Review: Genuine Hooligan 170i

This review is largely a pull-forward of my initial blog entry on the Hooligan at 300 miles.

I bought the Hooligan in late September of 2017, and it was my daily commuter and grocery-getter up until mid-February. I took it out for a ride after a few weeks on my Honda Rebel 500, which has shaped some of my impressions. So while a lot of the words in this review are the same as those in the blog entry, my perspective on some stuff has definitely shifted.


The Hooligan's a comfortable ride. When I test drove a few models down at [Vespa Portland][], I went down Water Ave. to OMSI. It's a route I know from a daily bike commute, and I'm unhappily familiar with the sorry state of the pavement. A Piaggio I test-drove did okay with some buckled and cracked pavement compared to a bicycle, but the Hooligan's dual rear shocks, heavy frame, and fat 12" wheels smoothed things out considerably. That's been my observation on all sorts of bad streets: Something that would rattle my teeth on a bike becomes a muffled thud under the wheels of the Hooligan. It's still a fairly small vehicle, and you will feel a few jolts if you don't try to avoid the worst cracks and potholes.

The seat height is just right for me. I can easily put both feet down at a stop, but it's so light that I don't mind putting just one foot down. There's room to scoot back and forth on the seat, and I can even rest my feet far forward on the back of the cowling. The passenger hump restricts some motion, and on longer rides I sometimes find myself scooting up on to it to give my legs a little more room. It gives you a somewhat high, upright ride that can contribute to feeling perhaps a little top-heavy, but not in a caution-inducing way.

The mirrors are a little tightly spaced, so I have to pull my arms in a bit to get a full field of view behind me. I think extension bars are in order.

The instruments are simple: There's a large analog tach (which is an odd thing to do for an automatic transmission, but I guess it's useful to gauge how hard it's going even if it doesn't indicate redline), a smaller digital speedometer, and an odometer with two trip positions.

It has plenty of underseat storage, but I've used up most of it with a few tools, my cargo net, and some wet weather gear. I added a rack to mount a topcase that's big enough to hold my XXL full-face helmet when I'm parked, and that's also plenty to haul a few days of groceries.


I've ridden it in a number of scenarios:

  • Close-in surface streets, where the traffic never exceeds 35 mph.
  • A semi-rural part of SE Portland out on Foster Road.
  • Downtown on my commute
  • On McLaughlin Blvd. during morning and afternoon rush hour, both stop-and-go and at speeds of up to 57 or 58 (per the speedometer, which is optimistic by about ten percent).
  • Up some steep hills in my neighborhood.
  • On 82nd Ave. at night.

I read one wildly irresponsible review that suggested it'd be a good "freeway" scooter, but at a top manufacturer's speed of 61 and a very light 278 pounds dry, that's a terrible idea. At 55-60 miles per hour, it feels stable but I can still feel the wind moving me around. A windscreen helped with both the upcoming rainy season and the wind, but I can't imagine taking it out on 205 or i84: I'd have to run it flat out the entire time, and wind shear from passing trucks would be intense.

On surface streets, it's fast enough. I can get away from traffic at stop lights, there's plenty in reserve to pass and maneuver at 35 miles per hour, and on busy McLaughlin I can keep up without worrying too much about fast-merging traffic. On the very steepest hills it accelerates more slowly, but can still get up to the speed limit just as fast or faster than surrounding cars, but I'm definitely wringing the throttle to pull that off.

It feels very maneuverable to me. With plenty of throttle in reserve, it took me just a day or two to get comfortable switching lanes in busy morning traffic, even with just a length or two of clearance in the lane I was entering. The front-and-rear disc brakes have allowed me to come to some fast stops to avoid (jaywalking) pedestrians darting out from behind parked vehicles, and I've comfortably swerved around a few cars that nosed too far out into my lane.

Bottom line, the Hooligan shouldn't be taken anywhere zoned faster than 45 mph, and depending on the traffic patterns in those zones, that might not be a great idea, either: You will end up being one of the slower vehicles in those situations, and that's a dangerous place to be if the local driving habits are aggressive or loose. I have noticed more than once that surrounding drivers seem to assume you're going slower than you are by the way they do sort of high-rev passes then aggressively cut back into the lane. I tend to leave plenty of space between me and the car in front of me, first to offer a generous stopping buffer and second to anticipate the fact that some portion of the car-driving population thinks it's okay to emote impatience toward a much smaller, more vulnerable rider with aggressive lane-changes and passing.

Comparing to a Honda Rebel 500

I can't help but compare the Hooligan to the Honda Rebel 500 I have since bought. A few points there:

  • Having done my daily commute on the Rebel for the past six weeks, I am much less eager to take the Hooligan on roads like 99E, which are zoned for 45 mph. It feels okay on 82nd (35 mph), but I'm now sensitive to how much throttle it needs to keep speed on hills.
  • People seem much less likely to assume I'm moving slower than I should when I'm on a motorcycle vs. the Hooligan. So the behavior of drivers around me tends to be better and less aggressive. That makes the Hooligan a little less safe overall, and that fault lies with drivers who aren't being mindful, which is a shame, but it's a reality.
  • After several weeks on the Rebel, the Hooligan felt a lot more skittery and twitchy. Not bad, but it took a few minutes to smooth things out and shake the feeling that I was over-controlling.

Summing Up

I looked at the Hooligan as a compromise purchase when I bought it. I knew I wanted to be able to do some highway motorcycling at some point, but I also knew with the good riding season coming to an end soon that I wouldn't feel safe being out on the highway this year. So I took a pass on the next class up from the Hooligan (200cc, water-cooled scooters like the Smax or Bergman) and erred small.

It's great for hauling dog food and donuts, and commuting in to work. It's not bad for just taking out and riding, but you want to be careful which roads you end up on. 30-35 mph surface streets are fine, but as you get into the 45 mph stretches it becomes harder to keep up if things get moving far past the speed limit, and the car drivers around you can be aggressive in the way they pass because there's a perception that you must be going slow, even if you're keeping up.

Its engine is a little bigger than the more common 150cc in this general class, but the heavier frame and suspension mean that it isn't any faster. It just provides a smoother, more robust ride on bad streets and perhaps feels a little more stable overall.

About the Genuine Hooligan 170i

Summary: A bulked up scooter that can keep up on urban parkways.

Purpose: Daily 8-mile commutes into downtown and grocery-getting.

Date bought: September 30, 2017

Good buy? Yes, but the scooter world has some weird ideas about 'highway-ready'.

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Things is © 2015 Mike Hall.