Tuesday 22 November 2011

Vespa Comparison - LX50 and GTS 250

After I made the big purchase, I thought about transport - and quickly decided to do the sensible thing (for a change). I went to a web site called U-Ship where you input what you want to ship and where from and to. You can also state what you want to pay but I didn't have enough experience to figure out a fair price. I had a few bids around $500 and one at $800 but then had a bid for $250. I figured by the time I borrowed a friend's car ($75 for thank you scotch), gassed up ($100 round trip), and rented a trailer ($50) that it wasn't really worth my time to burn a weekend driving there and back. Also the weather has been brutal of late so I wasn't sure which weekend I would end up going. 

It arrived a week ago on Tuesday night. John, the delivery guy, had is safely secured and arrived in good time in one piece. I happily paid the man and rode off in the rain to fill it up at the gas station. 

I took it to school a couple of times last week and was a bit concerned that it had developed a bit of a wobble. I then checked the tires and realized they were both around 15 psi - no wonder there was a wobble! I also adjusted the shocks to the second setting.

The weather has been quite cold since then - hovering around 0 degrees - so I haven't taken it out much at all lately. Luckily, a warm front has finally come so, while it is rainy, it is also warm. I plan on some riding this weekend but, until then, I thought I'd look at the two Vespas, while I still own both...

On first look, the GTS is obviously longer and wider then the LX. It also feels less toy like and more like a motorcycle in how it handles. The faring is wider which gives more protection and the red colour is, frankly, gorgeous!

Looking at the headlight, I will miss my chrome head cover that I installed a few years ago but will not miss the goofy signal lights that stick out of the steering portion of the LX. I don't know if there is any difference in the brightness of the lights. 

The front of the scoot is WAY wider as you can see in the photo. The LX has a pretty cool horn cover, though. The GTS, however, looks adult sized and ready to go on the open road!

The front wheel and fender for the LX looks fine but the GTS  wheel looks super sharp with the whitewall. The fender on the GTS was replaced (that's why it isn't red) but I sorta like the look of it! 

The seats look quite different both both feel pretty good. I put some major kilometers on the LX seat and had no worries. I think the GTS seat will be good, too, but it's a bit worn looking which is a bit disappointing as the LX seat looks as nice as the day it was bought. I'm wondering if the GTS is a leather seat and if that will be more comfortable in the long run.

The look from the rear is nice with the LX, especially with the crash bars but the GTS looks a bit more aggressive and, I hope, more visible. I'm looking forward to the rear rack as well since my attempts to jury rig a solution have been OK but not spectacular. 

Finally, the speedo. The LX one looks kinda cool with the back lit look and the curvy shape inside the cluster. The dead clock, though, is not so hot. The GTS has more information in the digital section and the red does look pretty nice. Don't like the miles, though, as I am used to kilometers now. 

Overall, both scoots are nice machines but I really feel that the GTS is a substantial step in scooter evolution (hope that doesn't sound too pompous!). Next steps are to ride the GTS more and sell or take off the insurance on the LX. 

It's 9:30 at night and my wife needs me to pick up something at the store. Gotta scoot!

Saturday 12 November 2011

Big Guy, GTS Scooter?

It was a cloudy day - not too cool, and I thought it would be an auspicious sign for my quest for a new (to me) Vespa. After checking through Craiglist, I had found one in Kelowna - a 2007 250 GTS with around 12,000 miles for the incredible price of $2800.

After consulting friends, family and knowledgeable commenters on this blog, I decided to take a look. We drove up to the Okanagan yesterday and spend the day with my wife's family. Last night, my sleep was interrupted with several brief dream sequences involving Vespas.

Today, we drove out to Kelowna to see the scoot. The guy selling it has made a practice of going to the states, primarily California and Arizona, fixing up vehicles, and then bringing them back into Canada, selling them for a small profit.

The one I was looking at was bought at an auction in California. There were some problems with it including an ignition system that no longer worked, fried brakes, and some other damage. It looked like it had been dropped at some point in its life but the direction of the scratches led me to think it was not in an accident. There are some scratches and bent trim on one side but really just cosmetic stuff. The guy was up front about this and he had lots of documentation of repairs and other information.

