Aprilia SR50 and Scarabeo Scooters

Fun and Economical Transportation with Italian Flare


During the recent AMA Superbike weekend at Road Atlanta, Aprilia introduced a pair of new scooters that are being brought into the American market.

In Europe and Asia scooters are all the rage and the styles range from the full-on Star Wars look to retro styling to race replica. Aprilia has over twenty different scooter models and they sell like hotcakes in Europe and Asia. In urban areas scooters can be the easiest and, in most cases, the quickest way from point A to point B on the narrow streets of the crowded old-world cities. In this country Aprilia envisions the scooters being used by college students, urban commuters and kids that want to have the coolest mode of transportation on the block. The two models that Aprila has chosen to bring to the States are the SR50 and the Scarabeo 50. Both models have 50cc motors and have "Aprilia" tagged on the side, but that's where the similarities end.

The SR50 is a trick little number with a water-cooled, reed valve, two-stroke engine, 13-inch alloy wheels shod with gummy tires, disk brakes front and back and a neat, fully adjustable racing-style shock on the rear. This little scooter handles.

The Scarabeo 50 is a retro-styled scooter with an air-cooled motor, disk-drum brake combo and, large for a scooter, 16-inch wheels. What the Scarabeo lacks in high-tech goodies, it more than makes up for it in sheer style. You've got to hand it to the Italians, their bikes have a lot of pizzazz.

Both scooters are fitted with Dell'Orto 12mm carburetors; ignition is handled by electronic CDI units; two-stroke oil is pumped in via mechanical injectors; and a centrifugal clutch means no gear shifting.

Aprilia was nice enough to set up a small road racing circuit in one of Road Atlanta's large parking lots. Setting motorcycle journalist free on racing scooters on a mini race track was in retrospect something Aprilia might have regretted. It didn't take long for the test session to turn in to full-on races complete with full lock rear end slides coming into the tight turns, grinding of center and side stands, stoppies and other high jinx that probably had the Aprilia guys sweating just a bit.

SR50After about a half hour on the mini circuit it became apparent why Aprilia set up the course. They are proud of the way their scooters handle and well they should be. These little rides are light, stable, very flickable and basically get around a corner better than a scooter has a right to. The competition among the European manufacturers in this hot market segment has bred a new generation of scooter that takes acceleration, braking and handling to new levels for the diminutive breed of motorcycles.

One very impressive aspect of Aprilia's scooters is the stability of the bikes at or near top speeds. Many scooters go into a wobble when thrown into a turn at top speed. A short wheel base combined with flexible frames and weak suspensions are causes of this unsettling phenomenon. With the two Aprilia scooters tested however, there was no high-speed wobble. Naturally, with a 50cc scooter "high-speed" is a relative phrase. The top speed on these little rippers is about 40 to 45 miles per hour. The Aprilia's get up to speed quickly so running in urban traffic of regular city streets should be no problem.

The bigger 16-inch wheels of the Scarabeo enables it to handle bumpy roads slightly better than the 13-inchers on the SR50. One advantage the SR50 has is disk brakes front and rear. No matter how badly the brakes on the SR were abused they never faded. The rear drum brakes on the Scarabeo did fade when used to lock up the rear wheel lap after lap on the little test circuit.

Scarabeo 50Both scooters have 2.1 gallon gas tanks with a half gallon in reserve. With gas mileage in the 70 miles per gallon range, a rider will go a long time between gas stops.

While not the everyday mode of transportation they are in Europe and Asia, scooters are gaining in popularity in the U.S. In this country there is a bigger emphasis on the social aspects of riding these fun, little forms of transportation. Scooter clubs are popping up in just about every major city. It's not uncommon to see a slew of scooters parked in front of a hip downtown coffee shop on a Friday night. There was even a sizable group of scooter riders mixing in with the Harley contingent down at Daytona this March. The funny thing about it was the scooter riders didn't suffered ridicule from more traditional motorcyclists, instead there were a lot of smiles and waves directed at the scooterists coming from the vast crowd lining Daytona Beach's Main Street.

Despite the impressive technology behind these Aprilias the styling is probably the main selling point of these bikes. The looks of the SR50 is deemed avant-garde by Aprilia. The SR comes in a choice of four colors -- Cyber yellow or silver as well as shining black or silver. There's even an Aprilia racer replica paint scheme available. The Scarabeo comes in more traditional colors with fancy names like moody red, lake blue, lunar white or cyber gray. A full line of accessories are available for both bikes, the most distinctive being a line of designer storage trunks for the Scarabeo.

Aprilia has some unique marketing plans for its scooter line. One innovative plan is to make school-year-long leases available to college students. The lease would include maintenance. As of early June Aprilia has a limited number of dealers only in large markets, but according to Aprilia new dealers are being signed up everyday. The price of the Scarabero is right at $2300 and the SR50 is $2700.

If you're looking for a fun, economical form of basic transportation, a scooter is hard to beat. Pulling up at the local scooter club get together on one of these Aprilias would certainly make you one of the stars of the group. Heck, they might even let you ride lead.

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