Mounting an Italian classic, Sean Greaney rides too low and close to Vespa’s seductive red, green and white bullseye.

So this is what it’s like to be beautiful. Heads turn, stranger’s mouths form unanticipated curves; the wind consistently dishevels your hair only to recast it in some mischievous Italian crease.

I’ve just dropped off the lesser brand I took for a test ride – my control group.

I smack down the clear visor on the open face helmet with my left hand, as my right eases the throttle back smoothly. It jumps straight to 40kmph. ‘Right, Vespas are fuel-injected,’ I remember. I’m 30 metres from the dealership when I’m stopped by an excited, elderly German.

“A Joylight! I’ve always dreamed of having one of those. I remember, after the war, riding on the back of a friend’s through London!” she beams in an aural caricature.

I return her enthusiasm and throw it to the right, ignore the stern ‘No Entry’ street sign and glide the wrong direction up a one-way street. Fitzroy’s hipster eyes arc left – rapt, but never turning the neck, they wouldn’t want to be impressed by something… they wouldn’t want to want.

I weave through a deck of four cars to pole position at the traffic lights. Tight on the rear brake, I give the throttle a little – ready to vault forward. Green and instantly 20. Something uncouth roars at my side. A V8 SS Holden Ute, all bluster and anger (so is the car). We pull the street’s attention, a group of 20-somethings in sundresses laugh as the ute finally overtakes me at the 60km mark. I compartmentalise the fear as he ducks in front of me, leaving me nowhere to go but my brakes.
This is what it’s like to be beautiful.

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