Royal Alloy GP 300S v Vespa GTS 300 HPE | ROAD TEST
The Royal Alloy GP 300 S has been as important to scootering kind as the race to be the first man on the moon. A good looking 300cc retro rival to the modern rally workhorse Vespa GTS was always going to put bums on seats.
Long protracted legal battles put Scomadi on the back foot – it left them licking their wounds and giving rivals RA a head start at their own game (although their factory move and new financial backers may well see them making a big comeback). No matter what the politics are behind the two brands it’s RA who have come out on top in the UK market place. Most buyers don’t really care about the history, they just want to buy and ride a good looking, reliable retro scooter.
Royal Alloy have carved out a confident UK dealer network. They got scooters on to showroom floors and soon had them out on the roads. They’ve also brought out new (or revised) models and shown their Lambretta Series 2 styled TG 300 which is due to arrive later this year and will sell like vindaloo infused hotcakes. Some might say that little by little they’re winning the battle of the brands.
Head to head comparison
The obvious choice for comparison against the RA GP 300 S would be a pre-HPE Vespa GTS… but we didn’t have one. What we did have though was our long-term GTS SuperTech – a scooter making more power than the GP 300 (which uses the old version of the GTS 300 engine). Our GTS is also fitted with a Remus RS exhaust and Kubler Speedwheel. The Speedwheel gives the GTS an extra 7mph and more importantly stops it bouncing off the rev limiter at motorway speeds. It’s probably the cheapest and easiest GTS HPE tuning you can buy. On the other hand, the RA was box fresh that morning and completely standard.
We won’t cover old ground and tell you all about the HPE during this test, it was there to give some kind of on-road comparison but you can read a full road test here.
We also brought in Sticky to take the photos and give us a second opinion. We hire him in when the weather is meant to be bad. With heavy rain and 80mph gusts of wind forecast from the scary-sounding Storm Brendan, he was worth the Greggs sausage roll (not vegan) and iced bun…
Full metal jacket
Before we even started the new Royal Alloy up for the first time I had the side panels off (three hidden bolts need undoing to remove them) to have a look at what’s inside. The panels have a Lambretta style panel rubber around the rim, they are also lined with acoustic silver insulation and RA have added an extra rubber at the bottom edge to stop them rubbing the floor runners. Like all the bodywork, they’re made from sheet steel and are actually a bit heavier than a Lambretta side panel.
As expected things are pretty cramped under the panels, the airbox is taller and slimmer and the exhaust tucks under the opposite panel. Scorpion are currently working on an aftermarket system for the GP and will probably need to develop a new silencer to get it tucked away. Everything under the panels is nice and tidy, much neater than an LML for instance – so far so good.
As far as we know, the RA uses a Chinese built version of the old Piaggio 278cc engine. The Piaggio engine was replaced by the new more powerful and fuel-efficient HPE in late 2018. Piaggio have cashed the old motor in by licencing it out. As such it is already starting to appear in a few 300cc scooters. Visually, the castings appear to be slightly different to the genuine Piaggio made casings but it’s hard to see whether the RA retains the Magneti Marelli fuel injection system or not. From January 2021 all new scooters will need to meet Euro 5 specs, I’m not sure what will be needed to get this older motor up to spec but I’m confident RA are on the ball to keep things moving.
The radiator and header tank for the liquid-cooled lump are positioned beneath the floorboards at an angle. It’s neat enough but will catch a bit of road grime/stones etc. thrown up from the road and the front wheel. The front mudguard does have an extender on it but I’m not sure it’s long enough to stop everything from hitting the rad.
To be perfectly honest with you, I wasn’t expecting to be overly impressed with the RA, it’s a while since I’ve been on either a Scomadi or Royal Alloy and it’s the first all-metal bodied one I’ve ridden. I was in for a pleasant surprise.
VIDEO | ROAD TEST
As you can see in the road test video above, the RA pulled away quite rapidly and felt smooth enough – no nasty vibrations, rattles or creaks. This Chinese built scooter would continue to surprise us throughout the day. It’s in a different league to its predecessors. From the moment you step onboard – flat feet easily reaching the floor thanks to a slimmer body (the scooter’s not mine) and revised seat.
