Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Piaggio FLY 150 Experience

I created this blog to keep a record of my research on the Vespa Piaggio Fly 150 scooter which I purchased in April 2010. Above: This is my exact scooter including the color - just not me in the photo :-)
This blog is getting longwinded - I have to break it into two parts:

1. The fun buying and riding scooters

2. The boring upkeep and repair - this service section has now been moved to

This is me wondering what will happen next in 2010
(A cel from Disney's Alice in Wonderland)

My early motorcycle history

I joined the police force in London UK and Bermuda in the early 1960's, and was on the special "motorcycle squad" formed in Bermuda to combat the high rate of motor vehicle theft and related crimes. I was given a brand new Triumph Bonneville 650cc for this assignment. The speed limit in Bermuda is 20mph - but the local teenage motorcycle gangs would modify their Cyrus mopeds (Sachs 49cc engine)and reach speeds up to 65mph.
When I first arrived in Bermuda from London, I purchased a new Lambretta 150cc scooter for 150 pounds (approx $300 dollars at that time.) :-)

Photo: 1960 Lambretta.

This was the standard procedure for new officers arriving in Bermuda - we all went down to the dealer on the first day and were given a special deal of no money down - and 10 pounds a month for 15 months. License, registration, and insurance all completed in one hour on first day. This is where I met one of my favorite girlfriends, Brenda Stailey, who worked at the TCB (Traffic Control Board) where she issued licenses etc.
Later, I took another longtime favorite, Mitzi Eyles( Vermont College girlfriend) for a scooter ride to Elbow Beach, where we spent the night star-gazing, and an early morning shower at the Police Club.


Photo above: Normal patrol without crash helmet.
Photo below: Formal Queen's Birthday Parade and my new Triumph Bonneville 650 with radio. (1962)

Below are listed various 2010 scooter experiences:

Part One

1. Buying my scooter
2. Getting my NJ motorcycle driver's license
3. Early days of driving the Fly 150

4. Driving tips

Part Two - This section is being moved to my service blog

5. Service and Maintenance
5. Odds & Ends fixes
6. Supplies and suppliers

7. Tools


Buying my new scooter in 2010

Last March 2010, my mechanic told me I needed a $2,000 emission and brake repair on my trusty Chrysler New Yorker.
I decided it was time to look into a scooter and relive my Bermuda experience. I now reside on a small island (Brigantine, NJ) which has a speed limit of 30mph and is only four miles long and one mile wide at the most.
First, I found that Lambretta no longer existed, and that the Piaggio Vespa was the premier scooter. In Bermuda there had been one police officer who rode an old Vespa -but it was not as appealing as the Lambretta. However, my local Vespa dealer (10 miles away) had a good selection of scooters, and it soon became obvious that a Vespa was to be my choice. After looking at all of them, I decided on the Vespa/Piaggio Fly 150 because of the price, and it is basically a Vespa with the specs of a Vespa LX 150. I didn't need a high performance vehicle, and the salesman owned one himself. The Fly 150 is a sharp looking scooter design. I selected the silver (Excalibur Grey) color. After paying cash $2,850 plus about $350 in dealer charges, $200 taxes, and $75 delivery fee to my house...I was now the owner of a Piaggio Fly 150.

Getting my New Jersey motorcycle driver's license

Now I had to get a New Jersey motorcycle driver's license - even though I have a regular NJ driver's license - and this is no easy project.
Here are the various steps required in New Jersey - the toughest state of all to get a motorcycle driver's license. A motorcycle license is an upgrade endorsement to your regular automobile driver's license - endorsed with the letter M.
Photo of endorsement .

