Forever Vintage: A History of Three Vespas
I have been a Vespa enthusiast for more than fifteen years, which is new by some standards compared to lifetime riders.
Watch my video: El Banano in Land Park, Sacramento
Today, Vespa is one of seven companies owned by Piaggio. Though the modern scooters have wonderful features like disc brakes and security locks, I’m a forever a vintage Vespa rider, now on my third classic bike.
I purchased my first Vespa in 2002. “Ducky” was a blue, 1964 Vespa VNB named for its small size and humorous quacky horn: standard qualities of most scooters from this era.
Ducky was bought in Pennsylvania but it was in San Francisco that I learned to ride: cruising the bike lanes by Ocean Beach, traversing through hilly neighborhoods, and eventually riding down twisty Lombard Street during a rally in 2005.
A few years later, in my quest for more power, Ducky was replaced by Dynomite, a battleship grey 1978 P200 whose creative “modifications” included a kill switch resembling a vacuum cleaner on/off control just below the seat.
Mimicking J.J. from the television show Good Times, I would shout “Dyn-O-mite!” as I run-started the bike when the engine refused to kick over. To Dynomite’s credit, the bike made it over 1,000 miles from San Francisco to La Paz, Mexico. Good times, indeed.
I sold Dynomite just before I moved to Mexico in 2012. Scooters tend to run in small circles and, in 2019, I learned that he was acquired by a friend who enjoys riding him today, kill switch and all.
In 2018, I returned to Sacramento after living abroad and was contacted by a friend about a yellow 1981 Vespa P200E. Recalling the fun of past rallies, I quickly agreed to the idea of owning another vintage Italian motor scooter.
My friend (ironically, a rider who accompanied DynOmite’s owner on the trip La Paz) delivered the bike to me from San Francisco. I reveled in its brilliant paint job and the sweet aroma of its 2-stroke smoke. I took the bike out for a test run and quickly remembered why I love vintage Vespas.
Though it took a few weeks to name, this Vespa is now referred to as El Banano. In addition to being a great scooter for riding around Midtown, El Banano has taken me safely to and from work in the pouring rain while wearing – what else – a bright yellow rain suit.
One afternoon, as I sat in traffic being pelted with sky water, a curious driver pointed to my brilliance and shouted from his car window, “Which came first, the scoot or the suit?!” I laughed out loud at his question, then happily shifted into gear, heading straight into the oncoming rain.