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Back in the mid-nineties, I was still living in England, and had been riding motorcycles and scooters daily for about nineteen years. I really thought I knew all there was to know about riding. What could anybody possibly tell me about riding after all these years? Continue reading

Piaggio BV350 Review

Piaggio BV350It has been quite some time since a new scooter created such a buzz among the scooter community as Piaggio’s new BV350.

I have watched with interest all the speculation leading up to the launch, and read with interest the opinions of the lucky people to first get their hands on the BV 350.

Well, thanks once again to my friends at Vespa Marietta, I was given the opportunity to judge for myself whether the machine lived up to expectations. Let’s see…

Specifications at a Glance

  • 330 cc 4-Stroke liquid cooled engine producing 33 HP at 8,250 RPM. Max torque: 32.3 Nm at 6,250 rpm. Electronic ignition.
  • Top Speed: 86 MPH.
  • Clutch: Multi-disc centrifuge in oil bath. (Not your traditional scooter clutch).
  • Frame: Twin cradle tubes in high tensile steel.
  • Brakes: Disc brakes front and rear.
  • Weight: 390 lbs dry.
  • Gas Mileage: 65-70 MPG.
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 3.4 Gallons (US)
  • Seat Height: 31″.
  • Warranty: 12 months unlimited mileage.
  • MSRP: $5,499

Fit and Finish

Piaggio BV350

It seems that there are two main factions when it comes to scooter styling: those who love the traditional look of the Vespa and similarly-styled machines such as the Genuine Stella – and those who lean toward the more modern-looking machine.

I must admit to being in the former category. I love the rounded, sensual lines of the traditional scooter. I do ride a Vespa GTV 250, after all.

Despite this, there can be no denying that the BV350 is a very nice looking machine indeed. The overall body shape, I feel, tries to find a middle ground between classic and modern styling – with limited success in my opinion.

However, as soon as you examine the machine in greater detail, it seems to exude a refined luxury that is very hard to ignore.

Piaggio BV350 Saddle

Whether looking at the black version – as seen here, or the only other available option right now – silver, what dominates is that beautiful deep Burgundy red saddle which is coordinated with trim for the front storage compartment, and even the handlebar shroud.

As mentioned above, this machine really does project an image of quality, and even my careful inspection of the fit and finish did nothing to convince me otherwise.

If there is anything that could let the side down, it could be the cover for the gas cap, which, when unlocked, simply comes off with the key as a flimsy piece of plastic – just asking to be lost.
To be fair, I think this is a design compromise due to the location of the gas tank. Because it is directly in the tunnel where you will swing your foot through the machine, were it to be a hinged affair, I think it would only be a matter of time until it was kicked off.
It may be better to be completely loose to avoid that potentially expensive repair.

Under-Seat StorageUnder-seat storage is ample – despite the various bulges intruding into the space. It also has a handy courtesy light.
Crucially, it passed the full-faced helmet test. I was able to fit it inside and close the seat.
That’s a real bonus when you’re parking where you’re less than confident it would be still there when you returned.

There is also storage in the front tray. It seems a little cluttered in there, but Piaggio seem to have done the best job given the little space available.

Controls

Left Controls Nothing far from the norm here.
The left switchgear contains main/dip switch for the headlight. I was pleased to find that it also incorporates a momentary switch when you press down – enabling you to flash your lights without having to rock the switch back off again. A nice touch which I miss about European machines.
Beneath the light switch is the turn signal switch. Push left or right to signal. Push in to cancel. Underneath that, you will find the (typically anaemic) horn, and a button to electronically unlock the seat and gain access to the under-seat storage. This is a nice touch and, of course, will only work when the key is in the ignition.

Right Controls

The right switchgear contains the engine kill switch, the electric starter (brake must be applied to start the engine), and the mode switch for the various functions. These function include two trip meters, odometer, battery voltage and outside temperature.

There is a digital clock permanently displayed.

ClocksWhile on the subject of clocks, one thing you will have to get used to on current models is that the primary display is in Kilometres, with MPH shown in the smaller, inner dial. All digital displays can be changed to read either in metric or imperial measurements. I found the clocks to be a beautiful design, including the pleasing “dance” they do when you switch on the ignition. They may as well be easy on the eye if we’re going to spend so long looking at them, right?

ScreenThe BV350 comes with a factory screen, which does a surprisingly good job of keeping the worst of the wind off of you – allowing visor-up riding if needed at in-town speeds.

So, all in all, this adds up to a well appointed machine with plenty of typically Italian flair to boot.

Only time will tell how that gorgeous red trim stands up to the ravages of the sun and inclement weather.

 

So, what’s it like to ride?

Well, up until this point, I’ve been trying to keep this review quite low-key for fear of appearing too enthusiastic, but, I have to say: This scooter is a joy to ride!
There, I’ve said it.

Being a motorcyclist as well as a scooter rider, the holy grail for me would be one vehicle that could combine the best of both worlds. This machine is the nearest to that ideal I have ridden yet.

