Red-hot Vespa%uFFFDs on the lot at the new store in downtown LA.

The movement towards caring about your ride has been evolving over the last decade, and especially become more interesting as subcultures such as the fixed gear cycling movement has taken off among urban hipsters in major cities. As we’ve written about before, more people are taking to the streets, reclaiming their roads, and riding on bikes and other modes of transportation such as longboard skateboards, scooters, and Vespas as ways to be eco-friendly and opting for a more personal ride than hopping into your average car. As gas prices continue to be an issue and as the economy sours and environment erodes, riding fixed gear bikes or bikes in general has taken on new meaning to a group of self-professed “beautiful losers” to borrow an expression from artist-director Aaron Rose and become a lifestyle. The growing Cult of Transportation has also created a new movement in scooter culture, particularly the ever-cool Vespa.

Last weekend, Vespa opened a store in downtown LA at 301 South Central in Little Tokyo district, right in the heart of a burgeoning area mixed with Japanese manga shops, hipster design stores, an American Apparel, refurbished warehouse art lofts, the wholesale Toy District, and the city’s largest homeless shelter. It’s also 4 blocks from Label Networks.

For the opening, Vespa riders of all kinds showed up with their vintage or new rides, including a handful of motorcycle dudes with tricked Harley’s. It was one of those neighborhood parties where you stand around eating charcoaled burgers, look at cool scooters, talk about Vespas, and try on the latest scooter-culture jackets, bags, and helmets and pretend you’re in Paris.

Gathering of the tribes of unique rides.

First Gear apparel is all over this scene with subtle road-warrior shoulder pads and backbone braces in very chic tan short jackets. But the best gear/fashion statement was from Amarillo including a red peacoat that looked very London Burberry, complete with carefully concealed road-warrior padding in case you did tip your Vespa in a slick-corner incident.

What’s interesting when you think about riding a Vespa and getting from Point A to Point B at an altogether different pace is that the goal of many passionate transportation fans lies in the details of their ride and in the art of utilitarian. At 80 miles to the gallon, a Vespa can get you far and in style. Fixed gear bikes are paired down with one gear and usually no brakes which is the ultimate in clean, sleek, utilitarian; war-era Ruckus means someone looked hard for a coveted South Korean EBay find; and art-form Harley’s each act as symbols of a lifestyle: the culture of using transportation as that message. Skateboarding is also a part of this groove, especially among urban dwellers who look at the urban detritus of their surroundings as potential places to hit-up with various tricks while meeting one’s destination.

This ensemble just screams cool.

As any strong movement grows, so too does a new industry, including of course the after-market car industry, motorbike shops for classics, events such as Midnight Rides in various cities, art shows showcasing the creative energy of the art of movement, self-made videos and documentaries such as the Bicycle Film Festival, as well as the ever-popular and growing scene of bike shops in downtown LA. And now a Vespa store, popped-up ironically (or maybe not so ironically), during an economic recession.

The thing is, that like the Vespa itself, which is a symbol of style and a statement of one’s personality, the store itself is actually more than just that (and not just because it has a garage attached for fixing rides). Suddenly this corner lot has become one of those destination locations were people hang-out and talk -of course about their Vespas, new, old, or about getting one -but also to be with other people who take transportation as a way of life–who like the way things look at the speed of 25-miles an hour.

Vespa storefront at 301 S. Central Ave., Little Tokyo, LA.

Retro scooters are a part of the scene.

First Gear apparel among the chic Vespa jackets.

Black leather with a white stripe was a popular style among the store opening crowd.

Dreaming of cruising in Paris Vespa.

Corresponding helemets are key.