Aprilia, the Italian motorcycle and scooter maker, started out making small-displacement machines and, though it has branched out since then, it still produces its share of well-regarded scooters. It introduced the SR 50 R in 1992, calling it the first sport scooter in deference to its styling, potential speed (50cc scooters are generally limited to a top speed of 30 mph in the United States; owners frequently delimit them), and quick pick-up. Aprilia began selling the SR 50 R in the U.S. in 1999. In 2004, the company redesigned the step-through scooter, making only the SR 50 R Factory available in the U.S. This design was carried over through the 2009 model year; the following year the scooter got a new Piaggio-made engine. (Piaggio bought Aprilia in 2004.)
The 2009 SR50 R Factory has a 49cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, two-stroke engine and a reed valve configuration. The chief difference between the SR 50 R sold abroad and the SR 50 R Factory lies in the fuel-delivery system. The Factory model has fuel injectors that improve mileage and help the two-stroke engine meet modern emissions standards. Owners find that the scooter averages 80 to 90 mpg, so the 1.8-gallon fuel tank will take a commuter a fair distance.
A continuously variable transmission with a belt final drive and an automatic centrifugal dry clutch make shifting easy. Suspension is provided by a telescopic fork in front and a single-sided swing arm in back. Unlike most scooters, the SR 50 R Factory has disc brakes in back as well as in front.
Plastic sheathes the steel frame of the 198-pound machine. Upper and lower fairing is standard, and an optional windshield is available. At 30 mph, a windshield may not be necessary, but since enthusiasts remove the restrictions, which improves acceleration at stop lights, a windshield may be a good idea. The seat is 32.3 inches, which makes it comfortable for taller riders but perhaps a bit awkward for shorter ones. The driver puts his feet on the floorboards; the passenger has foot pegs.
The instrument panel offers some unusual features for a scooter. Along with the clock, fuel gauge, speedometer, odometer, and temperature gauge, the display includes a lap timer and tachometer. (While the average urban commuter may not need a lap timer, these scooters are taken to scooter-race meets.) Lockable under-seat storage—which will not hold a full-face helmet—can be expanded with an optional luggage rack or a top box.
This scooter has a huge fan base, partly because of its sporty, racing-bike-inspired styling and partly because of the vast array of aftermarket parts available for personalizing and upgrading. Its chief drawback seems to be a somewhat touchy engine that needs to be rebuilt from time to time—not necessarily a drawback for an enthusiast.