For decades, scooters have been the vehicle of choice for misers and students around the world. Anyone who has ever walked the streets of Rome or commuted to Las Ramblas in Barcelona knows that these sensible vehicles have secured a spot in Europe's transportation landscape and will likely remain for years to come.
Now with an energy crisis, rising oil prices, and more available choices, scooters are starting to make their presence felt in the U.S. Everywhere you look, more and more pint-sized cycles are popping up on roadways like spring annuals.
The OEMs have taken notice. According to Yamaha, its Zuma scooter line is its top-selling bike, eclipsing all other models and, moreover, the 50cc retro-styled Vino is not that far behind. In an effort to further bolster their already impressive sales, the tuning-fork brand has released the Vino 125 in the U.S., a bike that is similar to the smaller, 50cc two-stroke version that has sold so well over the past few years.
Until recently there have been few options in the way of mid-size scooters stateside, with the majority of offerings either the small 50cc two-stroke engines or the much larger, freeway-friendly, 500cc-and-up four-strokes.
Part of the burgeoning scooter popularity is the ability for individuals to partake in the two-wheeled experience without motorcycle skills. Many states only require a driver's license for scooters that are 50cc and under, which, unfortunately, would put the 125cc Vino out of reach for individuals without an endorsement.
The Yamaha Vino 125 sports a cool retro look with modern reliability.
Despite the increased displacement, the Vino 125 remains as easy to ride as the 50cc model and anyone with basic motor skills could manage a scooter in most driving conditions. Step through the retro-scoot, thumb the throttle and bingo you're ready to go.
Boasting a 124cc, air-cooled, SOHC, 2-valve four-stroke engine, the Vino 125 offers a little more grunt off the bottom than the standard two-stroke scoot. A V-Max it's not, but for running around town while taking care of errands, the scooter is the perfect tool.
Rolling on the throttle in the lower rpm range gets the rider moving pretty good, and it continues to accelerate briskly before leveling off at about 45 mph. If prodded, the Vino will eclipse 50 mph and push 55, more than enough for cruising around town. In fact, the Vino's acceleration, while mild compared to most two-wheelers, is enough to get you by lumbering cagers and slow moving diesel trucks. Half the fun of the Vino is the multitude of double takes that occur with frequency when you rip by unsuspecting drivers.
The fully automatic V-belt transmission provides twist-and-go throttle function, as the centrifugal clutch eliminates the need for gear shifting. This is standard fare on most scooters.
The Vino offers up a very simple instrument cluster to help keep your attention on the road. A basic speedo sits between the bars, while a fuel indicator rests down by the knees.
The Vino handles remarkably well for a scooter that is styled more for aesthetic satisfaction than visceral enjoyment. Cruising around town transforms boring chores into a virtual roller coaster ride with a purpose. The motorcycle experience is available to anyone, but without the bothersome tasks of shifting and clutching in a traditional manner.
The Vino 125 maneuvers through traffic surprising well. A 10-inch front wheel is suspended by a traditional telescopic fork with 3.15" of travel. Out back a single shock suspends the swingarm and the 10-inch rear wheel. The suspension isn't the best we've tested on a scooter and can be a little harsh at times, especially at the rear, sending jolts up the spine when traversing bigger dips and potholes. Still, for a scooter, the suspension does an adequate job and soaks up most real-world undulations relatively well.
Bringing the 229-pound machine to a stop is a 180mm single disc up front and a 110mm drum brake in the rear. The brakes can bring rider and bike to a halt as well as one might expect, but emergency stops are more difficult. On other scooters we've tested, we could lock up the rear with a firm grasp. No matter how we tried on the Vino, the rear drum failed to lock up. An improved rear brake would make us a little more confident in sticky situations, although the lack of heft certainly helps the Vino in overall stopping distance.
10 inch wheels put the power of the four-stroke engine to the ground.
Ergonomically, the Vino is very roomy despite its diminutive build. There is ample room for taller riders in the footwell area and the reach to the bars is neither too long nor too short for a 6-foot rider, and it also accommodated our shorter testers. The passenger accommodations are also nice with aluminum footpegs providing a place to rest the feet and an oversized seat allows for two riders to comfortably cruise around town. A cushy seat helps to dampen some of the suspension's shortcomings and is soft enough to satisfy the needs of the passenger. In fact, my better half, Kari, and I would often saddle up and absorb the beautiful Southern Oregon ambiance as the sun slowly dropped over the mountains out of view and into the Pacific Ocean.
Underneath that cushy seat is a rather large cargo compartment that can accommodate a few groceries, and even a full-faced helmet. Accessing the cargo space is either an anti-theft device or a mental puzzle, depending on how you look at it. I think I solved the Rubik's Cube in less time than it took to figure out how to open the cargo space. Instead of inserting and turning a key near the seat like many scooters, the key is to be inserted in the ignition, however, instead of turning it clockwise to start the machine, simply turn it in the opposite direction and the seat latch is released.
The overall fit and finish of the Vino is superb. The hand controls, including the brake levers and the brake reservoir, are milled from aluminum and put the finishing touches on the bike that looks like it would be right at home under the Tuscan sun. The mirrors are extremely functional and give an excellent view of the action arrears. The head lamp is oversized and while it provides plenty of illumination when the sun goes down, it's more striking in the day light when the sun bounces off its chrome shroud.
Looking for a nice place to eat, Korf spots a quaint little Italian joint on the East side.
The instrument cluster is reduced to a single speedometer with a couple of idiot lights. Down where the left knee would make contact with the plastic in the footwell is a true gas gauge that indicates fuel levels, a nice addition for a bike that can seemingly run forever between fill-ups.
Other amenities on the Vino include a handy rear-mounted rack, which could possibly accommodate books or sturdy items that could be bungeed securely. Of course, you can't talk about a scooter without talking about its ability to save big on gas. The Vino can squeak 100 miles out of the 1.2 gallon tank. Yes, that's nearly 83 miles to the gallon. My full-sized Bronco achieves about 14 in town, so I was more than happy to run around on the Vino for a couple of months. Machismo goes out the window when I'm saving that kind of money.
One final nit to pick is the absurd safety starting features. To get the Vino to fire up it's necessary to either have the side stand up or the center stand down. If the rider wants to warm up the bike while donning a helmet it's necessary to raise the Vino up on the centerstand, which is not a difficult task but is a bit annoying for the rider.
No matter where you place the Vino, it still looks good.
Overall the Vino 125 is a scooting triumph, offering potential buyers the option of buying a retro-styled scoot with increased displacement, enough to truly power two American-sized adults around town without causing the chassis to creak or the engine to cry for mercy.
The Vino 125 is not only an excellent scooter, it is quite the looker on the street. And despite a few shortcomings in the braking and design departments, it is a phenomenal value at just $2,499.
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