It often surprises people to know that I have a motorcycle license and not a car license. This is possible in Australia, but only in New South Wales. The reason for this eventuating in my life is simple. I was raised extremely independent and moved out of my mother’s home at the age of 17. Although I could have had access to Mum’s car at 16, driving was not a priority for me. I had my Higher School Certificate to pass, a university to be accepted into, and I worked outside of school hours to earn cash plus looked after my siblings. Oh and I tried to enjoy my teenage life in my spare time *grin*
I made it to the age of 25 before I caved. I was sick and tired of relying on public transport for most of my travels, and/or my friends. I did not have access to a car nor someone I trusted to teach me without yelling at me (ha ha) … so I bought a scooter!
In Australia at that particular time gaining your motorcycle license required passing a computer based test and completing a “how to ride” course over a weekend. I passed with 100% for both tests and bought my first set of wheels – a Bug Espresso which was a lovely dark red (shown above). The little Espresso had a short life with me after I ambitiously decided to do a 1000km scooter club ride. The Espresso only made it about 800 of those kms before blowing the motor and leaving me stranded on the side of a highway. The scooter was about 5 months old at the time.
Some would say that scooters were not made for those kinds of distances but I would not admit defeat!
It was not the distance but the vehicle!
I opted to raise the bar and purchased my first Vespa – a ‘Diamond White’ Vespa GT200. The reason for crossing to Vespa was quality. The little Espresso was a 150cc air cooled cheap entry point into the joy of riding. But as I soon discovered, air cooled means no temperature gauges or ability to know when the motor is cooking till it goes “BANG!” somewhere on the highway. Vespa, aside from being stunning to look at, come liquid cooled and include a temperature gauge. I convinced myself I was learning from past mistakes rather than buying a brand…. AND opening up a whole new WORLD of after-market parts *Grin*
I loved everything about owning a scooter – even while I was with the Espresso. I was offered weekend work at the local Scooter store where I could look and learn scooter stuff all weekend. It was great! I loved the lifestyle. I loved the scooterists. I loved it all.
I ended up leaving Sydney and lived for 2 years in rural areas. This prompted me to move into the world of motorcycles – selling my lovely Vespa and purchasing a Suzuki SFV650 naked sports bike. The bike was as Vespa looking as it could get – described as a ‘café racer.’ It was fairly clear to me in hindsight though that this transition too would be a short lived relationship.
I had my first accident on this little beauty which rattled me to say the least. It took 3 months to repair the bike (I made a quicker recovery thankfully) but that was just long enough for me to allow fear to creep in to my riding experience. Although I did keep riding the bike for another year, I no longer enjoyed the experience. Once I moved back to Sydney I decided to sell the Suzuki so I could discover my love for scooters once again.
Since I last owned a Vespa (which was a GT200) Vespa have upped the ante now making a 250cc AND a 300cc. Coming off a 650cc bike I was instantly drawn to the 300.
I must make note that with Vespa, you pay for the name.
For example: My sports bike, which had 650ccs, all the modern gadgets, a sports exhaust and awesome dual colour paint, is about the same price as the new 300cc Vespa. Crazy I know.
There is a big different for me between riding a bike and riding a Vespa in terms of experience AND below are a couple of other factors that tip the scales for me to Vespa.
Firstly… on bikes I really had to work hard. Bikes are made to get somewhere fast. They are all power and in the case of the SFV, it was all mid-range power meaning no guts at low rev’s but once she hit mid-range, she was off. On the open road this is fun, fun and fun but in Australia we are speed limited to maximum of 110km/hr. Let’s just say I had a few close calls where I passed police vehicles doing allot more than 110 and I’m fairly sure the only reason I didn’t lose my license is on a bike, I can only hurt myself…. Or maybe because I am female *wink*
Because of their power and weight a motorcycle is a fair bit of work for someone like me to stop on short notice. The Suzuki took allot of effort to pull up and if I had a pillion passenger, well it was the equivalent of doing a weight session in the gym trying to get the bike to stop.
When I bought the bike I was living in an area that had lovely open roads, high speed zones and minimal traffic congestion. When I moved back to Sydney, the bike was too much hard work in peak hour traffic and she had not gotten past 3rd gear (out of 6) in months.
Vespa’s are light (-er then bikes… Vespa are in fact one of the heaviest scooters in the market) and pull up exceptionally quick. Being that they are automatic they also do better in heavy traffic. No more gear changes, just stop, go, stop, go.
Other advantages I have found exploring bike verses scooter is that scooters park easier. My motorbike did not have a centre stand so always needed a flat or near flat surface to park on. Usually this okay but those times when it’s not, has your circling block after block just trying to find somewhere to stop. Annoying!
My bike also had ZERO storage. You can fit a top box to the back but in my opinion, they look daggy. Vespa has under seat storage, the option of the additional top box on the back (colour matched) AND come standard with a rear rack. I also managed to ride and balance several shopping bags between my feet on the GT – BONUS!
Cost wise – the scooter is cheaper for me to service, insure and register.
Now I must make mention that my Vespa ownership was tarnished with an ongoing mechanical issue….grumble, grumble. I discovered the problem not only affected me but a number of GT200 owners around Australia at that time (2006 – 2008). At low speed the Vespa would make this horrid noise like a belt was slipping LOUDLY and would continue to scream until the motor increased its rev’s OR the motor had an opportunity to cool down. I spent allot of money on performance parts and mechanic’s to try and fix this problem and eventually just learnt to live with it. If I took off really quickly often the engine didn’t have a chance to scream…. Problem somewhat solved.
Now because the distributors in Australia are just that, distributors (not the manufacturers), trying to claim the problem under warranty proved useless. They simply swapped what they thought was the offending part, with an identical part and claim their work was done. Of course a few km’s up the road and the problem returned. Thankfully Vespa have become increasingly popular in Australia ESPECIALLY in Sydney. After venting my frustration online I was able to trial a few solutions that had worked for others. Once I left the hustle and bustle of Sydney traffic, the problem did end up going away.
There are some great advantages in owning a motorbike but for me, Vespa is where it’s at. I love the convenience, the comfort, the storage, the entire lifestyle package I get to dive back into.
This weekend I’m off to see what the Vespa GTS 250cc and the GTS & GTV300 are like to ride as I contemplate my next purchase.
If you are thinking of going to two wheel transport I hope you will see that my conclusions have come from trial and error and are only my experience. I did work in a Scooter store for almost a year, and worked full time in a motorcycle store for 12 months. I am in no way a mechanic; I just know what I enjoy riding and what felt good for me at the time. Ultimately it is a personal choice – go with what makes your heart sing J
P.S. This is not a history of all bikes I have owned or ridden… just the ones I loved the most 🙂