As far as engine sizes, this 350 – with the performance that it returns – truly lies in the “sweet spot”.
With extremely impressive take-off from standstill that will leave all but the most committed performance car driver in the dust, and a top speed more than capable of earning you a very hefty fine on the freeway, one has to ask the question: “What more could you need?” This engine truly is a winner.

TransmissionEngine braking is more apparent than you may be used to with traditional CVT transmission. To me, that is a good thing as I use engine braking quite extensively (see Throttle Sense).
Remember that this scooter sports a new design of multi-plate wet clutch.

The suspension seemed a little on the stiff side for the city, but, given the performance of this scooter, it should make for better handling when you’re having fun in the twisties – something this scooter is more than capable of.

The 16″ front and 14″ rear wheels should add to the stability as well.

Braking is excellent with plenty of feedback. It feels more like a motorcycle than a scooter in this respect.

Conclusion

I am very, very impressed with this scooter. Everybody’s needs are, of course, different. For me, this really is the perfect match of performance and economy. It is a scooter that works perfectly in town, yet I would have no reservations taking it touring on journeys that would previously have been the domain of much larger scooters and motorcycles.

The one thing which would make this perfect? ABS.

Did I mention that engine is outstanding?

The MSRP of $5,499 in the US doesn’t make it a cheap option – especially as it doesn’t sport the prestigious “Vespa” badge, but its understated elegance, solid build quality and impressive performance goes a long way in convincing you that you would be getting your money’s worth.

If it were a car, it would be a sporty little Audi. Something with a hand-stitched steering wheel and an iPad on the passenger seat. I love it.

Until next time, Scoot Safely!


PIaggio BV 350 Rear

Exhaust

Rear Left

Rear Right

A Word to Car Drivers

Listen, car drivers kill us motorcyclists and scooter riders all the time by pulling out in front of us.

Because of this, please cut us a little slack when we’re wary around you.

To the guy pulling out of the gas station this morning: there you were, squinting into the sun, shielding your eyes with your hand. I was coming from the direction of the sun. You (of course) had no turn signal on, but I surmised you were about to turn left – from the great US turn signal.
The US turn signal, incidentally, is the two round black rubber things at the front of your car which can often – but not always – be relied upon to be pointing in the general direction you intend to turn. That’s all you’ve given me to work with… I’m sorry. Continue reading

Observation Links

Today, I’d like to talk a little about really honing our powers of observation:

Observations skills (and the use we make of the information gathered during observation) are arguably the most important skills we have to help us stay safe out there on our scooters.

Imagine a scenario where two riders encounter the same situation while doing their daily commute. For our purposes it could be any hazard situation. Let’s say – a car suddenly coming over the brow of a hill encroaching on your side of the road.
(Actually, I’m using this example because it’s a real-life situation that cropped up while I was taking my advanced motorcycle test).

For one rider, it’s a complete non-event. For the other, it’s a panic stricken, stressful moment. How could that be so?

The first thing that the rider A knew was that suddenly there was a car coming towards them on their side of the road.
Here’s what happened for rider B:

As he was riding up the hill, he noticed that there was someone walking a dog on the pavement/sidewalk on the other side of the road. So what, huh?
Well, rider B surmised that it’s entirely possible that the dog could suddenly put his head into the roadway. If the dog did that, then a vehicle coming over that hill could swerve to avoid the dog.
So, what did rider B do? He gave up his normal position, and moved to the opposite side of his lane just in case that should happen. Ultimately, that is exactly what did happen! When the car did appear over the brow of the hill – encroaching on rider B’s side of the road, it was pretty much a non-event.

What rider B did there was make an excellent use of an observation link.

Opportunities for observation links such as that outlined above surround us all the time. Learning to recognise them, pay attention to them, and act on them can make a huge difference to your riding.
Ultimately, it will make your riding a much more relaxing occupation simply because you’re avoiding many, many potentially hazardous situations before they have even developed.

Let me give you some examples of more basic observation links here, and hopefully it will stimulate you to come up with your own:

Here, a single lamp-post in the distance could indicate a junction you cannot see as yet.

 

 

 

 
Here, the unbroken line of trees or hedges in the distance would suggest a turn coming up (you obviously can’t ride straight through the trees).

 

 

 

Here, the glow of light in the distance suggests you are entering a built-up area, or are coming up on a more heavily used facility, such as a gas station.

Be on the lookout for the resultant traffic.

