This week MO has published a comparison test between two $17K superbikes, Honda’s middleweight sportbike, and a retro-cool Triumph cafe racer. So for this week’s Church feature, let’s slow things down a bit and reflect on the 2001 Yamaha Vino scooter. A far cry from the four machines mentioned earlier, in cities like San Francisco you’re bound to see as many Vinos floating around as you are anything else. Why? Because it’s a perfect little errand runner. See what the 2001 MO staff had to say about it below.

2001 Yamaha Vino

What Europe’s Known All Along

By MO Staff Feb. 21, 2001

Torrance, California, February 21, 2001 — In a shady part of San Francisco, a beatnik-type art freak is in transit. He’s on an old scooter, half chrome, the other half rust, braaping his way along a bumpy road to a dank coffee shop. The evening’s program consists of smoking various herbs, chants of, “yeah, cool, daddy-o,” and reciting poetry written on napkins. A percussionist sits on the floor, tapping away at his bongos, stopping only to light another cigarette or play with his facial hair, the quantity of which rivals Santa Claus, though he has it all nicely packed into a tight goatee that hangs just above the ash tray between his legs.

vinotitletAaah yes, the malcontent scooter rider. They are a rare breed, no doubt. As dedicated as racers, though not to speed. They are dedicated to preserving things: Ancient art forms like poetry seem to be their main calling. Still, others can be found protesting, hanging banners from the steel vines that make up the Golden Gate bridge whenever some form of water fowl becomes the target of a clothier’s new spring line-up or makes it onto the sandwich list at the local deli.

vino01tAs the Vino’s name would suggest, Yamaha’s literature is littered with references to Italian culture. From the “carry a loaf of bread” reference right down to the mention of Sophia Loren. In Italy, scooters are all the rage, but here in the ‘States, scooters aren’t as commonplace — hence our visual images of Vespas and beatniks. Hey, we’re a product of our environment, just like the Vino.

This latest Yamaha, and scooters in general, came about because of the necessity for transportation in Europe’s congested cities. But now that the population in North America and other non-European cities is swelling, more and more people are finding out what others have known for years: Scooters are affordable transportation that shine where bigger bikes and four-wheels fail miserably.

The Vino goes about making its business by way of a “frisky” reed valve-equipped 49cc two-stroke single that has automatic oil-injection so you can leave your Ratio-Rites at home and just focus on filling up the little 1.6 gallon fuel tank that resides under the seat. The motor has a 40 x 39.2mm bore and stroke and features a 7.2:1 compression ratio. The fuel/air mixture is handled by a 14mm Teikei carburetor with an auto-choke circuit for cold starts.

Parked in the middle of the road, the Vino is small enough not to disrupt light industrial traffic.

Parked in the middle of the road, the Vino is small enough not to disrupt light industrial traffic.

The motor comes to life via a button on the right side of the chrome handlebar, though there’s a kick-start back-up should you feel a bit randy at times. Our own Calvin even blessed the kick-start with his patented “dood…cool” rating, so you know it has to be good. Once lit, the motor sends its pony-power (they’re a bit small to be called horses, you see) through the V-belt automatic transmission before it gets transferred to the 80/90-10 rear tire. Though not the quickest bike in the garage, the Vino is still capable of eye-watering speeds.

Suspension duties are handled by a telescopic front fork (trailing-link) and a single rear shock, both offering 1.7 inches of travel. Drum brakes do the slowing on both ends and work via levers on either side of the handlebars. The front brake resides in the traditional spot while the rear brake finds its way onto the left side of the handlebar. The seat height on this little mamma-jamma is a stocky 28.6-inches and has room for just one, though it is possible to fit a rather wide derrier on the ample padding.

So, while we’re not quite ready to trade in our Kushitani leathers and Arai helmets for an all-black wardrobe consisting mainly of turtle-necks and knitted black skull-caps, we came away impressed with the little scoot. When we first took delivery of the Vino, it came in the back of a truck along with our Champion’s Edition R1. To say that one paled in comparison would be an understatement – the R1 looked so bland.

Too cool. (smirk)

Too cool. (smirk)

Wait, did we just say that? I think we did. We see sportbikes all the time on our local roads and racetracks, but rarely do we see a scooter this cool. The tan leather (or is it made of those mysterious little creatures, the Naugas?) looks just splendid, contrasting with the paint job and chrome bits littered about the machine. And, speaking of chrome, we think the Vino could use a little more. The black rack that resides just aft of the seat could be chromed, as could the wheels which really do the scooter a disservice in their flat grey-ish tone. Then again, this leaves the aftermarket (or even GYT-R) room to go nuts with accessories.

