GILERA has just launched the world’s fastest scooter – the GP800. Yes, that’s an 800cc scooter.
Gilera is part of the Piaggio Group that has been busy building new engines for its Aprilia motorcycles.
The Shiver for instance came with a brand new, 750cc engine. And we’re still waiting for the promised Mana – an 800cc V-twin automatic motorcycle, which will no doubt use the same engine as the GP800’s.
This new Piaggio engine’s actually an 835cc V-twin. And when speaking of the GP800’s rivals, Gilera steers well clear of the maxi-scooters, preferring to cite middleweight sports machines such as the Suzuki SV650 and BMW F800.
But while it’s easy for Gilera to get carried away with claims that it’s created a new concept, the GP800 is still a maxi-scooter – albeit with the biggest engine yet seen in the category.
At 245kg dry, the bike’s too heavy to successfully compete against the SV650s of this world. And the long 1,593mm wheelbase robs it of any sports bike-type agility.
But it’s a great long distance commuter. It has all the practicalities of a scooter, with the comfortable upright sitting position and wrap-around fairing that shields the rider from the elements.
It’s a true Piaggio at heart, exuding excellent quality, finish and style. But while storage is good, it’s not the best in class. The big engine leaves just enough room for a full-face helmet but little else, and there are no useful cubby holes at the front for mobile phones, sunglasses and lippy.
Of course, you can fit a top box as an optional extra, but that means forking out more of the green stuff.
But twist the grip and you know this scooter’s special. Torque kicks in immediately; there’s no scooter-style lag, none of that waiting around for things to happen. The GP800’s definitely a traffic-lights-GP winner.
Once unleashed, the power keeps coming big-bike-style, propelling you manfully forward until around 95mph, when things calm down a bit. Top speed is claimed at 124mph – the fastest ever on a scooter, and there are none of the headshakes and weaves you usually get with scooters either as you fly down the motorway. It behaves more like a big bike here; this is because the GP800 has elements of a motorcycle.
The frame is a steel trellis with twice the rigidity of most scooter frames, which keeps it stable up to its top speed. Meanwhile the swingarm is separate from the engine, rather than being integral to it as on most scooters. This provides far better ride quality. But tackle the twisties and the soft suspension spoils things, struggling to keep all that weight under control.
The forks and rear shock pogo out of bends, and the front end dives on the brakes – which are great by the way. Well, the big front discs are squeezed by Brembo four-pot calipers, so they would be. Back to the suspenders, and don’t get me wrong – the set-up is just the job for tackling the potholed and downtrodden roads we’d most likely encounter on our daily commute. It’s just not that good for those fast Sunday ride-outs, which you’d expect to enjoy on say, an SV650.
The GP800 is definitely a scooter, and a long distance maxi one at that.
Compared with smaller scooters, it feels big and unwieldy in heavy city traffic. Which begs the question – does a scooter actually need 800ccs?
The big engine brings with it a big price tag, and insurance and general running costs go up too. I’ve no doubt that in countries such as Italy – where Maxi-Scooters are a way of life and perceived as cool – Gilera’s GP800 will go down a storm.
And maybe a few of London’s rich City kids would buy one for their long commutes from their Essex mansions to the London Stock Exchange; the pose factor is certainly there, and they could afford a £40,000 Ducati Desmosedici RR for the weekends too. But the average British bike enthusiast will choose a middleweight motorcycle every time, while our pure commuter will choose practicality and economy above all else – neither of which come out trumps in class on the Gilera.
Whatever we make of it, there’s little doubt the maxi-scooter war is hotting up. It’ll be interesting to see how other manufacturers respond.