A Scooter Named Desire – The Stella 2004 Genuine Scooter Company Stella
by Gus Breiland
He has been giggling ever since he bought it.” was my friend Paul’s response to his daughter after she asked if I liked my new scooter. “Boys don’t giggle, dad!” she replied. “They do in their helmets.” He returned.
And I am still giggling.
After we had finished the Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly scooter challenge I wanted to pay our sponsor, Scooterville, a visit. Paul and I went up on a Friday evening and forced owner Bob Hedstrom to stay open and let us wander around. I had enjoyed my step through scooter ride earlier in the week but the bike we had run in the scooter challenge just wasn’t for me.
So what was? Mr. Hedstrom saw me circling the Tangerine Orange Stella and asked if I wanted to take it for a spin. As a bike borrowing fool I never pass on an opportunity to swing a leg over a new ride (or through). I hopped on and started to grin.
“Damn! I must have one. I will have one. I can’t, really, I shouldn’t. But I must. But what about…no I cannot.” After my initial ride on Stella I hemmed and hawed over the next 6 days with 2 more visits to Scooterville before I handed them my check. It is a common occurrence now, after I let someone ride Stella, that they come back with a grin on their face and a vacant stare in their eyes as they mentally shift funds around in their head and begin the script writing for the better half.
“It followed me home, can I keep it? I promise I will feed it and that you won’t even hear it and…” Standard stray motorcycle excuses. So far Stella has not only won my heart but when I brought her home she was received with open arms and a comment of “Even I could ride that” from my DA (Domestic Associate). In fact, my DA has even signed up for the MSF course and rode Stella home from work on Ride to Work day. Have I lost her already, even though she has just been found? My DA and I have had our spats but if Stella is ripped from me, well, that’s ground for divorce in some countries.
There are 3 main reasons that I bought Stella. First, she is all metal. All of her cowlings, leg protection, headlight bezel, all metal. Second, was her color. The Tangerine Orange is bright and beautiful and as I grow older and the diameter of my pants grows larger then all I have is an orange scooter to break the ice with a pretty girl. I also bought a used scooter because the previous owner had put almost all of the chrome accessories on her that I had wanted. Once my baby moon chrome hubcaps come in she will be complete. And third, the manual shift. It is so cool to be shifting your scooter off the line. The shifter is the left control with 4 speeds plus neutral. Pull in the clutch and twist your wrist. No foot lever, it is all in the wrist.
Basically, Stella is a 1980 Vespa P200. Manufactured in India, Genuine Scooter Company imports them with a catalytic converter legal in 49 states. California doesn’t know what they’re missing. Other upgrades that time has added to Stella are an electric start to compliment her kick-start and a front disc brake.
Her single cylinder 150cc 2-stroke motor propels this 1/8 o’ton o’fun (that’s me) around town at speeds reaching 55 miles per hour indicated. While not a freeway bike, I have been commuting on it and she holds her own in town. Personally, I have found Stella to be the best form of transportation around town. She is quick and nimble while functional and cute. Running in and out of parking lots is simple and quick. Park her near the bike racks and off you go. The accessory racks and stock glove compartment allow me to run my errands or just head over to my favorite coffee slinger and pose.
Its 2.1-gallon gas tank has been averaging about 70 miles to the gallon for me and the 2-stroke oil is auto injected with a quart lasting from 500-600 miles. No premixing and the 2-stroke oil smells like strawberry for those of you who are averse to smelling like 10W-40. Me, I put a little dab behind the ears before I take off for a night on the town.
I have ridden my share of large motorcycles down to my current KLR 650. While they all have their benefits on the road I find them big and bulky when running around town. Not with Stella. A courier bag, helmet and scooter are all you need to enjoy an afternoon or urban wonders. The head turning is entertaining too. Scooters have a way of drawing attention. Put a surly looking fat man on it and now you have yourself a show.
I call this attention-grabbing phenomenon the puppy factor. Take a puppy for a walk around the lakes and the quality of opposite sex attention and duration of conversation towers over the standard “Hey baby, what’s your sign”. I have found that it is disarming and people are more willing to approach you and talk about your scooter than any motorcycle I have dismounted.
The accessories catalog for Stella is wonderful. Not only are crash protectors, chrome bumpers and racks available, but windscreens, mud flaps and rain covers too. You can even pick up a mirror stem or 20 and make your bike look like it belongs in Quadrophenia (If you don’t get the reference, I have a copy of the movie you can borrow).
Other amenities include a helmet hook and spare tire. That is right, the spare fits both the front and back hub allowing you to get to your destination on time or, if your anything like me, realize that you didn’t get the spare fixed from the last time you had a flat.
