Bali & Beyond - - CONTENTS - By Gino Andrias

When Vespa bikes took over the town

The Mod­ern kids, the mod­ernists, or sim­ply known “The Mods” is the best way to de­scribe this unique sub­cul­ture that first emerged in the United King­dom back in the late ‘50’s. In that era, a new group of peo­ple dressed up neatly in tailor-made mea­sured suits and clean shiny shoes like boots or brogue. They took to the road with dandy style, but it was their ride that took ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion: Ital­ian Pi­a­gio Vespa scoot­ers. The ve­hi­cle was more than just a bike. It was an el­e­ment that de­fined their iden­ti­ties and gave them the free­dom to roam. Soon, this ride be­came a bold state­ment of a move­ment.

Fast for­ward to 2017, the chi­clook­ing Ital­ian-made scooter – which oddly places its en­gine on the rear right side – some­how still cap­ti­vates the mar­ket by heart, in­clud­ing in Bali. The num­ber of Vespa own­ers on the is­land may still be smaller than those of Ja­pan-made bikes, but their hard­core own­ers are more than a tight-knit com­mu­nity. No one re­ally knows when ex­actly Vespa – that orig­i­nally comes from Pont­ed­era in Tus­cany re­gion – en­tered Bali, an is­land un­der the equa­tor line half­way across the world, but based on some per­sonal fam­ily ar­chives, I be­lieve some cool Ba­li­nese young­sters were al­ready rid­ing around town on their Vespa mo­tor­bikes since the early ‘70’s.

It’s a uni­ver­sal for­mula that proves that the smaller the com­mu­nity is, the more united the mem­bers are. Bali’s Vespa com­mu­nity is not that small, but the bond be­tween the mem­bers is proven over the years. And last month, they held the “6th Bali Mods May­day” and turned the big yard of TVRI’s front gar­den as the epi­cen­ter of their cool Vespa bikes.


On the “6th Mods May­day”, the num­ber of Vespa com­mu­ni­ties in Bali that joined the event grew within min­utes. “We have 1,300 units ready to take the road. We will start at Sec­tor Bar in Sa­nur and cruise around Den­pasar be­fore fin­ish­ing at TVRI,” in­formed Ipung, the or­ga­nizer of Bali Mods May­day.

It was 3 p.m. when thou­sands of Vespa bikes en­tered the lawn in Renon in down­town Den­pasar. There was so many of them that the noise of the en­gines re­sem­bled an army of an­gry bees, while the rid­ers were all dressed up in classy Bri­tish out­fits such as Dr. Marten boots, pen­cil straight pants, bomber jack­ets

and Fred Perry shirt – some of them even wore porkpie hats. It looked as if half of them came straight from Brighton Beach in the UK where the Mods had a ram­pant riot back in 1964. In that year, they held a fist fight against their arch neme­sis, the slick-haired and denim-wear­ing bik­ers named The Rock­ers or The Leather Boys dur­ing a bank hol­i­day. The event made the head­lines and was known as the Brighton Brawl.

But of course, no such thing hap­pened on the “6th Mods May­day”. In fact, that spe­cial day was even mer­rier with a stage for en­ter­tain­ment, such as Mods sounds and Bri­tish-in­fused Ja­maican SKA. Tak­ing the cen­ter stage was the long line of Vespa bikes parked on top of a red car­pet. The show­case was not just for the crowd to adore their pimped mod­i­fi­ca­tions but also for the jury panel to judge the bikes based on the cat­e­gory they joined in, from the mods style to clas­sic restora­tion, mod­ern restora­tion, PX se­ries, su­per or sprint restora­tion, and more.

“This is an im­por­tant an­nual event for us, all Vespa own­ers and lovers. We have chap­ters in other cities in In­done­sia, like the Jakarta Mods May­day, In­done­sia Mods May­day in Ban­dung in West Java, and Surabaya Mods May­day,” Ipung added. “We com­mu­ni­cate with each of the or­ga­niz­ers in those cities to make sure no dates clash, so that Vespa own­ers can join all Vespa fi­es­tas in those cities.” With­out a doubt, this sub­cul­ture shows no signs of slow­ing down, or let alone fad­ing away in the years to come.

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