Easing the new Vespa Primavera off the pavement and out into the busy city traffic I quickly realized that the humble scooter (and to a lesser extent the motorcycle) is an integral part of life in Barcelona. They’re accepted and respected in equal measure by car drivers, I’d hazard a guess that almost every car owner in the city did his, or her ‘apprenticeship’ on two wheels as they grew up. Other scooter and bike riders, even pedestrians honour the thousands of machines blasting around town, they fit seamlessly into life rather than being looked upon as a nuisance or dangerous form of unnecessary transport. One other thing that also surprises me is that you hardly hear a car horn, unlike most other busy cities. The Spanish, here at least, seem much less impatient than the rest of Europe. Most riders, (both male and an abundance of females) wear ordinary work uniform, or day-to-day clothes rather than being trussed up in protective bike wear. It makes me think that maybe we over dramatize things in the UK, danger is brainwashed into us from an early age, rather than being shown that skill and defensive riding is the factor that will keep us safe and scooter riding is not only a great way of getting around quickly but it’s also something that everybody should grow up doing, commuting by scooter makes perfect sense. Of course we’re not lucky enough to bask in 20-degree temperatures at home in November so we need bike gear for warmth as well as protection at home. Anyway, back to this stylish little Vespa…
The Primavera name harks back to 1968, back then the scooter was (and still is) known amongst Vespa fans as the Smallframe, thanks to it’s… small-frame. It also had a geared two stroke engine, handled well and remained popular until it was discontinued in 1978. This new Primavera is actually built to replace the Vespa LX and although the styling is similar and the 3 valve engine has been lifted from the LX it is actually quite different and shares some similarities with the limited edition £7800 hand crafted Vespa 946, having said that though the Primavera is different enough to be regarded as a model in its own right. Like all true Vespas the Primavera has steel bodywork, in this case it’s fitted over a central steel spine. The shape is very well executed, from the modern 946esque legshields and horncasting (with flush LED indicators and running lights) it just flows, the centre of the floorboards are raised slightly just like the original Primavera, follow it backwards and the frame culminates in a pointed end, a nod to the wasp like shape that gave the Vespa it’s name. The paintwork itself is simply stunning to look at, it casts shadows as the sun reflects and it oozes class. This is no Far Eastern disposable scooter, the likes of which we see day in day out. We’re talking about Italian style and scooter heritage developed over the course of 67 years and 18 million Vespa scooters, a brand that is recognized the world over and for which ownership is a way of life rather than just another scooter.
As well as looking drop dead gorgeous (maybe not in the eyes of a purist who sees the primavera name being used and expects a scooter that looks like it rolled off the production line 45 years ago) the Primavera also has a few modern technical features. For instance the four stroke fuel injected 3V engine has been built to reduce friction and boasts (as the name suggests) three valves, it’s air cooled but still makes a healthy 10.59bhp and 10.4nm of useful torque. The engine is claimed to sip fuel at 64km per litre. Braking is taken care of by a 200mm front hydraulic disk and 140mm rear drum (which is larger than the 110mm drum on the LX). Significant changes have been made to the front suspension, the traditional Vespa single sided front fork remains but rather than the shock absorber being fixed to its mount using two allen bolts it now uses a sturdy looking hinged pin and it’s been redesigned to reduce friction. The rear end has also been improved to reduce vibration by using a double mount for the engine and rubber damper. Lift the spring loaded seat (which has a nice feel to it, a detail that matters on a premium product) and you’ve got enough space to comfortably store a full faced helmet, there’s actually 16.6 litres of storage space beneath the seat, that’s 2.3 more than the LX, it also has a glovebox for additional storage space (a 12v socket would have been nice in there) and optional extras include a rear rack, top box and even a Vespa 90SS style vertical bag designed to fit between the seat and glovebox to mimic a spare wheel. With a Vespa you can guarantee there will be plenty of goodies to personalize your machine. Remember you’re buying into a lifestyle, rather than just a brand.
As our group get further into the city I find myself trying to think of things I could criticize, maybe the lack of a rear disk brake? No, the drum is actually very powerful and it doesn’t need anything stronger. The front brake is also extremely good, powerful enough to produce a stoppie and good enough to compete with the rear brakes skidding prowess, us lads still enjoy skidding to a stop to impress our mates! The suspension is another area worth praising; it works very well over all terrain and the 11” (the LX had a 10″ rear) five spoke alloys are shod with predictable Michelin City Grip tyres – so no complaints there. The engine is powerful enough to give you confidence in busy traffic, you know that you can out gun most vehicles away from the lights, you can also get yourself out of harms way when needed and once you get on to faster roads the Primavera will see 70mph on the nicely laid out clocks so it’s perfectly at home on the dual carriageway (or motorway if you hold a full licence). The instruments themselves include a digital display with dual trips, fuel, odometer and time. They are designed to be sympathetic to the vintage Vespa speedo shape. All good so far then.
After the official launch ride out, which to be honest was far too short and with too many riders trying to stay together, the British contingent commandeered four scooters and set off on into the city alone. This was the time when the scooter came into it’s own and we really began to enjoy riding it. We filtered like the locals and I must admit we also broke a few Spanish laws, riding the wrong way up one way cycle paths, over pedestrian areas and at one stage coming face to face with two Spanish motorcycle cops as we tried (accidentally) to ride up a one way street the wrong way. They didn’t even give us a disparaging look, which just goes to show how relaxed the city is. Every pavement has rows of scooters parked up, thousands of bike parking bays stretch along the side of the roads. This is scooter riding, Spanish style and I like it. Its rush hour, traffic pours out of town but the congestion is helped by the sheer number of two wheeled commuters who can filter past the cars, especially seeing as the car drivers have respect and look out for bikes, just as they would for any other road user, further proving the theory that an increased number of two wheeled machines increases awareness and leads to safety, rather than being looked upon as a novelty once a driver has ridden into the side of you. I’m blown away by just how well this city works, thousands of two and four wheeled vehicles fitting seamlessly together, like a multi wheeled jigsaw puzzle. As cities and city scooters go it’s hard to knock either Barcelona or the Vespa Primavera, it really is very good and makes a perfect commuter for a rider who likes a bit of style and the kudos behind the name. Give one a try; I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t.