Aftermarket hop up kits and chrome parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive for the increased power. I will be looking into this later on when my color matched side care comes. I might what a little more get up so that I can go.
I didn’t grow up with a scooter. Heck, I didn’t grow up with a motorcycle either. These are all joys that I have found with every passing year. I have fallen head over heels for my Stella. While not overly comfortable for 2-up riding, my DA and I have gone on ice cream or dinner excursions or just toodled around the lakes for an afternoon ride.
While the bike is very stable, the 10-inch wheels tend to weeble wobble a bit. The only frustration I have had so far is the location of the turn signals. They are located on the right hand control rather than the standard motorcycle left. This tends to be a slight pain in the butt since the right hand is doing so many other things through the corners like accelerating and braking.
I would also like one more gallon of fuel to move my current range from roughly 150 miles to around 210. Why, just because. One can really never have enough fuel. It is also missing a neutral idiot light. Handy to have especially when she can lurch off of her center stand when using the starter.
Over the past few weeks of Stella being part of the family I have put on about 500 miles and she hasn’t skipped a beat. It has become my daily runner putting the KLR on back up duty and the car out of commission. It has allowed me to slow down a bit and forced me to take some side streets in Minneapolis and Saint Paul normally reserved for bypassing due to freeway traffic. When I want to travel I consider first the best route on Stella.
In some countries, the scooter is a vehicle of necessity. With the need for cheap, reliable transportation that allows you to get from A to B, the scooter solves some economic issue and some congestion issues. I have to say that I feel fortunate to be able to choose the scooter as a primary mode of transportation. Yeah, I could pedal a bike and get some exercise but that is work, and if there is one thing that I hate, it is effort. On the other hand, I really don’t need to drive a truck 10 miles to and from work every day. It isn’t worth it. The Stella is a functional piece of equipment wrapped in a grin and giggle-inducing package. A vehicle made for one, but can take 2 rather than a vehicle made for 7, but more times than not is taking only one.
Make a social statement and get yourself a Stella. You’ll be giggling every morning and you may even like riding to work.
With an MSRP of $2899, the Stella is an instant collector ready to ride. Of any of the bikes that I have owned or ridden over the past few years, she has been my favorite and honestly most functional vehicle I have run. Not only is she practical on fuel and maneuverable in traffic. She has made my happiness level rise to the point that I just giggle around her now. My name is Gus, and I giggle in public.
You can get your Stella in Gray, Tangerine, Red or Ice Mint Green at Scooterville in Minneapolis. They are located at 650 25th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414. Visit them at www.scootervillemn.com or call them at 612-331-SCOOT (612-331-7266). They will be more then happy to get you addicted to yet another hobby. It will pave the way for a new drawer of scooter t-shirts, hop up kits and sidecars. My sidecar is on order and will hopefully be here soon!
You can also read more about Stella at Genuine Scooter Company’s web site www.genuinescooters.com.
by Sev Pearman
Let’s see…what was good in 1982…Preppie fashion had met its demise; Elvis Costello, The Jam, & Gil Scott-Heron helped pave over Disco, Olivia Newton-John and The Carpenters; and you could buy a Vespa P200-E for about $1,000 (appx one month’s student salary.) That bought you Italian style, campus cred and, in my case, moto-freedom March through October.
Twenty years on, fashion and style have circled again and are poised for the kill like two lionesses. Khakis are de rigeur on Casual Fridays. Gloria Gaynor has indeed survived. And the Italian-styled 2-stroke powered scooter is back on the boulevard.
If you haven’t yet ridden a small scooter, you should consider it. Their small efficient motors can easily propel you to and from work, class or the gym. They have less mass and bulk of even the smallest motorcycles. Another attraction is their simplicity: many feature automatic transmissions and simpler braking versus motorcycles.
Some riders yearn for vintage scooters, the Vespas and Lambrettas from the 1960s. Their style still stands forty years later. Having owned and ridden some of these, I can attest to the cool factor but also to the feeble brakes, crap-o 6V electrics, alleged headlamps, crude suspensions and always-needing-something maintenance.
Enter the Stella. The Stella is the much-refined descendant of the P200-E, the last Vespa to be sold in the U.S. before the E.P.A. strangled 2-stroke powered street machines. Cosmetically, it is an identical twin, with body panels being stamped from P200-E molds. It takes a dedicated bolt-spotter to notice that the Stella isn’t a vintage scooter.
