If you ever need proof that scooters are a fun way to travel on two wheels, give the Italjet Dragster 180 a go. A hi-tech chassis, fantastic brakes and an 85mph 180cc two stroke engine all combine to make this the fastest antidote to rush hour depression that money can buy.
The Dragster demonstrates that when it comes to re-inventing the whole concept of a scooter, it´s best left to those speed-crazy Italians. Insidebikes.com Editor, Alastair Walker rates the Italjet after a 1,000 mile road test.
Some people say two stroke scooters, particularly Italian made ones, are unreliable, smoky, ill-handling contraptions, only fit for big-pants-wearing, sad permed checkout women to use as commuter workhorses, plus the odd joyride down the Mecca bingo hall.
Maybe that used to be true, but a thousand miles – yep, that´s 1,000 miles – later on the Italjet Dragster 180, proves that the old way of thinking about scooters deserves to be buried, preferably next to all the Tomos 50s ever made. The Dragster 180 didn´t cough, splutter, seize up or allow any of its gorgeous bits to fall off into the road during its entire two week stint as the insidebikes.com office mule. It simply carried on commuting at a steady 70mph all day long, handled like a grey import sports 400 and outbraked several pissed-off, big bike riders into roundabouts along the way. It was brilliant, wickedly anti-social fun.
The highlight for me was clocking an indicated 145kph, downhill admittedly, as I screamed past a severely annoyed matron in her bland little Daewoo Nowiz, shoebox on wheels vehicle. That´s about 90mph in old money, which is going some on any scooter, but the Italjet felt totally safe at that speed.
That´s mainly due to the Italjet utilizing a hi-tech tubular trellis chassis, with the front shock absorber laid down at the front of the frame, rather than being attached to the front wheel. With a hub centre steering layout holding the front end rock solid, the Dragster doesn´t twitch, dive, squirm or do anything else dramatic, no matter how late you brake into a turn. The only factor limiting the Dragster´s corner speeds is the skinny, 10 inch tyres in fact, which will skip a little bit sideways on bumpy tarmac.
What I´m saying is that the Dragster is a scooter designed for bikers, and so you need biking skills to get the best from it. This isn´t a scoot for novices who have just passed their test. You have to work hard to get the best from the Piaggio sourced 180cc motor, but once moving, you can maintain a surprisingly high momentum, if you have the ability to read the road conditions.
In a way, the Dragster reminded me of the Aprilia RS125, which is a pure racer for the road and the sort of bike that requires 100% concentration. The Italjet teaches you precision, planning, courage on the brakes – otherwise you´ll never slingshot it past cars who are determined not to let any scooter pass them on unlimited A roads.
SCREAM IF YOU WANNA GO FASTER
Now if you´re the sort of shortbread biscuit-munching tight git, who is considering buying a scooter for its 100mpg fuel economy, then stop reading right now.
The Dragster disposes of unleaded, plus a dollop of two stroke oil, pretty sharpish, depending on how frenzied you want the ride to be. Checking the petrol station receipts over a weekend allowed me to guesstimate that the Dragster was returning about 60 miles to the gallon, ridden hard. It didn´t quite use a full litre of oil during the 1,000 mile test period.
No, it ain´t a Honda C90 Cub, which is fine by me. That said, the Dragster has a few practical touches; there is some storage under the seat for example, which can accommodate an open face helmet, or the very chunky free chain and padlock, supplied free with every new Dragster. This lock by the way, felt like it weighed two stone and could survive an F16 airstrike.
There was a token pillion perch, for the occasional trip you might want to make two-up, plus low fuel/oil warning lights on the groovy chrome dash and a pair of mirrors which gave you an OK view of what was happening behind – many scooters don´t have mirrors that you can use without shifting your head around at odd angles to improve the view.
An auto choke was another convenient feature which helped the Dragster´s appeal – so long as you remembered not to open the throttle as you pushed the starter button. Riding off first thing however, the Italjet spluttered and ran poorly at low revs for five minutes until the engine warmed up properly.
At just over two and a half grand on the road, the dragster has come down in price from the exotic three thousand plus it used to be. It also now comes with a good warranty, breakdown cover, superb lock and an excellent insurance scheme. The new UK importers have certainly made much more of effort to make the Dragster buyer feel looked after than previous operators did, so this is a machine you can buy today and expect some back-up, if you need it, tomorrow.
The unique character of the Dragster can be summed up in one word however; mental. It looks crazy and rides just as bananas too. That means it isn´t for everyone, but for those who want a shopping runabout, there are plenty of other options on two wheels. If your thing is buzzing through traffic, picking racer lines and celebrating the sheer speed of city life, then the Dragster is perfect. It shouts individuality, pizzazz, style – it asks you to think differently.
For some of us, that stubborn, single-minded determination to be different from the crowd is why we took to two wheels in the first place. But unlike days gone by, when the `different´ Italian character mean breaking down a lot, the Dragster gave me one thousand miles of top fun without a single glitch. Put simply, it works and it looks good too.
See you down the gas station.
Get Italjet motorbike insurance for the Dragster 180.
|Engine||Two stroke single cylinder|
|Claimed power (bhp)||20bhp (est)|
|Trellis||Tubular type frame|
|Front tyre||120/70 x 11in|
|Rear tyre||130/70 x 11in|
|Front suspension||SIS (Sistema Independente di Sterzo) hub-centre system, single Paioli shock, 110mm travel Adjustments preload|
|Rear suspension||Single Paioli shock, 90mm travel Adjustments preload|
|Front brake||175mm disc with opposed-piston caliper|
|Rear brake||175mm disc with opposed-piston caliper|
|Fuel capacity||10 litres|
|Current price||£2749 OTR. 1 yr RAC, 1 yr Road Tax all inc.|
|Warranty||3 yr warranty|