Tag Archives: Vespa Sei Giorni

It looks good and rides perfect, but that saddle will have to go. My ass is killing me.

Lexi appears to favor Linda’s Vespa over the Sei Giorni.

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

— Lao Tzu

The Vespa debacle ended Saturday1 when we went to Scoot Richmond — where we probably should have gone in the first place — and bought a new 2020 Vespa Sei Giorni GTV.

It was a drama-free, no-regrets event that let me think about the scooter itself during the meandering ride home.

I was gauging how it felt, the way it handled, and whether I’d be scared silly while sharing the freeway with demented, uncaring, inconsiderate northern Virginia motorists who are better at texting than driving.

The “6” is a callback to Vespa’s victory in the 1951 six-day endurance race.

We rolled out of Scoot Richmond’s lot with 11.5 miles on the clock and hadn’t gone 50 miles when I realized the saddle just wasn’t working. Sliding back on the seat gave my legs and arms more room, but the saddle is contoured and I ended up on the seat’s edge, which felt like sitting on the short side of a 2×4.

I’ve got to get a new saddle, I remember thinking.

But that was the only thing, aside from vibration at stoplights, which is expected since we’re talking about a single-cylinder engine. The Vespa has nice acceleration and was good on the sweeping county roads like U.S. 255 and stable when I got on the freeway. The ABS-equipped brakes felt reliable.

And I didn’t feel ridiculous on it as I thought. How I look may be another matter.

Getting rather crowded out back.

I swapped seats — my first modification! — between the Sei Giorni and Linda’s GTS2 the next day, which will make both of us more comfortable, I think. There’s a list of other changes I’ll be making.

“What’s the idea of a scooter if you already have a motorcycle?” a colleague at work asked, a righteous question, certainly; it’s still hard for me to articulate why I wanted a Vespa.

They’re much quirkier machines than either of my motorcycles but they still have a certain attraction for me.

Racked up about 240 miles on the first day.

I still like both of my motorcycles3 and couldn’t give them up.

The Vespa is something radically different, forcing me to think differently in terms of riding and touring. It’ll be slower-paced, and we’ll have to take less than we usually do. I’m thinking that may be a good thing.

Continuing my predilection for naming my bikes after Antarctic exploration ships, the Sei Giorni will be called Erebus4.

Now we have to figure out where to go.

A stop on the way home.

***

1 — I put a down payment on that poor Sei Giorni at the Honda dealer when it seemed they were making an honest effort to obtain a brown/red key. Sadly, the previous owner did not return their calls and they were flabbergasted by the quoted cost to replace the ECU and ignition switch. They dropped the price a bit more but Richmond offered a better deal on a new bike, with bonafide key and two-year warranty, so I withdrew from Honda and went to Richmond instead.

I still feel bad about that keyless Sei Giorni, though. It deserves better.

2 — The Sei Giorni is essentially the same as Linda’s GTS with the same engine and ABS. The seat swap was with her consent, of course.

3 — Both Endurance and Terra Nova will be around for quite a while.

4 — The HMS Erebus (and the HMS Terror) visited both the Antarctic, in 1841, and headed for the Arctic in 1845. Both were lost until they were rediscovered in 2014.

One Key, Two Key, Brown Key, Blue Key

Yes, that one, the gray-blue one with number 6 on it.

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Still captivated by the idea of slower-paced motorcycle touring – a fixation I couldn’t dislodge with a bulldozer – I gave up on the Honda Super Cub 125 after a discouraging dealer encounter and started looking at other small motorbikes.

The focus drifted to Vespa, where I started paying attention to the Vespa Sei Giorni II, a 300cc scooter with the HPE engine, like Linda’s 2020 GTS.

It’s a beautiful machine, even more sexy than the green-and-yellow 300 Racing Sixties HPE I once admired at the dealership in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

The Sei Giorni (which translates to “Six Days” and pronounced say JOR-nee) is based on the winning team of 125cc Vespa scooters in the 1951 Sei Giorni Internazionale enduro race in Varese, Italy.

