Last week marked one year of Vespa ownership. I also saw the odometer turn 5000 miles and I thought it would be an appropriate time for a review of the scooter. I’ll discuss the following:
The LX150 is solidly built and 5000 miles of use has only seemed to improve it. With the exception of a clogged carburetor almost right out of the showroom (a small fleck of rubber from the fuel line dislodged during assembly and clogged the float valve) it has started every time I pushed the starter button. I’ve ridden the scooter in temperatures close to 0 degrees Fahrenheit to over 100 degrees. Rain, snow, fog, ice, humidity—whatever Mother Nature dished out the Vespa took it in stride.
Fuel economy has been consistent at around 68 miles per gallon in my town/suburb/rural commute. On the open road with steady throttle I have achieved as high as 90 miles per gallon.
Maintenance costs have been predictable and reasonable. I’ve had the oil changed at the 600 mile break-in period and then again (too early) at around 3000 miles. The maintenance schedule is a bit hard to pin down with Piaggio’s Warranty Book differing from their Owners Manual and both differ from the Vespa Shop Manual. I looked at everything and chose my own schedule that is in the happy middle of the three.
If there is an unexpected element in the scooter it has been tires. I am on my third rear tire now with each needed to be replaced with 2400 miles on them. The front tire still seems almost new. Granted the smaller tires turn more than bigger ones but I was surprised at how fast they wear. Replacing the rear tire is more complicated than the front so the cost to have it done is greater as well. The tire and tech time cost me $99.34. At the rate I ride that’s at least a hundred dollars a year for tires. More the years I have to change the front. I’ll pay for that out of fuel savings.
I have run the same tire—a Pirelli SL38 120/70-10. These tires are sticky and have excellent traction in all weather. The only dicey performance is off road on gravel roads but I suspect my skill is more suspect than the tires. I’ve heard of longer lasting tires but the feel of the Pirelli’s are fantastic.
I plan to start doing my own maintenance, not out of a concern for cost but more because I want to understand how the thing works. The engine and related systems are simple and straightforward and I don’t expect any problems. If I do there is a wealth of support out there in the Modern Vespa forum. Worst case I’ll have to drag my partially dismantled scooter to the dealer so that they can have a good laugh.
The LX150 is a solid performer within my expectations. On a flat smooth road it will easily haul my 190 body along at 60 MPH as long as I care to travel at that speed. It has gone faster in cool air and tucked down low I have seen the speedometer indicate 70.
Acceleration is smooth through the entire speed range though I slight slowdown in acceleration between 45 and 55 MPH. Hardly noticeable unless you’re racing a car away from a traffic light. From zero to 35MH it is quick!
I had some apprehension about tire size and how that would affect the quality and safety of the ride. I can say with confidence that it does not seem to matter at all. The ride is surprisingly smooth and the little tires allow the Vespa to corner well and provide excellent swerving ability. At the speeds the scooter travels it is an extremely nimble and agile machine. I am wary of potholes and rough roads and gratefully there are not a lot of scooter eating holes in Central Pennsylvania. I have hit a few and the scooter has not dropped into oblivion or high-sided me onto the pavement. The small tires have handled sudden gravel filled absences at 45 MPH without incident. Respecting the size of the tires and what they can handle is important. I have consistently underestimated their ability.
Another performance advantage for me of the LX150 is the two hand brakes instead of the hand and foot brake configuration on a motorcycle. I can get both hands on the brakes fast and really control stopping power better than I could with the foot brake. The Vespa simply stops fast.
One last performance feature that you never hear much about is the ability to haul groceries and other kinds of “stuff”. I can now easily haul 8 bags of groceries on the scooter using the built in bag hooks, under seat compartment, and rear rack with bungee cords. If I set my mind to it I bet I could increase that number by 50 percent. The Vespa performs reliably as transportation and as a utility vehicle. This is not just another pretty machine for sunny day use followed by diaper rubs.
This is the real reason I bought this thing. What began as pure fun has transformed into a minor miracle of personal peace. Regardless of riding conditions, no matter how hot or cold a smile always comes to my face when I ride. I find the attention required to ride safely strips away the concerns of the day—things melt from my consciousness and I am left living in the moment. The ride is a contemplation of machine, body, and mind. I find a serene place.
Riding also provides an opportunity to pursue mastery. Not the simple definition of getting good at something but rather the definition of mastery outlined in George Leonard’s book “Mastery”. Leonard describes mastery
“It resists definition yet can be instantly recognized. It comes in many varieties, yet follows certain unchanging laws. It brings rich rewards, yet is not really a goal or a destination but rather a process, a journey. We call this journey mastery, and tend to assume that it requires a special ticket available only to those born with exceptional abilities. But mastery isn’t reserved for the super talented or even for those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start. It’s available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it—regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.”
The Vespa offers a chance to pursue this path and it reaches far beyond simple definitions of riding. It is a challenge personally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I am grateful to have stumbled upon it….
I’ll post my next review at 10,000 miles.