1. Insurance: This was the easiest of all. Online through GEICO I obtained within five minutes a one year motorcycle insurance policy for $100.00. Just have credit/debit card ready along with your car driver's license number, and your motorcycle VIN number.
2. Registration and tags took a week because there are no dealer tags for motorcycles in New Jersey. The dealer did this for me once I had the insurance. Cost $30.
3. Before you can drive the motorcycle:
(1) You have to take and pass the written motorcycle test. This will get you a three month motorcycle driving permit - renewable every three months.
To prepare for the written test, I signed up online for one month of practice test question sessions. Cost $15. After two weeks I could get the required 80% pass number correct.
I then went to the NJ Motor Vehicle office and took the written test - passed first time with no problem. I then was immediately given my permit to drive a motorcycle - cost $17. This lets you prepare for the actual driving part of the test.
However, in New Jersey you can only drive with this permit if you have a fully licensed motorcycle rider on a separate motorcycle driving with you while riding or on a practice test course. You also have to wait 30 days after getting your permit before you can take the actual driving test. So for 30 days I rode around with a friend who had a Harley - and we set up a practice test course in a parking lot - designed as shown in the NJ motorcycle test handbook which I had downloaded online with my practice test questions.
(2) Now time for the actual motorcycle driving test held on a course at a NJ Motor Vehicle testing center.
The test course uses very small one pint sized cones, and is a small course designed for 80cc scooters. Forget trying to pass on a Harley or other full size motorcycle - the 80cc scooter allows you to pass for a license good for all sizes of motorcycles.
There are private companies that lease you a 80cc scooter for one hour and give you a nearby practice course set up identical to the motor vehicle department course. They give you a scooter and one hour lesson at the site. Cost $100, and failure rate with them is about zero.
You must wear helmet with DOT approval sticker and 4 square inches of reflective tape on either side, goggles or eye shield pull down, leather gloves and long sleeve shirt or jacket, and over the ankle boots.
I had also set up and paid $300 for the 3 day school (20 hours)that allows you to bypass the driving test and get your license upon completion - but you still have to take the written test - and this driving course is fully booked with a 1-3 month wait list. This was a fail-safe standby that eventually I did not need and I did not get a refund of my $300 paid upfront fee. I was determined to get my license one way or the other regardless of cost.
And so, one Thursday afternoon at 3pm, I spent one hour practice on a 80cc scooter, and then a ten minute driving test at the official driving center. I passed with no problems, and then went immediately and had my driver's license endorsed for the motorcycle upgrade. The test inspector told me I was the oldest person he had tested and approved for a motorcycle license...not really a compliment.
It took two months and finally cost about $700, including cost of helmet, boots, gloves, etc...but now I was fully legal and could drive my Fly 150 motorcycle around the island of Brigantine.
If it sounds complicated - it is - especially if you don't have a regular driver's license to begin with, and if you are under twenty one - even more complicated. There's an old saying: "Some people are born to drive motorcycles, some people take a little longer to learn, and some people will never be able to drive a motorcycle."

Early days of driving my Fly 150.

Never will I venture with a scooter on to a main highway in New Jersey. When I lived in New York City, we always said that NJ drivers are like their women - UGLY. It is true - after a few days driving around on my scooter and a number of near misses - NJ drivers are the worst...Top of the list - women driving SUV's with children and talking or texting on their cell phones. Next - teenagers doing the same thing in any vehicle. I have to start a list of these bad drivers, e.g. anyone in a pickup truck with ladders i.e roofers, Latin Americans and Africans, Parisians and Romans, old women and old men, etc.

Driving tips

1. Use rear brake (left hand lever) until you get used to the power of the front brake (right hand lever). The front brake provides 70% of your stopping power - but can create problems if the front wheel is not straight or if you pull too hard instead of just squeezing the lever. Maximum stopping power is obtained by squeezing both levers at the same time.
2. Practice resetting the turn signals after each turn - they do not reset unless you push in the switch. This avoids a motorist pulling out in front of you because they think you are turning.
3. The correct air pressure in the tires make steering easier. 25lbs front/29lbs rear.
4. When making a right turn, put slight downward pressure on your right handle grip - left turn put light pressure on left hand grip. You will get used to the correct amount of pressure after a few hours of making turns - and leaning with the scooter.

5. Do not look down at your rear view mirrors - keep your eyes on the road ahead at all times - then get used to glancing quickly with your eyes into the mirrors. It is so important to adjust your mirrors before heading off onto the road.
6. Driving in the rain - forget it. If the rain is very light or misty, then it is ok for a short distance. Wiping the rain off the face shield or your glasses is dangerous - so take a taxi or use a car etc.

the following service info is being moved to my fly150 service blog

latch breaks when the seat is down and locked, and/or the lock just rotates in the cylinder. This means you can't get into the now locked seat storage area. Solutions are listed below key information.
Note: The 2009 Piaggio Fly 150 only has a black key because it does not have an immobilzer. You can get copies cut without a special master key for the immobilzer versions of Vespa.
Best place to get keys and information for any Vespa/Piaggio or other motorcycle key is from :
Jim Hamilton
or write to him at:
11255 N. Flying Bird Drive, Oro Valley, AZ 85737

Photo below: is a blank Piaggio/Vespa black key.

Solution to locked under seat storage area.

below are photos from modern vespa forum for the solution on vespa 150
the first uses a piece of plastic from a binder/folder - slide under until stops then pull back on it to release lock.
the next two use a 1/4 inch metal rod with 2 inch bend at one end - slide in from rear or on side as shown and twist up to hit locking bar.

Note for my solution to fly 150 somewhat different

: This only applies to the newer seat locks -as can be seen from photo below... the older seats do not have the release bar.)

There is a release arm next to the latch under the seat. You can access it by inserting a thin metal rod (8 inch coat hanger piece will do) with a 1/4 inch open bent hook on the end. The location to insert from the top of the seat is: measure 1.5 inches from the right side center of the key lock holding plastic round plate, and then measure 2.75 inches up onto the seat using a thin tape measure. Cut a small entry into the seat at that point using a thin sharp screwdriver. The seat has a entry hole area underneath at this point to allow a tool to enter near the release arm. Then insert your coat hanger tool about 3-4 inches into the seat - then turn it around gently pulling up until you feel it engage with the release lever - then keep pulling and gently lifting the rear of the seat. If the tool will not go a couple of inches inside the seat you have hit the metal plate and will have to slightly relocate your entry point. The seat will open when you pull up on the release lever about one inch. Once open, you can remove your coat hanger tool from the inside by pulling it through the seat...and then you will see how simple it is. The just stick a decal over the small hole on top of your seat.

