Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"What's a Vespa?"

I so often hear the question when I’m out riding, “is that a Vespa,” that I was a little flummoxed to have someone ask, “what’s a Vespa,” the other day. I must confess that I was so surprised by the question that I couldn’t have given a good answer.

Alas, the world does not revolve around scooters, so this was a legitimate question. To do a little better a job responding next time, I figured I had better practice.

So, “what is a Vespa,” you might ask?

Simple answer: an Italian motor scooter

To delve a little deeper into it:

What’s a scooter? According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge), it’s a “two-wheeled motor vehicle with a step-through frame.”

A step-through frame (chassis)? For me, this means you don’t straddle it (the gas tank/frame of the bike) to ride like you would a motorcycle. Instead, it’s a little like sitting on a chair with your feet on the “floor” or rather floorboards in front of you (please forgive the over simplification).

To help illustrate, pictured are a classic motorcycle (left) and modern scooter (right).

The Vespa brand of scooter, manufactured by Piaggio, originated in Italy in 1946. While other scooter manufacturers have come and gone over the years, Vespa celebrated its 60th anniversary just last year and new models are for sale today.
In addition to online resources, a host of books have been written on the history of Vespa and motorscootering in general. If you're looking for something tasty to flip through, I'd recommend "Vespa: Style in Motion" and "The Scooter Bible."

When out on the road, the “is that a Vespa” question is usually followed by a host of others related to top speed, cost, licensing, etc. I’ll save answers to a few of those questions for another post.

p.s. my answer to the, “is that a Vespa,” question when I’m out riding is always, “no.”

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