More and more, a scooter makes sense if your riding is limited to the urban jungle: cheap to run, light, nimble, practical – everything a city bike should be. There are two problems, however – at least for some scooters. They can be very expensive for what they are and they all tend to look the same. Increasingly, the Vespa form has taken hold of scooter design which is no problem as it is probably the most practical design but it does mean that it’s hard to stand out from the crowd.
If there is any criticism that can be levelled at the Italjet Dragster, it certainly isn’t that it looks like anything else in the scooter world. In fact, it looks like nothing else in the motorcycling world, full stop. It’s the sort of design that has you wondering: what were they smoking when it was on the drawing board and if Italjet can push the boundaries of scooter design, why can’t everyone else?
First, to the design. If the exposed steel tube trellis frame isn’t wild enough, then the hub-centre steering front end should do the trick. If that front end seems a little excessive on a scooter, then it certainly is distinctive. The benefits of the system are that it separates suspension and steering functions, helping both to work much better compared to a conventional telescopic fork. Of course, it is much more complex and tends to be heavier, along with giving a slightly distant and vague feeling to the front end, which is perhaps why it has never gained widespread acceptance outside of various Bimotas and Yamaha’s GTS1000.
On a scooter, however, which is not likely to be hustled along sinewy mountain passes or chasing lap times around a track, it is perhaps more of a novelty than a serious engineering solution but you can’t deny that it isn’t different.
So, the Dragster looks like a million dollars standing still. Does that translate into the riding experience? Well, it’s a case of yes and no. Yes, the ride is taut and not at all scooter-like and it even might be a little too unforgiving for what passes for roads in Johannesburg. On a smooth surface, I suspect it will be utterly fantastic, especially as a certain Andrea Dovizioso had a hand in fine-tuning the chassis.
On normal roads (and in normal hands) it turns into a corner eagerly, although there is definitely a slight disconnect between what the front wheel is doing and what the rider is feeling. Of course, this is if you are pushing it and using all the performance which you would imagine the sort of person who will buy this is going to do. Lest this be seen as nit-picking criticism, I will concede that with more familiarity with the system, confidence will grow to the point where you will be able to throw it around in a most un-scooter-like fashion. If the suspension is a little too harsh, then there is at least a range of adjustments to soften things up.
One benefit of the hub-centre suspension design is a complete lack of dive under braking, which feels strange at first but, again, you soon get used to it. The brakes are superb: a Brembo calliper is fed brake fluid through steel braided hoses so the stopping power is completely not what you are expecting. ABS comes as standard.
As a tall rider, the riding position is acceptable although the shape of the rider’s seat is such that you really can’t move around very much. It’s comfortable enough for short trips so it certainly fulfils its purpose.
If there is a “no”, then it comes down to the engine. This is a 200 cc four-stroke single-cylinder, pushing out 17.3 horsepower and 10.4Nm of torque and it doesn’t feel special enough to match the rest of the bike. Original Dragsters had a two-stroke 180 cc engine which, with its raucous power delivery, was much better suited to the character of the scoot. The performance of the four-stroke unit is nippy but there aren’t many fireworks, even if the top speed on the highway was in excess of 140 km/h. At the EICMA show in Italy at the end of 2022, a 500 cc version was shown (Gulp!) alongside an electric version with 338Nm of torque and a claimed 0-50 km/h time of 2.9 seconds which will help deliver the kick the design deserves – and then some. We can only hope that both come to South Africa.
Take a look around the Dragster and the attention to detail is brilliant. It all works together so well and a lot of thought has clearly gone into the overall design. The quality is right up there, as well, helped by the fact that so much of it is on view and not hidden behind large plastic panels: it’s difficult to cut corners when all the corners can be seen. No, quality and individuality are no problems on the Italjet Dragster.
If all the above seems slightly negative, it should in no way detract from what is the most unique two-wheeled vehicle available in South Africa at the present moment. I couldn’t help but really like the Dragster, even if I wished for a bit more power. But more power would begin to defeat the concept of a scooter: an accessible means of transport for anyone, not just an experienced rider.
If I want more power, then I should buy something else. However, if I want a scooter that offers something completely different from everything else on the road, then what else is there? R130,000 isn’t cheap (although not compared to certain Vespas) but you’re not simply buying a scooter: you’re buying a piece of engineering excellence and individuality.
For more details, contact Clint at Clint’s Scoots on 082 651 0421
Italjet Dragster 200
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