Now that I’ve put about 300 miles on the Vespa, I’ve been able to draw some comparisons between this and the various other scooters I’ve ridden. The GTS is the creme of the crop — a five-star scooter, the Jaguar of the scooter world, if you ask me. Vespa calls the GTS “The Fastest Vespa Ever.” I would also call it the safest Vespa ever. Not that I need to rationalize anything, but purchasing the GTS was definitely a wise move.
As a disclaimer, I am in no way an expert on safety. I am speaking solely from my own experience, which is limited. That said, I’ve been riding nearly a decade and have never had a collision. Places like the Evergreen Safety Council who can provide you with actual legitimate information. Consider my input totally editorial.
Riding a scooter in the city is dangerous. There’s no two ways about it. You have to pay attention constantly, ride defensively, and assume that every single car on the road is going to hit you. You are literally invisible. Even wearing my new Glo Glovs, even with my white 3/4 helmet lit up by 3M Solas marine-grade reflective tape, even with the dual halogen headlamps on the GTS, I am invisible. But as long as I accept that, I can ride as safely as possible.
This means at every intersection, I assume the oncoming car is going to turn left in front of me, that the car next to me is going to change lanes into me, that the SUV hurtling down the hill to my right is going to run that red light. Even if drivers do see you, they misjudge your speed because you’re smaller than a car, particularly if you’re heading toward them. That’s one of the reasons why many two-wheeled collisions with a car involve the driver turning left in front of the bike, even if they saw the rider — even if they made eye contact.
For the way I ride, it’s not the open roads or speed that I’m too concerned about. It’s intersections, it’s heavy traffic with lots of lane-changing, it’s long stretches of construction without clearly marked lanes, enormous steel plates covering the road with zero traction in the rain. Some people argue that because the GTS is capable of highway speeds, it is therefore more dangerous. That’s totally flawed logic.
Compared to my previous scooters, the Vespa GTS has the following safety features: better brakes, larger wheels, stronger acceleration, brighter headlights, louder horn, lower center of gravity, and all-around better handling.
There are three ways to avoid obstacles or danger on a scooter — speed up, slow down, and/or swerve. You have to make split-second decisions on which is appropriate in any given situation, based on who’s behind you, who’s in front of you, what the road surface is like, and how fast you’re going (and myriad other factors).
On the Stella, I tended to brake and/or swerve to avoid danger because I just couldn’t move fast enough to get out of the path of the obstacle. Particularly with the hesitation in 3rd and 4th gear. The torque on the GTS is unbelievable and I can easily throttle my way out of situations instantly. And I don’t have to shift before accelerating. It makes riding so much more enjoyable.
Stopping on the GTS is smooth and fast. Compared to both the Stella and my Honda Elite 250, the brakes on the Vespa are a million times better. The Elite was 20 years old, so I did replace the brakes with new ones. But I still had to stand up on the foot brake to stop on Denny. The GTS has no foot brake, which was disconcerting at first (and I occasionally slam my foot into the floorboard for no particular reason), but with both brakes on the handgrips, I found I could maintain better balance when stopping.
On the other scooters I would need to hold my right leg at an awkward angle to use the foot brake — I don’t know if I sit weird or it’s because my legs are so long. With both feet braced flat on the floorboard, stopping on a hill is much more comfortable on the GTS. Plus the GTS has disc brakes both front and back. The Stella and the Elite have front disc brakes and rear drum brakes. Hence the standing-up-to-stop maneuver.
As an added stopping bonus, the GTS is fuel injected so engine-braking kicks in fast if you don’t give it gas. When riding in the city, I often don’t even need my brakes if I leave room in front of me.
The GTS halogen headlight is wicked bright, and there’s a second headlamp on the mudguard for increased visibility. The stock headlight on the old Stellas are inadequate at best. Luckily, adding a halogen headlight is one of the things Genuine improved upon for the new Stellas coming out this year (along with a decent crank). Of course, the Frankenstella’s electrical system was so royally screwed that I rode with practically no lights or signals for a good few months. (See safety disclaimer above.)
The GTS is a very heavy scooter. The weight was the one thing I was concerned about when comparing models during pre-purchase research. My Elite 80cc weighed 170 lbs., while the GTS weighs 326 lbs. In between are the Stella, at 240 lbs., and the Elite 250cc, at 287 lbs. Forty pounds difference between my largest bike and the GTS didn’t seem like much, especially since I carried a 170 lb. passenger every day on the Elite 250. And I easily weighed at least 40 lbs. more than I do now.
I talked to Tina at Vespa Seattle about the weight differences among the models, LX150, GT and GTS. She said I wouldn’t even notice it. And I don’t — except when I’m parking. Or putting the GTS on its center stand, on top of my big toe. Because the weight is distributed so well on the GTS, and the center of gravity is so low, the bike is perfectly balanced. Once you give it some throttle, the weight disappears. The bike feels like it’s made out of graphite.
After riding the GTS for awhile, I got back on the Stella, and could instantly feel the difference in the center of gravity. In comparison, the Frankenstella feels downright tipsy.
I’ve been entertaining myself by blowing people away at lights — particularly when they inch up alongside me and I know they’re going to try and pass me when the light changes green. They see a girl in a skirt on a cute little scooter and get their panties in a bunch that they’re going to be “stuck” behind me. So I leave them there to reconsider. It’s juvenile and unnecessary, I know. But on Aphrodite, I’m no commuting secretary — I’m a superhero in civilian clothing.
In summary, I am totally, fully and completely smitten with the Vespa GTS. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. “