Aprilia’s SRV 850. 850cc Scooter. Is it Still a Scooter?

Aprilia SRV850

Aprilia have released their official video for the monster scooter known as the SRV850 (shown below).

With an 850cc fuel-injected 90° V-Twin engine producing 79 horsepower, this scooter surely holds the accolade for the most powerful production scooter on the market.

While I have no doubt it is a remarkable machine – which I would love to spend a day on, It does, however, cause me to pause and wonder: is it actually still a scooter in the generally accepted meaning of the term?

While writing my recent book, Buying Your First Scooter, I had to make an attempt to define what a scooter actually was, because the lines are beginning to be increasingly blurred.

Here is what I came up with (quoted from the book):

  • It will have a “step-through” design. Meaning that to mount the vehicle, you “walk” through the gap between the saddle and the handlebars. This is as opposed to the motorcycle where you swing your leg rearward over the saddle.
  • It will likely have automatic transmission. The most common type of automatic transmission is the CVT or Constant Velocity Transmission, which we will cover later. Again, there are instances in some of the larger or “Maxi” scooters where it is possible for the operator to control gear selection by the use of “paddles” on the handlebars, but this is most definitely the exception, rather than the rule.
  • It will most often have considerable under-seat storage.

I may have added to that list that they generally have smaller engine sizes than motorcycles.

The item on that list that comes first is the fact that it has a “step-through” design. It was first on that list for a reason. Personally, I feel that the SRV 850 would be not so much a “step-though” as a “stumble-onto” design.
I feel I would be at a loss to decide whether to swing my leg rearward as I would on a regular motorcycle, or do the one-legged hop with right leg extended like a half-maimed flamingo.

I also have to wonder whether – once the engine and power characteristics reach this level – it is actually still a scooter, or merely a slightly differently configured automatic bike?

Now, I understand that scooters with a larger than average step-through portion are nothing new – witness the fine Suzuki Burgman and even the Genuine Scooter Company’s Blur, but this trend to push the boundaries of traditional scooters is causing me to question the point at which a scooter becomes a motorcycle even more.

Don’t get me wrong, I welcome the progress in the scooter world, and think that little but good for us all can come out of it, but it does keep forcing that question on me: When does a scooter become a motorcycle?

I would welcome your thoughts on this. Do you consider this a scooter? would you buy one? The comment thread is open!

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10 thoughts on “Aprilia’s SRV 850. 850cc Scooter. Is it Still a Scooter?

  1. There is a comment in the shipping industry: “Is that a boat?” “No, that’s a ship! Ships carry boats!”

    I’ve been riding motorcycles since 1960. Those were the days of the 650cc BSAs,Triumphs and Nortons etc. Those were also the days of the kick start (no electric starters lol). My last 2 motorcycles were the Buell Ulysses and Victory Hammer, I now ride a Harley Davidson XR1200. So yes, I am of the old school that says “If it looks like a motorcycle, it’s a motorcycle. If it looks like a scooter, it’s a scooter”. Driving a shift car is so much more fun than an automatic. Driving a motorcycle with gears is so much more fun than an automatic scooter.

    OK, OK, I can feel those arrows pointed in my direction. So let me appease you by saying I also remember the fun times had by the Mods and Rockers back in the 60’s that rode Vespa’s and Lambretta’s. They sure had a lot of fun. Jokes aside, as the author so aptly put it:

    Mounting with legs over the seat, mostly bigger engines, bigger wheels, gears… equals motorcycle
    Mounting legs between chassis, mostly smaller engine, smaller wheels, automatic… equals scooter.

    Either way… Enjoy your ride!!

  2. Really nice looking bike. Now if they would only eliminate the step through design and instead installed more storage…………And if they had kept the Gilera adjustable windshield…………Wow, I would have an order placed already at my local Aprilia dealer who is 300 miles away at the other end of the state……..wait a minute, 300 miles? There has to be one closer…….Maybe 150 miles in Michigan or Illinois……….
    Bill – retired in Northwest Indiana.

  3. Stupenda, bellissima, una linea travolgente , frontale aggressivo, una moto da guidare tutti i giorni, mi dispiace ma purtroppo non posso permettermela spero in futuro,comunque complimenti ad aprilia per l’ottimo lavoro che ha fatto, ciao.

  4. I always think the definition of ‘scooter’ is a motorcycle where the feet are on floorboards inside the width of the main body. This Aprilia is just a re-badged Gilera GP800 – and I have one of those in my stable. It is definitely a scooter, even with the engine in the frame and with chain drive. There are plenty of other scooters with the engine inside the frame rather than being unsprung weight. The Aprilia Mana on the other hand, with the same engine as the SRV 850/GP800 is NOT a scooter, even though a full automatic driven by CVT. (OK, the variator is slightly different…)

  5. Why is the rider all bent over? Is he a new rider? I wish the shield was larger or maybe the option of a larger one. I don’y believe they will sell many in the USA with the very few and far between dealers they presently have. I would love one but no dealers reasonably close……..I got rid of my motorcycles and got a Burgman. I now love the scooter concept—step through, feet go along for the ride and you can move them around on the floor boards, no shifting, just twist and go, seats are for the most part low which is great.
    Retired Harry

  6. I’ve always defined the distinction as where the engine/drive train was. If at the wheel, a scooter. If between wheels, with a chain or whatever to the back wheel, a motorcycle. Now, I know there are belts with the automatics, but the engine on a GTS 300 is right at the wheel. I think that’s the real differential.

  7. The line now is so blurred now that there is really no need for them to be in their own category anymore. As I see it call them anything you want, just get out and ride.

    1. I’d rock a moped, they’re fun and pretty rad ionklog but a lot of work.Scooters are very easy to get started on and WAY more practical and inexpensive than a motorcycle. You can carry more stuff, and a friend, and learning to ride one is easier than riding a bike. They’re also easier to park places, put them on bicycle racks or wherever you go. If you get 50cc scooter you’ll save a lot of money on gas, insurance and you dont need a motorcycle liscence or registration. They’re also cheaper to buy. One word of warning though, buy locally as the chinese scooters sold online may be difficult to find parts or service for. Honda and Yamaha make some of the best all around scooters in a variety of styles.A motorcycle is fast and fun, and best suited for riding for leisure, not for transportation and everyday errands. They would however allow you to travel on interstates and for long distances and obviously much faster. You will of course pay a lot more both initially and for all needed legal things, plus its much more difficult to learn.I would recommend starting on a 50cc scooter (Honda) and if you feel like you need to go faster sell it and get a motorcycle. Scooters hold value well and you shouldnt have much trouble getting almost what you paid for it selling a used scooter (especially if you buy it used!)

  8. Requirement of an automatic transmission leaves me puzzled. So my Vespa — and millions of others with a manual transmission — isn’t a scooter? We defined the term, damnit!!

    1. Petle: Of course, you’re right. My apologies for the omission. I was, of course, talking about most modern scooters (I know the Genuine Stella also have manual transmission).

      I have amended the post to say “likely” have automatic transmission. It most certainly isn’t a requirement!

      Thanks for showing me the error of my ways. 🙂

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