Prevention instead of cure: Cut a small piece of cardboard one inch by 2 inches and fold it in half - 1/4" corregated cardboard is best. Then insert it between the forks of the latch. It will create a pressure hold for the seat holding bolt. Add a couple of velcro strips along the underside edge of the seat for additional pressure hold on the seat. Now all you have to do is lift the seat without using the lock. All I do is lift up on the rear of the seat to open it. I don't put valuables under my seat - so I have no need for the lock. If I need to return to a locked seat - just remove the cardboard. Make a few extra pieces to keep in the seat as replacements.
Alternative Attach a length of picture frame wire to the latch release bar - then thread it up through the space under the seat through the foam rubber and keep it threaded just below surface of seat covering - this way you can easily reach the wire and pull up on it to release the latch.

Also, under the seat - there is a small screw holding the lock outer cylinder in place - this screw works loose and falls off - thereby disabling the lock mechanism. Prevent this by placing a thin strip of duct tape over the screw which will also hold it in place...check it now and again to make sure it is firmly in place.

Photos: Top one shows (red X) the small silver screw sticking up - mine is black - this holds the outer lock cylinder in place. Next photo shows (B) the location of the cylinder and screw. This photo of (A) is not of the new locking release bar system that is on my new Fly 150.

I have to add more photos of these procedures.
For additional ideas on this subject read "locked seat" postings on the modernvespa site.

note; to change spark plug remove three panels urgh

below is evap hose disconnect with makeshift filter over hole to stop dust etc from entering carb

move this pix of gas line with cut off to solve gas overflow. remove that air line from carb

Supplies and tools for Piaggio/Vespa are expensive and most are not carried at local stores. Best suppliers I found were on the internet e.g. and Amazon are most reliable. Just google what you are looking for. The shipping costs are high - so order as much as you can from one store at the same time. Also, check using their search feature.

* (SW) indicates part sold by

Motor Oil synthetic sae 5w40 apisj specs (sw)
Hub oil syntyhetic sae 75w85 api gl4 specs (sw)
Brake fluid DOT 4 (most local hardware/auto supply carry this)
Oil filter (SW) - buy the aftermarket one - see note below.
Blank keys: the blank key i bought from scooterwest did not fit my fly 150 - the keys i bought from jim in arizona did...i have to put his address here...also Ace Hardware could not cut the blank keys to fit - even they told me to take them to a professional locksmith - i.e. get keys cut by jim for best service unless you have a good local locksmith.
Spark plugs (SW)
Best battery is YB9-B agm sealed from 12v 9amp 5.3" x 3" x 5.5"
This is the new type with no acid -it comes sealed charged & ready to use - no need to add acid powder or water etc. It costs about $20 more than the liquid acid type...but you don't have to add anything...and it holds a charge in storage for about 8 months.
Voltage regulator is part # 5809R 12A AGM for LX150
Haynes repair book is helpful
Tires: Heidenau K61 or K58 120/70 from Scooter Works at $66.00 a best for fly 150.


24mm socket with 3/8" ratchet
6mm hex wrench
Oil filter removal tool - I use a 2 & 1/2" hose clamp with wormscrew type it only costs about $2 and can be bought at any hardware store - or you can order the real slotted one from scooterwest. note: the hex end oil filter is no longer available even though scooterwest keeps it in their calalog - so you are just as better off buying the cheaper after market one from them for $7 instead of the paiggio one for $17.
or just punch screwdriver hole in filter outside end away from engine and just turn it off.
Small funnel
Phillips screwdrivers - small and medium size
Flat head screwdriver - small
Needle nose pliers small and medium
Channel lock wrench medium
100mm measure glass/container
Tin foil baking tray
Tin foil roll heavy/thick
Cloth towels
Hand cleaner
Anti-seize grease
Lubricant grease
WD 40
Battery tender/charger
Spark plug removal socket and extension

6/30/2010 to be continued. (ronshelley raf#) (this is scootergirl site)

600 mile maintenance service

tools required

2 gallon gas can
3/8" socket wrench
5" extension for 3/8" socket wrench
24mm 3/8" socket
oil filter 3/8" socket bar
6mm hex wrench
flat head screwdriver - small and medium
phillips screwdriver - small and medium
two small 10mm open end wrench
small funnel
2 aluminum baking dishes
1 roll heavy aluminum foil
plastic trash bag heavy
4 cloth towels
hand/grease soap
grease spray
wd 40
air compressor
tire pressure gauge


crush washer
oil filter
O ring
hub oil
motor oil