by Stephen Heller

Last year, I put together a list of the 5 best scooters I rode, so again no Heinkel Tourist. Also I wrote about the 5 scooters I was looking forward to riding in 2008. I was able to test 4 out of the 5, bikes: Vespa S, Fuel injected Kymco (Xciting 500 and 250), 150cc Genuine Buddy and a 500cc Vespa MP3. The 5th Scooter, a Hybrid, is still vaporware, although the rep from Piaggio/ Vespa said that we may see a MP3 Hybrid later in ‘09 for the European market. Although I had no expectations for an electric scooter and didn’t even care to try it, the Vectrix all-electric scooter blew me away when I rode it. So maybe we should just skip the Hybrids all together.

Favorite Scooters I Rode In ‘08

5. Genuine Buddy 150 International – Already a rocket as a 125, the extra 25ccs improves on an already great scooter. It increased the bottom end torque and gained a couple more miles on the top end. Making it a 150 also made it legal to drive on the freeways in Minnesota, but keeping up with 494 traffic on 10” wheels would be a hairy endeavor.

4. Yamaha C3 – Weird but fun, a cooler on wheels, or a new Cushman was my first impression. The flat seat and flat floorboards give the scooter a comfortable ride. Yamaha makes great scooters and for a 50cc 4-stroke, this is at the top of the class.

3. Piaggio MP3 500 – Aggressive styling, incredible technology. I was hoping that we wouldn’t get a watered down version of what was in Europe and I wasn’t disappointed. The 500cc fuelie has good performance and takes you along as fast as you care to go. The matte black on black paint job with brushed metal accents is a great look.

2. Vectrix – I have ridden other electric scooters. They were a novelty topping out at 25-28mph with no range and not much in the way of suspension or brakes. Not true for the Vectrix. It has to be ridden to see what a serious electric vehicle can do. It will be the benchmark for all electric scooters or motorcycles to follow.

1. Vespa GS160 – It is old and a bit rough, but it is finally mine. After seeing Quadrophenia, who didn’t want to be the Ace Face like Sting and drive a GS? The scooter is not just about looks. It is also incredibly fun to ride. The GS 160 was the last scooter designed with the large rounded end before the boxiness of the Sprints, Supers and P. Some consider it the acme of scooter design. I undoubtedly agree.

Top Scooters I’m Looking Forward To In ‘09

Vespa GTS Super – The GTS 250ie was the favorite scooter I rode in 2007 and I believe is one of the best all- around scooters ever built. The Super will be 300cc and have a few more retro styling cues of the 60’s Vespas. I expect this scooter to be one of my top bikes for next year.

Gilera 800 – While not a scooter in anything but the broadest description (gas tank lower than the seat) it will be put into that category. It is huge, heavy, and an automatic. Three strikes and it should be out, but this thing is pretty radical looking and will be fast, so I really want to try it.

Yamaha T Max 500 – THE sport scooter is finally making its way to the US. I am looking forward to riding what all of the international scooter magazines have been raving about for years.

Yamaha Zuma 125 – All of the specs make it sound like a great performing scooter. Liquid cooled, 4-valve, 4-stroke with fuel injection. It also has the look, the “bugeye” headlights and the tubular exoframe. And it’s a Yamaha, making for one scooter that I am looking forward to.

Genuine Buddy Black Jack – Another “special edition”, it will come standard with upgraded suspension, brakes, exhaust and transmission. Of course it will be black. Should be fun.

M.M.M.

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