Miscellaneous Vespa related articles

At Biograd, Croatia, the 2015 edition of Vespa World Days and also the most important international rally dedicated to the most beloved two-wheeler in the world, has come to an end.

Thursday, 11 June to Sunday, 14 June, were four days of friendship and love for the adventure and voyage that brought more than 5,000 Vespas from 32 different countries to gather along the Croatian coast. Besides Europe (which was fully represented), there were participants from Brazil, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Taiwan and Thailand.

The presence of representatives from countries in the former Yugoslavia was significant; naturally from Croatia (host country), but also from Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Once again, Vespa proved to be a bridge of friendship between different populations and generations.

The over-5,000 Vespas included both historic and more recent models. Some of the most admired participants were a rare very first edition Vespa (the 98cc from 1946), the powerful GS from 1955 and the sporty Vespa SS, a legend for young people in the 1960s. The line-up of the new Primavera, Sprint and GTS units was impressive, successfully perpetuating the message of a unique heritage.

Following the tradition, Vespa World Days concluded with the Vespa Club awards. It was an Italian triumph with Martin Shift, President of the Vespa World Club (the organisation that assembled 56 national Vespa Clubs) who presented the Vespa Trophy to the Sirmione Vespa Club, a team made up of 12 Vespas that arrived at Biograd after visiting the most number of checkpoints throughout Europe.

The all-Italian podium saw the Cerignola Vespa Club in second place and the third spot was taken up by the Veronese VR37100 Vespa Club which took this award and this being their very first time participating. The individual Vespisti awarded were Canadian Jeff Schneider, Russian Alexei Kozlov and Serbian Dejan Stojcic.

Now, the baton will be passed to the Vespa Club de France which will organise Vespa World Days 2016 in the spectacular setting of Côte d'Azur at Saint Tropez.

With more than 18 million units produced since the first one in 1946, Vespa gave the whole world an extra gear, spreading throughout the streets of every continent.

The first truly global transportation brand, Vespa became a trait d'union t (common link) between generations, interacting with social environments which were far apart from one another, creating various cultural phenomena, particular to the situations in which it artfully integrated into, until it became a protagonist and a distinctive trait. It led fashion, music and youth revolutions. It accompanied nations in their growth. It gave them brilliance in times of economic wellbeing. And, today it is one of the most common and well-known Italian products in every corner of the globe.

The Vespa World Days event traditionally represents the highest celebration of the timeless legend that is the Vespa. The 2015 edition comes 57 years after the first Eurovespa rally held in Belgium. In fact, the Vespa event, which was rechristened Vespa World Days in 2007, was organised for the occasion of the show in 1958, the Brussels World Fair.

The love that fans have for Vespa was born immediately, so much that it drove many owners, even in 1946 when the very first Vespa was made, to share their passion; and so the first Vespa Clubs were established in Italy and abroad. Today, there are 56 national Vespa Clubs associated with the Vespa World Club and more than 780 registered local Vespa Clubs, with over a total of 67,000 members worldwide. This past year, in Italy alone, more than 100 rallies for fans were held.

Women certainly loved the Vespa. Its appearance in Roman Holiday, the 1953 romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, is said to have been worth 100,000 sales. Perhaps it was. The glamorous Hollywood couple spun carefree around Rome on one of the scooters, aimlessly and stylishly. Audiences wanted to do the same.

Only VESPA’s naturally-occurring “wasp extract” peptide provides a safe & effective way to tap into the virtually limitless power of “fat as fuel” for natural human high-performance. The emerging sports science of “fat-adaptation”, “keto-adaptation” and “metabolic efficiency” is not new to us. VESPA has been leading the "fat as fuel" approach for over 15 years and today is the de facto leader in fat-based performance.

What makes VESPA different is the podium. Our fat-adapted focus and winning pedigree spans over 15 years and includes Olympic Gold in events ranging from Men’s Figure Skating, Hockey and the Marathon to today’s ultra-endurance athletes who are shattering records at the outer edges of human performance.

Other stars and films followed, providing more free advertising campaigns for Piaggio’s mechanical wasp. From Angie Dickinson, fulsomely gorgeous on her Vespa in Jessica, a Sicilian romp from 1962, to Gwen Stefani, racing one in the 2007 video for Now That You Got It, women have been as important to the myth and success of Piaggio’s bestseller as men. The male part has been played, variously, by moody Mods in 1979’s Quadrophenia, a disturbing Matt Damon in 1999’s The Talented Mr Ripley and by the whimsical Italian film director Nanni Moretti in Caro Diairio in 1993.

As fuel prices have soared worldwide, and as urban commuting has become ever busier and parking spaces fewer, more people have taken to scooters. And, despite ambitious rivals over the years, the Vespa has been top of the polls since it first turned a pair of tiny pressed-steel wheels.

Mod and trad

Although thought of as essentially Italian, the idea for the motor scooter we know so well came to former Italian aero-engineers from watching US military aircraft drop tiny, olive green Cushman Airbornes to troops in the industrial heartlands of Milan and Turin fighting fierce German resistance. Made in Nebraska, the Cushman Airborne – a skeletal steel motor scooter – allowed troops to nip about deftly as never before.

Using skills and materials drawn from the aircraft industry, D’Ascanio transformed the idea of this basic, yet brilliant easy-ride motorbike into the Vespa. Toy-like, yet ingenious, the Vespa made its public debut at the 1946 Milan design fair, a year ahead of the Lambretta, a similar machine, by the aero-engineers Cesare Pallavicino and Pier Luigi Torre for Ferdinando Innocenti, an industrialist D’Ascanio had crossed swords with shortly before teaming up with Piaggio instead.