The RA feels well planted, the revised front suspension has made a massive difference to the way it rides. No longer does the old ‘no-travel’ front end make the ride feel harsher than a battle of words at a bitchin’ contest. It’s almost plush, just the right amount of damping from the twin preload-adjustable front shocks. The twin rears work quite well too, maybe not quite as well as the rear shocks on the GTS but it’s not far off. I imagine some decent aftermarket suspension would improve things further.
The Royal Alloy may not have the ASR traction control of the Vespa GTS but it does have front and rear disc brakes and ABS (mandatory on all new machines above 125). The brakes have plenty of feel at the lever, wavy front disc not only looking the part but also helping the twin-pot caliper to do its job. Even whilst trying on damp roads I couldn’t get it to let go. The Bosch ABS cuts in before the wheels begin to skid.
Before riding the scooter I checked out the standard ‘Timsun” branded tyres. I’ve never heard of them and expected these would let things down (pardon the pun). It’s January, Freddie Mercury hovering around 5º, it’s wet, windy, muddy and greasy. The scooter and its ‘hooobie-doo’ tyres are brand new. What could possibly go wrong? As it happens, despite us thrashing the tits off both scooters, flying down and around the twisty A6 and generally having a laugh the tyres never gave cause for concern. I’m shocked. Timsun? Who the hell are they?
Ok you speed-hungry Scooterists, I’m sure the main question on your minds is ‘How fast does it go mister?’ Sorry but this is a brand new scooter so we couldn’t possibly find out…
Only kidding. Of course we found out. Before that though we did some rolling acceleration tests with the GTS. The Vespa was quicker in the mid-range than the RA. From a standing start the RA can just out accelerate the GTS up to an indicated 56mph (around 46mph in the real world) the Vespa will start to pull away steadily then. Remember the GTS is already well loosened up though and it is also non-standard.
We took the scooters on to our private testing facility (close to and looking very similar to the A38) for a couple of junctions. The Royal Alloy engine/ECU has obviously had some tweaks. It feels like it has some kind of urgency to it, it gets up to the legal speed limit pretty quickly (as does the GTS) but it carries on making that power. The clocks show it revving to 8,500rpm and the over-optimistic speedo shows 92mph. I know it’s not really that quick but even at that speed the scooter felt very stable (despite gusty crosswinds) and the engine felt like it still wanted to go, there’s no annoying rev limiter – or if there is I didn’t hit it. The gearing may be slightly different to a GTS, thanks to the different profile tyres used (110-70×12 front/120-70×12 rear) as opposed to 120/130 on the GTS but even so, I think there’s more to it. I’m confident the RA will trounce a standard non-HPE Vespa GTS from start to finish.
Incidentally, the top speed reading on my GPS read 81.6mph, that’s comparable to the older model GTS 300 top speed but without the rev limiter it feels much nicer to ride on faster roads. Our long-termer GTS HPE only did 77.7mph on GPS before the Speedwheel was fitted…
Likes it rough?
Aside from being quick the RA enjoys being thrown about a bit as well. The frame has been stiffened to cope with the weight and power of the 300 lump and all the gubbins that go with it. As a result, it handles itself very well and I was confident enough to chuck it into corners in the wet and generally enjoy riding it. As a rally tool (which let’s face it, most of these will be ridden by distance riders in 300 form) in the right hands it’ll take some beating. It has all the characteristics of a 300 GTS but the liquid-cooled RA engine configuration feels like it just wants to go and play with the big boys and girls.
Both myself and Sticky were surprised at the GP 300 S as a complete package, whilst riding we’re linked via Sena intercoms and I lost count of the times where we both uttered how impressed we were by it.
Just for the record, ScooterLab isn’t endorsed by/sponsored by/paid by Royal Alloy, or their UK importers MotoGB and never have been. This in an honest, independent test, as all tests/features are on ScooterLab. If it’s good we’ll say it is.
VIDEO | DRAG RACE
When you buy something that looks like a classic Lambretta you have to leave some practicalities to one side. For instance, there is no underseat storage – that powerful engine sits in there. Most modern scooter riders will be used to having that useful storage space but will have to get over it if they want to ride a Royal Alloy.
The RA comes with a ‘King & Queen’ type seat, the front half lifts up to access the fuel filler (remember kids – don’t twist the key to remove the cap or you’ll snap it. Instead you unlock it then twist the pull up flap. The seat opens on a quite unique ‘locking’ system, it’s held down by six rubber suckers, pull it up and it releases with a rasp. Simple, effective and possibly embarrassing as you make the scooter ‘fart’ in the fuel station.
