After putting fuel stabilizer in a beautiful red Vespa GTS 300, it’s time to take it out for a quick ride around the neighborhood to get the stabilizer running through the fuel system before putting the bike away for the Vespa, so why not shoot record it and share a video review of the GTS 300? In this video I’ll be sharing a bit about the history of Piaggio (the maker of Vespa), what I love and hate about this scooter, and answers to the five most common questions that new scooteristas ask.
Everyone can recognize a Vespa. For decades now, Hollywood and the rest of the world has been in love with these gorgeous, iconic, Italian machines, gracing the posters of movies like Madeleine, Lizzie McGuire, Larry Crowne, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Yes Man, and of course, Roman Holiday and Quadrophenia. But a lot of people don’t know Vespa’s history.
Vespas are made by parent-company Piaggio, which started out building trains, plains, ships, and pretty much anything that was needed to keep Italy rolling during the second World War. Post-war, Italy needed efficient and economical means of transportation for the people. The first Vespa was born in 1946. Ten years later, by 1956, over 1 million Vespas were produced. That’s when their popularity began to explode. By 1960, over 4 million Vespas were born and scooting all over the world.
As I’m sharing little pieces of trivial knowledge, I’m interrupted by a woman walking her dog up the street. “I love that!” she exclaims. “What a red!” she adds, eyeing the bike’s color.
Another fun fact about Vespa’s history, is that the designs borrowed a lot from Piaggio’s background in aviation. For example, the single-sided front forks are based off of Piaggio air craft landing gear design, and the original Vespa used an aircraft starter motor as it’s engine.
Today’s “modern Vespa” GTS 300
Today’s Vespa, though still small, curvy, and beautiful, is a beast compared to those small frame machines of years gone by. The Vespa GTS 300 is a 278cc liquid cooled, fuel injected, single cylinder engine. It seems like the optimal mix between vehicle technology and mechanical simplicity. The Vespa isn’t over-engineered or complicated, it’s allowed to simply be elegant, tasteful, and effective.
The Vespa’s small tire size and short wheelbase means that it handles very well, but those small tires mean the scooter doesn’t handle ruts in the road as well as a motorcycle’s larger tires would. Suspension is adequate, and due to Vespa’s large global appeal, especially in Europe, there are a ton of quality aftermarket parts available for these machines, should you wish to upgrade any of the factory components.
Where the GTS reigns supreme is urban and suburban commuting, where nimble handling, a relatively small size (more on that later), fuel-miserliness, and reliability make it a top pick on any dry day.
Commonly asked questions about Vespa and the GTS 300 specifically
Below are 5 questions people commonly ask about the Vespa GTS 300, or simply about Vespas in general, based on my twelve years of riding scooters (that’s right, there’s a scooter parked next to my Harley).
1) How does the GTS 300 compare to the GTS 250, and which one should I get?
Surprisingly, the GTS 300 (realistically a 278cc) isn’t 20% better than the the GTS 250 (realistically a 244cc), despite what the scooter names might have you think. Despite being smaller, the Vespa GTS 250 actually makes more horsepower than the GTS 300, albeit at higher RPMS (21.7 hp @ 8,250 RPM for the 250 vs 21.1 hp @ 7,750 rpm for the 300). In torque however, the larger 300 is a clear winner (14.2 ft. lbs @ 6,500 rpm for the 250, vs 16.2 ft lbs @ 5,000 rpms for the 300). An experienced Vespa owner will notice the difference in pick-up and acceleration.
Does that mean you should go for the GTS 300? No, not necessarily. In fact, if you can save a couple thousand dollars picking up a used GTS 250 instead, I recommend doing that, and putting a few hundred bucks into some performance parts. For example, we found that adding simple performance parts like a $40 set of Malossi rollers to your 250cc will make it out-gun the GTS 300.
For further performance boost you can look into aftermarket exhausts, which are much cheaper for scooters than they are for motorcycles. And if you really want to go all-out now that you’ve saved thousands of dollars, you can even “kit-up” or bore-out your Vespa 250cc engine to make it on par with the 300’s displacement.
If I got a little ahead of myself and left you trying to understand why the new Vespa motor isn’t light-years ahead of the old one, here’s the scoop: Manufacturers are extremely limited by government emission requirements. Each year these government emissions laws become more and more stringent and harder to comply with, so you get less and less performance, as the motors get cleaner and cleaner. To off-set this, manufacturers need to make slightly bigger engines, to get the same performance they used to get one decade earlier.
2) Should I buy a Vespa or a motorcycle?
That depends. If what you’ve really always wanted is a motorcycle, get a motorcycle. A Vespa is not a replacement for a motorcycle, but it is a valid alternative option. If you want is something cute, light, economical, fun, easy to ride, and more fun, get a Vespa. There’s no shifting, and there’s even some storage space under the seat (more on that later). If you want to rev up your engine, make some nice, have a manual transmission that you can ride your way and get the most performance you can handle out of your machine, get a motorcycle.
3) How do gears work? Is it automatic?
For all intents and purposes, yes, it’s automatic. But technically it’s called CVT transmission. Watch the video, you’ll see I never shift gears. You just twist the throttle (hand grip), and go, and when you want to brake, it’s like a bicycle, the two hand levers are for your front brake and back brake. Easy.
4) This thing is bigger than I expected! Are there smaller Vespas out there??
Yes, absolutely. For what feels like half a century (maybe more, maybe less) Piaggio has been making Vespas of two different frame sizes: Small frame, and Large frame. The Vespa GTS 300 is a large frame Vespa. If you feel that the GTS 300 is more bike than you want to handle, don’t worry, you can start off on a small frame Vespa like the S150 instead.
5) Should I buy a vintage Vespa or a new “modern” one?
That depends on how you plan on using it. I had a 1979 Vespa Sport 100. Sometimes it fired up easily, sometimes it would protest my attempts to get her started, and when I had found a buyer for her, she wouldn’t start at all! The 1979 Sport 100 also had drum brakes front and back rather than disk brakes, meaning that coming to a stop was kind of like walking through a haunted house: Somewhere between “I’m pretty sure I’m going to be okay” and “I’m still kinda terrified at the same time.” For most of the time that I owned the ’79 Sport she lived in my kitchen as more of a decor piece (see this video).
If you want something that sits there and looks cool, and you have the patience and self-reliance to work on the bike yourself, or else the funds to pay a dealer to try to fix it for you (assuming they’re able to and can find parts), by all means, get the vintage Vespa. If you want something that’s reliable, still makes people smile whenever you ride past, that’s good on gas, gives you some storage options, and is better for every day use, this Vespa GTS 300 is a sure bet.
Dislikes and conclusions
- The under-seat storage, while it will fit a three quarter helmet and a half (beenie) helmet, will not fit a full face helmet. If you ride with a full face and would like to keep it on your bike, you’ll need to get a top case.
- The small tires can get pushed around on bumps and rut worse than larger scooter tires or motorcycle tires do. However, they’re a key part of the GTS’ overall aesthetic, so I’m ok with this. The **** we put up with for the sake of beauty, am I right?
The Vespa GTS 300 isn’t as aggressive or powerful as a motorcycle, but it has more than enough power for urban or suburban environments, along with it’s own own charm and grace. I hope you guys check out the video and let me know what you think.