by Stephen “Hell Cat” Heller
There is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the selection of new scooters available to the buyer. Looking back at the archive of Scootering articles, there was so much excitement to have any new scooter available besides the paltry offerings from Yamaha and Honda. Now there is only one major brand that you can’t get in the US; and that is Peugeot. This month, I had a chance to ride the two new scooters from Genuine; the new Vespa and the Vectrix electric scooter, and the newish Yamaha C3. All are great scooters for all different tastes and wallet thicknesses. This month, I will give my impressions on the two that excite me the most.
Blah, blah, alternative fuels, blah. Personally, I ride a scooter because I like everything there is about not riding around in a box. The fuel savings is only a bonus. So, any press release or blog posting about the Vectrix electric scooter was summarily ended when I saw the first mention of the price tag; $10,999. But I guess you pay a premium to be an early adopter. My dad has told me about his first calculator that cost a couple hundred dollars and could only add.
Besides the price tag, I had found electric scooters to be only a novelty. I have ridden a few electric scooters, including the EVT model that looks like a Yamaha Vino. It would go close to 30 mph, had great acceleration, and was silent except for the sound of the tires on the road. It was also very heavy because of the four car sized batteries underneath the seat, and rode like it had four car batteries underneath the seat.
With all of my misgivings and general lack of interest in electric scooters, at this point I really wasn’t interested in even riding the Vectrix. But when Bob Hedstrom of Scooterville came back after riding it and said I had to try it, I conceded.
Turning on the Vectrix, it is not just a twist and go operation. The scooter is locked until you hold in the brakes and you see the GO on the left side digital display. Turning back on the throttle, the bike immediately accelerates. Apparently the novelty of going fast without any sound has not gone away for me, because I am already having a blast. There is no problem keeping up with city traffic and out pacing it at every stoplight. The Vectrix is equipped with high-end components throughout: Marzocchi fork, Sachs shocks, and Brembo brakes front and rear, but you don’t need the brakes for anything but emergency stops. Turning the throttle forward initiates the regenerative breaking that slows down the scooter quickly and very efficiently.
Turning the throttle forward when you are stopped puts the scooter in reverse. There is not as much heft with the Vectrix (510lbs) as there is with a Goldwing (886lbs), or even a Silverwing (551lbs); the reverse would be helpful on any scooter.
My ride was not nearly as long as I would have liked. I wasn’t able to test it on the freeway or run it until it couldn’t go anymore. Hedstrom reported that it did an indicated 60 mph on the highway and felt very stable. He also rode it until it was dead and at full speed the charge lasted for about 20 miles. The mileage is also very dependent on weight. With a 100lb passenger, the distance-till-empty dropped by about 10 miles. From dead to fully charged, it takes from 3-5 hours as advertised. But I wouldn’t want to be in the same room when it is charging; the buzzing drove me mad.
I am not a convert to Vectrix yet. My test made me take a couple steps in that direction. A lot of the cost in this scooter is in its technology, and I mentioned before that the other components are high quality. The plastic body panels and the overall finish of the scooter doesn’t match the quality of Yamaha, Vespa or even Kymco. I will leave the Vectrix to Leonardo DiCaprio for now, but I may start to tune into the blah blah blah about alternative fuel vehicles.
Currently, there are no dealers for the Vectrix in the Midwest.
Vespa S It is kind of sad when Vespa can simply change the headlight, the seat, and add a few pieces of chrome trim and I will swoon. But that is exactly what happened when I saw pictures of the Vespa S almost 2 years ago, and I am still smitten. It is the kind of badge engineering that Vespa has been doing recently with a lot of success. For example, the GT 200 to the fuel injected GTS.
But there are only cosmetic changes between the Vespa LX 150 and the “S”. The engine is still the 4-stroke LEADER putting out 11.7 hp. An external fuel pump has been added to all of the 2008 models, including the S. The top speed is just below 60 mph and takes its time to get up there compared to the smaller and lighter Genuine Buddy. The display trimmed in chrome is more difficult to read than the LX dash, and the only change that I see as not an improvement.
To slide below the MSRP of the LX, the “Piaggio Code” anti-theft system has been cut along with the enclosed legshield glove box. The lack of enclosed glove box seemingly makes the scooter look smaller and gives it even more of a throwback look. As for the anti-theft key system, scooter thefts are not nearly as high here as they are in Europe, and will save people from the costly mistake of replacing the whole ignition system if they lose the programming key.
That isn’t to say that the S, or in turn the LX, is without faults or foibles. The most annoying item for me is how roughly the clutch in the CVT disengages when rolling to a stop. Also, placement of the oil filter and access to the spark plug involves removal of major components, which leads to higher regular maintenance bills.
I am very happy to see this addition to the Vespa line-up and if you haven’t been too crazy about their previous offerings, this may be a scooter that deserves a look.