Flat out on the Casa Performance SSR 250 | FEATURE
There are certain things in life you’ll always remember, joining the road-going 100mph Lambretta club is one that will stick in my mind forever. I’ve ridden many fast scooters in my time, as well as lots of super-quick sportsbikes but none of them compares to the magnitude and excitement produced by the Casa SSR 250. It’s a mind-blowing and addictive toy for the discerning scooter rider.
Further, into this monster feature, you’ll find an onboard video of the beast in action so you can see how it looks, feels and sounds from the rider’s seat…
Words, photos and video: Iggy
Motorcyclists often ask ‘Why do you ride scooters’ and the answer isn’t obvious to an outsider. In comparison, it’s easy to ride bikes capable of doing 200mph, with aerodynamics perfected in wind tunnels, chassis, brakes and suspension honed at World Superbike level and with large wheels, which are great for soaking up the bumps. For a price close to the cost of a new superbike you can now turn your humble vintage shopping bike into a machine that will scare most bikers half to death and blow them into the weeds around the twisties. A machine that will leave most riders feeling shocked, dazed and bewildered. When you’re riding a fast scooter, you know you’re riding, you know you’re out there living.
It’s a challenge to ride something making five times more power than was ever intended by the original manufacturer. In horsepower terms, 45bhp isn’t huge by any standards but in a relatively light Lambretta chassis running on 10” wheels, it turns those 45 horses into a raging stampede, power to weight is where it’s at. Just be careful not to get trampled. An SSR engine isn’t for the faint-hearted or well-heeled but talentless rider. Do not let your mind cash cheques your (lack of) talent cannot handle. Riding one of these things fast takes more than just handing over £7500. It’s brutal and could easily catch you out if you don’t give it the respect it deserves
Derived from the shelved BSG 305 project, (literally shelved as Dean has three of the £5,000 BSG CNC casings sat on a shelf) the Casa Performance SSR 250 came along using the new CasaCase, a much more cost-effective solution to instant plug and play power. Ok, £7522 may not be affordable to everyone, but neither is a Ferrari. Torque ain’t cheap and if you want power you need to splash the cash. To put things into relative terms you’ll pay up to £5,000 for a TS1 engine built into 50-year-old casings at a shop, add a 5-speed box and you’re over £6,000. I’ve ridden both the BSG 305 and the SSR, the extra two years of development can be felt with the CasaPerformance engine.
Buying the most powerful out of the (well-crafted wooden) box Lambretta engine can soon start to make more sense when you look at what you’re getting.
What’s in the box?
Basically, it’s a complete engine with everything you need except a rear wheel. You get a ‘plug ‘n’ play’ SSR 250 engine complete with a choice of 34mm or 39mm Dell’Orto carb and Protti exhaust. You also have a choice of colours for the anodised parts (black, blue or silver). The engine comes with the latest Cyclone 5 (batch 9) gearbox, Octopus rear hub, PowerMaster 7-plate cushdrive clutch, CasaCover sidecasing, head cowling and CasaCooler, and the ignition. It’s a 47bhp straight out of the box, ready to bolt in and go engine. With components made in Italy, there’s no variation in quality, everything is developed, tested and made to fit perfectly. The engine is hand built at Rimini Lambretta Centre by passionate Italians, Mickey and Lorenzo.
What about the different specs?
The SSR (R stands for Race) 250 uses a 64mm crank, whilst the latest SSR 265cc Scuderia engines use a 68mm crank. Giving them slightly more power and torque (like you need it). Port timings and the exhaust are also different on the two engines. The SSR 250 engine will be phased out with the 265cc taking over and coming in both SSR and a detuned SST (T is for Touring) version. The first barrels for the SST have just arrived at RLC for testing. There are plenty of configurations and options to choose from though so you don’t have to go full power. Check out the Rimini Lambretta Website for full specs.
There will also be a choice of air or liquid-cooled versions available, RLC is currently working on some neat solutions to help hide the ugly waterworks.
A twin is definitely being built, expect that sometime in 2018, we don’t even want to think what that will be like to ride…
Want to build your own?