Why base the Stella on a P200-E? Vespa had improved the weaknesses in their line with the P-series. These had bigger brakes, beefier 12V electrics, auto oil injection and other rider-friendly refinements over their earlier GS and Rally series models. They still retained the essence of a Vespa; the style and silhouette, easy twist-grip shifting, direct-drive 4-speed transmission, interchangeable wheels with fully-inflated spare and room for two. Then came the EPA bombshell and Vespa pulled out of the US market for over twenty years.
U.S. distributor Genuine Scooter Co wanted to offer a scooter that had both vintage style, but updated systems. They took the excellent Vespa P200-E as a starting point and began sanding its Reagan-era rough edges.
“Enough history! Wazzit got now?” Glad you asked. The motor is 150cc, 2-stroke single with 5 piston ports and reed valves, like modern 2-stroke dirt bikes. Stella passes the Smoggies by using a catalytic converter. Output is claimed 10hp, good enough to haul my 240 lbs at an indicated 55 mph. Ignition is electronic, a CDI box that eliminates points and their maintenance. I wasn’t convinced that the 150cc Stella made more power than its larger 200cc ancestor but it doesn’t really matter. If you want more power, buy a Suzuki Burgman.
The drivetrain seems identical to that of a P200-E. The Stella puts out spin via a 4-speed, constant mesh, direct-drive gear train. There is no messy chain, drive belt or drive shaft to maintain. If you think that is no big deal, may we direct your attention to “one of these beautiful classic scooters over here…”
Most impressive are the brakes on the Stella. The front now sports a real disc and caliper by Grimeca. Stopping power must be twice that of a P200’s drums. Two-finger braking is no problemo “Look, Ma &endash; I’m on a sportbike!”
The Stella cranks on Bitubo gas-charged shocks with adjustable pre-load via threaded collar and remote reservoir front and rear. There is enough adjustment range to handle my bulk as well as the crappiest ripped up city street. The top shelf Bitubos can even be rebuilt.
Did we mention the electric starter? While the Stella keeps the manly kick starter on the right side, most will opt for this decadent feature.
Rounding out the updates are premium Continental tires, including the spare. With the advances in tire technology, you have better traction, less squirm and longer wear versus the rubberbands of twenty years ago. Fashion mavens and gangstas can upgrade to aftermarket whitewalls.
Complaints? Some lawyer-type decided that US riders had better have an audible beeper to remind them that their blinkers were on. If it were mine, the first item of business would be its removal. I delayed my signal at lights to avoid the raspy “Beeeep Meeep Eeeeep” Hey Genuine &endash; skip the bandage and offer self-cancelling signals if this is such a big deal. Riders–use your signals and get in the habit of checking them after you upshift into 2nd. Let’s get along, shall we?
Some of the trim bits look plasticky, and I remember that the baggage/helmet hook on P200s was metal. Scooterville will happily sell you this upgrade, should you desire it.
Fellow scooter owner, Friend-of-Freddie and passenger-of-the-day Super B complained that the seat was uncomfortable compared to her model and thought that the exhaust note was almost too loud. To be fair, she rides a 50cc model daily and was sitting over the exhaust tip. Your mileage may vary.
One anachronism are the 10 inch tires. You simply don’t get the stability and confidence that larger wheels provide [see People 250 report this issue. ed.] The little guys are twitchy and overwhelmed by a larger rider, feeling more like a razor (foot) scooter than a motorcycle. This is a trade-off for style, but most owners won’t push their Stellas that hard.
None of this matters because the Stella is fun. Everyone loved it. I got smiles and waves from coeds, twenty-something hotties and soccer moms. People come up to you when you stop to park or re-fuel. Allow a few minutes to answer the deluge of, “What is it? How do you shift? Where can I get one? How much? It comes in that orange?” etc etc.
For those wanting a classic-styled scooter with “all mod cons” Genuine Scooter’s Stella is a no-brainer. She is practical, fun, quiet and oh-so-hip
As an aside, Genuine Scooter Co offers retro-fit kits that enable owners to drop in a Stella engine in their vintage ride. You can now keep your cake and ride it, too. See those mad lads at Scooterville for more information. We would like to thank Gear Whore Gus Breiland and Scooterville for their assistance on this review.
Ridin’ High: •Direct drive! No drive chain, shaft or belt. •Updated engine, brakes, suspension, quality, etc. •I had Fun! Fun! Fun! ’til Gus took his Stella away.
Runnin’ on Empty: • The ‘adventure’ of riding on 10 inch tires. •Safety-dork blinker buzzer. Pass them wire cutters, eh? •Unconvinced that new 150cc outguns old Vespa P200-E motor.
Wife’s First Reaction: “OMIGAWD Its so cute!”
Selected Competition: Bajaj Chetek and Legend; Honda Metropolitan II, Vespa ET-4, Yamaha Vino 125; others.