Friday, May 22, 2009

Scooter Resource -- GP 800

MAXI scooter - maximum comfort!

I've just completed 284 miles on a scooter.

I arrived at my destination in Anglesey without a single ache or pain. My car is not as comfortable as the GP800 - the groundbreaking 835cc V-twin scooter launched in 2007 by the Piaggio Group's Gilera. And the GP800 returned an incredible 36mpg.

At the start of my travels I lower the electronically adjustable screen to its sporty position as soon as I reach a low enough road, duck down behind it and wind the throttle to the stop. Before I know it I've gone from naught to 70mph - without changing gear. I roll off the throttle a tad on what is the world's fastest production scooter.

I sit up and whizz the screen up to its highest (touring) position. Now I'm really comfortable, although the screen could do with being about four inches higher as I still have to duck down slightly to shelter from windblast and noise.

There's a handy mode button on the right hand switchgear so I can flick between two trip meters and outside temperature. The first 17-litre tank full of unleaded is sucked away at 140 miles, and this is at flat-out cruising.

I recently chatted to a GP800 owner at Brands Hatch who told me he regularly gets more than 200 miles from a full tank. And by the way he was doing a track day on his GP800 during which he dusted off quite a few proper motorcycles in his group - hilarious! When the fuel light comes on the trip meter resets itself to zero so you know how far you've been on reserve.

The GP800 is deceptively fast, and it's only as you come off the motorway onto a slip road and approach a roundabout that you realise how quick you're going. Unlike a motorcycle, you feel remote from your surroundings on this maxi-scooter. The ride is so smooth it cocoons you and you feel like you're trundling along in your favourite armchair. I find myself going into roundabouts too quickly and having to use both front and rear brakes to slow down.

Because of the GP800's long 1,593mm wheels base and massive 245kg claimed dry weight, the back brake is actually very effective and doesn't lock easily as it would on a sporty motorcycle. This is probably also the reason for the staggering speed at which it goes from nothing to 130mph - the front end is so planted it never goes light, so drive is excellent.

The long wheelbase also produces super-stability in all situations, but the trade off is it's robbed of any sports-type agility. It requires physical effort to steer it in long fast turns, although the squared-off tires of the GP800 I was riding didn't help. This is a mile-munching motorway monster and tires do get squared off fairly quickly with all that straight-line action and big power going through the rear wheel.

As for weight, it's only really a problem when the motor is off. I struggle to push it about and avoid putting it on the centre stand - I simply use the sidestand and the unusual hand brake, like the one you find on those three-wheeler MP3s. On the go however, the weight dissolves.

While storage is good on the GP800, it's certainly not 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 and sunglasses. There isn't even the usual handbag hook that I find so useful. I'd definitely fit a top box if I was lucky enough to own a GP800.

Gilera's GP800 is a superb mile-muncher and although I enjoy riding it through London, it's too big and heavy for some really swift filtering in heavy traffic. But I wouldn't hesitate to jump on it, point it south and stop only once I've reached the South Spanish coast. A couple of thousand miles in two days would be a pleasure on the world's fastest production scooter.


Gilera GP800

Price: £6,499

Engine: Liquid-cooled 839.3cc 8v 90-degree V-twin four-stroke, automatic transmission, fuel injection

Power: 75bhp

Torque: 56lb/ft

Weight: 245kg dry

Frame: steel tube

Suspension: non-adjustable 41mm telescopic forks, single rear shock adjustable for preload

Brakes: 2x300mm front discs with four-piston calipers, 280mm rear disc with twin-piston caliper

Tyres: 120/70x16 front, 160/60x15 rear

Colours: red

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