by Jeremy Wilker
YET MORE NEW SCOOTERS
There has been a lot of buzz on the internet in the past several weeks over a new scooter coming soon to a dealer near us (I hope): The Stella from Genuine Scooter Company. What is the big deal? Very few people know for sure with actual riding/touching/drooling experience, but a few things seem to be certain: powerful two-stroke engine, disc brake, nice suspension, metal body, manual transmission and affordable pricing.
Metal body? Manual transmission? Are you thinking that sounds like a vintage Vespa or new Bajaj? Well, you are very close. Apparently the Stella is actually some sort of modified LML Star 150cc scooter. LML Limited, a pluckish company based in India, has a similar story to Bajaj – they were licensed by Piaggio to make and sell Vespas in the Indian market and have done so for many many years. In late 1999 Piaggio sold its 24% stake in the company to LML’s CEO, Deepak Singhania. He also got $5.5 million dollars from Piaggio as exit cost and, even though the joint venture is over, LML is free to make Piaggio’s flagship scooter, the Vespa ET4, in the Indian market but they are restricted from exporting it until the end of 2007. LML shares domination of the Indian scooter market with Bajaj and also makes motorcycles.
Ok, back to the Stella. The Genuine Stella is genetically similar to the Vespa P-series of scooters and sources claim most everything from a P-series will fit the Stella. This means instant availability of spare parts and accessories. Stella also features a couple of exceptionally nice touches: a Bitubo gas-charged front shock and Grimeca front disc brake! Sweet. The racy two-stroke engine is a 150cc 5-port reed-valve design similar to a T5 model.
Wait a second! A modern two-stroke engine over 50cc in size? Isn’t that banned in the States? Sources claim that the engine was able to pass emissions testing through the addition of a large catalyzed exhaust (removal of which is a federal offense!), but… only in 49 states currently. Final tweaks are being made to get it legal in the tighter requirements of the state of California.
A pre-release model was shown recently at the Slaughterhouse 8 scooter rally in Chicago and by all reports it is a nicely-made scooter, appearing very much like a ‘new’ vintage Vespa. Pictures posted to scooter websites certainly attest to that claim. I think demand could be high.
The Genuine Scooter Company website wasn’t yet fully operational at time of this writing and simply claimed “Available Fall 2002” and supplied a link to apply for a dealership. According to sources, dealers will have the scooters on sale sometime around early December of 2002 with a price around $2700. Colors will reportedly be Bright Red, Quartz Silver, Tangerine and Ice Mint Green. Rumor has it that one of the GSC partners came out of the Scooterworks Chicago syndicate, which, if true, lends some credibility to this new venture. We’ll be keeping an eye out for this one.
The second new scooter to be seen ’round these parts is the Peugeot Speedfight2 via a special arrangement with a dealer in Atlanta, Georgia. The Speedfight2 is a 50cc liquid-cooled dual 180mm disc brake hot rod of a scooter with an anti-dive single-arm hydraulic front suspension. The original Speedfight has a stellar reputation in Europe and has won Scooter of the Year from Motor Cycle News in 1997, 1998 and 2000 (and won Silver in 2001 and was highly commended in 1999). It is also one of the best-selling scooters in the EU.
The Speedfight2 seems to be fast becoming one of the desired scooters amongst the racing crowd. Kitted out with a larger piston, different weights and a new pipe, these scoots have been clocked going over 80mph! With fun, aggressive styling to match, who can blame the racers for their lust? These machines look great and pictures don’t really do justice. See one in person for an accurate viewing (and, hopefully, riding) experience.
A brilliant little feature of these scooters is the integrated Boa Lock contained within the frame/body. Unlock a cover below the seat rear and out extends a long heavy-duty security cable and lock. Wrap it around a post or through a rack and lock it. Unlock it and it retracts back into the body. A very nice touch and it leaves your under-seat storage free for helmets, lunch, beverages, etc.
The balance on the Speedfight2 is really, really good. The center-of-gravity is just slightly lower than on a Kymco Super 9 thanks in part to a more sculpted and thinner seat design. Cornering on this scooter feels very comfortable and quick and it seems to lean with the merest of thoughts. Also, as compared to the Super 9, I found the brakes to be quite good, both easy and effective, but just a notch below the performance of the dual discs on the Kymco.
