When the time comes to choose that first motor bike, choose a bike that will be fun and easy to master. A lightweight motorbike with moderate power is easy to handle at high and low speeds than a powerful sport bike. While any two-wheeled vehicle has inherent danger, riding small to midsize bikes will reduce some of those risks.
Scooters are a subset of motorcycles that have step through bodies and small wheels. Choose a midsize scooter with an engine displacement of 125 to 400 cc. Most scooters are comfortable motorbikes for their size. Finally, most scooters have integral storage in the form of a built in trunk or a glove compartment or both. When buying, consider quality, comfort, weight, convenience and style.
Midsize scooters, like motorcycles, require a motorcycle license and insurance to operate. This is not much of a bother. In Massachusetts, the exam to obtain a motorcycle learner’s permit is a simple written, actually computer, exam. The road test is very easy on a scooter. The examiner will ask the rider to ride their motorbike in a figure 8 without putting a foot down for stability. Then, the rider rides out about 50 feet, stop and return while using directional or hand signals.
Scooter insurance is much less expensive than car insurance. Insurance on a 1998 Ford Contour is more than twice the cost of insurance for a 2002 Honda Reflex from the same insurer.
Classic scooters emulate the Italian Vespa. The classic Vespa has a 50 to 200 cc engine, clutches and shifts with the left hand, brakes with the right hand and right foot, and has a one-piece steel body. Vespas are easy to maintain. All of the parts to keep an old Vespa on the road and looking good are readily available from many outlets. Old classic scooters require frequent upkeep and special oil with each fill up to keep their two stroke engines running. New classic style scooters are available from Vespa and Indian manufacturers under the Bajaj and Genuine Stella monikers. New classic style scooters are … new, and need less fuss to operate and maintain. Old or new, classic scooters are the epitome of style and class for most scooterists.
Most modern scooters have steel frames with plastic body panels. Vespas are the exception. Vespa keeps the steel body in their modern style scooters. While some modern scooters have 2 stroke engines like the classic bikes, most have 4 stroke engines. 4 stroke engines have lower exhaust emissions, important in today’s regulatory climate. Modern scooters have automatic transmissions that simplify their operation while maintaining high gas mileage.
Japanese companies have made scooters for decades. Honda has sold over 50 million of its small Super Cub model, which has been in production since the 1950’s. Honda’s Helix scooter is a long and low 250 cc bike that many believe to be the most comfortable scooter available and has a cavernous trunk. The Helix has been in production since the 1980’s. Owners swear by their bulletproof design. The Honda Reflex is a modern 250 cc scooter with a sporty look and feel. Reflex owners are finding their bikes to be as reliable as the Helix. Both the Helix and Reflex handle highway riding very nicely. Interestingly, Honda feels that there is a large enough market in the to support two different 250 cc models.
Yamaha builds two versions of their classic looking modern scooter, the Vino. The Classic is a 50 cc bike, while the more desirable 125 has a 125 cc engine. Like most 50 cc bikes, the Classic struggles to stay with traffic on surface roads. The 125 runs up to 55 or 60 mph. Do not take a 125 cc bike on the freeway, but feel comfortable riding a bike like this on any surface street. The Morphous is Yamaha’s new 250 cc bike. In photos it looks somewhat like the Honda Helix, but in person it is easy to see its ultramodern, sleek lines. This is a new model, so it is impossible to evaluate its reliability.
Suzuki makes the Burgman scooter. Amherst College has bought this bike for its campus police. The scooter force loves their bikes. One officer rattles off the positives of riding a scooter on campus. Burgman 400 scooters are fun, friendly looking, comfortable enough to ride all day, plenty of speed and sporty handling when needed in an emergency, easy to park, and a thrifty 70 mpg (most of their riding is at lower speeds).
One Taiwanese company is builds several high quality scooter models, Kymco. Kymco produces two 150 cc scooters, four 250 cc scooters and a 250 cc motorcycle. The wide range of models and prices gives Americans a glimpse of the overseas scooter market. In Europe and Asia, companies like Honda and Yamaha sell a wide variety of models. I have only seen a couple of Kymco People 250’s. They may be the quietest motorbike on the road. It is eerie to ride along side a mid size bike with its barely audible exhaust.
What kind of performance do these bikes provide? Small scooters usually have good acceleration to 30 or 40 mph. Top speed for an unmodified 50 cc scooter will range from 30 to 50 mph depending on manufacturer and the weight of the rider. Scooters with 125 to 150 cc 4 cycle engines should speed up to 55 mph easily. It is not unusual to see a 150 cc scooter that will hit 65 mph. Larger 250 cc scooters like the Morphous, Helix, People 250 and Vespa GTS should hit 75 mph or more making them some of the smallest and lightest motorbikes that are highway capable. All of these bikes match speed with stopping power.
Most scooters have small turning radii and sporty suspensions. Riders find that scooters handle emergency maneuvers well. Some bikes may have suspensions that are hard on the spine. It may be possible to adjust this by changing suspension settings or components or by letting some air out of the tires. If you find this to be a problem, speak with your mechanic or join a scooter newsgroup to find out how to tailor your ride.