I rode my first Vespa in 1964 and competed in scooter rallies across the length and breadth of the UK in the ’60s and ’70s, including eight Isle of Man scooter weeks and winning four British Scooter Grass Track Championships along the way.
That was before emigrating to Australia and starting the Perth branch of the Vespa Club of Australia as President, and may have contributed to being lucky enough to score an invite to cover the Melbourne launch of the latest Vespa GTS range on behalf of MCNews.com.au.
The new 2023 Vespa GTS range comprises the GTS SuperSport 300 HPE – GTS Classic 300 HPE and the GTS Super 150. I rode the GTS Classic, and I am sure everyone will find one of the new colours to suit their taste.
Our ride out gave us the opportunity to put the Vespas through their paces on the freeway and some great twisting sections around Warrandyte at the start of the Yarra Valley.
The answer became crystal clear after riding the 2023 model. The new innovations and upgrades reminded me of my initial concerns on the old model, that I had now got used to and taken for granted. It gave me the feeling that Piaggio had asked me to voice my concerns and listened.
The biggest concern of the previous model was the now well documented ‘front wheel wobble’. Removing both hands from the handlebars at certain speeds (which I don’t advocate or condone), made it almost impossible to control the scooter in a straight line.
While retaining the traditional single-sided swingarm this has been addressed with new suspension calibration and updates in terms of its operating framework to ensure greater stability, particularly at high speeds.
It became immediately noticeable on the freeway, and even more so when I turned into a tight corner and hit a pothole with lean angle, but experienced negligible loss of stability.
One other personal gripe with the previous model for me was the width of the handlebars. I found myself grabbing the handgrips about halfway out from where they should be. This has now been addressed with wider bars and I find my hands are now comfortable on the full width of the handgrip.
I find the seating position on the old saddle slightly uncomfortable due to my 5’10″ (178 cm) frame needing to sit on the contour ridge between driver and passenger. Also, under heavy braking the tendency to slide to the front of the saddle was irksome.
This will, of course vary from person to person, but the new saddle has a flatter profile with more room for the pillion and is far more comfortable for the pilot.
The mirrors on the previous model were excellent with good vision. For me, although I love the aesthetics’ of the new design, I haven’t ridden the scooter long enough to be convinced that the new mirror shape enhances visibility.
Saying that, riding in Melbourne peak hour traffic at the beginning of the ride out did not give me any great cause for concern. I have always been happy with acceleration off the line with the previous model but the latest engine evolution of the 300 HPE is a Piaggio triumph, with increased performance while reducing fuel consumption and noise levels.
Another standout improvement is the double-disc braking system with new calipers and Brembo brake pumps. Teamed with ASR electronic traction control and ABS anti-lock braking through the upgraded suspension and front-end improvements has resulted in reduced braking distances and banished the occasional slightly vague braking feeling of the previous model.
Our limited time on the scooter did not allow for a detailed inspection of so many more aesthetic and technical enhancements and differences between the models but I am sure this will give new owners pleasure as they work their way through the finer details such as: