2001 Aprilia Scarabeo 150

Putting the "Fun" back in "Functional"

story by Motorcycle Online Staff, Created Mar. 16, 2001
Torrance, California, May 17, 2001
We must be getting old over here at MO. Or maybe we're just becoming excessively practical lately, what with gas prices sneaking ever closer to the big three-dollar mark.

Maybe it's our fault, though. Instead of wasting away our collective youth on race bikes, big trucks and chasing some rather large women, our time might have been better spent if we'd hugged a few more trees and saved a few more lizards. Maybe then we wouldn't be looking so hard at all these scooters that are coming down the pipeline lately.

But, then again, just because something gets good gas mileage and looks like a scooter doesn't mean it is a scooter. Or does it? Aprilia bills its Scarabeo 150 as a "motorcycle with an automatic transmission" and "the agility of a scooter." So we had to find out if Aprilia was correct, especially after becoming scooter nuts since falling for Yamaha's zippy little Vino a while back.

And that Italian styling that made Yamaha PR types so proud? The Scarabeo is Italian. So, naturally, we had to get a full dose of what the boot country had to offer. So what better place to start than with the Scarabeo 150?

Tech Check    Aprilia describes the Scarabeo 150 as having a "motorcycle-inspired design." As such, you'd expect it to perform as one. Featuring dual disc brakes, alloy rims and motorcycle-esque suspension, the potential is there. The 151 cc, four-valve, overhead cam, four-stroke engine is definitely more motorcycle than the usual small-bore two-stroke scooter fare. In fact, the only things scooter-like about the Scarabeo are its looks and transmission.

The single-beam, double rear cradle frame is stiff enough, although with aggressive riding, you'll notice some flexing of the front end. The single cylinder, liquid-cooled engine is smooth and delivers power via a centrifugal clutch and variable belt transmission. Air and fuel come together through a Keihin CVK carburetor and is ignited by electronic ignition.

Model and Scarabeo 150 basking in the late afternoon Italian (well, Studio City, CA) sun.In typical scooter fashion, the right hand lever controls the front 260 mm brake, while the left hand lever controls the rear 220 mm unit. Both brake calipers feature a dual piston design.

However, what sets the Scarabeo apart from normal scooters, and further blurs the scooter/motorcycle line are its two large wheels. The 100/80 front tire rides on a 2.5 x 16 inch rim and is separated from the rest of the bike via 35 mm conventional forks with 110 mm of travel. The 130/80 rear tire snuggles its beads within a 3 x16 inch rim that is affixed to the chassis by way of a dual sided-swingarm. Both rims are of the five-spoke alloy variety. Hardly scooter like, these wheels allow the Scarabeo to have the smooth handling of a full size bike, while still maintaining its "scooter" edge.

The swingarm implements a preload-adjustable mono-shock setup and has 110 mm of suspension travel, just like the front. The left arm (as viewed from the back of the bike) houses the belt and transmission, while the right side is there for additional support -- and some stuff.

Under this beautiful cover resides part of the automatic transmission that helps to separate the Scarabeo from motorcycle-dom.Undoubtedly, owners of the Scarabeo will use it for errands and commuting. To accommodate those requests, Aprilia offers optional hard bags and a different top box. The side bags offer 20 liters of cargo capacity while the optional, larger top box will be capable of holding two full face helmets. As is, the standard, lockable top box offers 29 liters of capacity and is large enough for one full face helmet. A small, lockable compartment located near the ignition key slot has enough room for smaller objects, such as registration and insurance papers.

PAGE 2 It's not Italy, but it's hereBrochure-speak aside, we were curious if this whole "motorcycle with an automatic transmission" bit meant the best of both worlds. We were worried that, as is sometimes the case, this translates into a compromise on both counts that results in far less than the sum of the collective parts.    At first glance, we were a bit unsure as to our feelings about the Scarabeo's styling. The front fender is almost as big as the top box mounted just behind the passenger seat. But as Aprilia's Robert Pandya pointed out, once you go splashing through a few big puddles, you'll see why it's there. As graphics guru Calvin Kim so studiously pointed out, "it looks too tacked on. It has got something to do with the front fender shape in relation to the wind blocker thingy." Yes, perhaps it might. Or maybe it was the all-black color scheme (Aprilia offers some other, far tastier choices), but the bike's otherwise beautiful lines didn't make as stellar an appearance as they could have.

The majority of the Scarabeo's body work is absolutely scrumptious. Nice chrome touches help to accentuate clean lines.It comes as no surprise, then, that after looking like a scooter we expected reasonably scooter-esque things from the Scarabeo. Light weight, cramped ergonomics and Fred Flintstone-style starts were all our feeble minds could conjure up. Thankfully for us (and Aprilia) though, the soles of our shoes were safe as this little four-stroke-powered Scarabeo does a great job of moving things along, and of changing our opinion of the little beast.

The motor comes to life with an idle that sounds almost two-stroke like since there's a bit of a ringing and dinging that sometimes emanates along with the lower-toned staccato flowing from the bazooka tube of a muffler. A twist of the throttle brings the revs up and almost immediately you're on your way as the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic transmission engages at about 3,000 RPM and shoves you off.

   Accelerating away from a dead stop, the motor pulls better than we expected. The gearing is good and the transmission seems to work well with the stock motor's output. There's a bunch of torque (relatively speaking, of course) from as little as five miles-per-hour that helps get things up to the speed of everyday traffic with little fuss.

The instrument cluster tells you everything you really need to know. The little compartment by the rider's knees is a nice place to keep your registration papers.Thirty MPH comes up very quick, as does forty. Beyond that, though, keeping the throttle pinned results in decent acceleration, though nothing that will have the bars slapping back and forth in your paws. Still, the motor will get the Scarabeo accelerating up to about 75 MPH and will drop only 10 MPH from that if you chose to cruise two-up. It doesn't have the peppy feel the little two-stroke Vino does, instead choosing a more linear power delivery that fits rather well with the "motorcycle with an automatic transmission" party line.

At speed, you can take the Scarabeo onto the freeway, though cruising at those speeds is a bit unnerving. Most of this feeling is due to the lack of upper-body wind protection and the riding position that works so well around town. Though the Aprilia is capable of these feats, it seems to be more of a byproduct of an excellent, sturdy design than a design goal that the engineers had to begin with.

The front 260 mm front disc provides good stopping power. The front fender is our only bit of styling on the bike that we detest -- even if it does work well.On a machine capable of these speeds, good brakes are a necessity, and Aprilia's got them. Both brakes work well enough to get the bike slowed down reasonably quick from just about any speed the Scarabeo is capable of attaining. To impress your friends, you can even get the back wheel to lock up if you modulate front-to-rear bias just right and initiate a little bit of a weight transfer of your own.

The top box was extremely handy and the lock secured positively every time. The plastic felt a bit thin at times, but then again, it's not meant for carrying bricks to and from the construction site. More for carrots, bread, wine and the storage of a helmet and some gloves.

The only real gripe we have of the bike is that it feels rather top-heavy in the slow-going. This scooter has a very large feel to it, thanks in part to the driver's seat that becomes rather wide as you slide back. While this is a good thing for some long-legged riders since it offers beaucoup butt-padding, shorter-stemmed riders (like our female photo model who checks in at five-foot-nine) had a few issues with getting their footsies firmly on the ground.

The Scarabeo is fine once you get rolling, though some short-stemmed riders have problems getting their feet down at stops.Not Quite, Almost, PerfectSo, does the Scarabeo heighten our recently acquired fascination with scooters? Well, lets just say it doesn't do anything to dampen our enthusiasm.    The coolest thing about little scooters is just that -- they're little. The Scarabeo, however, really is a motorcycle with an automatic transmission, just as Aprilia's own literature suggests. It's too small (power-wise) to be a real motorcycle, and yet it's too large to be a flick-around little scooter that you don't mind having around just to play on or run errands on. At an MSRP of $4,199 US dollars, the Scarabeo is a bit more of a commitment than many people are willing to make for a "toy" of this nature.

But, then again, what do we know, having wasted our precious youth on frivolous activities for which we have no fruits to show? With over 50 miles-per-gallon, burning anything-combustible-you-can-find and real eye-tal-yun styling and pedigree, this Scarabeo is sure to attract its share of buyers. It's quick, comfortable and quite the head-turner. Just what responsible people like us need.

Engine : Single cylinder, 4 stroke, liquid cooled, OHV, 4 valves.
Bore and Stroke : 62 x 50 mm
Displacement : 150.95 cc
Compression Ratio : 12.5:1
Carburetor : Keihin CVK 26 (25 mm diffuser)
Ignition : Electronic
Starter : Electric
Transmission : Automatic with centrifugal clutch.
    Front : 35 mm conventional, 110 mm travel
    Rear : Preload adjustable mono-shock, 110 mm travel
    Front : 260 mm disc, dual 25 mm piston caliper
    Rear : 220 mm disc, dual 32 mm piston caliper
    Front : 2.5 x 16", 100/80 x 16 
    Rear : 3.0 x 16", 130/80 x 16
Length = 2075 mm (82 in.)
Width = 740 mm (29 in.)
Height = 1225 mm (48 in.)
Seat Height = 800 mm (32 in.)
Wheelbase = 1387 mm (55 in.)
Dry weight (list) = 308 lbs.
Fuel tank cap. (list) = 2.5 gal. (0.5 gal. reserve)

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