Forecastâ€¦cold, rain and thunderstorms in the area with winds gusting up to 50kph (30mph). Sounds like the perfect time for a camping trip. Really thatâ€™s what I did. I loaded up my trusty backpack, squeezed my camera gear into the Runner and headed off into the wild. Now youâ€™re probably wondering why on earth I chose to do this now. Well we only have most test bikes for a fairly limited time and in this case the weather had been and was going to continue to beâ€¦crap (Thatâ€™s the technical term). So it was now or never. The reason I chose camping was I really wanted to see if the Gilera could function similarly to a fully fledged motorcycle.
My ride would take me a total of about 250kms (155miles) on city streets, winding secondary roads and some motorway travel on the way home. Not a ride I would normally take on a scooter. The Gilera Runner VXR is not however a normal scooter. The Runner is kind of a hybrid scooter/motorcycle; its unusual frame means there is no step through convenience but it more than makes up for it with its added rigidity. Iâ€™m also very familiar with the Gilera Runner as I have owned a few of them over the years. I havenâ€™t however ridden the new four stroke version. The older 2 stroke version is a fantastic bike and is still one of the most popular performance scooters.
So this new four stroke Runner has a lot to live up toâ€¦so did it? Well thereâ€™s a bit of yes and a bit of no. First off the yes. Damn the new Runner is one cool looking scooter. If youâ€™re like me and like modern sporty looking machinery then it is likely youâ€™ll dig how the Runner looks. Gilera certainly seem to be hitting their stride in the styling department of late. Like most Gileraâ€™s the VXR is built to a very high standard with quality parts and quality workmanship. I must say however that I did notice a few rusty screws on the Runner. Strange because itâ€™s not something Iâ€™ve seen on a Gilera before. Hopefully it was a one off.
On the road the Runner is a lot more bike than most scooters. The 21hp engine and low overall weight make the VXR 200 one of the quickest non-maxi scooters on the market. The Runner easily dispatches regular city traffic with just a simple twist of the throttle. I imagine there arenâ€™t many scooters that would make it across town as fast as a Runner. The brakes on the Gilera are a lesson to other scooter manufacturers; big solid disc brakes front and back. The Runner is one of the fastest stopping bikes Iâ€™ve ever ridden. In fact from low speeds, say 50kph (31mph), the Runner would have to beat most motorcycles. It really is that good.
Living with the Runner is also going to be pretty easy. The 200cc four stroke engine returns 3.5L/100kms (67MPG) which is a significant improvement over the poor economy of the older two stroke version. Obviously itâ€™s not as frugal as some bikes but who cares as youâ€™ll be going MUCH quicker than pretty much everybody else. Gilera have also added a remote release for the under seat storage area on the ignition. Just push the key and voilaâ€¦the seat is unlocked. Funny, because I looked for a key hole by the seat for aboutâ€¦well I wonâ€™t say how long as itâ€™s kind of embarrassing. Gilera forgot to put a sign on the ignition barrel to indicate it opened the seat, so Iâ€™m not a complete idiot.
Handling wise the Runner is a complex bike. The first few rides on the Runner are unlikely to give much confidence where cornering is concerned. The reason is altitude. See the Gileraâ€™s seat is literally miles in the sky; this is great for seeing over traffic, but arse when it comes to high performance riding. In general the â€˜sitting on the toiletâ€™ riding position of most scooters does not lend them to knee down road carving; the higher the seat position the worse it gets. Itâ€™s the reason smaller bodied scooters like a Suzuki Address 125 are so much easier to throw around. Itâ€™s a real shame that Gilera donâ€™t seem to understand this as it would completely transform the Runner if they could lower the seat about five inches.
The 'no' bits come next. Itâ€™s awfully sad to see what once was great become less great. See the Runner was always the badass scooter for riders who, like me, wanted to hoon around like mad people. The new bike is no longer the king. Itâ€™s not even the queenâ€¦I think it may even be a jack. First off the older 180SP is faster, yep, read it and weep. Even an older well used 180SP from 1999 will whip the new Runner in a drag race. The new Honda SH300 will certainly be quicker too. The real let down though is the sound. The engine sounds like a bland piece of wood being beaten on an even blander concrete box by a very bland guy named Bob.
Now it must be said, I did hear a modified Gilera Runner VXR 200 recently and it sounded awesome. The owner had thrown away the horribly restrictive standard exhaust and replaced the air box with a foam K&N filter. With those simple mods the bike took on a whole new feeling. It also seems the brilliance of the CVT transmission and smooth torque curve of the engine combine to make the Runner simply â€˜feel slowâ€™. When I did time the bike I found it wasnâ€™t quite as slow as I thought. I guess itâ€™s all just a bit too 'nice' for me.
Summing up the Gilera Runner VXR 200. The Runner really is a fantastic bike; it very much deserves a test ride from anybody who wants a fast reliable scooter that will eat B-roads and motorways for breakfast. Sadly for old fans of the two stroke Runner the new bike is just a bit soft. Itâ€™s like the new BMW 3 series models. Each new model is bigger, heavier and even blander than the last. Better cars, but not more fun to drive. The latest 08 Runner has a few styling updates from the model tested but is basically the same bike. Still, itâ€™s certainly very much worth a look as itâ€™s cheaper than a Vespa GTS 250 and much more fun to ride.
Now what are Gilera going to do? Are they just going to hand the performance scooter mantle onto Honda or somebody else? Piaggio Group who own Gilera have a new 300cc engine that happens to be a total and utter waste of time. First itâ€™s actually only 278cc and basically makes the same power as the 250cc it replaces. Gilera have already added it to the Nexus and I imagine itâ€™ll slot into the Runner soon enough. Now if Gilera think they can compete with Hondaâ€™s SH300 (which makes 27hp) theyâ€™ll either need a new engine or at least tune their new motor to the same powerâ€¦otherwise theyâ€™ll stay a jack when they could be king
Price NZ $6495 UK Â£2,799
|Max power at shaft ||15.3 Kw (21 HP) |
|Max torque||43 Nm at 5,500 rpm|
|Engine Type||Single-cylinder Liquid cooled 4-stroke|
|Cylinder Capacity||198 cc|
|Dry weight ||145kg|
|Kerb weight ||---|
|Fuel tank capacity||12.2 litres|
|Transmission||â€œTwist and Goâ€ Automatic Transmission (CVT)|
|Bore X stroke||72.0 x 48.6 mm (2.8 x 1.9 inches)|
|Front suspension||Ã˜ 35 mm Telescopic fork|
|Rear suspension||Two dual effect hydraulic dampers, helicoidal spring adjustable to four positions|
|Front brake||240mm Disc|
|Rear brake||220mm Disc|
|Max speed (km/hr) ||---|
|Consumption (ECE applicable text cycle)||---|
|Consumption @km/h - km/l||---|
|Full helmet storage||yes|
|Seat release (via remote control)||no|
|Seat release (remote, ignition/switch) ||yes|