The Six-Day Race.

That’s a brutal six-day endurance race. The team won nine gold medals, a stunning success.

Today’s Sei Giorni is styled the same way as those winning scooters, but with updated electronics, fuel injection and ABS. The headlight is mounted on the front fender instead of the handlebars. It’s garnished with the racing number 6, front and rear.

Then and now.

The damn thing grew on me, gnawing at my subconscious, until finally I decided to look for one. The hunt, of course, is turning into an endurance event of its own.

We patronize Scoot Richmond in nearly all things Vespa, but they’re 110 miles from us, a bit too far for casual looking just now.

So on Saturday we went – just to look, you understand – to the closest dealer, La Moto Washington in Arlington, Virginia, whose website said they had one for sale.

“Oh, we have one, but it isn’t here,” said the nice salesperson at La Moto. “We store it off-site since we can’t keep everything here.”

She says she’s there by herself since the other salesperson wasn’t able to make it in and mentions that it might not be a good idea to walk over to the other site because of the cold and ice but we could come back.

This one in Portofino Green.

We say that’s fine, we’ll come back the next Saturday and thank her and take our leave.

Walking back to the Jeep, Linda suggests we go to Richmond but it’s a little late in the day for a long drive and we veto the idea for today.

“Hey,” I say, “why don’t we go back to the Honda dealer? Let’s see if that Super Cub is still there1.”

So we do, and we enter the place, and I walk back to check the row of used bikes and I see…

…a 2020 Vespa Sei Giorni2 with 356 miles3 on the odometer. Exactly what I want.

Seriously. It’s right there.

The coincidence is overwhelming – Twilight Zone scary, even! – and I’m marveling as I circle the Vespa. It looks good, really clean, a few minor scuff marks inside the front shield, but still, really, really good.

The sticker on the glove box lid is from Vatican City.

The sales guy, probably young enough to be my grandson, comes over and we talk for a bit and I ask, “so what’s the out-the-door price on this?”

He does a quick calculation in his head and names a figure roughly much more than I would pay. I look doubtful and he says, “I can run some numbers if you like.”

“Well…okay,” I say, convinced nothing will come of this, but the Sei Giorni looks really good so we head over to his desk.

He’s on his computer for a moment and then fetches the sales manager, who turns out to be the same Mr. Killjoy4 from the Super Cub debacle literally 29 days ago.

But Mr. Killjoy is carrying a piece of paper, a printout – hey, the printer’s working! – and says they’ve done some price cutting and hands me the paper. It turns out they’ve had Sei Giorni for 90 days or more, taken as a trade-in. It must’ve been parked downstairs; I haven’t been down there in a while.

The new Vespa is 300cc; the old one, from the race, is 125cc.

The price is a lot less than I expected, still a little high, but a good starting point. The mood is entirely different from last time, there’s no take-it-or-leave-it vibe and I’m actually starting to feel hopeful. We say we’ll think about it, thank them sincerely and leave.

We go home, pull the sales papers from Linda’s 2020 Vespa and find a few discrepancies in dealer prep and so on. We talk the idiocy of getting yet another bike but Linda senses my rising enthusiasm and understands me as usual so we decide to go back and make a counteroffer.

Mr. Killjoy comes back with a counter-counteroffer that’s a hundred bucks higher. I say okay and we get the paperwork started. I call our insurance company and get the Sei Giorni added to the policy.

It’s really happening at last and we wait and let the paperwork machinery whirr along.

I start thinking about the Sei Giorni and what modifications I want to make (larger windscreen, additional brake light, maybe some auxiliary lights on the front) and which Antarctic exploration ship I’m going to name her after.

Then the sales guy looks up and says, “We don’t have an owner’s manual. In trade-ins, we sometimes don’t get one.”

The headlight is on the front fender.

“That’s okay,” I say. “That’s not a problem.”

And it isn’t. I can go online and print one; I’ve already done it with Linda’s Vespa, two copies, one aboard the scooter itself, the other in the garage at Starbase Nashville.

