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FAQ: How should I break in my new scooter?
Overview
The subject of engine break in is, unfortunately, shrouded in mystery and controversy, both inside and outside the scooter world. It's very difficult to quantifiably say that one engine break-in method works better than another. There are basically two schools of thought, though: take it easy, and ride it like you stole it. Rather than tell you which one is correct, we'll present both and let you decide for yourself.
Take It Easy
The "take it easy" approach says that, for a modern Vespa, the first 625 miles (about 1000km) should be ridden using no more than three-quarters of the throttle, avoiding jackrabbit starts, and taking pains to vary your RPM. The theory here is that there are a lot of close-tolerance parts in the engine, and when the engine is new, those parts haven't necessarily worn together yet. Taking it easy gives those metal parts a chance to seat themselves to each other and avoids generating so much friction that something in the engine gives out.

After the first 625 miles (and the all-important first service), it's generally considered safe to ride at full speed without worrying about RPM or anything else.

Dealers almost universally instruct new buyers to follow this break-in method, although their motivation in doing so probably has more to do with avoiding breakdowns and angry buyers than producing the most amount of horsepower.
Ride It Like You Stole It
The "ride it like you stole it" method says that for the first 20 to 50 miles you should thrash your scooter within an inch of its life. This includes climbing steep hills at wide-open throttle, freeway riding, and as much stress on the engine as you can manage. After the initial thrashing, immediately change the oil (you'll notice a superfine metal particulate suspended in the oil) and then ride it like normal. Or like you stole it. Your choice.

This break-in method is based on the idea that cylinder bores are given an initial cross-hatch pattern when the engine is machined so that the piston rings will hone themselves down to the exact tolerance of the bore. This, in turn, will provide a better seal, higher compression, less blow-back, and less burned oil. You've only got 20 or so miles of riding, though, before the cross-hatch pattern is gone.

Proponents of this break-in method claim that you end up with a faster, more powerful engine thanks to this break-in method.
Either Way
The general consensus is that the engine of a modern Vespa will loosen up a bit after 1,000 to 2,000 miles, getting smoother and even a bit stronger in the process.

Regardless of which engine break-in approach you take, the single best thing you can do for your scooter is to change the oil regularly, and use only a high-quality synthetic oil.
Last Updated Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:01 am
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