Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Olympia Vespa Dealer

Took a little trip out today to visit Cycle Mart, which has started carrying Vespas, as of this summer. This was the longest ride I'd done on the Sprint, the shop being farther out East than my work commute. I probably spent an hour or so hanging out, kicking tires and talking scoots, and scooter business with R.A. Van Horn, who is the Sales Manager there.
Sadly, Cycle Mart is just carrying the new 4-stroke Vespas. I'd been holding the admittedly unrealistic hope that they would have some stuff geared (no pun intended) for vintage Vespas. In their defense, Vespas are a new line for them, and it seems their attitude on adding scooters to their inventory is to take it slow, and do it right. My only other constructive criticism would be that I wish they had more gear, like rain-wear and gloves and such. They do have some leathers and such, but not what I was in the market for today. Not much of a complaint really, I just acquired some REALLY nice gloves, and a rainjacket today, at Paulson's Suzuki, but I would have rather supported the Vespa Dealership. The folks there are knowledgable, and personable, and I'd really like to see them thrive selling higher end scoots in the South Sound.
R.A. Van Horn seems to really know his stuff, and was kind enough to chew the fat with me for some time. I asked him point blank about issues that have been raised time and again on Modern Vespa, about delays in parts and such from Piaggio USA. He answered this question and others relating to it, quite readily, and even addressed some of the issues that many have faced with Piaggio USA distribution network before I could bring them up. One quickly gets the feeling that Mr. Van Horn and his bosses did their research before they picked up this franchise, and really want to do right by their customers. I believe they went into this with their eyes open, are aware of the supply chain problems, and have measures in place to deal with them. I'd be interested to hear, if any one has had experience with Cycle Mart in Olympia.
Now, the Dragon is generally a scruffy looking customer, and I'm used to getting the hard sell at motorcycle shops, that is when I'm not getting the cold shoulder. I guess I don't look like I've got the cash to drop on a Harley. But the folks at Cycle Mart were very helpful and polite, even when I informed them I was just looking. They've got a nice shop, kind of humble from the outside, but the inside is alot nicer than most cycle shops I've been to. I actually felt comfortable enough to browse the motorcycles, as well as the scooters. They have some gorgeous Triumphs, as well as a line that was new to me, Victory Motorcycles, which are made in America by Polaris. The Victory cruisers are plenty pretty. I think I'll have to do some research on them, as well as Triumph's current offerings. They also stock Kawasakis.
But of course, the Dragon is all about the scooters. They've got a good stock of all the current Vespa models, except the PX's. I finally got a chance to get a feel for the GTS, and I gotta say it is one nice scoot. Beefy but comfortable. I had such a good time chatting with R.A., though, that I never got around to asking their policy on test rides. But speaking of beefy but comfortable rides, I was surprised to find Cycle Mart also stocks most of the current line of Piaggios as well. I think they have everything but the Typhoon. But I was talking about "beefy but comfortable"...
Well, I've heard some buzz about the Piaggio BV and X9, and looking at them on the internet, thought they were better looking than most maxi-scoots, but... eh, they're not Vespas, and they're not outlandishly cool like the MP3. That smacking sound you might hear right now, is the Dragon eating his hat, with a side of humble pie. The BV 500 and X9 500 are some serious scoots! By far the most comfortable step throughs I have ever placed my hiney on. They've got the cushiness of the Japanese Maxis, whilst still having a riding position that is much closer to a classic scooter posture. They pretty much beg to be taken out on long roadtrips, preferably with a sweet young thing perched comfortably behind you. They both have three linked disc brakes, one on the rear tire and two on the front. They both feature the Piaggio 460cc four valve Master engine, which is suspposed to be a damn fine motor. The X9 features two 14" wheels, while the BV has a rear 14" and a front 16", so they should both have excellent high speed stability for scoots. The BV 500 was the real find of the day for me, a lot of the nice modern scooter features, some real sustained highway power, and body lines that pay respect to classic scooter stylings without slavishly copying them. I think the BV500 is now my "#1 with a bullet", most lusted-after scooter. Next time I'm up at the shop I'm definitely asking about their test-ride policy. MSRP is $6300 and $6200 for the X9 500 and BV 500, respectively.
R.A. said they probably wouldn't be getting any of the GTVs in, it sounds like they are seeing the most traffic in LX150s, so maybe they couldn't move many of what is essentially a higher priced GTS (albeit with sweeter body styling.) He did say however that they probably would get an MP3 (or whatever it ends up being labeled in the states), though he is concerned with whether or not it will have to be registered as a trike in Washington State. If so it would require a seperate endorsement, which would eliminate many riders.
As maybe you can tell, I had a good time talking shop with R.A.. He's not a scooterist, (yet, though working around all those pretty scoots, you can tell it's starting worm it's way into his consciousness) but he is a biker, and he "gets" scooters and scooterists, which if you ever been in a regular motorcycle dealership that stocks scooters, you know is saying something. So if you are in the South Sound and in the market for a new Italian scooter, you should go up and talk to R.A., or any of the folks at Cycle Mart. Maybe we'll get really lucky, and they'll do well enough with the Vespas, to start carrying the Genuine Motor Scooters! Of course, with our population of college students and state workers, they might end up selling more of the medium end Buddys, than the high end Piaggios! Anyhow, the Dragon is glad we finally have our own Vespa shop, and especially glad it looks like it is in the hands of some smart, and friendly folks. Hell, tell 'em the Dragon sent ya. (It'll make 'em wonder...)

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