Well I’ll be damned. In 25 years I’ve never thought to go on tour with a pipsqueak of a bike, let alone a scooter. But the SR GT 200, actually a 174cc single, has made a believer of me. Scooters can do distance and, in the case of this wee Aprilia, they can do it with style and substance.
The reason for giving it a lash, in this case Auckland to Raglan and return in a day, was two fold. One, the launch of Aprilia’s SR GT had been held at the Hampton Downs Go Kart track and everyone was mightily impressed with its handling. And so we thought – why not take the roads we reserve for vehicles of interest just to see how it deals with real world twist and turn byways. And secondly, we’d heard that it is not only possible but increasingly popular taking Vespas on tour; evidently people do the loop of Northland on them, presumably on the 300s. Would a 175 meet its match?
Well we were about to find out. What we were waiting for, naturally, was a fine day. Not easy to come by in an Auckland 2023 winter. But eventually the weather forecast looked favourable, the day beginning with heavy fog and clearing by 10am. So I didn’t set out early and was wondering if that was my first mistake. Would I make the 350km-odd round trip in a day?
I had planned on taking SH22 there and back, turning off the Expressway at Mercer and on through Pukekawa, Naike, and heading right just before Waingaro Springs, eventually coming out at the Hamilton-Raglan road. It is one of the most technical tracks in the Auckland/Waikato area; care is needed with some dodgy road surfaces, and it’s often wet and mossy in places with overhanging trees. Better in Summer then. Still, it was the last day of winter so we threw the backpack under the seat and headed off.
I’d planned on doing the trip at speeds of about 80-90km/h which should be easy enough for the scooter – the 200 does about 120 indicated flat stick – and hopefully conserve gas so we didn’t run out en route. However, I was fairly certain that wouldn’t happen for it has a 9L tank and mean fuel use is around 40km/L. However, is that mean fuel use in general or in town riding? If it’s only 20km/L at higher speeds that makes tank range closer to 150km than 300km. And it’s about 160km to Raglan via SH22.
But a fill up first. With one-third of a tank remaining it set me back $16 for a refill using 91 octane. And while it took quite some time for the bike’s brain to register we’d done that, eventually the distance to empty number came in at 330km. Subsequently the DTE number showed faster; this was its first refill!
Onto the motorway and it’s quickly and easily cruising along at 90km/h, about what the rest of the traffic is doing on the inside lane. The fog hasn’t lifted entirely so it is still rather chilly. Stability for a scooter is pretty good – we guess the winglets help – but it does get moved around somewhat by sidewinds. Up the Bombays and it maintains 90km/h. We depart SH1 at Mercer and make a mental note to visit the cheese shop on our return if we make it by 5pm. Not likely I’m thinking.
By the time we hit Pukekawa, the DTE is 250km and the tank is three-quarters full. So we opt to fill up at the last petrol station before Raglan. That would be another $5.
From here on out the road is just pure joy for any motorcyclist, though care is needed in slippery conditions. I can’t believe how easily this turns; even just applying a little pressure on the foot board is enough to get it to veer left or right. But bumps in corners can throw it off line a bit; it’s the result of having 14- and 13-inch wheels. There’s not so much gyroscopic effect as 17s so less stability.
Despite having only 13kW of peak power and just under 17Nm of maximum torque the SR GT isn’t slow. We found on the back road that it would maintain speeds of 80-100km/h easily enough, and very few hills had the speed falling below 80km/h. In fact on the return trip we maintained 100km/h ascending the southern side of the Bombay Hills! It would also maintain 110km/h easily enough on the Expressway which was quite a surprise.
Despite the road being damp in places with mossy sections and mud from tractor tyres, we had no scary moments. Setting corner entry speed with the rear brake works fine as you’re seldom much above the speed limit anyway. We left town at 10am and arrived in Raglan by 1pm, having stopped on several occasions for photography.
Tooling along at about 90km/h uses up 6000rpm; 100 is 7000rpm, and mean fuel use is around 25-30km/L when “touring”. You’d not credit how little vibration there is from the engine. That’s because it is located just above the rear wheel. There’s none of the typical scooter CVT driveline noise or vibes either. So the mirrors are only ever crystal clear. And despite the modest power output we did overtake a few vehicles, but only on the Expressway. On SH22 we saw virtually no traffic, just a few utes, and that’s pretty typical of that road. The ride is comfy, apart from the odd unexpected pothole that can get the rear suspension bottoming out. We will get out the C-spanner and raise preload a click each side.
One final thing; this scooter is about the best two-wheeler I’ve ridden for lane splitting. On most machinery you’re between gears but with CVT you never are because there are none. So the motor is just beavering away quietly. And the brakes are good, just in case someone does a lane change unexpectedly. Best not to lane split at speed for that reason; just overtake a bit quicker than the surrounding traffic. And one other quick point; this blows almost everything away from the lights without even trying hard. It is really quick to 30km/h.
So to answer the question no-one other than myself asked – absolutely, yes, you can tour on a scooter, and you don’t need 300cc to do it. Better still – it’s no hardship and that I was not expecting. The Aprilia SR GT Sport 200 costs $7690, if you’re wondering.