 

Here are some more examples where making observation links can help immensely with your riding:

  • You are passing a row of parked cars. One of them is occupied. Expect the driver to open the door..
  • You are rounding a bend in a country road, and you see hay/straw in the road. This should warn you to expect slow-moving farm traffic round the corner.
  • You smell diesel fuel. Take extra care and be on the lookout for the spillage.
  • A child is looking across the road. He/she could be looking at a friend or a pet who could be coming across at any moment.
  • Trash cans (rubbish bins) at the kerb. Collection day. Be on the lookout for the collectors.
  • The passengers in a bus you are following are beginning to stand up. The bus is about to stop.
  • A bus is waiting at a stop. Expect passengers to come out from in front of it.
  • A cat runs across the road. Be on the lookout for the dog chasing it!
  • High-speed motorcyclist (or scooterist) passes you riding recklessly. Expect his friends to be chasing!
  • A brief flash of reversing lights on a car. It is an automatic, and the driver has either put it into park, or put it into drive. Do you feel lucky today?
  • Foreign, or out-of-town license/number plate on a vehicle. The driver likely doesn’t know the area. Be prepared for sudden changes of direction, or erratic driving.
  • Overgrown vegetation on a pavement/sidewalk. Prepare for pedestrians stepping into the road.
  • On a fast road, where it is rare to see a pedestrian. You see someone walking. Look out for his/her disabled vehicle ahead.
  • Balloons on a gate-post. Be prepared for children, or generally increased pedestrian traffic.
  • Oncoming drivers have their sun-visors down. Be away they have difficulty in seeing you.

These are just a few of endless possibilities to use observation links to your advantage. You can see that what we’re trying to here is to enhance our observation skill from merely observing hazards that are occurring immediately, to applying intelligent thought to that which you see – to enable you to avoid hazards even before they present themselves to you.

Next time you’re out riding, try to come up with some of your own. You may be surprised how many you can come up with – and it’s a interesting exercise.

Until next time, Scoot Safely!

Steering, and the Great Counter-Steering Debate

Scooter Steering and Counter-Steering

So, what’s all this we keep hearing about counter-steering?

It’s a buzz phrase we tend to hear often among the scooter and motorcycle community. Some riders spend their entire life riding – and have never heard of it. Some espouse the merits of active attention to it, and some claim it’s a myth! Continue reading

SYM Classic 150 Review. Back To My Youth.

You can be forgiven for wondering why – in the first of my series of scooter reviews – I’m talking about a motorcycle.
There is method in my madness, however, for the little gem I’d like to talk about today carries a name that is very familiar to most scooter riders: SYM.

That’s right. SYM, the Taiwanese company famous for such well-made scooters as the Mio and the MAXSYM, have released a little motorcycle. Continue reading

Group Riding and the Marker System

With the onset of spring, and the great riding weather we’re all looking forward to, my thoughts have turned to the many arranged group rides which will be taking place all over the world.

Riding in groups is a great way to enjoy our scooters, and I always find that the scooter community is an extremely friendly and sociable group of people. Group riding can be a lot of fun.

However, my experience has been that group riding continues to be one of the more dangerous activities we can participate in with scooters and motorcycles. Continue reading

False Signals

Today, I’m going to revisit the subject of signals.

Signals can take the form of electronic turn signals fitted to vehicles, things such as headlight flashes, or arm/hand signals.

In an earlier post about turn signals and signal reinforcement, I talked about the obvious importance of giving good, early signals to other road users.

Well, it turns out that sometimes, the very best thing to do with another road user’s signal is to ignore it!
Further, there are situations where it is prudent to avoid giving a signal to another road user. Let’s look at some examples: Continue reading

Passing (Overtaking)

Overtaking and passing. These are both terms meaning the same thing – depending on your local lexicon, but they both refer to the act of getting past a vehicle that is going slower than you intend to ride yourself.

For consistency, I will use the term “overtaking” in this article.

 

I have purposely left the subject of passing/overtaking until later in my series of posts.
This is because, with our (generally) lower-powered scooters, it is something that requires a lot more forethought and planning than it would, say, in a car, or on a higher powered motorcycle. Continue reading

Throttle Sense

Today, I’m going to talk about something which carries a lot of benefits – most especially for the scooter rider. Some of these benefits include:

  • Better Hazard Avoidance
  • Better Visibility
  • Increased Fuel Economy
  • Less Wear on Your Scooter
  • Less Rider Fatigue

Quite an impressive list, wouldn’t you agree?
All of these benefits can be achieved by the cultivation of what I call “Throttle Sense”. Continue reading

Spring is Here!

I got to spend the day riding in the beautiful North Georgia (USA) mountains on Bella today.

There really is nothing better. Of course, I ride all year round, but weather like this – and seeing nature awakening from the winter – does make me appreciate where I live – and that I get to enjoy it on a fine Italian scooter.

While I was out, I came across an interesting road sign that seemed very apropos for this blog, so I had to share it. (Click for larger version).


Here’s wishing all my readers a very enjoyable and safe spring and summer of riding!

There is much more to come with the blog this year. I’m currently experimenting with the optimum camera set-up for creating some on-scooter video blogs.
The attempts I have made so far have been quite nausea-inducing, so I don’t want to inflict anything on my readers until they can view it without reaching for the Dramamine!

So, stay tuned, subscribe to be notified as new content is posted, and let’s all have a great season!

Scoot Safely!