There are two scooter dealers near-ish to me, each dealing in different brands. I decided to start the scooter-shopping adventure by just going and sitting on a few of the different models that had caught my eye online. At the first shop, I tried and ruled out a Stella Automatic – one that I had really expected to like because of its vintage styling. But it felt really awkward – very back end heavy, which made it hard for me to get on and off the stand, and the saddle height wasn’t great for my short self. I had to do a serious lean to get one foot flat on the ground for stops. Plus, for all of its vintage-styling, there was a lot of plastic that just felt kind of fake. So I crossed that one off.

I fit much more comfortably on the Buddy 125 and 170i. Those were both a lot lighter and easier for me to manipulate, with comfortable seats at a good height. Those scoots offer a lot of bang for the buck with decent styling. The model I really liked, the Vespa-wannabe Buddy Kick, was not in stock to try, but they took my information to call me when the next one arrives in a few weeks. I left thinking that maybe one of those Buddy scooters could be a decent, less-expensive alternative to my pie-in-the-sky Vespa dream.

But then of course I went to the Vespa dealer.

I wandered into the showroom wearing my Triumph jacket – the Vespa dealer is also a Triumph and Ducati dealer – and right away caught the eye of the two guys working there.

“That’s a sweet jacket,” said one.

“Yeah, love it,” said the other.

“Really?” I said, cocking an eyebrow. “I kind of hate it. It’s a ladies’ small, wanna give it a go as a crop top?”

So of course they loved me after that. Nice to know my awkward flirting hasn’t gotten too rusty.

I just petted the GTS Settentasimo and drooled a little, then went over to the line of comparatively affordable Primaveras and Sprints to twist some handles and click some buttons. Then I impulsively rocked one of the Primavera 150s off its stand and sat on a Vespa for the first time in 10 years.

Well.

For all my complaints about the Stella being heavy, sitting on a better-engineered scoot just emphasizes how important balance is in combination with the dry weight of the thing. Even at over 300 pounds, the Primavera felt like an extension of my body and not like a machine I was trying to coax into behaving. Vespa’s ubiquitous steel monocoque frame makes a noticeable difference even when you’re just sitting still. It feels stronger, safer, more reliable than the plastic stylings of the Buddy or even the Vespa-copycat Stella.

Some people who are new to riding might make the argument that they’d rather learn on a cheap bike so if they drop it a handful of times it won’t matter. I tried to convince myself of that, but as I strolled down the line of bright colors and chrome, I felt like if I was going to do this, I should get one I WANT, one that will motivate me to learn the skill and practice, not one I might view as disposable. For the same reason I don’t want to learn on 49cc critter and not bother with a license yet – it’s just going to be a waste. I’ll want to go faster in about three days and then what?

No. It has to be the thing I want or it’s going to be nothing at all till I can afford it. And I’ll just put some crash bars on it.

I chatted with the cute, bearded shop guy for a bit about my purchase ideas – they weren’t at all put off by the fact that their new stuff was way out of my budget, and shared what they knew about some of the preowned models I was looking at on Craigslist. Somehow we got around to talking about the MSF course I needed to sign up for in order to, you know, get a license to drive one of these things.

“I’m kind of hoping to have a bike in hand to do the course with,” I said, “since the website said they provide motorcycles and of course that’s a bit of a different thing. Clutch and all that.”

“Yeah, it’s nice to learn on the one you’re keeping,” he said. “Still, if you don’t find something, go ahead and take it on a loaner bike. You might want a motorcycle one day if you ever feel like…” He trailed off and looked pointedly at the tidy row of Triumph Bonnevilles.

“In case I ever feel like not being a poser?” I said slyly.

“You said it, not me.”

We had a bit of a laugh and he sent me over to the mechanics’ shop to talk to their Vespa specialist about stuff to look for when I’m checking out Craigslist bikes. That was incredibly reassuring – I told him about the bike I’m planning to go see this weekend, and he said that the people who bring those in absolutely love them. It’s a model that was discontinued in 2009 to make way for an upgraded version, but it’s got a lot of fans who aren’t interested in upgrading because they love the engine (carbuerated) and the instrumentation (all analog) of what they call the Old Modern Vespa. So that was good to hear. He schooled me on a few noises to listen for and questions to ask and offered to do a presale check for me if I wanted.

I left very happy.

This post also appears on the VCOA blog here.