It took some doing to find out where Salina is. Now I know. It's in the middle of Kansas, and after a 14-hour drive, we finally arrived at Salina Powersport. Robert Bohm, the owner, welcomed us heartily and set about explaining the operation of two Italian scooters, Aprilia's Scarabeo and the luxury liner I'm scheduled to cruise upon, the Atlantic 500.
Aprilia's origins date back to the mid-1940s when Cavaliere Alberto Beggio founded a bicycle production factory in Noale, in the province of Venice. Alberto's son, Ivano Beggio, took over the helm in 1968. Not too interested in bicycles, he and a dozen collaborators constructed the company's first 50cc motorcycle. That product was successful, so they created a few more and christened these mopeds the Colibri, Daniela, and Packi.
But Beggio's big goal was to build "real" bikes and the first step in that process proved to be the Scarabeo in 50 and 125cc. In 1974, Ivano Beggio became the Chairman of Aprilia, and from then on, the company's fortunes improved at incredible speed with the production of motocross and street bikes, and the start of their competition in the Italian national championship.
Some of Aprilia's milestones: 1977 - 125cc and 250cc Italian Champion; 1985 - Loris Reggiani starts in the World Championship GP 250; 1987 - first place for Loris Reggiani at the San Remo GP in Misano; 1992 - Aprilia rider Alessandro Gramigni wins the World Championship 125cc GP, and in the same year Tommy Ahvala wins the World Trails Championship.
Since 1985, the Austrian company Rotax has supplied Aprilia with one of the finest engines in the world. Five years on, in 1990, Ivano Beggio exhibited his two-wheel expertise again. Recognizing that the scooter lifestyle was reborn, he jumped on that bandwagon and presented the first all-plastic scooter, the Amico. In only 14 years Aprilia had become a serious and significant player in the scooter industry. Outstanding design and innovative engineering like the Ditech (Direct Injection Technology) made them a trendsetter, too.
That's pretty good, I think, when I see that we're going 75 mph on the speedo. The throttle isn't even fully open yet. In the rolling hills along the Missouri River, the Atlantic persuades me that her focus is touring. The sitting position behind the serviceable windshield is comfortable, and the steeped seat (77mm height) for the rider is low enough for shorter legs. Underneath the seat there's a huge 47-liter storage space roomy enough for two full-sized helmets. The glove compartment is big enough to stow wallet, cell phone, and all the other little things you need on tour. It also contains a cell phone socket for rapid recharging. At the base of the handlebars I discovered another useful compartment. Aprilia put a lid there that is perfectly designed to hold coins, sunglasses, or motorway toll tickets.
For lovers of maximum comfort, rigid and soft bags are available to add another 117 liters of storage. Even a system with interphone and via-voce function for the cell phone is available.
The Atlantic is truly a Maxi-Scooter.
Engine and Chassis
With technical support from Piaggio, the Atlantic 500 received a smooth-working heart and, for its size, the single-cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled engine accelerates powerfully. The single (with electronic injection, four valves and single overhead cam) delivers a maximum output of 39hp at 7,250rpm. Compared to its cousin the X9 Piaggio the Atlantic is a bit sluggish, but that's because it weighs more. The Atlantic handles well and the stable chassis didn't display any problems at freeway speed.
The hydraulic fork with a remarkable travel of 100mm is responsible for this great performance. The scooter rolls on a 15-inch front and a 14-inch rear wheel. The use of an integral braking system with two 260mm diameter front discs and a 220mm diameter rear disc supports a safe ride and fast stopping when necessary. It is truly a knight of the back roads and a great companion - but only on road trips. In heavy city traffic, I miss the typical scooter maneuverability. But I suppose, in those conditions, any scooter weighing over 500 pounds is going to handle more like an ocean liner.
Accessories and Arrangements
The fully equipped Atlantic 500 also displays great finishing quality and everything is under control as far as the information center of the Aprilia Atlantic 500 goes. The center of the dashboard is reserved for a speedometer and analog rev counter. The fuel gauge with indicator light is on the left side and its symmetrical match on the right is a cooling liquid temperatures gauge, again with an indicator light. The dashboard is further enhanced with three LCD displays, two small ones acting as a digital clock with date stamp and a total and two-trip partial distance gauge. Other useful functions include an external temperature gauge, average and maximum speed, battery charge indication, an injection diagnostics system, programmed service intervals, average fuel consumption and a chronometer.
Such luxury usually comes at a prohibitive cost, but you could already be aboard and sailing along on this stylish scooter for only $ 5,889.
An easily removed, color-matched 45-liter top case is available. And for big tours, options include a rear bag and a nylon front bag. The Aprilia accessories list is extensive, so it's easy to find the right outfit to complement scooter and rider.
The Atlantic 500 is a great companion on tour. But in city traffic the weight of the luxury liner made me struggle at times. The level of comfort and the equipment are outstanding. Even the basic model is equipped with great features. The "Tifosi" have thought of everything to spoil their costumers. They get a lot of scooter with loads of character for the money. And since it gets 52 miles to the gallon, the Atlantic 500 is some kind of piggy bank too.
Retail price $ 5,899
Warranty 2 years
Maintenance schedule 625/ every 3,750 miles (1,000/every 6,100 km)
Importer/distributor Aprilia World Service USA, Inc.
single cylinder, 459cc, four stroke, SOHC, 4 valves
Fuel tank 17l (4.5gal)
Fuel consumption 4.5l/100km (52mpg)
Theoretical fuel range 381km (234mls)
Bore and strocke 92mm x 69mm
Max. power 39hp at 7,250rpm
Starter electric with automatic starter
Lubrication forced wet crankcase lubrication with trochoidal pump
automatic converter; automatic centrifugal dry clutch
high -tensile double-cradle tubular lattice with flexional and torsional rigidity front suspension telescopic hydraulic fork, 40mm diameter, travel 100mm rear suspension functions as swinging fork swing arm, linked to the frame by dual connecting rods and two radial silent blocks. double hydraulic double-action shock absorber with preload adjustment.
Front tire 3.00 x 15in. 120/70-15in.
Rear tire 3.75 x 14in. 140/60-14in.
Front brake 2 discs with 260mm diameter
Rear brake 1 disc with 220mm diameter
Length 2,250mm (88.4in)
Width 720mm (28.3in)
Seat height 770mm (30.2in)
Wheelbase 1,550mm (60.9in)
Running weight 228kg (501lbs)