maybe the Piaggio BV250 is the compromise.

The x-factor here is that my wife is adamantly opposed to the whole notion. She has a pretty deep, emotional, irrational association with motorcycles, and has stated flat-out she’ll never go near one. On our honeymoon we had a very good time ripping around Nice, France, on a scooter, so I’m not quite sure what happened over the last 23 years. Anyway, it’s possible that a scooter will be less traumatic, and on the motorcycle side, a V7 Classic will prompt less of a visceral response from its classic styling.

I’ve ridden the V7 Classic, Breva 750, and GTS250, and like them all. I like the Breva a little better than the V7, but obviously there’s little to distinguish between them. It’s obvious the scooter is the better commuter. But there’s also the image factor of pulling into the garage at work. The motorcycle has a huge advantage there, I won’t lie.

So, I’m looking for your thoughts on whether you think I’m on the right track, or am I missing something crucial?

Well Ted! Let’s look at the factors involved:

  • You live in Wisconsin and will store the bike in winter.
  • You haven’t really ridden a motorcycle before.  Fooled around, but haven’t gotten a license, etc.
  • You like the classic, retro look.
  • You’re not a huge guy
  • You have a 10 mile commute.
  • You want to ride in the country, possibly make a Minnesota trip, etc.
  • Your wife is not really into the whole thing whatsoever.
  • You’ve ridden Guzzis and Vespas
  • Your friends are gonna put a mark on you whether you ride a scoot or a bike.

I actually have some suggestions that will help you discover which one you might want to go with.  I’ve got my favorites here, but I’m going to go “pro-con” and let you decide. You’re not going to be riding over the winter. I’ve discovered this sad fact already having suffered through my first Chicago winter.  The Scoot will give a little more weather protection and it’s CVT will be a little more forgiving in low-traction conditions, but once ice hits the road you’re probably (and hopefully) gonna park it.  The motorcycle has some distinct advantages, too, with larger tires and contact patch.  If you live in an area with potholes (Chicago must be the second-worst in the world after the smallest town in Bangladesh), The scoot is gonna suck until you get enough miles under you to anticipate and swerve around them (as a new rider this is going to be quite challenging).  The Piaggio scoots have bigger tires, so that should factor into the equation.

Since you’re not a big guy (I outweigh you by more than 100lbs), You’ve chosen great bikes and the scoot too is a super choice in the style and size department.  I would recommend the V7 Classic over the Breva — the Breva is out of production and the V7 is selling well, meaning you’ll have better resale.  You’re also right about the look being more pleasing to your companion, although she may never get on it (my wife has never ridden with me; she puts up with my hobby and that’s totally cool).  All your choices are fine for the commute.  The Vespa will have a lot of under-seat space and a killer bag hook.  The bikes will need bags or you’ll have to get a backpack (OGIO makes killer ones).

For getting out in the country in the twisties, the bike wins hands down.  You’ll find the scoot quite limiting in what it can do in the turns because it won’t have the ground clearance you’re looking for.  I’ve had fun with scoots in the hills, but I’ve also had some seriously puckered moments when I was using a WHOLE LOT  of brake because it just wasn’t going to turn like I had hoped.  Also, once you hit the interstates, the scoot will stay up with traffic, but you’re going to have the throttle pretty much buried, which means that you’re not going to have any power reserve to get yourself out of hairy situations, and consequently you’ll not have the braking power (contact patch more than actual swept brake area).

You’ve ridden both and you’re still torn.  Play it forward a year from now in your head.  Imagine that you purchased each bike that you’re considering.  Do you still like it in a year?  That has worked for me time and time again.

Your friends are going to mark you as soon as you pull up on your ride.  Are you more like Sting or Agostini?  Mod or Rocker?  English Beat or Ramones?  Handel or Vivaldi?  What’s your “vibe?”