The RA does come with a good quality stainless steel rear carrier. Stick a SLUK Support on there and you can fit a huge bag on without it messing up your paintwork or obscuring your rear indicators.
It also has a lockable PX style glovebox upfront. It’s not very roomy but you’ll get a set of waterproofs in there and your mobile phone can be charged using the 12v point. Also, note the obligatory and very useful bag hook near the ignition.
The Royal Alloy emblazoned headlight is a neat touch, the scooter comes with LED lighting all round. Bright, modern and hopefully no trouble, unlike the old Hanway rear light units.
The new style clocks are neat, they mimic the style of a Lambretta speedo yet have all the modern functions you expect on a scooter in 2020. Rumour has it that these ones don’t fail like the earlier ones but time will tell…
I was expecting to have to be more diplomatic than the American lady who killed Harry Dunn when writing about the GP 300 S but I was mistaken, I apologise (I’m not sure who to though). This is a truly great 300 capacity scooter. RA have nailed it. If you’re looking for a mile-munching, quick, agile, fine handling retro scooter then you’ve come to the right place. Ok, it’s not a Vespa GTS. The overall quality is good on the Royal Alloy but it lacks some of the Italian’s finesse. It also lacks some of the practicality (underseat storage) and has yet to prove its long term heritage and future resale value. Although RA have addressed some of the earlier issues like dodgy speedos/harsh suspension/paint rubbing on panels/iffy rear lights and have hopefully treated the tin wear to a coat of anti-corrosion stuff. Nothing dents customer confidence more than recurring problems that don’t get sorted quickly.
I could buy a GTS for that
The GP 300 S isn’t cheap either, it comes in at base model Vespa GTS 300 HPE money – to the exact pound. It costs £4,899 on the road (Jan 2020) – pitched directly at what will undoubtedly (in the UK/Europe) be its competitor amongst lifestyle/rally going Scooterists. That’s quite a brave move on behalf of RA. A Chinese-built scooter using a cast-off ‘old’ Italian engine for the same money as a ‘proper’ Vespa with decades of heritage. I think it needs to be at least £500 cheaper than the Vespa.
If the 300 RA sells as well as I imagine it will do it may well make Piaggio finally realise that they too could capitalise on their iconic designs of yesteryear and build a truly spectacular, authentic retro scooter with a modern twist (although I doubt they’ll ever do that). RA will eat into Vespa GTS sales over the next few years. Many ‘sat on the fence’ staunchly classic scooter riders will be swayed to the darkside by something quick, reliable and good looking. Even if it is ‘only’ used for commuting to save an appreciating classic for ‘best’ or to use for those longer distance events.
For me, I’m not overly keen on the ‘Slimstyle’ models so the design isn’t likely to make me buy a GP. What I will be much more interested in is the forthcoming RA Tigara Grande 300S. Tigara is an ancient word meaning ‘Point’ – and Grande is obviously ‘Big.’
If the TG rides as well as the GP, if the reliability proves to be good on the 300 and if it arrives early enough in the season – and if they can keep on top of spares and warranty issues if things do go wrong I’d dare bet good money on the TG being the best selling scooter in the UK in 2020.
Royal Alloy will certainly be making a Big Point, whether it’s with rivals Scomadi or the Italians. Or most likely both.
ROYAL ALLOY GP300 – Second Opinion
Well that rode better than I expected…
This is my first ride on any Royal Alloy scooter, but far from my first ride on a scooter with this technical heritage, if you catch my drift. Aesthetic comparisons with the Scomadi range are both natural and unavoidable.
What I wasn’t quite prepared for was how far ahead in quality the GP 300 felt when compared to the creaky plastic-bodied 125cc scooters that once came out of the same Chinese factory under ‘the other’ badge.
It’s pretty clear that not only have Royal Alloy managed to source themselves a Chinese version of the previous generation Piaggio-designed fuel-injected “300” engine, but they’ve also done enough chassis work to successfully accommodate it. One of the characteristics of the original plastic-bodied 50/125s was chassis flex which you spot in slight movement of the headset back and forth when riding over bumpy surfaces. This turbocharged jellyfish effect is a natural symptom of a scooter having essentially a U-shaped frame. Without a central frame brace all scooters flex to a greater or lesser degree
This effect can be reduced by making the frame from a thicker-wall tube; which is obviously what Royal Alloy have used.
