The idea of buzzing around on a fun little Vespa is appealing, but make sure it's right for you

Let's face it.  Vespas are cool.

They're the Harley Davidsons of the scooter world.  When you think scooter, most likely, the name Vespa comes to mind.  They're sleek and iconic.  They represent fun and freedom.  And once you've got the bug, you've got it for good.

I sure did.  I got married in Italy in 2008, in a tiny town on the Amalfi Coast called Positano.  It was gorgeous, and small, with narrow, windy roads twisting up and down the cliff side village.  Vespas and scooters buzzed by every minute of the day.  People rode in pairs, with groceries in hand, and dogs in their laps.  It looked so fun and free, like my childhood bike on steroids.

I wanted one.

First thing my wife and I did as a couple upon our return was get our motorcycle license and bought a Vespa.  And I've been riding it ever since.

And while I love my bike, there are a few things to consider before you rush out and do the same thing I did:

1. Weather

It goes without saying, unless you're really hardcore about riding your Vespa, you're not going to do it in bad weather.  Does it rain a lot where you live?  If so, you're not going to get to ride it as much as you'd like.  What about the temperature?  When you're riding with the wind at your face at 50 miles per hour, cold air feels 10 times colder and hot air can be choking.  I live in a part of the world that gets well into the hundreds in the summer and still freezes in the winter.  There's only a handful of months that are good for me to ride, leaving my bike sitting in my garage way more than I'd like it to be.

Also, is it windy where you live?  Vespas are light, and a strong breeze can be enough to push you into an oncoming lane.

2. Streets

I've lived in a couple of different parts of town since buying my Vespa, and I can tell you the experience you have on your bike can be vastly different depending on your neighborhood.  The best areas for Vespas are dense, urban areas.  Downtown and residential neighborhoods.  The streets are smaller and the traffic is slower.  Suburbs are not as ideal unless you live near an entertainment or retail destination.  The area I live in now is surrounded by large 3-lane streets where the traffic is regularly over 50mph.  While the Vespa can easily reach these speeds, they're not my favorite.  It can be stressful, especially when surrounded by cars and trucks going even faster than you.  I prefer to ride more leisurely, which is easy to do in more densely packed areas.

3. Hair

It's a little thing, but wearing a helmet when you ride your bike around (and don't be stupid, wear a helmet) is going to mess up your hair pretty profoundly, especially if it's hot and you're sweating.  Shorter hairstyles survive a little better, and men can get away with it more than women.  Just something to think about, especially if you were considering riding to work in the morning.

4. Security

Vespas have a wheel lock mechanism that makes it so anybody who tries to roll away with it would find themselves going in circles.  But weighing only 350 pounds or so, it's not impossible for a few guys to pick it up and put it in the back of a truck and be gone in seconds.  It happens all the time.  I've found that you're pretty safe parking in active public places, but you definitely don't want to leave it out all the time at home.  Best bet is to have a private garage, second to that is a good chain with which you can secure it to a pole (and keep it out of plain sight).  Other than that, there are Lo-Jack systems for motorcycles that will get your baby back to you, and I've even seen hacked cell phones work the same way.

5. Insurance

Don't forget, as much as it looks like a toy, this is still a motor vehicle and must be registered and insured by the state.  Those tags and papers do cost a bit of money each year, so you want to make sure you're riding it enough to make it worth the cost.

Riding a Vespa is an awesome and thrilling experience that can bring you joy beyond measure.  All the senses are engaged - when you drive past a restaurant, you actually smell it, when you pass by a garden, you take in the flowers, you feel the pockets of temperature as you pass through hot and cold, you connect with the road in a way you just never could in a car.  And when you go out in your Vespa, you'll have the luxury of never having to think about parking.  You're right up front on the sidewalk!  And talk about being the center of attention!

Just consider the previous points before you go out and purchase one, because you want to make sure you get your money's worth.

Enjoy the road!

My Baby Red

My Vespa
Credit: Joe Scott