Several rival scooters emerged from Germany, while Japan produced the Fuji Rabbit, which, like the Vespa, also debuted in 1946. Britain got in the act, too. Who now remembers the fast, sweet-handling, twin-cylinder Triumph Tigress designed by Edward Turner in 1958? Sadly, although it could race up to 70mph (113 kph), the Tigress required constant fettling and pockets full of screwdrivers and spanners.

It was Britain, though, in the guise of Mods riding customised scooters – their sharp clothes protected by army surplus fishtail parkas, originally designed to keep American soldiers warm during the Korean War – that gave the Vespa a surprising hint of menace. Or, at least it did during 1960s Bank Holidays when Mods invaded seaside resorts, Quadrophenia-style, on swarms of buzzing scooters and ended up fighting Rockers on motorbikes. After Italy, Britain has remained the second largest market for the Vespa.

This year, Piaggio launched its 946 model, a beautifully made scooter that harks back in terms of styling to D’Ascanio’s original. It has four times the power and sturdy ABS braking as well as traction control. More significantly, advertising features glamorous young women in chic couture posing and scootering through Rome. The difference between them and Audrey Hepburn’s princess of sixty years ago, however, is significant: they are on their way to work, not on a fickle Roman holiday. A design that exudes Italian charm and styling, the Vespa will be buzzing through the world’s city streets for many years yet.

Scooters fall into two groups: utilitarian and stylish. Recently, we compared the other scooters, two utilitarian scooters that are uglier than almost anything on two wheels, but that can do pretty much everything a motorcycle can do for half the price and with twice the fuel economy. Then, there are the style scooters, which traditionally haven't offered the same kind of performance as the utilitarian ones, but do bring about the nice benefit of transporting you instantly to a California beach or a European city center, as soon as you place your feet on the floorboard.

The Vespa is the poster child for the latter and, luckily for me, I live on a Southern California beach.

Only a completely customized cafe racer or Harley can make you feel more like you're letting the bike down by not dressing for the part than the Vespa. So much so, that you sort of forget about class-leading storage or needing it go on the freeway. You aren't buying it for how it can make your life cheaper and easier, you're buying it for how it makes you feel.

I can't believe I'm about to publish this on the internet, but the Vespa makes you feel cute. Not cute in the attractive sense, more cute like Taylor Swift. It puts a stupid grin on your face which, when paired with the scooter, seems to put a grin on the face of everyone you pass. Little old ladies tell you how adorable you are as you park, girls smile or wave as you zip through traffic or apply liberal amounts of rear brake to screech to a halt at every opportunity. Real "bikers" find you so cute that you actually seem to become invisible to them and not a single one will wave, even when you flap your hand wildly as you pass.

During my time with the   Vespa Primavera, I got very comfortable living the scooter life. So much so that having to step over the seat to get on a motorcycle seemed downright awkward.

Stacked up to the scooters we compared a few weeks ago, the   Vespa Primavera struggles to be competitive in the performance areas. Its 150 cc single topped out about 60 mph, barely fast enough to ride along the Pacific Coast Highway and definitely not capable of hanging on Los Angeles freeways. However, given the 11-inch wheels it rolls on, I don't think I would really want to see the little Vespa pushed much faster. Steering is incredibly sharp, so much so that I always made sure to keep a hand on the bars at all times.

 Vespa Primavera highlights

The  Vespa Primavera is a beautiful scooter. Vespas have always been stylish, and this all-new scoot does a great job of blending old lines with newer technology, like LED running lights and an updated instrument panel. Everything from the headlight to the paint are absolutely stunning, which makes for quite an eye-catching little scooter.

At somewhere in the neighborhood of 115 mpg, the   Vespa Primavera is very economical. I only had to put gas in ours one time in the month that we had it, and I put almost 400 miles on it.

I love that Vespa left the rear as a mechanically operated drum brake. The hooligan in me wishes more bikes had a lefthand rear-brake lever sans ABS. Sliding the rear of something like the  Vespa Primavera literally never got old.

 Vespa Primavera lowlights

I was sad to see the Vespa Primavera struggle to keep pace down roads like the Pacific Coast Highway or other normal roads with higher speed limits. After spending time on the Smax and Burgman, I had become accustomed to pairing scooter sensibilities with the ability to ride longer distances. Sadly, the Vespa Primavera seemed determined to stay within a relatively small radius of my house. It was just too slow to pull its weight for normal Southern California day-to-day life.

The lack of a sidestand was annoying to no end. Sure, putting the thing up on its center stand was cute and kind of fun in the right circumstances, but most of the time I just wanted to slide out a side stand and be on my way.

The competition

It's hard to find a direct competitor for a bike like the  Vespa Primavera. Sure, there are other 150 cc scooters, but not with the Vespa Primavera's classic styling. With an MSRP of $4,799, the   Vespa Primavera is in the same price range as the Smax and Burgman 200, but it has a completely different skill set and personality. With the Yamaha Vino 125 no longer available, the only similarly styled scooters are 50 cc models like the Vino Classic and the Honda Metropolitan. The other alternative is a larger Vespa model, but those start at nearly $2,000 more expensive.

Conclusion

The   Vespa Primavera is the perfect scooter... for a very specific buyer. If you or your significant other wants something cute to ride around town on, there simply isn't a better option. Vespa made a host of updates to the old LX that really improved performance and comfort, but kept the price much more entry-level than the $10,500 Vespa 946.

During my time with the bike, several friends' wives and a neighbor or two all asked me about the scooter and mentioned they had considered getting one. Again, this isn't for the utilitarian "most bang for your buck" crowd, but for those who want a fairly cheap bike that costs next to nothing to run that will get them around town stylishly. If there was ever a vehicle that embodied our "form over function" love of two-wheeled things, the Vespa  Primavera is it.

 

 

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