The engine can be bought in kit form if you prefer to get stuck in yourself. Mickey and Laurence at RLC can build an SSR engine in just four hours. Remember they’ve had a bit of practice though. Building into fresh casings using brand new parts, parts that fit perfectly without the need to fettle will be a revelation after decades spent up to the elbows in mucky old Lambretta engines.
The first batch of 30 CasaCase engines sold out within two hours, the next batch was set to be for another 50 casings, cranks, cylinder kits, gearboxes etc. That’s now been trebled and the parts will be arriving in January.
Four hours an engine
As it stands there are two men building the engines, at four hours an engine that’s 200 hours to build the first 50. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that building them will eat time faster than momma gobbles spaghetti.
It’s probable that RLC/Casa Performance (CP) will take on extra staff. Casa Performance centres around the world will also be building customers engines to help cope with demand. We suggest if you want to start the 2018 rally season on one of these engines you’d better get your order placed, don’t deliberate.
What’s it really like to ride then?
The SSR demonstrator is housed in a very well sorted GP chassis, complete with twin outboard Casa Performance front discs and their own shocks developed by Mupo, front and rear. It would be fairly easy to walk past an SSR without noticing what’s beneath the panels. Yes, the engine is slightly different to look at but with the panels on it’s not overly noticeable.
It fires up like any other tuned Lambretta, there’s not enough compression to break a leg so don’t be scared of it. In fact, it’s no harder to kick over than my standard 200. Once fired up it barks through the Protti exhaust, it’s a beautifully crisp two-stroke crackle. Loud but lovely at the same time. It’s likely quieter exhausts will arrive in 2018, a necessity brought on by reduced racing decibel limits as much as being road legal.
Pull in the feather-light PowerMaster clutch and you’ll realise that the CasaCover with its sophisticated clutch actuator was worth the money. You won’t be feeling like a one-armed Popeye after a stop-start trip through heavy traffic. Snick the handlebar into first and once again the quality speaks for itself, the latest Cyclone 5-speed box is ultra-precise and easy to use. Although if you’ve not used one before you’ll need to master the art of not trying to move the handlebar further than it needs, the gears are spaced slightly closer than a standard set up.
Heading for a Meltdown
A sequential gearbox will be perfected over winter. Dean told us that three SSR equipped machines will be riding to Scooterist Meltdown in February, at least one of which will be trialling the sequential gear selector. All CP parts are put through their paces and thoroughly tested on the road before finding their way to market.
Head for the hills
To begin with, I followed Dave, he was riding a stunning RLC restored standard SX 200, standard other than a Cyclone gearbox at least. Incidentally, Dave was so impressed with the 5-speed he plans to fit one to his own SX back home. On many tuned scooters you can’t sit happily at ‘ordinary’ scooter speeds, on the SSR it was quite happy to plod along at 40 mph and as we headed into the twisty switchbacks the SSR was controllable and easy to ride. Although it can quickly remind you that it likes to be let off the leash at any given opportunity. Blip the throttle accidentally and the green machine will show you who the boss is.
After a few miles of trying to contain the urges within my right wrist (thankfully scooter riding doesn’t make you go blind or I’d have fallen off years ago) I succumbed to temptation.
That two-stroke buzz is infectious, and the revs rise faster than the front wheel as it paws the air, defying gravity.”
It’s more addictive than crack. More exciting than free-fall parachuting on crack. It’s a feeling that can’t be replicated by any four-stroke. A smoker at full chat in a lightweight chassis is absolute madness. Add 10-inch wheels into the equation and the kind of road surface usually reserved for off-roading and you’ve got yourself some proper entertainment. The engine pulls from 4,000rpm up to around 11,000, although I’ll have to take Casa Performance’s word on that, I wasn’t really concentrating on the SIP speedo.
It wasn’t easy to find a road to get the scooter through the gears and into fifth, it really is that quick. Fourth feels like it’s going to pull forever, you’re probably hitting close to a ton before you’re ready for the top cog. When I finally got to fifth it still just pulls and pulls. This machine is geared to 110mph, although on this kind of terrain it feels more like 170mph. Bike riders don’t know the meaning of excitement. The scooter also has quite a bit of engine braking, ease off the throttle for a bend and you can find yourself slowing sooner than you anticipated, it’s a knack that takes a bit of getting used to.
