Young, gifted and mobile - Vespa

MotorBikes: Road testing the Vespa ET 2 The Vespa ET 2 is a super little machine, which does "exactly what is says on the tin…

MotorBikes: Road testing the Vespa ET 2 The Vespa ET 2 is a super little machine, which does "exactly what is says on the tin"

The inspiration for virtually all of today's scooters, large and small, can be traced back to Piaggio's post-war Vespas. Piaggio pretty much wrote the book when it comes to scooters. Their ET2 has the typical scooter looks and their smallest, 50 cc engine. It was designed very much with Italian youngsters in mind. They can ride these low-powered machines from the age of 14. In Ireland such small machines are about the only option for the 16 to 18 age range. That does not mean they are simply playthings.

The Vespa ET2 is essentially urban transport, at its best within the 30-40 mph limits. Those living in rural areas, not having to mix it on fast main roads, would also find it convenient. Classed as a "moped" (a word was originally used to describe small machines which also had bicycle-type pedals) which are, technically, machines with a top speed of below 45 kmp /28 mph.

Given that congestion has reduced some urban average speeds to as little as 8 mph, there are many who would settle for being able to do short journeys in a quarter of the time. Add in the cost factor and the convenience and such small, low-powered machines meet many peoples needs. They don't need anything more exotic.

Being much more used to riding machines, some with engine sizes as much as 36 times greater, the immediate impression on our test was just how well the ET2 performed on the road. A good deal of the reason for this is that Vespa have come up with a stroke of genius with this tiny engine. Simply put, a tiny crankshaft in the cylinder head drives an 0.8" diameter piston which forces a petrol-rich mixture at about 70 psi via a poppet valve into the cylinder. Meanwhile a conventional carburettor allows in clean air.

This novel approach has overcome one of the worst features of two-stroke petrol engines, their blue-smoke exhaust emissions. Without having to resort to a catalytic converter Vespa's ET2 is supremely environmentally friendly, and efficient.

The chassis of the ET2 is identical with the ET4 Vespa, which is a 125 cc machine. This economical approach does mean that the ET2 which weighs in at 202 lb, is slightly heavier than some of its competitors. Performance cannot be measured by conventional motorcycle standards. It pulls away from the traffic lights easily enough not to hold back other traffic and quickly gets up to around 30 mph. Beyond that it is a case of hoping for good luck, a following wind or downhill gradient.

The tiny engine is always working hard. The exhaust note, whilst not obtrusive is sufficient to remind jay-walking pedestrians that you are in the vicinity. The brakes are smooth and powerful.

A complete beginner, of normal co-ordination and intelligence, could learn to control the machine without difficulty. It has a low centre of gravity, is stable and vice-free. Learning to survive in heavy traffic demands as much, if not more "Roadcraft" skill, because there is simply no reserve of power to get out of hazardous situations. You have to be doubly careful, through good observation skills, not to get drawn into them.

Importantly these machines, where the tiny engine is always working hard, have won a reputation for great reliability. It has both a centre and a side stand. There is an anchor point for a security chain.

Under the seat stowage is modest. Engine accessibility is good; the under seat stowage bin lifts out to give full access to the engine. The appearance, lacking lurid go-faster stripes and with a choice of understated civilised colours add to its attractions for those who have got past the "No Fear" stage.

Forget dreams of a world tour or lap records at Mondello, if all you need is personal transport of modest performance, freedom from bus and taxi queues and the effort of cycling, the Vespa ET2, with its modest price tag, Group 1 insurance and meagre thirst could serve you very well.

TechSpec: Vespa ET 2 Scooter

Engine: 2-stroke, single cylinder, 49.4cc, 11:1 compression, fuel injection.

Transmission: Centrifugal clutch, variable speed belt drive (Automatic).

Chassis: 10" wheels, 200mm front disk brake with dual pistons, 110mm rear drum brake.

Dimensions: Weight 90kg, Fuel capacity 9 litres, seat height 805mm.

Insurance: Group 1

Price: €2,495 OTR includes helmet, lock, gloves, rain trousers, cargo net & 12 months unlimited mileage warranty.