The Piaggio Liberty, a slimmer cousin to its bestselling Vespa counterpart, always struck me as something of a girl's bike. Its sleek frame and high wheels somehow seemed more feminine. Which to my mind could explain why the Italian scooter giant felt the need to launch the Liberty S, a sports version of the existing model.
Now this is very much a boy's bike: the Liberty S comes in black, and only black. From the menacing-looking giant headlight to the abstract graphics on the side, the bike seems to have been designed with a male rider in mind. There is a pointless grey plastic shield above the headlight - handy if you're advancing into battle, but of no discernible use otherwise. The bike even looks more bulked out than the old model, as if it has downed a few glasses of that muscle-building shake that appeals to puny students.
Despite not appreciating its physique, I could certainly admire its power. The Liberty S can really move. This was the 125cc version, although it also comes with a 50cc motor. Head to head it would easily beat my Vespa away from the lights, although that probably indicates that my own bike is due a service. On the A2 out of London I found I hit 50mph without really noticing. It may even have gone quicker but I didn't like to take my eyes off the road to check the speedometer.
Whether you're a boy or a girl, it is also a very comfortable ride. The high wheels helped it to bounce over the various potholes and exposed electricity covers that litter urban roads. It hugged the Tarmac, even in the wet, and believe me, it was very wet when I took it out. The seat was soft and roomy, leaving plenty of space for someone to ride pillion. Another plus was a handily placed full beam switch that you could flick with your left thumb to make sure your headlights were shining bright. The lights themselves were always on, making it a slightly safer bet than some.
To my mind, the main downside is a pathetic petrol tank. But this is apparently true of all pint-sized Libertys. I struggled to get it to hold more than £3 worth of petrol, which if you're crossing the capital daily, or making any other decent-sized commute, will barely last a couple of days. Given the speed with which petrol stations are being turned into fancy flats or other commercial developments, its mini tank could leave you in real trouble if you take too many liberties with its orange warning light.
As ever, I also need to moan about the potential for shopping storage. And not just shopping. It was a struggle even cramming in my gloves and waterproof trousers. As for the champagne bottle my friend wanted me to take home for her in preparation for her eternal 21st birthday celebrations, forget it!
With someone on the back its sporty credentials went out the window. Then again, he was considerably bigger and heavier than me. Think less sport, more coach potato and you'll get the idea. That said, at least there was plenty of room for both of us, which is more than I can say for my old Zip 50 that we used to jet round on.
The word from scooter dealerships is that the Liberty S, which has only just hit the shops, is not selling as well as the old versions. That may be because apart from copious licks of black paint - even the wheels have had the carbon treatment - and the mean-looking headlight there is no discernable difference with its prettier sisters. Apart from one: the Liberty S is £50 more. That's £1,849 for the 125cc and £1,549 for the 50cc.Reuse content