‘Extreme’ Vespa Enthusiasts Rev Up at Indonesian Festival

Every year, Indonesians from teens and grandads, to mechanics and students, gather in eastern Java to celebrate their love of the iconic Italian Vespa scooter.

For some, it’s an “extreme” kind of love, where the vehicles are customized to resemble metallic monster bikes straight out of a Hollywood dystopia.

Hundreds of enthusiasts travel to the festival in Kediri to show off their creations — ranging from restored vintage Vespas to Mad Max-style tanks fitted with fake machine guns, a dozen extra tires, or eerie stuffed toys as hood ornaments.

To enter into competitions at the festival, every customized vehicle must have a Vespa engine and most contestants try to retain the brand’s iconic fairing — the curved front of the scooter.

But other embellishments are up to the owners and their budgets. While many can only afford scrap metal or reused material found at a junkyard, others splash out.

Peded, a 43-year-old grandfather who has been modifying Vespas since the 1990s, says he likes his scooter to “tell a story.”

“I love decorating Vespas to the extreme, but I don’t like using trash,” said Peded, whose Vespa sports massive buffalo horns from the Toraja tribal land on Sulawesi island.

The three-day festival, now in its third year, is one of several held across the country. Highlights include a contest to pick the best-looking entry and dirt-track races for the speedier bikes.

The enthusiasts attract glances and smiles from locals because of the designs of their elaborate Vespas.

As the vehicles are often unlicensed, many travel at night to avoid traffic police. Mechanical problems arise, with some of the more ramshackle machines often breaking down.

Mostly, the gatherings are about catching up with fellow Vespa-lovers and having fun.

“We are independent, but we gather like a community,” said Julia Ningsih, 19.

“Extreme Vespa guys, we stick together. If we have trouble on the road, they will wait and help us out until we can ride again,” she added.

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