I must mention the brakes and suspension. The Casa twin front discs run four-pot calipers and anti-dive, they’re a stonking brake. Progressive with more feel than you’d get in a blind swingers club. None of that ‘all-or-nothing’ feeling you get with many Lambretta front hydraulic brakes. These work and look stunning, at £1200 they should do but people who ran them last year all seem to say it was money well spent.
The standard drum rear brake wasn’t over powerful but of course Casa Performance will have their own equally beautiful rear hydraulic set up available soon. The rear brake was still being developed whilst we were there, Mickey and Laurence took it apart for us and realised there is a better way to mount it, so it will be changed before it goes into production. Watching those two work is an eye-opener in itself, they live and breathe development, dream of solutions and power.
I for one would opt for the hydraulic rear brake as an extra; when it comes to stopping you need all the help you can get on this scooter.”
Well-sorted, specifically designed suspension is another must have on a scooter of this magnitude. RLC has been working with Italian suspension experts Mupo to develop the CP race-spec suspension. You’ll find Mupo on many high-end sportsbikes, Ducati for instance. Despite me just jumping on and riding the demonstrator and the roads being rougher than a pockmarked badger’s arse, both myself and Dave were suitably impressed enough to comment on just how well the scooter handled. Both the front and rear suspension is the best on any Lambretta I’ve ever ridden.
Get it dialled in to suit the individual rider rather than the usual scooter boy tactic of just whacking the preload up as hard as it gets and it would be even better.”
It’s another product that sold itself to me during the ride, that’s another £1200 spent on creating your perfect scooter but it does come with TUV approval and a six-year warranty.
If you’re a novice rider with more money than sense then I’d suggest you opt for a lesser endowed engine than an SSR. One of the forthcoming SST touring engines may well help to tame things for you, whether it’ll tame things enough is yet to be seen.
If I was planning to buy myself one of these new-fangled engines I’d probably opt for the SST myself, although I’d want to ride one first and preferably back-to-back to see how the two compare. Luckily RLC are happy for you to nip over and try before you buy, you can find more details about how to get there here.
Owning an SSR is the scooter equivalent to a big red Italian sports car. If you want the fastest, most in your face scooter around then this is where you come. You can genuinely brag about your 100mph plus scooter and either show off or fall off depending on your skills.
The slightly more sensible long-distance rally-going machine is likely to be the SST. Dave by his own admission isn’t the fastest of riders; he only just about got the SSR into fourth during his test ride. He went to Italy because he genuinely wants a Casa engine and after riding the demonstrator he had made his mind up to go for a detuned SST. After speaking to Mickey and Dean he was told it can be powered down to suit exactly what he wants. He’ll be having a box exhaust (being developed now specifically designed for the SST) and a much smaller carb, altered port timings and improved MPG.
Dave wants to be able to ride to a rally at fast motorway speeds without stressing his engine, or costing an arm and a leg in fuel and oil. His engine will still have plenty of power on tap for those fast overtakes, or a bit of fun and will be significantly cheaper than a full-blown SSR. For most people, a long-distance machine is what they need, it needs to be able to sit comfortably with a group of slower scooters, I’m confident the SSR and the SST can cope with that very easily. Having a higher powered, specifically designed performance engine that spends most of its time at lower revs and a slower speed means it’s under a lot less stress than an engine that was originally designed for 50mph being made to do 80mph.
Tortoise and the Hare
Although I’m usually inclined to be the hare, wanting to go as fast as possible on whatever I ride on this occasion I think the tortoise might just be the clever option for the long distance rider. A Casa Performance SST 265 would tick all the right boxes for me. Driving back from Rimini I still found myself trying to justify a need for a mental 40-odd brake horsepower Lambretta, sometimes things don’t need justification though. It’s out there, it’s available and if you can afford it, have one.
If you have a need for speed and a penchant for Italian shopping bikes give Rimini Lambretta Centre your life savings, it’s worth it.
SSR 250 & RLC gallery
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