Vespas

Summer 2020 with Mapache, my current whip

Forever Vintage: A History of Four Italian Scooters

I have been a Vespa enthusiast since purchasing my first scooter in 2002. If you’re unfamiliar with these amazing 2-stroke motor scooters, Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera, Italy introduced its classic single model in 1946.

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 forever a vintage Vespa rider, now on my fourth classic bike.

Ducky: 1964 VNB 125

I bought my first Vespa, a blue 1964 VNB 125, in 2002. I named him Ducky for his small size and humorous quacky horn. In 2003, I brought Ducky from the East Coast to California, where I zooped him up to a 150 engine and added a third port. Ducky is the reason I fell in love with vintage Vespas.

ducky-VBB
1964 Vespa VNB

In 2004, I became a founding member of the San Francisco Scooter Girls, an all-female club with a focus on empowering women riders and building a safe, friendly riding community.

with Ducky and the San Francisco Scooter Girls, Pride Parade 2005

I learned to handle my classic Vespa by traversing the city hills, with one of my most memorable moments being a slow ride down infamous, twisty Lombard Street during a scooter rally in 2005.

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My jacket with its rally patches

Dynomite: 1978 P200

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.

dynoscoot2
On top of Mount Tam, California. 2006

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. Good times, indeed.

dynoscoot
Riding around Lake Tahoe, summer 2007

I sold Dynomite just before I left Sacramento to live in Mexico in 2012. Scooters tend to run in small circles and in 2019 I learned Dynomite was acquired by a friend who enjoys riding him today, kill switch and all.

The Banana: 1981 P200E

Kate Dana and 1981 Vespa Banana

In 2018, I returned to Sacramento after living abroad and was contacted by a friend about a bright 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 delivered the bike from San Francisco and I reveled in its brilliant paint job and the sweet aroma of its 2-stroke smoke. I went out for a test run and quickly remembered why I love vintage Vespas. I bought him that day and named him (what else?) The Banana.

banana
scooter patch jacket, test run on El Banano

From September 2018 to June 2020, the Banana and I had some great adventures, including regular Sunday rides to the Farmer’s Market and the wide streets of William Land Park. 

Watch my video: El Banano in Land Park, Sacramento

with el Banano at Placita MX, Sacramento, CA

The Banana was a great scooter for riding around Sacramento and taking to weekend rallies however, I wanted a smaller bike more suitable for my size. After a few months of fending off ridiculous low-ball offers, I sold the Banana to an awesome woman in Oakland, CA. I’ll miss my sunny, yellow Vespa, but the little rascal that’s taken his place is great, too.

Mapache: 1966 Sprint 150

In February 2020, I purchased a sweet 1966 Vespa VNB 150 Sprint with a 3-port, 170 engine wired to the battery. Despite the simplicity of his little engine, this bike is fast… and stealthy. I named him Mapache, the Spanish word for raccoon.

Don’t you love Mapache’s pretty black and grey coat?

After waiting several months, I braved the COVID-19 pandemic, and brought Mapache home to Sacramento in June. We’ve already had some excellent rides together and look forward to cooler weather, when I can bust out my beloved Scooterskirt.