A scooter is not a dirt bike, or is it?

By: On: June 12th, 20080 Comments »Updated: October 14, 2012

As gas prices continue their upward journey, motorcycles are on the minds of more people as an alternative to driving a gas guzzler. The first hurdle for many may be the lack of a motorcycle license.  In some states, you don’t need a motorcycle license to drive a moped or scooter, and that may be the deciding factor for what type of motorcycle a persons buys.

Vespa, the famous Italian scooter brand owned by Piaggio (maker of the Piaggio MP3 scooter), has been building up more of a following in the US and I think it will continue to increase in popularity here.  How many people really want to be seen riding a moped to work, or at all for that matter? If the moped has a cool style to it, then maybe more people would want one.  Vespa’s style have always been cool (ok, they’re no Harley-Davidson, but are still cool for what they are).  If you’re aiming to get good gas mileage, say in the neighborhood of 75 or 100 mpg, why not look good doing it?

I used to own a Puch moped when I was 16.  It had pedals like a bicycle, a frame that looked something like a girl’s bike, and was sometimes embarassing to ride as a teenage male.  One of my first jobs was working a few hours a week at a motorcycle shop that sold Can-Am dirt bikes, and I rode that moped there and back, about 10 miles each way.  We all hung out there as much as possible, especially on Saturdays as everyone was getting ready for the local motocross races on Sunday.  I would move bikes around, get parts, sell chains, sprockets, oil, etc.  It was great fun.

It was around that time that my younger friend’s Mom bought him a 1950’s or 1960’s vintage Vespa scooter really cheap at a garage sale.  Even though it looked  too old to ride, it had better suspension, a lot more power and speed, and was so fun we all fought over who’s turn was next.  Since we all were into dirt bikes and motocross, we decided to test the limits of that Vespa on dirt.

That was not enough though, so we thought it would be more fun to turn our riding into a flat track competition in the backyard on an impromptu lawn course.  It was when we hosed down our new “track” that things really got fun!  We now had a wet, muddy oval track that just minutes earlier was a nice green lawn.  We timed each other for several laps to see who could run the quickest until the Vespa started to sputter.

We thought it was just over-heating, so we turned it off for a few minutes and went at it again.  That was the end of it.  That old engine had enough of our competition.  My friend ended up selling it to an older kid for about $10 dollars just as it was with the mud-caked fenders, the seized engine and all.

It’s fun to think back about those days, but man, I’d hate to think what that vintage Vespa would be worth today if we had not ruined it trying to turn it into a race scooter.

About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotorcycleInfo.Org. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding his Moto Guzzi in charity rides and serves as a volunteer motorcycle marshal for an annual bicycle charity event in the Carolinas.

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