I then took it for a test drive. It started easily and I frankly amazed at the acceleration as I took it up the steep driveway. It wasn't licensed so I just drove it around the neighborhood which was an excellent test as there were plenty of hills and lots of bumpy roads. It drove beautifully and the engine made a pleasing buzz.

Compared to the LX50, it seems a lot more refined. The GTS 250 doesn't struggle to get to speed and the feel of the scoot is more solid, less toy like. I think it also gave me a bit more room for sitting.

My wife said that when I rode back to the house, she could tell by the grin on my face that I was going to buy it. Luckily, the seller didn't see my grin and when I offered $2500 ("that's it") he came around to accepting it.

I was - I mean, I am the new owner of a scooter that has had some rough adventures as well as a bit of a makeover.

Whenever you buy something, there's always risk - maybe it's a lemon or maybe the previous owner drove it into the ground and all you've bought is trouble on two wheels. I think this will be OK, though. It ran well and I got a good sense off of the seller.

After registering it at an insurance agent, a process that took at least an hour (I love bureaucracy so much) due to the international complications of buying a scoot from the US, we went back to the seller's house and he gave me all the extra pieces he had including a new Vespa tire! I then left for my brother-in-law's house, just a few minutes up the road.

Or was it?

I went the wrong way! After 10 minutes I pulled over, checked my Map app on my iPhone, and realized my error. By this time it was raining hard. After I turned around, the wind picked up tremendously and I carefully headed back the way I had come.

The road was wet and a bit slushy in parts as it started to snow as well. I pulled over, checked my GPS, and headed out on the highway again.

I'm not sure if the speedometer works properly - I'm terrible with miles now (as it is a US scoot, kilometers are in teeny tiny numbers) and I have the feeling that the miles are off anyways. If not, I was trying to keep up with traffic in a 80 km zone going about 60 mph. That's a bit faster than 80 kms!

The precipitation relented for a while as I closed onto 90 kmh. I finally arrived at the turnoff for my destination, and the skies opened up with snow. Up the hills I went, motoring along nicely, feeling more confident in the Vespa's ability.

I arrived and parked it in the garage (where I took today's photos) as the snow outside turned to torrential rain. I worriedly looked it over as a terrible rattle had started in the last 10 minutes of my drive. Had I really bought a lemon? Was there serious engine problems? No, just the license plate screws were a bit loose!

Now the task is the get it back to Maple Ridge. No way am I going to take the Vespa on the highway down to the lower mainland this time of year. There's too much snow in the mountains and no other way around it. I'll either have to come back with a motorcycle trailer and a friends vehicle that can pull a trailer or I might get it shipped down by a vehicle transport company.  I'll explore my options over the next few days.

In the meantime, it's time to put the LX50 up for sale. We've had some fun, my small scooter and me, but now it's time to step aside for one that's not so small....

Thursday 10 November 2011

Decision Time?

Last night, for dinner, I decided to go to a local store for some salmon on my LX50. I went there one route that was mostly downhill and had a nice ride to the market. After picking up the salmon, I went a different way home - on the Lougheed Highway.

I've gone on the Lougheed hundreds if not thousands of times before. But it was dark and there seemed to be rush hour going every which way. I gripped the handgrips tightly as I putted along at 50 km but it was an 80 km zone so the cars and trucks were zooming around me. One truck driver did the "I'll pass you and then accelerate like I'm trying to break Earth's orbit" and I certainly felt the pressure of drivers behind me. Thing is, I was going too fast for the breakdown lane and if I had made that choice, it was too dark to see the road properly and I know there is lots of junk on the side of the road.

It was somewhere during that knuckle whitening ride that I realized that I was definitely ready to put the LX50 behind me. I'm tired of crazed drivers trying to zoom past me to emphasize that they can go wayyy faster than me! I'm also tired of slipping into the breakdown lane once I get a line of more than five cars behind me. It's been a great 5 years on the 50 but it's now time to move up!

Today, I ran a lien check at Service BC on the Kelowna Vespa GTS 250 and it came back clean. I took out a whack-o-cash from the bank and, armed with that, my Carfax report and my riding stuff, I am ready to take a serious look at the potential ride. Sadly, Kelowna's Vespa store shut down in 2009 so I'll have to trust my own (gulp) judgement as to the suitability of the scoot.

