Readspeed’s 50bhp Smallframe Vespa | ROAD TEST
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It’s almost a week since I test rode this pretty little blue Vespa. Since then I’ve spent two full days in front of a screen editing the on-board footage (hence not many features over the last few days). Video editing is a task that requires brain-numbingly monotonous amounts of repetition. It means playing each individual snippet of footage from different cameras and camera angles hundreds of times whilst piecing together a jigsaw of frames until you whittle it down into some kind of a story.
Listening to the sound of a violent two-stroke scooter on repeat for hours on end you’d expect I’d be sick of the sound of this thing by now. Yet it couldn’t be further from the truth. This angry little 124cc Vespa is like a chainsaw on acid, it still runs ordinary pump fuel, revs to 16,000 rpm in the blink of an eye, is geared for 108mph and has the torque to pull much more than that. It’s got the power to weight ratio of an ant on steroids and is the perfect antidote to all this doom-mongering and sadness we’re experiencing around the world.
Cure the COVID-blues
If any two-stroke scooter can cure the COVID-19 blues, this is it. This feature is meant to warm the cockles of any petrol head after a very tough year.
Just for a bit of fun
Life can certainly be too serious and creating a monster like this is usually done for a reason, maybe sprint success, going for a speed record, or race track abuse. Jerome Read and the lads at Readspeed approached this shop project from a different angle, they built it “Just for a bit of fun”. They enjoy pushing boundaries, developing parts, making things work, solving problems and overcoming obstacles. Readspeed is an old-school scooter tuning shop in an often mundane modern world. Men don’t often build follies any more.
One thing they wanted to be different was the capacity. Rather than going for the ‘big cc’. approach, they wanted to build a sub 125cc scooter using parts that they mostly had lying around (or could make/adapt) at the shop.
Kart cylinder kit
For instance, the liquid-cooled cylinder was one of three that Jerome had. It’s a BMB KF2 kart top-end, chosen because it features a powervalve. It’s mated to a GasGas reedblock and heavily worked and tuned engine casings. Jerome talks us through the finer details of the engine on the video. Stuff like the twin radiators were a cheap eBay purchase (around £30), the radial front brake caliper came from Taiwan and just needed an adaptor plate making and welding to the Piaggio Zip forks. Readspeed have full metalworking and machining facilities in-house.
Also from Taiwan came the steering damper, this is one item that not only looks the part but was also well worth fitting. Again it was relatively cheap and needed some fabrication but the end result really does help to keep this powerful scooter under some kind of control. Although to be fair it’d take a tazer to keep this thing down.
Jerome has family and business links to Taiwan so you’ll probably notice the Taiwanese flag adorning the scooter. The ‘blue sky, white sun and wholly red earth’ flag is said to represent equality and democracy, although sadly, the usually peace-loving country is experiencing turbulent times at the moment. China are looking ever more likely to invade and try to reclaim the land, whilst the rest of the world (and media) is pre-occupied by a Chinese derived virus…
Parts bin special
The scooter looks fast even when stood still. Readspeed can build a good looking scooter for sure. The frame was just from an old smallframe they had lying around and with some extra bracing and a few tweaks it would be up to the job of keeping a big horsepower motor in check, without flexing like a McDonald’s paper drinking straw being sucked on by a large child.
Jerome also used the frame brace to accommodate the battery for the Polini ignition, any extra weight placed upfront on this scooter is a good thing I can assure you. The legshields also needed some airflow cutting into them for the twin rads, they were meshed over and look quite trick.
Probably one of the most expensive single components though was the Mychrons race-spec dashboard. It looks cool and has EGT/CHT temps and plenty of other functions needed to keep an eye on the workings of this potentially fragile and highly-strung machine. Not that you really have time to look at the gauge whilst riding…
Jerome bumped the scooter into life and it sounded madder than even I expected. It revs so quickly and cleanly it’s just beautiful to listen to, Jerome’s handbuilt expansion pipe with RS 125 muffler isn’t overly loud but sounds great. After warming the engine up to 40 degrees I was sent out for a couple of laps (around the block). The first thing that struck me was just how rideable it is. It’s putting out close to 50bhp and is essentially a road-legal sprint bike but it rides through traffic like an ordinary Vespa. You can keep it off the boil and filter, or ride at legal speeds quite easily… if you want to.
There’s something magical about a two-stroke as it hits the power – usually, that blast of neat adrenaline is a short-lived high, over in a few hundred revs per minute before things settle down again. With this thing you open the throttle and it’s wanting to wheelie in the first three gears. It quickly enhances the serotonin levels in your brain.
You’ll notice from the onboard video that the clutch was slipping like a bucket of eels, it’s an expensive Falc clutch but it cannae handle the power! That’s probably just as well because it helps to keep the front end down a bit. Even so, there’s a 300-yard straight where I could feel the front end becoming light right through the gears. A slow-mo video would see that wheel barely touching tarmac. Hit the power mid-corner or leant over and you’re going to be in all kinds of bother.
Laugh out loud
It’s not often I’ll ride a scooter and be literally laughing out loud and swearing involuntarily as I’m riding. With this one I was doing both. That acceleration is fiercer than the mother in law. It’s pure unbridled raw energy, even with a knackered clutch it was turning everything in my peripheral vision to a blur. This scooter may be road legal and only 125cc but it packs a mighty punch.
I had much longer on the scooter than I was meant to have, my two laps around the block became probably 15 or 20 and I took it away from town to try and stretch its legs a bit. By this time the clutch was slipping way too much and it even calmed the wheelies down so sadly it went back to the shop.
There was absolutely no need to build this scooter but boy oh boy am I glad they did. It didn’t need to be as fast or powerful as it is and it didn’t need to look this good but it was well worth the effort. Characters like Jerome need celebrating, his vision and commitment to 2-stroke stupidity knows no bounds and for that I salute him.
Words, photos and video: Iggy
Although this wasn’t built for competition we’ve kind of sown an idea that means we may well see it lining up on a sprint track in 2021. Readspeed plan to develop it further and sort out the clutch issues during the quieter months and they’ve invited us to take it for a spin. We’ll also be sticking it on the dyno.
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