Friday, February 1, 2013

Vespa Excel 150 - Basically Basic


Vespa Excel 150 Review



The Vespa Excel 150 was produced in Indonesia as a cheaper alternative to the PX150. Marketed in Singapore back in the 90s and used mainly by the postal service. It was also used by other statutory boards like ROV and Traffic Police. In Europe, this model is also known as the T5. 

Back in the day, if you saw a white Vespa heading towards you, you would likely shudder at the thought that it could possibly be an "Auntie TP" coming to give you a summon. 

Today, due to the modernisation of their fleet, the Vespa Excel is now relegated to Vespa lovers and collectors. Although not as popular as the PX150 and PX200 siblings produced in Italy, the Excel 150 is also an amazing ride. 

Styling and Design

The only visible difference between the PX and Excel would be the headlamp assembly and speedometer. On the Excel, its a huge display showing all basic required information like speed, fuel and signals. The headlamp is also rectangular, unlike the small round design found on the PX series. They share similar 4-speed manual gears, front nose and monocoque frames. 

Excel Display

Excel Headlamp Assembly

The Excel has a front compartment useful for storing 2T bottles, gloves and parking coupons. I managed to squeeze my raincoat and can ride "freely" without a topcase if desired. 

Glovebox
The braking system found on these classic Vespas are something to be wary of. New riders to Vespas are strongly advised to take the scooter out for a shot slow spin to understand how the brakes work. Front and rear brakes are of the drum variety and are spongy at best. Extra care and braking distance has to be given. The rear brake is actuated by the foot pedal found on the floorboard. 

Rear Brake Pedal

Common issues with these classic manual Vespas are also snapped clutch cables, so do remember to oil them regularly. Gears are changed by clutching in the left lever and twisting the left handle. Its only a 4-speed and engine will putter along at most gears with the typical Vespa exhaust tone. 

Gear change on handlebar
Kick start Lever

Right switch assembly

One of the attractive options found on the Excel is that it comes with both electric and kick start options. Just turn the fuel cock to ON and fire her up. Rarely does she fail and even if she does, the kick start is always there as a fail-safe. 

This is the second Excel 150 I have owned in the last 3 years. My first Excel was sold very reluctantly due to my wife's nagging due to the small pillion seat space. I owned that Excel for over 3 months, which is quite a feat for me. So when I chanced upon this machine, I grabbed it immediately. This current ride is now 9.5 years old and is one of the last few Excels sold in Singapore. 

RIDE IMPRESSIONS

Weighing in at under 100kgs, this is one of the lightest bikes I have ever rode. Made from pressed steel from front to back, you must check for rust if you are picking up one for yourself. Typical areas to watch out for are under the floor boards and inside the glove box. 

Once you get the engine running, please check the mirror to see if you have a silly grin on your face. If you do, keep the bike. 

The distinct Vespa exhaust and engine tune is something that I love. Twist the throttle and the grin gets bigger. 

The 12" tyres are small and pick up is swift. That said, do note that the front end is very light and the weight of the whole machine is back-biased. The engine and spare tyre is located at the back. Do not attempt to throw the clutch as this scooter can do wheelies quite easily. 

The trail link suspension system on this bike is another feature which is distinctively Vespa. It doesn't handle corners like a traditional front suspension system found in modern bikes. So extra care has to be given. 

Trail Link Suspension
Once on the go, you will realise how basic this machine is. Its clutch in, switch gear and throttle. You only use your right foot gently for braking. If you are a tall rider like myself, you will likely ride with your knees wide open or your bum towards the back end of the seat. Its a flat bench so sliding back and forth is easy. 


The tiny front visor can only cut some glare from the sun when looking at the speedometer at best. It doesn't help that the speedo is very inaccurate. My last Excel was 20% optimistic. So you get a feeling that you are going fast, but you aren't. That's safe riding for you. 

Extra care has to be taken when you are passing heavy vehicles or going at speeds over 70kmh. The Excel exhibits a fair bit of wobble as it is rear heavy. Do not attempt one handed operations when going at this speed. Not unless you want to kiss the tarmac. 

Maintenance of this machine is quite simple. For those who are mechanically inclined, servicing this Excel is relatively easy. Check your clutch and brake cables periodically, top up your 2T oil when the light comes on, brake pads changes when needed and inspect tyre wear. That's about it. This scooter is designed to just go.

The 9 brake horse power engine feels light yet torquey. You get the pull from the manual transmission and can get to 70-80kmh on 3rd gear. The Excel apparently has a tweaked gear ratio compared to the PX series. This give it more low end and will pull up to speed quite easily. 



The typical Vespa "rang dang dang dang dang" exhaust note is simply a joy to hear. Other drivers can hear you coming from a distance. You basically whizz along at your pace and sightsee along the way. Even in traffic, the Excel is an easy ride. Its light and easy to maneuver. It will get you to your destination faster than most bikes due to the small turning radius and tyres. You just get there with a smile. 

During my 20min ride which covered an expressway, the Excel didn't handle as well as I expected. When large trucks passed me, the scooter wobbled. When a strong breeze from a nearby sea hit me, the scooter wobbled. When a car overtook me at close distance, the scooter wobbled.... You get the picture. 

But that said, it was still a joy to ride. The small tyres are not made to go at break neck speeds. Its good for city riding conditions and this is where it excelled. You squeeze by the tightest spots and can get right up front when needed. 

Final Thoughts

Being a cheaper cousin of the PX, this means that I am less inclined to bother about the outlook and cosmetics of the scooter. I know many collectors who go to great lengths to spruce up their Vespas. For me, this is a commuter. Its a basic machine with no electronics. I works with or without a battery. Being a direct drive engine design, you do not have to worry about chain lubes, sprocket changes or belt snapping. You just hop on, and go. Even with all the back weight and hairy handling, I'm still keeping this. Simply because it brings a huge smile to my face. 

Pros
- Basic bike with minimal maintenance
- Lightweight and small turning radius
- Fantastic Vespa exhaust note
- Simple yet utilitarian scooter
- Not pretentious
- Workhorse made to go for miles without hassle

CONS
- Back heavy uneven weight distribution
- Not made for high speed, will wobble
- Clutch cable snaps if not looked after, keep a spare at all times
- 2 stroke engine, may get too smokey if not well tuned
- Drum brakes


More pictures of Excel 150:



1 comment:

  1. Really enjoy reading your review on the excel. Good stuff.
    Any feedback on servicing etc?
    Cheers!!

    ReplyDelete