“And,” the sales guy says, “we don’t have a spare key.”

If this story had a soundtrack: Here is where the needle would skip across the record and make a horrible scratching sound and send the tone arm clattering off the stereo.

“Wait,” I say. “You don’t have another key? You don’t have a brown key?”

“Uh, no,” he says. And, as if someone’s tossed a bucket of sand into it, the deal machinery screeches to a halt.

Left to right: Brown key for programming, blue key for ignition, black key for lock on optional top case.

A brief but necessary technical digression

All modern computerized Vespas are sold with two keys:

  1. A blue key, which is used as a standard ignition key, for day-to-day operation of the bike. It has a tiny transponder chip.
  2. A brown key5, which is the bike’s master key. This is the program key, used to work the bike’s onboard computer and program the bike to accept new keys and a whole lot of other stuff.

When you buy a new Vespa, the salesperson will hand you this brown key and say, literally in bold capital letters:

“DON’T LOSE THIS KEY.

KEEP IT SOMEWHERE SAFE.”

You can get other blue keys as spare ignition keys. (I got two for Linda’s scooter.) However, you need the brown key to program them, to make them work.

It’s an aggravating quirk of the Vespa system. The computer controls an immobilizer system on the bike, which means you can’t start the engine without the properly coded keys. You need the damned keys.

You can’t get a new brown key without replacing the bike’s Electronic Control Unit and the ignition barrel (the thing in the dash with the slot you stick the key into). All that costs a lot of money, upwards of $800 or so with parts and labor.

I am not making that up.

Giuseppe Cau on Number 94 in the 1951 endurance event...

You can get new blue keys cloned but it’s a pain in the ass without the brown key and there’s no guarantee they’ll work.

…and now back to our story

“I’m sorry, but we need to have that brown key,” I say. “That’s a deal breaker.”

The sales guy goes looking for the key without success. It’s not in an office, it’s not aboard the Sei Giorni.

… and Giuseppe Cau today.

We try to explain how necessary the brown key is, but you just know the sales guy and Mr. Killjoy think we only want a key with a different color or something. You can see the disconnect in their eyes.

“I’ll get you the brown key,” Mr. Killjoy says, and I believe he is sincere but I also believe he thinks he’ll just go to the nearest Vespa dealer – La Moto Washington, in another bit of irony – and pick up one.

He wants me to sign the paperwork anyway and I say, I’m sorry, I really like the bike but I can’t do that, not without a working brown key.

So we leave it like that, with them saying they’ll get the key and they’ll call the previous owner to see if he still has it (though he should have surrendered it with the bike as part of the trade-in).

Like 29 days ago, we leave empty-handed.

We get home and I start to think how this will play out and I’m quietly convinced it won’t happen.

We wait.

We’ve been in a Samuel Beckett absurdist play for 20 minutes, talking about keys with different colors and the dealership’s Vladimir and Estragon don’t quite understand because they haven’t done their homework. Vespas can be costly and complicated and dealers don’t like complications when selling used vehicles.

What’ll probably happen is that they won’t find the original brown key or get a new one and I won’t buy the Sei Giorni.

They’ll end up selling it to someone unfamiliar with Vespas and that person will buy it and toddle off and things will be fine until they discover they need a brown key and find out they’re screwed.

I’ll wait and see what happens. If under-powered Vespa scooters can win a six-day endurance race, it’s possible Godot will actually show up with a working brown key.

Addendum

What happened was just this.

*

1 – The Super Cub was still on the floor, but as events transpired, we didn’t look closely at it.

2 – The 2020 and 2021 Sei Giornis come only in gray-blue (grigio, in Italian) which looks good, though the Portofino Green of previous models, which mimicked the 1951 racers, is better.

3 – That’s a little more than half of the mileage for the first break-in service. So in essence, this Sei Giorni is practically brand new.

4 – Not his real name.

5 – Some folks call it a red key, because the color is somewhere in-between, though more toward brown in the spectrum. Chalk it up as just another Vespa peculiarity.