Why indeed ride a scooter?

Let me fist say that I've been riding motorcycles and scooters for 33 years.  I started riding a cool Honda Mini-Trail at age10.  I have been riding dirt bikes almost the entire time, and street bikes for the past 20 years.  My dirt riding has included years of trail riding, competitive trials, and hare scrambles racing.  I have also done some road racing.  I have owned probably 70 motorcycles including around 30 scooters, from little 50cc bikes to the mighty Honda V65 Magna.  So I think I can give you some good insight into the similarities/differences between various scooters and motorcycles:

The good stuff

Scooters are fun!  They are cute, lightweight, quite, and easy to ride.  They work especially good in town, where you don't have to worry about shifting (at least on the Japanese scoots).  Your shoes don't get messed up from the shift lever.  [ Ok so you *should* be wearing motorcycle boots, but not everybody does.  But you definitely should be wearing a good quality helmet, gloves, and a protective jacket ].  They offer some protection from the elements (especially on the Helix).  They are very easy to operate.  Almost all have an electric starter, an automatic choke, and an automatic fuel petcock.

The not so good stuff

Sure, scooters have a bit of a downside.  The biggest problems are lack of power in the smaller models, and somewhat unstable handling.  The stock 50-80cc models do not accelerate very well.  I know you can get ~60+ mph out of a highly modified 50cc scooter, but that is another issue.  When I ride these smaller models, I take extra caution to try and keep up with traffic.  I also stay to the right.  In some cases, I end up riding near/in the bike lane.  Believe me, this is safer than being out in traffic with some giant SUV on your bumper.  More than a few car drivers are not very tolerant of a slow scooter, and they will try to pass you (and inadvertently cut you off - not fun).  The Yamaha Razz is only good to about 25-27 mph and the Yamaha jog will do ~40 mph.  The Honda Spree/Elite 50 will do around 30 mph, while the Elite 80 will do almost 45 mph.  In general, these are low speeds, so adjust your route accordingly.  The bigger scooters (125cc and up) have substantially fewer problems, and work great on almost all roads except high speed freeways.

Another minor problem is the range.  Scooters get 60 mpg and upwards, but their gas tanks are tiny.  Usually not much more than a gallon.  That means your range is limited to 60-70 miles.  Not a problem if your commute is 3-5 miles.  But at one job I had a 16 mile commute each way.  The Yamaha Riva 180 I was riding at the time got about 70 miles per tank full.  That means I had to fill up every two days.  I ended up keeping a 5 gallon gas can at home so I could avoid the gas station for a week or more.  The Elite 250 and especially the Helix do a little better.  The Elite holds nearly 2 gallons, and the helix holds almost 3 gallons.  Range on these scooters is 120+ miles :>)

Because of the small wheels and light weight, scooter handling is a bit "twitchy" or unstable In my opinion.  Small ruts or bumps can upset your line and throw you around a bit.  Wind will affect the scooter much more than a motorcycle.  Move slowly and practice until you get comfortable.


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