I’m not sure exactly how I became utterly obsessed with getting a Vespa but I do know it happened in the last year. Perhaps it was seeing them in movies like We Are the Mods, or perhaps it was the romance of embracing a stylish and efficient European mode of transport. The things I most appreciate about my scooter at this point is that it is so beautiful and fun to ride. (The cheapness and convenience of taking it on BC Ferries is pretty darned appealing as well!)
It had to be a Vespa. Nothing else made me want to get on and brave the rain. For months I read specs from Vespa Metro and Urban Wasp in Vancouver, got my hands on any book that wasn’t a service manual from the library, and trolled Craigslist for potential scooter soul mates. The used offerings were not great. I knew pretty quickly that a 50cc scoot was not going to work for me. My main goals were to be able to ride to work and take the ferry. I could conceivably take Marine Dr. to the ferry (and I’d be unlikely to get sick like on the bus) but getting off of the north shore on a 50cc would be dangerous. Lion’s Gate might be okay if no psycho drivers tried to rear end me going 53.5 km/hr on the causeway (unlikely!) but the Ironworkers’ Memorial Bridge demands more speed. More power also allows you to nip out of the way better. I knew that my parents (bless them for caring) would be less upset at the idea of their cautious librarian first born daughter riding something with more oomph.
The verdict: 150 or 300 cc engine.
Having never ridden actually ridden a scooter, it seemed only right to give it a whirl part way through my research. “Oh, yeah! This might be terrifying and not something I want to invest money and my life into!” I have been driving cars (mostly a manual), the family’s big old Chevy Silverado, and ATVs over my 10+ years driving. I am also good on a bicycle, which my motorcycle racing dental hygienist told me was good for getting the feel of leaning. (Yes, I have the coolest hygienist ever.)
My lovely partner indulged me in the summer and we rented two little 50cc scoots from Tuff City Powersports in Nanaimo. I loved it, she tolerated the exercise and fought off her waves of nausea and sense of foreboding gained from a bad experience in Greece involving a pothole. I practiced owning the lane and going almost 55 km/hr on the picturesque roads of neighbouring Wellington. She wanted me to ride by the side of the road so people didn’t take me out trying to pass but nobody did as I was going a laboured 50. We returned the scoots after a quick and cheap top up of gas, leaving me with a wide smile and a plan slightly more grounded in reality.
Armed with the knowledge that I could indeed ride a scooter and that I could do so happily and comfortably, I continued my research and costing out my options. Since I hadn’t actually seen any over 50cc Vespas for sale, I assumed I’d have to shell out a bunch on money for a new scoot and the freight, etc. Very expensive. I even considered a new Saga Stella made with the old 70s Vespa factory moulds but was unsure that a manual scooter was a good idea for me. The price was compelling: only $4000 compared to over $6000, plus awesome colours like Dijon and the option of a side car (not my personal taste for design but the dogs would have loved it!) Plus the sales guy at Tuff City was really helpful and low pressure. As an underemployed young person getting by because her parents’ let her live their ground level basement suite, cost was definitely a factor. I was unsure what the compromise would be because I didn’t want to get a machine that I would want to sell pretty quickly due to operation issues (the manual Stella) or lack of power (the plentiful 50cc Vespas on Craigslist).
Skip ahead to October. I’ve talked to anyone who will listen about Vespas and am possibly looking insane. My coworker whose husband rides motorcycles is very supportive and offers their company buying one. My partner is worried I’ll be crushed or smashed into a bunch of pieces on the road. Ditto for my too proximal parents. My brother is jealous because he sold out his two-wheeled dreams for a measly $15 to cover the cost of his motorcycle knowledge test in exchange for a promise to never use the license. Some people suggest a small motorcycle but I have no desire to ride a motorcycle. They just don’t do it for me. Their centre of gravity is higher and I’d have to navigate gears and a clutch while not being killed in traffic. No thanks. And they’re simply not pretty like Vespas. The aesthetic is a large part of the charm and I want to look like myself while getting a car off of the road.
There isn’t a lot left to learn in order to take the plunge. I live in hope that I’ll either come into some money or a good used scoot will show up.
And it does! Three 200+cc scoots show up all at once on good ole Craigslist. Two are black. Black is unappealing. If I were buying new I would have gone for white or orange for visibility. And the other is Daring Plum…
I can tell immediately from the glamour shots taken by a lake that this is one loved machine. The ad is well-organized and even has a link to how loud the after market horn is. I am in love.
It has all of the modifications that I as a safety princess would want: louder horn to wake up drivers and a brighter headlamp. The luggage roll is divine and the price is about half that of a new scoot due to the 2006 vintage. I go to the bank to get financing and hope it’s still for sale.
More coming up in The Purchase.