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Want an Off-Road Rally Machine? Try a Vespa Scooter

Sometimes, the greatest fun in racing is running with unconventional machines. Instead of race-prepped SUVs and trucks, taking a Porsche 911, or a Mazda Miata. At this year’s Mexico 1000, one team is applying that logic to two wheels. But rather than using a rally-ready Honda dirt bike, or high-power dual-sport, Tutto Mondo Racing is going Italian. No, not Ducatis: classic Vespa scooters.

Tutto Mondo Racing’s Mexico 1000 Vespas

Although most know about Baja, Mexico is home to a number of other off-road races. One of which is the Mexico 1000, organized by the North American Off-Road Racing Association. It’s a 7-day, 1000-mile trek across Baja California, and is the precursor to today’s Baja 1000.

Although modern trucks can race in NORRA’s events, the biggest attraction at the Mexico 1000 are the vintage machines. That, plus the race’s overall relaxed atmosphere, explains Tutto Mondo Racing’s choice of classic Vespa scooters. Also, RideApart reports, the team needed something to draw its Italian members in.

Although the team’s main goal is to have fun, as previous race-winners, the members know how to properly prepare. The Vespa scooters are getting larger wheels and off-road tires, as well as skid plates. The Vespas are also getting new off-road shocks.

But off-roading a Vespa isn’t actually as farfetched as you might think.

Vespas have gone off-roading before

Firstly, Vespas have competed in the Mexico 1000 before. NORRA reports several of the brand’s scooters were entered in the 1970 Mexico 1000, although it’s unclear if any finished. But the Italian scooters are raced off-road elsewhere, too.

Motorsport Retro and Red Bull both report that 4 French riders entered the 1980 Paris-Dakar Rally with Vespas. Remarkably, 2 actually completed the race, although outside the allotted time. Even more impressive is that, out of 211 entrants that year, only 79 finished at all.

Although modern 4-stroke Vespas are too heavy for proper off-roading, older 2-stroke models are still going at it. RideApart reports there’s an entire sport, VespaCross, devoted to chucking a classic Vespa through mud and gravel. And the modifications appear fairly similar to the ones being done by Tutto Mondo Racing.

However, even newer Vespas have been on off-roading adventures. One couple is taking a Vespa PX200 on a trip around the world. And Hollywood star Armie Hammer enjoys Vespas so much, he rode them with a bunch of friends on a cross-country trip.

Not bad for what some consider a fashion accessory.

Other small-capacity off-road bikes

Although some pristine-condition vintage Vespas can cost as much as a brand-new bike, most sell at more-reasonable prices. The average price for a classic Vespa on CycleTrader, as of this writing, is just over $5000. I’d take mine in orange, like the one in FLCL.

But, if you don’t want to deal with the headaches a classic bike can bring, there are some modern lightweight alternatives. Motor Trend took two 125cc Honda Monkeys across Baja, and by all accounts, the bikes were a riot.

2020 Yamaha WR250R
2020 Yamaha WR250R | Yamaha

There’s also Yamaha’s WR250R, which weighs only about 60 lbs more than the Monkey but has a 250cc engine. And the Suzuki DR200S, a dual-sport which is commonly used as a learner bike in safety courses.

Finally, for those who enjoy the vintage style, but want modern build quality, Janus Motorcycles makes the Gryffin 250 scrambler. Only, unlike some other scramblers, this one can go off-road.

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