Pulling out onto the road, between the glances of on-lookers and front grills of sport-ute’s, the Vino appreciates a little Flintstones-style shove to get rolling. As the tiny two-stroke winds up and you begin to build speed, you find yourself just beginning to flow with traffic when you’re cut off at about 30 mph. There’ll be no freeway jaunts on this little jewel, but that’s not its intent.

Around town as a grocery-getter, this thing shines. It was quickly adopted by everybody on staff as the errand-boy of choice. The cavern under the seat holds, as we’d quickly find out, a 12-pack of your favorite beverage quite easily. You can also easily drop in things like bowling balls, or helmets if you must be practical, and retrieve them with a simple twist of the key in the slot under the seat on the left side.

The fuel gauge, mounted just to the left of the steering column, was a very thoughtful touch.

The fuel gauge, mounted just to the left of the steering column, was a very thoughtful touch.

On the road, the suspension is about what you’d expect from a small-displacement scooter – soft. It’s not wallowy, but the plush sort of ride that’s just about right for bumpy alleys and local roads this scooter is likely to spend the majority of its time on. The brakes are best described as adequate, though they never failed us and work pretty good as far as drum brakes are concerned. Anything more might actually be over-kill on this little scoot.

As for that little 49cc motor buzzing along beneath you, there might as well be an on/off switch instead of a throttle when riding around cities where traffic normally moves along between 35 and 40 mph. Still, as long as you stay in the right lane, people see you, and they love to let you know it. We got more thumbs-up on the Vino than we get on new Harleys and Ducatis, all for a fraction of the price. It’s much easier to ride, too.

Minime took the Vino home for the weekend and was out running errands in the truck when he got a call on his cell phone from his girlfriend. She needed to go to a friend’s house and, upon seeing the Vino parked outside, snagged the key. Having ridden only once before, she had no problem figuring out where everything was and how to get the Vino moving. Suddenly she had a new toy and a new sense of freedom. And that’s a large part of what this thing’s about.

With the seat in the "up" position, a Poseidon missile can be launched. Side-pod mounted, Stinger missles optional.

With the seat in the “up” position, a Poseidon missile can be launched. Side-pod mounted, Stinger missles optional.

Remember the beatnik visual from earlier? And the references to Italy? That’s what this scooter’s made for. You can’t really go blasting through a little town, high on the hills above a vineyard, at anything over 20 per, really, so there’s no reason to expect the Vino to be a speed-freak. And since we’re a bit speed-jaded here at MO, we were shocked when we started inquiring as to when we’d be able to buy one of these little run-arounds for ourselves. There’s no way this could be your only mode of transportation here in Los Angeles, but as a secondary means of getting around, it’s just about perfect. That 1.6 gallon fuel tank? We filled it up two weeks ago and it’s yet to drop below the half-way mark.

Do you need one of these, too? Probably not, but you should get one anyway. They’re fun, practical and, at $1,699 US Dollars, they’re a bargain so your significant other won’t have a coronary when you bring one home. Rather, you’ll score some serious points if you use the “us” word when presenting the Vino. Besides, when was the last time being practical so much fun?


Type                    49cc, air/fan cooled, two-stroke w/Reed valve
Bore x Stroke / mm      40 X 39.2mm
Compression Ratio       7.2:1
Carburetion             14mm Teikei
Transmission            Automatic

Front Suspension        Telescopic Fork, 1.7" of Travel
Rear Suspension         Single Shock, 1.7" of Travel
Front Brake             Drum
Rear Brake              Drum
Front Tire              80/90-10
Rear Tire               80/90-10

Overall Dimensions      64.8" X 25.2" X 41"
(Length x Width x Height)
Seat Height             28.6"
Wheelbase               46"
Fuel Capacity           1.6 gallons
Dry Weight              150 lbs.
Color                   Wine, Black
  • Douglas

    Unless you’re running around campus or live in a primarily two-lane town w/low speed limits, can’t see the sense in a 50cc scoot. Where I live, all the main streets are 40-45mph (some 50) and I’d need to be able to run 40 for at least a mile without being WFO. Seems an 80-100cc would be the minimum size to be viable (and safe). I’m currently trying to find a Genuine Scooter dealer within a couple hundred mls of me that has a Hooligan 170 in stock for a tryout, but no luck yet. And most of the sub-200’s I’ve tried are really cramped, and from appearances, the Hooligan isn’t.

  • Old MOron

    Hmm, a scooter story from the early aughts.
    No pictures of Sister Mary Kim?