It all started with a “mass-sent” text from Rachel, our ex-TSD Rallye team manager who is now with Moto-Italia. “Get it or Regret it”, she said. “You will have fun!” someone else bravely predicted.
I’ve always been intrigued, but not that interested, with these scooters. I’ve seen enough movies, but had never, ever, in my 40+ years owned one. And while I’m familiar with the brand, I did not have an idea of how 2-stroke scooters work. Though it is true that there is a strong local following, I personally know only 4 Vespa aficionados. My exposure to motorcycles has mostly been “big inch” motors, reciting with pride the credo that “loud pipes save lives” or “if I have to explain, you will never understand”. I am more familiar with Thunderheaders, Edelbrock, and Ceriani, while Polini, Malossi, and Bitubo were all alien words to me. Already riding a Harley and an adventure bike, no real reason for me to get a Vespa.
Having no pressing errands on that fateful day, I went to the Moto-Italia showroom in Greenhills. Surprising even myself, I bought one.
It was a painless transaction. For some odd reason, I knew that I was NOT going to buy a 4-stroke. The friends that I asked (by text) en route to the dealership said that shifting is practically the same…except the fact that engaging the clutch and shifting the gear is all done by the left hand – simultaneously. Instructions were therefore clear… a bit weird…but clear.
The dealer promised to deliver in two days, and that they did. Arriving by cab, I took delivery of a red PX150E. Leaving the dealership, this sweet thing greeted me with a slight wobble (must be something about her being a little right-side heavy and the uneven grade of asphalt) and a whooaa moment (yes, “whooaa” is a technical term) because I only used the (new) front brakes with tiny discs that Piaggio called rotors.
Let me express at this point that within the first 100 meters of EDSA, I immediately realized that riding a scooter will get you niddly respect from the PUB’s and some cagers. I also got a decent amount of ribbing from the MC gang I hang with Sunday mornings with some wisecracking friends asking if I deliver pizzas to Bel-Air. That said, it was friendly enough to have two kids pose with the little red bike at Starbucks, a pic that probably ended up on Instagram, and cool enough for one stranger to give me an approving “thumbs-up sign”.
I ride bikes because I enjoy it. Trite as it may sound, it is a passion. Some 223 kilometers and two weeks after delivery, she’s already taught me a few things. With such short time and limited mileage, I’ve learned that We can work together and have loads of fun. Riding stock, I’ve accepted the fact that We are not going to beat any world speed record. Going up the EDSA-Ortigas flyover even at WOT (wide open throttle) validates the rule of Physics that it takes more power to go up a steep gradient. But provided that I work with her temper, the nice twisties of Sierra Madre have given me a totally different understanding of this bike and what it means to have a leisurely run.
While it may be well after the fact, I decided to get to know more about this brand, the people that ride it, and basically the do’s and don’ts of owning a “Wasp”. For this, Google was my friend and Wikipedia (that unparalleled source of all knowledge) told me that this bike is now manufactured by Piaggio under the Vespa brand (duh), and it is a single cylinder two stroke (another duh). It was discontinued in 2007, and revived in 2010 with a redesigned engine to meet emission standards.
Armed with such useful knowledge, I went to the forums.
Funny enough, they (or is it we) talk about the same things in car forums and the aficionados are no less passionate. I’m likewise not surprised that a recurring topic is the “oil thread”, which branches out to what brand of 2T oil you use and animated discussions on synthetic 2T and normal 2T. You would likewise encounter the usual troll and the occasional contrarian who would insist on it being an overpriced underpowered scooter sporting antiquated technology which has the same aerodynamic coefficient of a brick. In foreign forums there are those who would insist on a particular look, a particular way of dressing up, and for some, even the kind of music that would or should match the Vespa experience. I suppose and would admit that it is no different from the stereotypes carried by a few, that HD riders must have ink, wear chaps and vest, listen to metal, and at least one point in time, painted skulls/bones/skulls and bones on their bike.
But the pictures of the bikes are another story altogether. The pictures of the bikers having fun in rallies, my favorite of which is that of an elderly couple ambling along in the same scooter they used in the 1960s at Embarcadero when they were protesting.
I’ve reached the conclusion that I made the right decision. Although I am nowhere near what enthusiasts would consider as having reasonable experience on a PX, I am nonetheless certain that I will have fun on my bike, my way – however way I want.
Big-inch motor gods, forgive me for I have sinned. I am having an affair with a little red bike and her name is Claudia.