What's in a Name?

Text: Christian Neuhauser • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Aprilia's 500cc model, the Atlantic, is impressive. Its modern looks and great performance convinced me I could easily go on tour with a scooter. I like the old-fashioned look of scooters and so I was really excited about getting to test Aprilia's latest retro- styled scooter, the Scarebeo 500, and to see how it stacks up against the Atlantic.

Our test area is Kansas City, a vibrant midwestern locale, with Christa aboard the Atlantic and me sitting on the Scarabeo. Ready to go, my two-wheeled 'beetle' rolls smoothly out of the parking lot and we're off.

Beetle? Scarabeo (scarab) is the Italian derivation that comes to us from the Latin word Scarabaeus, signifying a special breed of dung beetle. I know what you're thinking, but really, it's quite the opposite. The Scarabeo 500 stands out for its elegant lines, reflecting the unmistakable style of Aprilia's scooter family while adding more oomph to a successful line that includes the Scarabeo 125 and 200.

Aprilia could have chosen eponyms for this line based on beetle taxonomy. The smaller version might have borne the mellifluous name Aphodius fimetarus, the midsize Geotrupes vernalis, and this big boy, the 500 that I'm riding, the Scarabaeus sacer. Thankfully, we don't have to learn Latin or delve into entomology to enjoy the drive.

In Egyptian mythology, the scarab was sacred, the earthly representation of their sun god Ra, who symbolized creation, resurrection and everlasting life. Scarab designs decorated amulets, official seals and all sorts of objects found in ancient tombs.

That industrious beetle is solidly built and so is its namesake. Aprilia has delivered a genuine touring scooter that has great finishing and is well equipped. Everything is designed to offer the rider and passenger maximum comfort. The lines of the Scarabeo are a perfect mix of elegance and practicality thanks to in-depth wind tunnel testing. Aerodynamic protection is almost excellent, that is all but the tallest among us shouldn't feel a lot of breeze. Legs are well protected behind the fairing and the front fairing, with built-in hand guards, prevents turbulence at high speeds. Maximum attention is paid to ergonomics. There is abundant space even for tall riders. The maxi-sized saddle, with lumbar adjustment for the rider, and a backrest for the passenger incorporated in the rear top case are nice comfort features.

And the capacity of the top case is nothing short of stunning - 54 liters. There is enough space for two helmets or clothes and an overnight bag for your weekend trip. The top case also accommodates the second LED car-type braking light, a plus for safety. If you need more space, there are two elegant, rigid side panniers available. With an easy mounting and dismounting system, the Scarabeo 500 transforms into a semi-spacious hatchback on two wheels.

Sweeping through downtown KC is a blast. The scooter has great mechanics and a powerful engine. It feels like I'm on a Roman holiday whenever I circle around corners or cut through the tight turns of The Plaza. The 16-inch wheels guarantee a safe lean in curves even at higher speed. Supported by a high tensile-strength tubular-steel frame, the bike provides safe riding precision and great stability.

I spot a coffee shop, turn into the parking lot, pull the brake lever and almost do a 'stoppy.' The integral system with two discs in the front and one in the rear delay perfectly. Christa thinks I'm going nuts and admonishes me. We sit down and our discussion turns to the color scheme. The Platinum Gray/Lead Gray is a refined mix of elegance and hi-tech. The scooter also comes in three other two-tone designs: Mou Beige/Platinum Gray, Darkness Black/Devil Red, and Main Blue/Hermes Grey.

Out rolling again, the tour leads us through rolling hills with wide sweepers and some narrow turns. It is about time to open the throttle and - yes, with a sudden jerk, the Scarabeo takes off. The four-stroke single-cylinder delivers 39hp and is liquid cooled. Christa chases me through the hills of Missouri and Kansas. Elated, I follow the back roads and hum some Italian oldies. 'Volare!'

These rough roads could challenge a suspension, but the Scarabeo's fork, with its robust 40mm diameter sleeves and double shock absorber in the rear, irons out the bumps and thumps like they're nothing. It feels more like I'm on the smooth surface of a racetrack. The shocks easily adjust for weight too.

Shortly, before we cross the city limits, Christa and I switch. I need a quick reminder of how the Atlantic is doing. Down Blue River Road and back to The Plaza, I experience the Atlantic again while Christa creates her opinions of the Scarabeo.

Minutes later, sitting on a nice patio in downtown KC, we processed our conclusions. The Scarabeo is more stable and the sitting position comes closer to a bike's. The Atlantic handles better. Even though there is a 4.5-pound weight difference - the Scarabeo is heavier - they perform similarly. We didn't feel a difference in acceleration or a higher end speed. I also realized the 'beetle' doesn't provide helmet storage if you ride without the top case. But at the end of the day when all is said and done, I would take the Scarabeo. It is still about the look.

The scarab, extremely popular in Egypt's daily life, was presumed to grant light, warmth, and resurrection. It's a worthy symbol for the resurrection of Aprilia's fortunes, and I can see the Scarabeo becoming another Italian scooter icon. It embodies a lot creativity and it's solid and strong. The name fits.

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Aprilia Scarabeo 500

Retail Price $ 6,499
Warranty 2 years
Maintenance Schedule
625/every 3,750 miles
1,000/every 6,100km
Importer/Distributor
Aprilia World Service USA, Inc.
109 Smoke Hill Lane, Suite 190
Woodstock, GA 30188
www.apriliausa.com

ENGINE
single cylinder 459cc, four-stroke, SOHC, 4 valves
Fuel unleaded
Fuel Tank 17 litres (4.5 gal)
Fuel Consumption 4.88l/100km (47.5mpg)
Theoretical Fuel Range 343km (213mls)
Bore and Stroke 92mm x 69mm
Max Power 39hp @ 7,250rpm
Ignition electronic
Starter electric with automatic starter
Lubrication wet crankcase forced circulation with troichoidal pump
Cooling liquid
Transmission gear box automatic converter, primary drive 'V' belt, final drive adapter with gears clutch automatic centrifugal

CHASSIS
high-tensile double-cradle tubular lattice frame, with flexional and torsional rigidity
Front Suspension hydraulic fork, sleeve diameter 40mm, travel 100mm
Rear Suspension engine functions as swinging fork swingarm, linked to the frame by dual connecting rods and two radial silent blocks. Two double gas shock absorbers with preload adjustment. Travel 110mm

TIRES & BRAKES
Front Tire 3 x 16' 5 spokes, alloy 110/80 x16'
Rear Tire 3.75 x 16' 5 spokes, alloy 140/70 x 16'
Front Brake 2 discs with 260mm diameter, integral braking system
Rear Brake 1 disc with 220mm diameter, integral braking system

DIMENSIONS
Length 2,310mm (90.80in)
Width 785mm (30.75in)
Seat Height 800mm (31,5in)
Wheel Base 1,605mm (63.25in)
Running Weight 251kg (552lbs)