Q: What new Japanese scooters are still being made for the U.S. market?
A: Yamaha is making to 50cc scooters - the Vino and the Zuma:
Honda is making 50cc, 80cc, 250cc scooters, and the 600cc Silver Wing scooter:
Suzuki is making the 400cc and 650cc Bergman scooters:
Q: Who else makes scooters for the U.S. market?
A: There are several manufacturers: Vespa, Piagiao and Aprilia (Italian), Bajaj (Indian), and Sundiro, Kasea, Kymco, Linhai, Sinski, Chetak, and E-Ton (Chinese).
Q: How about used scooters?
A: The golden age for Japanese scooters was from about the late 70's to the mid-late 80's. Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki came out with a very wide variety of scooters - 50, 80, 125, 150, 180, 200, and 250 models. Scooters stopped selling in the mid 80's, so production stopped. But there are still a lot of scooters around from this era. Some models, like the Yamaha Riva 125, were made from 1984 up through 2001 with very few changes. The Honda Elite 80 is still being made and it is little changed from the first 1985 models.
Q: Should I buy a used scooter?
A: There are some good used scooters out there. Of course like any other used vehicle, some are in better condition than others. You can find scooters with remarkably low mileage (5,000 - 10,000 miles) because they just don't get ridden that far. And they have that famous Japanese reliability. Make sure the scooter runs properly and has been maintained properly. Check the bodywork for crash damage. How does the seat look? Ask about the condition of the battery. Check the tires for wear/cracking. Ask when the last tune-up was done.
Q: How fast are scooters?
A: Speeds vary from 25 mph to over 75 mph(!). Speeds will be lower if you haul a passenger or if you are climbing hills.
Q: Can my scooter keep up with normal traffic flow?
A: The bigger scooters (over 125cc) should have no problem keeping up, at any speed below 50 mph. You'll lose a little acceleration if you carry a passenger or if you a climbing a hill. The smaller scooters may have some trouble keeping up with fast traffic. I really haven't had any problems riding 50cc and 80cc scooters in traffic, but you have to be ready to accelerate quickly at green lights. I've found that if you can't keep up, in a pinch you can move over to the right as far as you safely can. The traffic will then pass you and you won't be blocking anybody.
Q: Is my scooter highway/freeway legal?
A: In California it is not legal to ride on any highway/freeway that has a sign posted "No motorized bicycles....allowed" unless you have a scooter that is 150cc or more. I've ridden Honda Elite 150's and 250's, plus Yamaha Riva 180's and 200's on the freeway with not problems... but you have to be careful. These scooters (especially the Elite 150) can barely keep up with 65 mph traffic. Handling is twitchy at freeway speeds
Q: What's the gas mileage?
A: It varies from around 50 mpg to over 90 mpg. Gas mileage drops if you ride hard.
Q: How many miles per tankful?
A: Most scooters have a small gas tank of usually not over 1.5 gallons. The Helix's tank is about 2.3 gallons. Range varies from 70 miles, to about 150 miles with the Helix. That may not seem like a great range, but few scooters are ridden more than 10-20 miles without stopping. And it's nice to fill your tank for under $2.00 :>)
Q: Isn't the handling unstable?
A: They are not unstable, but it does take a little while to get used to riding a lightweight machine with small (10 inch) wheels. Then it's second nature. You do have to watch for potholes and large cracks in the pavement, but other than that you should not have any problems.
Q: How long do the tires last?
A: About 4,000 miles for the rear and over double that for the front.
Q: Do you need any driver's special license?
A: Yes, at least here in California you need a regular motorcycle license. Some of the 50cc scooters are classified as mopeds, so you don't need a special motorcycle license. Here is some info from the DMV web page:
Q: How reliable is my scooter?
A: If properly maintained and not abused, they will last a long time, and provide a reliable and faithful ride. Maintenance is pretty straightforward. In general, the Japanese scooters (and most of their motorcycles) are very reliable. That is how they got their great reputation.
Q: How long do the engines last?
A: A well cared-for scooter should be able to go about 25,000 miles before it needs a major rebuild. The 50cc two strokes work harder, so I'd think they should be overhauled by 15,000 miles. I have heard of some Helix's running over 100,000 miles.
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