For the 77 years since its founding in April 1946 by Italian company Piaggio, Vespa (Italian and Latin for “wasp”) has served as the aesthetic standard for scooters, with its distinct style. After receiving my learners motorcycle licence, Vespa SA gave me an orange GTS 300 Super Sport, if memory serves me correctly, to ride for about six months.
I must have looked slightly comical with my touring jacket, modular helmet, and backpack over a shirt and a pair of brogues, but it was on the Vespa that I got comfortable navigating Johannesburg roads. I was still working full-time when I started riding it so, after dropping the kids off at school, I would swap the car for the scooter and head to the office in Bryanston.
I even rode to Alexandra township one Sunday to participate in an iPhoneography walk, when they were all the rage, daring to take the scooter on the highway for a portion of the way — top speed was just under 120km/h. But only a portion because after getting wobbled every time a car passed, I returned to suburban roads.
Scooters are for commuting and there has been an influx of them in the South African market, from the affordable to the high end, with all the bells and whistles. I would probably go for one of the following:
Vespa GTS 300 Supertech HPE
Retaining the timeless design, the GTS Supertech has a single-cylinder, 4-valve engine, maximum torque of 2.0 Nm at 5,250rpm and a top speed of 130km/h. The fuel tank can take 8.5 litres and there is a helmet compartment so you don’t have to lug around. In keeping with the times, it also has a keyless system and a 4.3-inch full-colour thin-film-transistor (TFT) display, which also provides navigation and connection to your smartphone to via Bluetooth for access to messages, calls and the like.
Yamaha T-Max 560
Yamaha’s T-560 has a 560cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke, 4-valve, parallel twin-cylinder engine that churns out of 35kW at 7,500rpm and has a top speed of 160km/h. It comes with hydraulic dual-disc brakes on the front and a hydraulic single-disc brake on the back with a telescopic fork front suspension system. The tank takes 15 litres, large under-seat storage for a full-face helmet, and a lockable and waterproof compartment for storing other items.
It also has a keyless system and a TFT feature with speedometer, tachometer, odometer, fuel consumption and temperature indicators. The styling feels like a cross between a motorcycle and a scooter, with a decent windscreen. Definitely a scooter you can take on the open road.
BMW CE 04
While I am still undecided about the benefit of an electric motorcycle, I do buy into electric scooters, While retaining the scooter look, there is something about the CE 04’s minimalistic design that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I like it.
It has a permanent-magnet liquid-cooled synchronous motor, a top speed of 120km/h and produces 62Nm at 1,500rpm. It comes standard with ABS and ASC, with traction control DTC and ABS Pro optional.
Charging can be done at done at a normal 230Vt domestic socket or at a BMW Wallbox, which you can get for your home. There are also BMW charging stations at a couple of dealerships around the country. A full charge will give you a range of about 130km. BMC say it takes about 3½ hours for an 80% charge with the domestic socket or Wallbox. A quick charger will do the same in just over an hour.
Also keyless, it has a 10.25-inch TFT display that shows performance data, range and battery charge as well as connectivity to your smartphone through the BMW Motorrad ConnectedRide and Connected apps. I like the the storage compartment for your smartphone, which is watertight and has a USB connection for charging.
Well-designed and engineered, any one of these scooters would bring joy to what can be a hair-raising commute around the city.