Its modest power may not quite match its bad-boy looks, but with a top speed of 35 mph and 114 mpg fuel consumption, it’s an ideal pick for a crowded-city dweller. But if power is your goal, “we can install an engine triple the size, and make a ‘battle scooter’ out of it,” says Waters. In case you’re wondering: Yes, that’s exactly as cool as it sounds.
Though Vespa’s first new model in eons was inspired by the brand’s 1946 MP6 prototype and features a streamlined Art Moderne shape, it’s actually their most technologically advanced bike, with an aluminum frame, LED lighting, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and a top speed of 60 mph. “This is an epic bike—with an epic price,” says Waters.
When we think “scooter,” we think, “Italy,” and Piaggio—founded in 1884 to produce railway carriages—is one of the most storied Italian makers. The BV 350 is the most powerful scooter in its category, capable of hitting 86 mph while still returning an EPA-rated 65 mpg. “Given the price and performance,” says Waters, “this is one of our favorites.”
The Vespa (yes, it makes the list twice) GTS 300I.E. will easily top 80 mph while still delivering 70 mpg. Upgrade with a chrome kit and a chopped windscreen for vintage élan, and still pay thousands less. “It doesn’t have the radical, attention-grabbing looks of the 946,” Waters says, “but it’s more bike for less money, if you’re into that kind of thing.”
For a budget-minded commuter, there’s the traditional-looking but supremely capable Buddy from Chicago’s Genuine Scooter Company (the bike is built in Taiwan). It hits speeds of more than 50 mph and still returns over 90 mpg. “These scooters are unkillable,” Waters says. “The rental places in resort towns like Key West all use Buddys.”