Together with beefier, revised forks – now with a visibly flanged welded seam all round the fork ‘boots’ – the GP300 feels much more planted on the road and stable over bumps. The same twin rear shock layout as the Vespa GTS also ensures that the wheels are more prone to staying in line.
Another asset is the predominantly steel bodywork of the GP 300, it improves the ratio of unsprung mass (everything attached directly to the wheels) to sprung mass (everything above the suspension). In simple terms, having a slightly heavier chassis makes the suspension springs work for a living rather than simply transmitting every road imperfection to your spine.
What hasn’t changed much from the older models is the Lambretta-derived ergonomics. While the ride height is comparatively taller, thanks to the 12-inch wheels, the relationship between seat, floor and handlebars still harks back to the 1960s; when Italians considered Twiggy a bit of a lanky porker.
From my official perspective of ‘proper lanky’, I found the Royal Alloy a tad cramped, requiring a Legs Akimbo riding style to avoid activating the indicators with my knee. Original Lambrettas feel just the same.
You can spot what I mean by comparing the pics of Iggy riding the GP300 – with knees above the legshields – to the photos where he is on the much more spacious GTS HPE. Of the two, the Vespa is still ahead in terms of rider comfort and practicality, but I’ll be honest, the gap is much narrower than I expected.
VIDEO | Royal Alloy Fart Seat in action
Helping greatly in this objective is the centrally-split dual seat which feels better on the bum than any of the factory’s earlier efforts. The front half lifts up to refuel but there’s no mechanical latch holding it down. Instead, six rubber suction cups on the seat base grip to the bodywork like amorous limpets. It’s both an effective and entertaining solution, particularly if you always wanted a seat that opens like someone freeing themselves from the clutches of a giant squid.
Strip away any brand-related prejudice and there’s actually quite a lot to like about the Royal Alloy design. The headset is handsome with a smart headlight and lovely digital speedo design. It’s a speedo that tells more lies than Donald Trump (approx 10mph high vs GPS) but that’s only in the same tradition as the Vespa which donated this motor design. They all do it gu’nor.
The SX200-ish side panels hide their ample width better than the plastic panels of earlier models from this factory but these look a little naked without the arrow-head badges (MSC sell a set though). My chief bugbear with the styling is the flatness of the legshields which have lost any hint of Innocenti’s swept-back aerodynamics. That part of the facsimile was obviously lost in translation.
Overall though, with this powerful engine and a chassis that is now up to the job, the GP 300 offers a remarkably competent ride.
I predict that 2020 will be the year that Royal Alloy 300s set purists frothing like a runaway cappuccino machine…
Learner legal (or 300 if you get your finger out and pass your test) retro scooters attract newbie riders like patches to a Millet’s parka. Many of them never having owned a scooter in their distant past, thanks to overprotective mums/scary girlfriends/wives. Reaching middle-age means they can now afford to buy a scooter starter kit with a selection of shiny accessories and re-enact the adolescence they never had, or at least immerse themselves into a modern misinterpretation of how they thought it was.
The 125cc versions of the popular retro models are also the perfect starting block for youngsters looking to get into a lifestyle without the need to do it the hard and expensive way. Buying a classic Vespa or Lambretta can be daunting, expensive and lead to the kind of frustration only years of conditioning at the side of the road can bring. Buying a new retro-inspired machine should (in theory) be less bother and may well lead you to take the plunge and buy a smokey old classic in the future.
Twist and Go
For any of our readers who aren’t seasoned auto riders, both scooters on test (like all the current modern scooters) are twist and go, there’s no clutch or gears to worry about. Simply hold one of the brake levers in and press the starter button to fire them into life – twist the throttle and you’re away.
MSC Demo ride
Thanks to Midland Scooter Centre for allowing us to use their brand new demo GP 300 S for this road test. If you want to try it out for yourself after reading this give them a call on 0115 9392713. We ran it in carefully for you…
Second opinion: Sticky
Photography: Action shots and location Sticky, detail and video Iggy
Lead image design: Simon Duncan
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Royal Alloy GP 300 S specifications
Engine: 278cc, liquid cooled, fuel-injected, 4-stroke, 4-valve, single-cylinder
Claimed power: 22bhp
Torque: 23 Nm @ 5,000rpm
Suspension: Twin front and rear shock absorbers – adjustable
Front tyre: 110/70 x 12
Rear tyre: 120/70 x 12
Royal Alloy GP 300 S gallery
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