Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Yamaha Riva 180

Tue, March 23rd, 2010

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Featuring a different motor scooter each day.

1983–85 Yamaha Riva XC180
A smooth fan-cooled four-stroke capable of maintaining 70 MPH over most terrain, the Riva 180 was an impressive first salvo in Japan's battle to topple Italy's stranglehold on the then-escalating U.S. scooter market. A belt-and-pulley CVT meant no shifting was required (unlike the Vespa), which neophytes welcomed and old-school scooterists derided.
Handling was predictable and secure at speed. In other words, light-years ahead of a Vespa. Wheelbase was remarkably long for the time, but still much shorter than the 250cc+ touring scooters that would follow. Brakes could have been better, however, and big surface irregularities would upset the swinging-crankcase rear suspension and light chassis.
It managed to be nearly as stylish as the Vespa, but with an admirably fresh and original look. Over the years the 'bottlenose' design language has gone from trendy looking to horribly dated, back to almost classic looking.
The basic motor is rugged, but 180s have horrible starting problems when the choke gets coked up and the fix is expensive (fixed on the later 200cc version). Drive belts need replacing periodically, which is a chore. Plastic body parts crack too easily and are nearly unobtainable.
New, they were the most powerful, most most stylish, most maintenance-free scooters you could get. They are no longer very powerful or low maintenance. The style is still there, in a quirky, retro-80s vein.
I love the lines, but keeping one in nice shape really wouldn't be worth the effort.
Despite its success at the time, the 180 Riva is largely forgotten. Though unfortunate, there's good reason for this.