Finally, get edumacated.  Before you drop another dime, get enrolled in and go through the MSF basic course.  Ride the bike, get to know how you feel behind it.  If you know, like I did, that you’re definitely going to get on two wheels, buy some decent gear.  Don’t go ape and get a full set of leathers or anything, but hit the web for reviews and get yourself some decent boots (I like, no LOVE my Alpinestars boots), a good leather jacket (you’ll buy more, so get a perforated one for summer if you’re going to ride the rest of the season) off of eBay, and go down to a local motorcycle store or specialty shop and get a good helmet — don’t skimp here — that is full-faced.  Finally you’ll need gloves.  Get your first set from eBay as well.  Alpinestars, Icon, Held are great brands.  Get the gauntlet type — the first wasp that flies up your sleeve will make you wish you did if you ignore my advice on this.

I’m excited for you.  Go to the course and run the stuff here through your head.  I’m sure that you’ll make a great decision!

7 thoughts on “Scoot vs Guzzi as a First Bike?

  1. The V7 for sure. Scooters are great for commuting, but exploring the back roads of Wisconsin will require a little more oomph. 10 mile commute to work? Use a bicycle.

  2. > 10 mile commute to work? Use a bicycle.
    I do, about 50% of the time, 12 months of the year. Sometimes I don’t have time for it.

    Why would exploring the back roads of Wisconsin require more oomph than a vehicle capable of going 70mph?

  3. Oomph, yes. I think it’s nice to have the extra power reserve, and many scoots lack the cornering clearance to really get over in the turns at speed. I think it’s about someone’s particular style. I wouldn’t be afraid to tour Wisconsin on a scoot at all — but I would definitely ride it differently than I would on a motorcycle. The scoot would be at a more relaxed pace — I think it would be more fun with a group of scooterists, scooterati, er, friends.

    The motorcycle for me is more of the individual experience of riding the machine in time and space. Scooters are almost the opposite of that to me, more of a release of time and space and the gathering close of one’s surroundings.

    A well-handled scooter is pretty cool, too.

  4. I too got into motor cycling late in life (at 46) and went through some of the issues you raise. I decided on the Breva 750. (I guess I’m not as much into the retro look of the new V7, though it sure is a nice Guzzi.) The Breva 750 has filled all my expectations and then some. A wonderful bike. As I am also small at 5’6” I wanted a bike I could handle with as much control as possible, it being my first bike ever.

    After two years in the saddle I’m very happy and lucky, I guess, with the choice I made. The Little Goose has been totally reliable — perfect. It rides the twisties effortlessly, delivers power smoothly, never over-powering and is simply a joy to ride. Very comfortable for my size; I don’t have to reach for the bars or reach for the ground!

    The bike is light but sure-footed. It can cruise all day long at 80 without problems and is simply a great ride.

  5. Decision is made. I know for certain I’ll be commuting and doing errands. I’m pretty sure I’ll be making occasional forays into the Kettle Moraine for entertainment rides. I think I might someday go touring, but probably not much and not for a while, and certainly not via the I system. So, I’ve bought a Vespa 300. It fits perfectly with how I expect to be riding the vast majority of the time. The only real weakness it has is the relatively high/wide seat, especially compared to the Breva 750. If that turns out to be a significant issue, I’ll look at modified seats.

  6. Well played. You’re actually going to find that the wide seat on the Vespa rocks. You’ll ride them slightly different from the motorcycle, in that you’ll find yourself moving your knees in the direction of the turn along with pushing on the bars. Don’t force it — you’ll start doing this after you get about 500 miles on the bike almost instinctively — Then the wide seat and “natural” sitting position will come into its own.

    Ride safe and happy!

  7. A little follow-up. I have close to 1500 miles on the Vespa at this point, including a 700 mile jaunt to Minnesota and back. I am very happy with the Vespa. It has no trouble going as fast as I care to go on the boring parts, even providing sufficient passing power on rare occasions. It is capable of going far faster than I am capable of piloting it on the interesting parts. I expect it will be quite a while before my skills exceed the limits of the bike.

    Main lesson from the long trip: it’s way more fun to go 45 on an interesting road than it is to go 75 on a boring road.

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