Watch Our Auctions Live
Watch Our Auctions Live
19 October 2017

Scooters Take Off

As the urban commute becomes busier, parking spaces fewer and parking costs skyrocket, stylish Italian scooters are again riding a wave of popularity.


share

In the immediate Ponsonby area alone, five scooter shops offer a range of sales and service options.

Business is booming, says Paul Grubi, scooter specialist at Motomail in College Hill, especially for stylish Italian Piaggio, Vespa and Aprilia bike brands. “People walk in the door and say they’re sick and tired of the traffic. They say ‘It takes me ages to get to work in my car. And when I get there, I have to waste time finding a park and the cost is driving me crazy’. Everyone’s looking for alternatives to tackle their woes.”

When they’re on a scooter, suddenly riding to work is fun again. I can personally vouch for the feeling after a short fling around the CBD waterfront on the Piaggio Zip 50CC. With the wind and rain – not exactly rushing through your hair – but beating against your visor, there’s an exhilarating sense of freedom. Taking up only a fraction of the road space of a car, they zip through the narrowest of strips and always find a place right at the head of the traffic queue. You arrive at your destination in a fraction of the time by car. Fuel savings are yet another bonus.

Even staunch Harley riders are swapping their big bikes for smaller scooters. While I chatted to Paul at Motomail, in walked a heavily tattooed dude who’d decided a Piaggio Zip was an easier, quieter option than the Harley for short trips around town. 

“It’s spawned real interest in the whole scooter sub-culture. Once you get a bike, you discover a whole lot of culture in this two-wheeled-world.”

“But buying a scooter is not just about overcoming the inconvenience of the traffic, parking and cost savings,” assures Paul. 

First, a huge range of well-designed and constructed apparel and accessories is totally hot. The bike is a great excuse to purchase this sporty fashion-inspired attire.

Then there’s the social aspect. “There’s a sense of community. People sharing a common interest and passions and making friends.”

Paul encourages those who buy scooters to join the Motomail Scooter Group, take lessons from a pro-rider and participate in the Motomail Urban Scooter Ride which happens every few months.

“These are people who work hard at their jobs, mostly aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s. They’re looking to be part of something. Around 30 scooter owners usually meet up to hit the streets for a couple of hours of fun and camaraderie on a Sunday. We all bugger off to the Museum, head around Westmere, Pt Chev and out towards St Heliers before coming back to regroup for photos and a few suppliers’ prizes at Buoy Café down on the water. We really love it.”

“It’s really hard going but enjoyable,” says Francis. “When they stop each night, they sit around the motel, talking about and fixing their bikes. That’s just what they love to do.”

Over in Newton Road, Francis Linehan at Retro Scooter (specialising in Vespa and Lambretta servicing) organises the legendary annual Motoretta Tourist Trophy ride. About 80 scooter riders journey on ‘an epic four-day 1000 km test of man and machine’ through the best roads and scenery in New Zealand – and a chance to win a handcrafted MotoTT trophy.

Synonymous with style, freedom and all things Italian, the Vespa brand in particular carries a lot of nostalgia, says Paul.

The name is linked with high fashion and conjures up images of handsome men tearing along narrow Italian streets or beautiful girls with hair billowing behind them as they ride along coastal roads.

“There’s a whole community of enthusiasts into that romantic retro thing.”

Hollywood has always had a love affair with the Vespa. You could argue the scooter should have grabbed star billing along with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the 1952 classic Roman Holiday – images of them riding through Rome have helped the film endure. Even today, if a movie is set in Italy, it must have a Vespa.

Paul Grubi, Motomail

Paul Grubi, Motomail

The first Piaggio motorcycle was designed in 1944 in the factory of Enrico Piaggio, son of Piaggio’s founder Rinaldo. Enrico left the aeronautical field to address Italy’s urgent need for a modern, affordable mode of transport. The design his engineers produced featured bodywork enclosing the drivetrain that formed a splashguard in front with handlebar mounted controls and a tall central section that had to be straddled. The prototype was nicknamed “Paperino” or duckling (as in ugly) in Italian.

When Enrico saw it, he exclaimed, “Sembra una vespa!” (It resembles a wasp!”) effectively naming the new scooter on the spot.

Enrico Piaggio himself hated it. It was so bulky, dirty and unreliable that he commissioned a redesign with the engine mounted beside the rear wheel. In the new design, the wheel was driven directly from the transmission, eliminating the drive chain and the oil and dirt associated with it. The changes allowed a step through design without a centre section with the thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist and the steering rod resembling antannae. 

Following its debut at the 1946 Milan Fair, the first 50 sold slowly, then sales took off, but after Roman Holiday, they exploded worldwide. The Vespa spawned a thousand copycats, none quite as successful as the Vespa.

Today, a huge range of scooters are available to suit all tastes and lifestyles. Different sizes and price points varying from small 50cc two-stroke engines to the new generation of high performance, high tech sporty vehicles – something for everyone.

Says Paul: “When I see someone ride away on their bike with their nice jacket and gloves, I think, how cool. That person is really happy.”

share

Return to blog

More recent posts

29 July 2021

Best in Show


What do Auckland’s best kitchen and best bathroom look like? Read on, as we reveal the two, top award-winning projects from this year’s NKBA Excellence in Design Awards.

More
15 July 2021

Simply The Best


Over the past two decades Morgan Cronin has established himself not only as one of the best kitchen designers in New Zealand, but as one of the best in the world.

More
8 July 2021

Designing a sustainable future


Reducing greenhouse gas emission levels is one way to slow the rate of global warming, and this has big implications for many areas of our economy including the building industry. Vicki Hold…

More
1 July 2021

The Art of Living


Behind the double-brick walls of this handsome, Federation-style villa, its owners have created a dazzling homage to New Zealand Pop Art.

More
17 June 2021

Buying a Do Up


There’s no doubt that renovating a property is a great way to end up with a home that is truly yours, or with one that perhaps you couldn’t otherwise afford, but it’s important to take a lev…

More
10 June 2021

Have your fill


Since opening its flagship store in Te Atatū, Refill Nation customer shave helped save an estimated 300,000 pieces of plastic packaging from entering our environment. Now, a second store has…

More
27 May 2021

Serena's Story - A Journey with Breast Cancer


It’s an unfortunate fact that many of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Within Damerell Group, there have been several members of our team who have been through diagnos…

More
20 May 2021

Cabin Fever


Like all the best ideas, the concept behind this backyard cabin start-up is so, so simple: take discarded building materials bound for landfill, and up-cycle them into eco-friendly cabins. G…

More
13 May 2021

Good for People, Planet, and Earth


James Denton is a man on a mission. His challenge: to help Aotearoa New Zealand be the first country to take the lead towards plastic-free, waste-free living.

More

Contact Us

Are you interested in knowing more about one of these articles? Please fill out the form below to get in contact with us.