I must admit that I’m a bit biased when it comes to Vespa scooters, I’ve owned at least one (quite often more than one at a time) since buying a Vespa 50 Special in 1986. Since then I’ve had three brand new T5 mark ones, a new T5 Classic and a brand new P200 Disc (which I still own and have recently had customised). I’ve bought the odd used Vespa as well, either as a project to do up or for a bit of wheeling and dealing. In the last few years I’ve also owned a few Vespa GTS’s, here’s how I’ve got on with these modern day Italian machines.
The GTS was launched back in summer 2005; sadly I wasn’t at the launch but was lucky enough to get one of the first press machines in the country for an extended road test. I took that scooter to Belgium for a long weekend and was mightily impressed with its performance and practicality. Riding back along a bumpy Belgian motorway in torrential rain, two up and loaded with a weekends worth of luggage at over 70mph I realised that this was likely to be my new workhorse. A few months later I bought one of those first press fleet bikes in Dragon red.
That first GTS soon became the scooter I did most long distance events on, the PX was shoved to the back of the garage. The GTS is the kind of scooter you can simply ride, put away and forget about. There’s no need to check everything over before every ride, it just goes and goes and goes. The only things I did to that first scooter in the 18 months or so of ownership were to fit a Scorpion exhaust and a set of Bitubo shocks. I also had the scooter vinyl wrapped in a Monster Energy theme, which changed the base colour to black. This was when vehicle wrapping wasn’t as advanced as it is now and the finished job was a bit rough around the edges. This prompted me to sell it. By this time the GTS 300i had been out for about a year. The 300 is actually a bored and stroked 250 engine, which raised capacity to 278cc and although it wasn’t much quicker it had a bit more torque and the styling was nicer to look at. A mate was selling a low mileage 300 for a bargain price so I snapped it up.
That black Monster 250 started a trend because the used 300 I bought was also black. This scooter never missed a beat during my 10,000 miles or so with it. It was thrashed from one end of the country to the other, used all year round and like my previous 250 the only changes made were to fit uprated shocks and another Scorpion exhaust. It’s not all good though, the 300 loses the digital dash from the 250, which had useful features, like trip distance and a temperature gauge. It also comes without the fold down rear carrier, so you have to buy one if you want to take luggage and the scooter does around 15-20 miles less to a tank of fuel. By this time though I was a GTS convert. Having got the total mileage up to around 15,000km in a year or so, I decided to buy a brand spanker. So in September 2010 I picked up my next GTS, by coincidence it was on the day I was to make another trip over to Belgium but I opted to take the old one overseas, rather than risk overdoing it on the new engine.
I didn’t really use this one over winter but decided I’d keep the old GTS until spring and use that instead. I tend to do a few thousand miles over winter, mostly for work. When spring arrived I sold the old one to a friend and started to use the 2010 one. I kept a fairly detailed history on this one, so here are the main points…
0913km: Fitted Malossi RS24 shocks. Strangely it was my other half who asked me to swap the shocks, she’d been that used to being on the back with uprated shockers that she didn’t like the ride on standard springs. To be honest the standard suspension is quite good, although if you’re ‘on it’ you can feel their limitations on fast bends. The Malossi RS24’s are very good though, check out www.ve-uk.co.uk for the latest prices.
1350km: Akrapovic exhaust fitted. The Slovenian exhaust manufacturer is well known for creating excellent bike exhausts and the GTS pipe is no exception, it looks good and sounds great. No noticeable performance increase but you don’t get much gain on a four stroke exhaust anyway. The exhaust I had was the first in the country and came with a single mounting point (more about that later).
1750km: First service. The customary first service was carried out by my local dealer (they supplied the scooter) www.smalleycross.co.uk it cost about £100, which is expensive for a simple oil/filter change and a check up but it’s the recommended price for the job and has to be done for your two year warranty. You never know when something may go wrong.
3100km: Exhaust manifold. The standard exhaust manifold snapped in half, luckily only a couple of miles from home after a 150 mile round trip. I had one in the garage on a spare standard exhaust so the scooter was back on the road quickly. A quick call to Akrapovic supplier www.performanceparts-ltd.com and I was told that the header pipe should be loosened before fitting the exhaust, then tightened up when the end can is in place. After this I always carried a spare manifold just in case but never needed it.
6060km: Fuel pump recall. Piaggio had a batch of faulty fuel pumps supplied to them, certain models were affected and after a call to my dealer with the VIN number it was confirmed that mine was one of them. The pump was replaced free of charge whilst I waited.
8148km: New tyres. I can’t be sure if this was the first set of tyres I put on or not but I swapped to Golden Tyres, not a bad tyre but I’m not so keen on the name!