I'm not completely taken with THIS Vespa (although I am taken with Vespas in general) so if this does not seem to be the one, I'll go back

Monday 7 November 2011

A Stinking Good Deal or Just a Stinker?

As you have heard in my previous post, there's a guy in Kelowna who is selling a 2007 GTS 250 for $2800. Sounds like a great deal - maybe even too good to be true. But I have to consider the time of year and maybe the guy just wants to get rid of it. Kelowna is already in winter so nobody there is going to buy one. Offering the scooter at a good price is sure to draw someone like me....

I've emailed back and forth with the guy and he has been fairly prompt with his responses but is certainly not very verbose. He sent some photos and answered my questions.

The latest exchange, this weekend, had me asking for the VIN so I could run it. He complied. It turns out that the scoot was originally from California which I guess wouldn't be a bad thing. I ran the VIN in the stolen car database and a couple other BC databases and found nothing. Then I ran it in the California database - a negative report showed up but with no details.

Agitated, I hummed and hawed and eventually paid the $36 for Carfax, a website that gives you more information on a negative report. Had it been in an accident? Was it stolen?

It turns out that the odometer figure has the potential for not being reliable. The report stated:

A NAM title is issued when the owner discloses to a DMV mileage fraud, a broken odometer or that the actual mileage of this vehicle is unknown.
Mileage reported after this reading is potentially unreliable.

At first I thought, that's it, I won't even bother. But as the day went by, I thought, why not give the guy a chance to respond?

 He responded by saying that when he bought it, the battery was dead and was told it had 5000 miles on it but when he went to the Vespa dealer (in San Diego, I believe) they told him that it actually had 10,500 miles on it.

Now, he's saying that it has 11,000 miles on it which still sounds reasonable. My wife wants to go to Kelowna anyways to visit her sister so I'm thinking, can't hurt to take a look. Maybe it'll look fine and run fine and maybe I'll even get a good deal...

Or maybe I'll get soaked...

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Searching for THE scooter...

Now that I've got my class 6, I'm in the enviable position of being able to look for a new scoot. I say enviable because I've always enjoyed searching for the right product, whether it's a TV, car, bicycle or scooter, and then trying to get a good price. Sometimes it's a matter of doing both at the same time.

What's especially gratifying right now is that I'm not in a hurry - at least I'm trying not to be in a hurry! I have my LX50 to get me around town and I'm thinking of waiting until spring to sell it as that would be a better time to sell. That gives me from now on to look as the real fair weather scootering weather is over and people selling now are probably more motivated (or desperate to sell!).

I've made the decision to go with a scooter. It was a blast learning on a motorcycle but it just isn't that practical, especially in crappy, rainy weather which is all too common in the lower mainland.

So what am I looking at?

First up is the Stella (new) which has a great retro feel and is a standard which appeals to me. I'd like to take it for a test drive (where I don't kill the battery and it can't start again like last time). At $4000 plus dealer charges, it's in my price range, especially if I get a decent price ($1500?) for my LX50. It could be service at the Stella dealer in Vancouver and I figure it would be easy to find parts. It's a 150 so it would be a lot faster than my LX50 but not quite fast enough for the freeway.

Second, a used Vespa. I've been looking at Craigslist - both here and in the states (Seattle, Portland). There are way more choices in Portland than here but I don't know if I want to deal with the hassles of getting it through the border. If I got something used, it would probably be either a 200 or 250 GTS. It might save me a little money as a 2005 GTS200 (pictured above) in Coquitlam at a dealer was $3500 and a guy in Kelowna (pictured below)  is selling a 2007 GTS 250 for a paltry $2800 - although I don't know how I'd ride it down the Coquihalla highway which is infamous for snow and ice this time of year.

Third, a new Vespa. It would probably have to be an LX150 which, like the Stella, has potential issues if I want to go on the freeway. I'd still have to get a demo or older stock as a new one, at $5000 plus dealer fees, is really stretching it. And I don't like the S150 because I think the rectangular like is ugly.

Can't believe I'm getting this picky! As to the LX150, yes, there is the warranty and no kms on the engine but that is a hefty price....

Finally, perhaps I'll stray right away from the Vespa/Stella look and get something like a Burgman. Mind you, they are pretty pricey too so I'd be looking for a used one.

Any suggestions from out there in the blogosphere? Feedback would be greatly appreciated....