Vespa GTS buyers guide | FEATURE
The Vespa GTS is the modern long-distance equivalent of the PX200. Like anything ‘new’, modern autos are still scorned by many on the scooter scene, but you only have to look around a rally campsite and see loads of them, to realise most GTS riders don’t really give a toss about what anybody else thinks. The GTS has also caught on with ‘ordinary’ Vespa fans, commuters and even teenage scooter-jacking/robbery gangs – ’nuff respect innit?
One thing is for sure, with the average age of scooterists creeping ever upwards, a modern auto has kept lots of older riders on the road and covering distance. None of us are getting any younger, so never say never.
If you’re thinking about sampling the automatic scooter of choice for rally going scooter riders, here’s a quick guide to help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
Launched in 2005 to replace the GT 125-200, the GTS 250 was quickly adopted on the scene, as were the larger capacity 278cc GTS 300s when they arrived in 2008. As a scooter they’re quick, comfortable two up, can carry plenty of luggage, are economical to run and will polish off a few hundred miles without breaking a sweat.
Although the GTS is generally reliable, us scooterists tend to give them a harder life than they were designed for, so things do still go wrong on occasion and can be expensive to fix. So what do you need to be aware of if you’re buying one?
250 or 300?
The discontinued GTS 250 is still regarded by many fans as the better model in terms of build quality. The engine doesn’t lack anything other than a slight bit of torque in comparison to the 278cc lump of the 300 so there’s nothing to worry about there. If you can find a decent low mileage example you’ll usually get a good clean, rust free scooter. I had a 2006 250 up until 2015, I bought it to replace an ill-fated 2012 300 (more on that model year later) and it was certainly a much better scooter.
After being used to a two-stroke scooter the liquid-cooled, fuel-injected four-stroke engine in a GTS is like black magic. You push a button and it starts, thrash it for a hundred miles at a true 80mph non-stop and it’ll need about eight quids worth of fuel, then thrash it again and repeat. Nothing will drop off, it won’t seize and life becomes so much less stressful.
The downside to a four stroke engine is that they’re not as easy to work on if things do go wrong and in the event of a big end failure (not common) you’ll be looking at a new set of engine casings (not cheap), that’s thanks to the way the bearing shell is machined in to the casing (I had one go at 6,000km on a 2010 model 300 and had a new set of engine casings, a new crank and plenty of other bits under warranty). Thankfully it’s not a common problem but it’s imperative you stick to the service schedules to keep up your two-year warranty. If buying new, consider taking out the extended warranty to cover you for up to four years (around £245). Also think carefully about buying a high mileage used machine.
Tuning a four stroke is expensive and the results aren’t as worthwhile, or as cheap, as they are on a two stroke. Top speed is governed by the gearing and rev limiter so you’ll get there quicker but be frustrated earlier. It’s best to leave a GTS standard, other than fitting an aftermarket exhaust if you prefer it to sound a bit meatier. You can alter the engine characteristics by swapping the variator for an aftermarket one if you want to use more petrol and pull away a bit quicker, but you’ll be sacrificing some top speed in the process. Other than that, it’s not worth touching the engine. If you’re buying a kitted GTS the previous owner will have spent around £1800 for the privilege of fitting a Malossi V4 kit (pictured above), gear kit, variator and exhaust.
The most popular modification is simply fitting an aftermarket exhaust. The choice ranges in price around £100 for an eBay special to over £500 for a Dual carbon Remus. Pipes of choice though are Remus, Scorpion Akraprovic or PM Tuning, although there are a few others available. Don’t expect any noticeable power gains but you will make the scooter sound a bit noisier/meatier and get rid of the troublesome exhaust gasket issue. An aftermarket exhaust will usually be built from stainless steel/titanium or carbon fibre so won’t rust either (the standard mild steel exhaust will rust within weeks).
The standard exhaust comes with a gasket between the header and silencer and it needs replacing every time the silencer is removed. That means if you change a rear tyre or brake pads you’ll need to replace the gasket, it costs around £20 for a genuine one. Ignore this important gasket change and you will end up with a blowing exhaust at some time, usually on the way back from a rally with a hangover. Ignore it when it starts to blow and the hot exhaust gases have been known to melt the rear brake line on earlier models, although Piaggio cured that problem by fitting a deflector on post 2007 models. Early 250s were recalled to have a modified downpipe fitted, check to see if it’s been done. The later downpipe has a large washer welded around the joint.
If you do a lot of motorway riding, the exhaust gasket can need replacing in as little as 3,000-4000 miles. Always keep a spare one in the glovebox, just in case. A high mileage friend of mine has done five gaskets this year alone.
Back in 2008 some GTSs started to cut out, or fail to start on occasion. If you let them cool down, they’d be ok again for a while. It turned out to be a batch of rogue fuel pumps (a big batch because some are still failing eight years later). Piaggio eventually started to replace them if the owner reported a problem, it takes a couple of hours to have the job done and your local Piaggio dealer will be able to tell from the Piaggio warranty system if yours has been replaced or not. 2008-2011 scooters suffered but a few late registered scooters on a 2012 plate were also prone to it. On a recent trip to France two people in our party had fuel pumps fail. Former Piaggio technician Tom Brough, (AKA Cheeky Thomas) told us “Faulty pumps are identified by a black motor, the redesigned ones have brown motors and 3 blue dots externally on the top”.
The easiest way to check if yours has been replaced is to nip in to (or phone) your local Piaggio dealer and ask them to check on the system, it’s free to have it changed if it hasn’t already been done. Most Piaggio dealers will do this for you, if your local one doesn’t we suggest you shop elsewhere.
The GTS comes with a side stand (you can see it in the photo above), it would be handy to have but thanks to it’s design the suicide stand will flick up quite easily so your scooter can end up in a damaged heap on the floor. Best practice is not to use it. In fact the only good use for the side stand is scraping it around fast left-handers to create sparks…
Model Year (MY 2012) 2012
In 2012 GTS buyers started to complain about their scooters cutting out at speed. The problem was affecting long distance riders mostly and happened at motorway speeds. The scooter would momentarily lose power, then carry on as though nothing had happened. Eventually a new map was released and within 15 minutes the annoying/potentially dangerous problem could at long last be solved.
I had one of these problem scooters myself. Piaggio had changed most of the electrical components during that year and the scooters suffered as the software switched from one part of the map to another, but only occasionally. I likened it to a two-stroke seizing. If you’re buying a 2012/2013 GTS ask if it’s been remapped and if not get it checked by a Piaggio dealer. They shouldn’t charge for the service and it only takes a few minutes to cure the fabled ‘hesitation’ issue.
During that same model year the paint finish suffered. Paint was literally chipping off the front every time I rode mine, within a few months the scooter had 50 or 60 stone chips on the front. Other owners also had paintwork problems. Personally I’d had enough of that problem scooter and sold it as quickly as possible after the mapping had been sorted. The new owner was planning to vinyl wrap it so he was happy enough.
Front end wobble
I’ve owned six GTSs so far and four of them have suffered from the front-end wobble. It’s nothing to worry about but can be a bit disconcerting when you’re filtering through traffic two up with luggage and it feels like the front wheel might drop off. The problem has been attributed to various things, from having the wrong weight bar ends fitted (heavier weights are recommended if you’ve got a top box/luggage), to unbalanced tyres, rubbing wires going through the headset, a loose headstock and wheels out of true. In reality nothing cured my own wobbly front wheel. The problem occurred at slow speeds when I was riding solo, two up, loaded or unloaded. The wobble never really bothered me too much though and you don’t feel it at speed. Properly balanced wheels set to the correct pressures (1.8 bar front, 2.2 rear for two up riding) certainly help, as do heavier bar end weights. Thankfully my 2015 model GTS doesn’t suffer from the problem, and neither have any of the updated MY2014 scooters I’ve ridden. Maybe the updated front suspension cured it, or at least helped.
Although the standard suspension is fairly good, like anything they can fail and I’ve heard of a few front and rear shocks going. Usually at between 20,000-30,000km. Nick at South West Scooters advises “If you’re doing a lot of two up mileage make sure you adjust your suspension to the hardest setting, they’ll last longer.”
Aftermarket suspension choice is varied on the pre-2014 models. I’ve used both Malossi RS24s and Bitubo on my own scooters. Both improve the quality of the ride, although personally I prefer the Malossi because the finish lasts much longer.
MY 2014 suspension
The latest model GTS uses a single pivot point, as opposed to two bolts at the bottom, so aftermarket front suspension choice isn’t as plentiful on those models but Malossi offer the RS24, Bitubo also supply one and Zelioni do a fully adjustable shock.
Front end clunk
Although the wobble has been solved on the 2014 model GTS, or pretty much (although I was told of one owner still suffering on a 2015 scooter) the revised front suspension added another new problem. There is slight play between the bottom of the front shock absorber and the pin, if you ride off the edge of a low pavement you’ll hear a nasty clunk. It feels, or at least sounds like the suspension bottoming out but it’s just a clunk from the excess play. I had a front shock replaced under warranty but it didn’t cure the problem. I’ve learned to live with it, just part of the Vespa character we all love/put up with…
A change to the fuel tank breather in 2014 means many owners were baffled by the muted cry of an imaginary walrus trapped within the confines of the fuel tank. After a ride the tank cries out in pain until it’s cooled down, nothing to worry about it’s just expanding air gasses escaping. Do not feed it any fish!
The GTS has a swinging arm fitted and the bearings have been known to fail on higher mileage machines (20,000km), a repair kit is available though and can be done at home with a bit of patience. Use plenty of grease in the bearings and it’ll last much longer. Getting it done at a shop will cost an hours labour (typically £45 an hour), plus parts at £35 for the bearing and £18 for the rubber damper if it’s damaged.
Compared to a traditional scooter with split rims a GTS tyre isn’t quite as straightforward to change at home, you really need a tyre machine unless you’re built like Geoff Capes. Removing the wheels and taking them to a scooter shop to be changed will make it cheaper. It’ll cost between £5-15 to have a tyre fitted to a loose wheel.
Ideally you want to get the wheels balanced but not many bike/scooter/tyre shops will bother to, or have a balancer for scooter wheels. Readspeed have a specially adapted GTS rim for their wheel balancer though. Tyre life is around 3000 miles for a rear, 5000 for a front. Expect to pay between £35-£60 for a tyre, depending on brand.
Some owners prefer to fit a larger 140 section rear (standard is 130/70-12) to raise the gearing slightly, although the rear mudguard usually needs trimming to stop it rubbing on the larger profile tyre. A 140 rear tyre can help faster riders stop bouncing off the rev limiter as often.
Belt & rollers
Putting a new belt and rollers in a well used GTS is the equivalent to fitting a 210 kit to a PX; it’ll instantly increase performance and you’ll wonder why you waited so long to do it. A snapped belt is one of the most common GTS breakdowns so don’t ignore the service intervals. Genuine is best and will last longest but isn’t cheap – a new belt, rollers and guides cost around £96, plus 30 minutes to an hours labour for fitting them.
The recommended mileage is 10,000km for the rollers and 15,000km for a belt but it’s best to do them both together to save labour costs.
Stop the rot
Vespa celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2016, it’s a great achievement for this iconic brand but are the latest Vespas likely to last as long as the company who builds them? The thing that still makes a Vespa stand out from a multitude of other scooters is it’s mainly steel construction. Designed using aircraft techniques to press a steel frame, rather than relying on an ugly sub frame clad in panels is fairly unique. Sadly despite 70 years of building Vespas, parent company Piaggio still can’t (or won’t) protect the metal properly from corrosion. The GTS is particularly prone to it in certain areas, the seam behind the front mudguard is one such place, inside the frame around the battery tray is another and on the back end near the backlight/number plate is another rust spot to look out for.
If you’re out buying a used one be sure to check around it and underneath it thoroughly. Remove the seat tub and look inside the frame, if possible remove the battery (located under the centre floor mat) and check inside the frame with a torch.
Once you’ve bought a GTS, either new or used, give it a good spray with a corrosion protector. Putoline make a good one, as do S-Doc, Muc-Off and a few other companies. It’s worth investing in a tin and using it periodically for added peace of mind. I also fitted some invisible clear vinyl to the front end of my new GTS, it stops the water/salt getting in behind the mudguard.
Even a brand new scooter can arrive with rust underneath the frame, I saw one recently with visible rust. It’s worth checking underneath at the dealers when you pick a new scooter up. Don’t be fobbed off, it’s a warranty issue that will get sorted. It’s also another good reason to extend your warranty.
Grab a bargain buying new
With the Euro 4 models being revealed recently at Intermot in Cologne and production of the current GTS having already stopped it means dealers will be eager to sell their existing stock. All Piaggio dealers are offering 0% finance on the GTS until the end of October. We’ve also heard of dealers offering up to £900 off the cost of a new 300.
These could be quite a savvy buy, if Euro 4 does as we expect it to – reduce power/speed then one of the last Euro 3 machines will be sought after in years to come. Now’s the time to pop down or phone your local Piaggio dealer… Tell them we sent you.
GTS 125 learner legal
Most of these issues relate to all three Vespa GTS variants, the 125, 250 and 300. As a learner legal machine the GTS 125 is still a good choice. The liquid-cooled engine means it’s able to cope with longer journeys without hassle (having said that we still thrash vintage air-cooled two strokes around Europe for weekend fun and touring holidays). The latest Euro 4 GTS 125 i-get also comes with stop/start technology and is very economical, it also means you can grab a bargain on existing stock of the old model.
The GTS is a big scooter so it has a bit of presence in comparison to most 125cc scooters. That extra bulk and the width of the seat can make it feel a bit intimidating to some novice riders though, so a 125 Sprint or Primavera can sometimes be a better choice. The Sprint has the same seat height at 790mm but the seat and the floor runners are narrower so touching the floor is much easier for shorter riders, it also weighs 24kg’s less than the GTS.
As with the 250/300 there are plenty of exhausts available for the 125 and tuning options available from the likes of Malossi but it ain’t cheap. I recently rode a fully kitted GTS 125, the owner had spent almost £2000 on tuning it. It accelerated very well and was quite good fun but in reality wasn’t any more thrilling to ride than a standard GTS 300. It kind of made me question whether the owner would be been better off spending £700 on passing his test and trading it in for a 300 instead…
Leave your comments
Hopefully we’ve covered most of the known GTS problems but don’t let it put you off what is a fantastic long distance scooter. Look after it, keep it serviced and it’ll give many miles of stress free riding.
If you have any comments, tips or thoughts feel free to add them at the end of this post.
Words and photos: Iggy (extra shots: Piaggio press)