8831km: Engine fail. Riding back from a 500-mile weekend away in Devon and the oil light of death came on, the scooter cut out in the fast lane and I coaxed it back to the hard shoulder. Luckily it was only ½ a mile from the services and as I started to push the scooter up the hard shoulder a biker picked my missus up and took her out of harms way (luckily he didn’t kidnap her!). I knew this wasn’t a simple breakdown. Back to the dealer the following day and after stripping the scooter they diagnosed a big end failure. Not only that but it had caused so much damage that it required complete new engine casings and internals, in fact the only salvageable item was the cylinder head.
8831km: New engine. It took around five weeks to get the engine back together, rather than supplying a complete new engine (which I’d have thought would be cost effective) Piaggio send out the parts and a new casing for the dealer to build and fit. Anyway it was all done on warranty and came back as good as new but obviously needing running in again. Thankfully the GTS isn’t my only mode of transport, five weeks without a scooter is quite a long time.
8980km: A winter ride to a scooter rally in Mablethorpe and just before I get there I hear a horrible scraping sound. Thinking its another engine problem I nurse it there and realise it’s actually my exhaust scraping after the single mounting bolt has sheared. We managed to get the bolt out and bodge it back on for the ride home but it made a mess of the Akrapovic. The exhaust design had already been changed to a multi mount so there’s no need to worry about this if you’re thinking of buying an Akrapovic, problem solved.
9180km: Remus exhaust: To replace the damaged exhaust I fitted a Remus can, these are a bit cheaper than the Akra but still look well made and do a good job. The Remus is quiet enough not to get you in trouble but the decibel killer can be removed if you prefer to make some noise.
12712km: New rear tyre: On the way back from a weekend in Scotland I notice the rear tyre is barely legal, it gets me home but I have to go out on a Bank Holiday Monday and have a tyre put on, ready for a trip to Heathrow the following day. I only had a part worn one at home so that had to do.
14676km: Tyre plus oil & filter. The part worn tyre only lasted a couple of thousand km’s and the scooter was getting ready for an oil/filter change so I did this at the same time. The filter costs about £12, and a litre of oil is a tenner, you’ll need 1.3 litres to fill the GTS 300 though. I also replaced the rear brake pads to try and cure an annoying squeal…without success.
16130km: New rollers. The scooter had noticeably lost power so I decided it was time to change the rollers and check the belt. If you’ve got an air ratchet and variator holding tool this can be done at home. Everything was going ok and the belt was fine but it was hard to get the rear pulley off the spline, it seemed like it had spun on the crank at some stage so it was taken to the dealer for a new one to be fitted.
16430km: Oil switch. Half way to a road test at the magazine offices in Lincolnshire and the oil light of death came on. I stopped, phoned the dealer and he advised me to recover the scooter for him to have a look at. I decided to carry on…luck was on my side because I got to the office and rode the 80 miles home later that day without problem (other than the oil light being on). It went into Smalley Cross and turned out to be the oil pressure switch, replaced under warranty – no major drama!
17720km: Rear calliper. My back brake was still squealing, I’d cleaned the disk, changed the pads, copper greased the rear of the pads and it still made the noise. Thankfully the shop agreed to swap the calliper under warranty; it’s worth having a good relationship with your local dealer.
19176km: September 2012. As my two year warranty was almost over and I’d had a few problems with this scooter, plus the mileage was getting higher than I like, I decided it was time to sell the GTS before winter set in. I took the Remus can off (still looking almost as good as new) and put the standard one back on, I did the same with the Malossi shocks (perfect, the spring finish survived much better than the Bitubos), plus I removed my rear carrier and screen so that the scooter was back to standard and I didn’t need to buy the bits again. I sold the scooter through eBay to somebody fairly local and it went for £2760, which wasn’t a bad price really.
Have the problems with my third GTS put me off buying another? Not in the slightest, I’d already owned two others without problems and I also know dozens of people with a GTS. Out of all the people I know (and know of) there have only been two engine failures. Other than the usual wear and tear items (and recall issues), problems have been few and far between. There has been an issue with a few 2012 bikes cutting out momentarily but Piaggio are working to solve that so I’ve put off ordering a new one until spring. I’m already missing the convenience of the GTS, although it has forced me to rekindle my love affair with the Vespa PX and I’ve enjoyed riding that for the last few weeks. The only decision now is do I go for black again or try something a bit different?
Feel free to add your own GTS related comments, experiences, things you like and dislike about the model. Your favourite aftermarket GTS goodies etc. and spread the link to 2commute…