With handbag left behind, Susie Mesure discovers that this visual feast is starved of power and not designed for her

Price: £1,999 on the road
Engine: Single-cylinder, two stroke
Start: Electric and kick-start
Front brake: 240mm disc, two-piston calliper.
Rear brake: 200mm disc, calliper with two opposed pistons
Fuel tank: 9 litres (of which 2.1 litres is reserve)
Top speed: 29mph

It is safe to say the Gilera DNA 50 probably wasn't designed with me in mind. Or any girl come to that. The latest offering from the mighty Piaggio stable, home to Gilera, is a boy's toy through and through.

The name says it all: with the DNA, Gilera is attempting to invent a new kind of two-wheeled gene pool by crossing a motorbike with a twist-and-go scooter.

Driving in a skirt is a strict no-no, since riding the DNA demands the full-on frontal embrace of its much bigger motorbike cousins - a riding style inexplicably known as "naked". Pedals jut out under the seat for riders to rest their feet on while they fling their bodies forward to reach the handlebars. Undeniably sporty, but perhaps not what your average London scooter commuter is looking for.

This newest model is 49cc, making it just the ticket for wannabe teen bikers. Certainly, the DNA drew more than its fair share of stares from the kids on the estates in my road. The obvious drawback is that I suspect the DNA would attract more than its fair share of joyriders, although, luckily, I didn't get the chance to put that theory to the test. (I know from experience that the more modern the bike, the more eminently stealable it tends to be; buy vintage and you barely even need to lock the ignition.)

Gilera has designed the DNA to appeal to motorbike enthusiasts who lack the skill or strength to handle a big bike. The only snag is that once you hit the road, it's hard not to feel cheated. Somehow when you are driving a little Zip, Piaggio's model for those on a budget, it doesn't seem to matter that your top speed is only 29mph. But when your scooter-that-thinks-it's-a-bike gets left behind at the traffic lights by even a Lycra-clad bicyclist, something seems wrong. Frankly, it was downright embarrassing to be riding something that looked the part, but didn't seem to do the business.

The obvious drawback for a girl is the lack of space to store any bags. Unlike its purebred scooting relatives, the DNA lacks any sort of clip from which to hang your shopping. Although Gilera likes to claim that the model is user-friendly by pointing to the "lockable helmet storage compartment", you'd need to have a very small head - and handbag - to make use of the space.

The main plus was that the bike felt very sturdy on the road. Its 15-inch front wheel gave it stability that some of the smaller 50cc models lack. The wheels are fitted with tubeless racing-style tyres, or so the company says. To refuel, poseurs can mimic their motorbike-riding idols by staying seated at the pump because the fuel tank is located inside the helmet compartment.

The digital dials on the instrument panel were easy to read, although I didn't find the inclusion of a rev counter particularly useful. The coloured electronic display did help to boost the DNA's "sporty" feel and I imagine would enhance its appeal to the audience at which Gilera is aiming.

The DNA 50 comes in two colours, white and silver, and has plenty of room on the back for a passenger. That said, the extra weight would slow the bike down even more, only adding to the feeling of ignominy for the rider.

In giving it the looks of a grown-up bike, but the handling ability of a scooter, Gilera is hoping it can hook young riders. With the DNA 50, it probably will.

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