The scooter tested had been modified from stock with the addition of a Leo Vinci handmade exhaust, different weights and the usual de-restrictions. The weights geared it to more top-end speed (around 54 mph) so I found the bike to be just average off the line and getting from zero to forty took a bit longer – unofficially around 12 seconds. Adding more mods to the scooter (belt, variator, etc) would bring this machine to its full potential. This appears to be the challenge for many modern 50cc scooters – it is pretty easy and inexpensive to change the pipe and rollers/weights but you really sacrifice acceleration for another five miles per hour on the top-end. If you intend to start tweaking, be prepared to go all the way. You’ll be happier and your scooter will perform much better throughout the power range.
As I said, the Speedfight2 is a great scooter with a great style. The dual halogen front lamps are a welcome feature. It has tucked-away footpegs for a second passenger and the security features of the scooter are superb. Ample under-seat locking storage. Pricing is comparable to other scooters in its class at approximately $2,799. I’d love to test out a stock model and see how well it performs but that probably won’t happen for quite some time as the Peugeot Speedfight2 is probably best represented in the States by Andiamo Scooters in Atlanta, Georgia.
WEST COAST VISIT
I went out to San Francisco for a bit of get-away last month and I was expecting to encounter all manner of vintage scooters zipping up and down the hills and around the bay. Well, I did see many scooters but I was a bit disappointed that the majority of bikes I saw were ratty old Hondas. I know, I am biased towards the old Vespas and Lambrettas, but can you convince me otherwise of their superior style? I think not. I did come across plenty of vintage scoots in my excursions and saw a decent amount when I went to the big swap meet at First Kick Scooters.
Scooterists from around the bay area came down to the big meet to hawk their spare parts and scooters on a gorgeously warm Saturday afternoon. The side street next to the shop was taken over and soon an open-air marketplace of vendors hawking their goods was in full effect. Haggling over prices while waiting on a freshly-grilled burger/brat/veggie took a grudging second place to tall tales of scooter adventures, although a few vendors were holding court with impromptu schooling sessions on why this or that engine was good or bad and how to go about rebuilding such-and-such a bike.
A few days prior I had quite the serendipitous experience: I needed to rent a car for a day so I thumbed through the yellow pages making phone calls based on ad appeal and descriptions and I ended up calling “City Rent-A-Car” to reserve my vehicle. They would pick me up the next morning at my hotel and drive to the rental office to finish paperwork. A great convenience and they were very polite. The next morning at the prescribed time a driver arrived and we were off to their offices, making small talk along the way with me in the back seat. The driver, John, got me signed off and ready to leave and was asking me whether I liked Guinness beer. I said, well, no not really (I don’t drink beer or wine) but my friends in the scooter club back home sure seem to enjoy a pint. John’s face got this surprised look and his hands shot into the air. “Scooter club?! You said scooter club?!!” He was, in my estimation, flipping out. In a good way. I showed him my patches on my jacket. He got more excited while handing me his business card from his other job at San Francisco Scooter Centre, exclaiming “Oh man! Good thing you were in the back seat or I might have glanced over at your patches and drove off the road!” This led to the next twenty minutes of scooter talk and delay in my departure. Think about it, though: San Francisco is over twice as big as Minneapolis and I randomly call a car rental place and get hooked up with a guy in the local scene who also works at one of the two local shops? Crazy… but very very cool.
Next time you head out to San Francisco, make sure you stop by First Kick Scooters and San Francisco Scooter Centre (they’re only a few blocks from each other). They both have great vintage bikes and service and they have new scooters from Derbi, Malaguti, Bajaj and Vespa as well. You will, no doubt, be warmly welcomed by the friendly folks on staff at either shop. And look for The Regulars club patch on the SFSC patch wall!
Bundle up warm and ride safe, ride often!
The Twin Cities’ Vintage Scooter Club, The Regulars, meets on the first and third Sundays of each month at Pizza Luce in Uptown Minneapolis (32nd and Lyndale Ave) at 2:00 pm for socializing and riding — as long as weather permits. Join us! The website is located at http://www.minnescoota.com or send me a message – firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com