Motorcycle info about licenses, trikes, sidecars, scooters and more!
Maybe you have owned scooters before, but after a while, they sure can start getting a little worn out like this sad-looking heap without proper care. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but still bad enough to make you start looking at new ones. There sure is a lot new with scooters, so be prepared to spend a little time at a few dealers.
New alternatives that are catching on very quickly are the Piaggio MP3 scooter, and powerful electric scooters, such as the Vectrix electric scooter.
You might have to get in line because all scooters are selling really fast now due to the high gas prices. Scooters can get a good 75 mpg or better (or you can now get an electric scooter), so scooters are looking attractive to more and more people. Some companies are using them for everyday business, such as ScooterGirls, Inc. in Los Angeles, and ice cream scooters at Myrtle Beach. You can always look for used scooters instead of new ones to save some money, but those little engines can get pretty tired after a while. With so many cool new scooters on the market, going new is probably the better option.
Scooters come in a wide variety of sizes, features and capabilities. Since they are one of the fastest growing alternative forms of transportation, the choices out there are plenty. The sales of scooters in the US has about doubled during the past year or so (as did the price of gas). As a result, scooters and mopeds are no longer seen just as something you might rent while on vacation at the beach. Many people are starting to commute to work on scooters, but they are also fun to ride just about anywhere!
If you are one of the many that are trying to figure out whether to buy a moped, a scooter or a motorcycle, then you will need to ask yourself a few questions, and below we walk you through that process. Since mopeds and scooters are so different from motorcycles, motorcycle information is left for a separate discussion.
With scooters, you will likely find something that suits your style and tastes and will get you around pretty easily. First, let’s define the general differences between mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles.
Mopeds: Mopeds typically have a step-through frame design, have an air-cooled 50cc engine or less, and have a top speed of just below 30 mph (or approximately 45 km/h).
Traditionally, mopeds also have pedals, like a bicycle, that are used for cranking the engine to start it; however, you could also pedal it to help it go up steep hills, etc. Some mopeds have pedals and some don’t.
Scooters: Scooters are normally faster than mopeds. They don’t have pedals like some mopeds do. Usually scooters have engines in the size range of 50cc to 150cc and can often reach speeds near 60 mph (95 km/h) depending on the model. There are more large engine choices available now and some models can even go faster than 60 mph.
Many scooters have electric start and most have the engine located near the rear wheel instead of between your feet like a traditional moped or motorcycle. The rear-engine location allows the step-through frame and extra room for your feet knees.
Maxi Scooters: These are an increasingly popular off-shoot of scooters. As with SUV’s in the very recent past, they just seem to get larger and more luxurious each year. Many maxi scooters have at least a 250cc engine an can reach speeds near 75 mph.
The physical layout is similar to traditional scooters, but the size and maximum speed is much greater. These are pretty much like sport touring motorcycles that have a frame like a scooter and they usually cost less than a motorcycle would with all the same features and comfort.
Some people prefer maxi scooters over motorcycles because they feel more comfortable on them and can get on and off much easier because you don’t have to swing your leg up and over as high. Some people ride maxi scooters instead of motorcycles since maxi scooters often have automatic transmissions. There are some very cool Automatic Motorcycles being made today too as explained in an article here on the Motorcycle Information website home page.
A maxi scooter is simply a large scooter that has a large engine and can do just about everything a motorcycle can do, but looks and feels like a scooter. These are real comfort-cruisers ready for city or highway!
Four-stroke engine: The advantages with these is that they are very reliable, typically very quiet, and usually just take regular grade gasoline. You don’t mix gas and oil with these. You will need to change the crankcase oil once in a while, but that is pretty easy to do. Mopeds normally have air-cooled engines, but many scooters now have liquid cooling (like a miniature car radiator) for better performance and reliability.
Two-stroke engine: Because of environmental rules, two-stroke engines are found less and less, but are still available on some mopeds and scooters. In Europe, the new “Euro 3″ emissions regulations have practically ended the availability of scooters with two-stroke engines larger than 50cc. The Vespa PX, a model that has been around for 30 years with a 125cc two-stoke with manual shift, has been discontinued because the tougher emissions regulations.
The way two-stroke engines work requires that special oil be mixed into the gasoline. Some will require you to pre-mix a very specific amount of two-stroke oil in with gasoline, and then you just pour it into the fuel tank. This is no big deal if you are used to riding dirt bikes or if you do this already with your outdoor power equipment. If you already have pre-mix already for that, don’t just assume that you can use the same stuff in your scooter! Check for the required mix ratio first, because if you get it wrong, you will ruin your engine very quickly. Not all 2-stroke oils are the same either, so choose one intended for motorcycles and scooters for best performance.
Some mopeds and scooters have separate tanks for the two-stroke oil and for the gasoline. On those, the fuel system will automatically mix the correct ratio for the engine. A few really good low smoke two-stroke oils designed for Scooters that works with injection systems or as a pre-mix are Maxima Scooter Pro and Bel-Ray Semi-Synthetic 2T scooter oil.
The advantages of two-stroke engines are that they are very light and very peppy for their size. Also, there is no crankcase oil to have to change. The disadvantages are that you have to buy both two-stroke oil and gasoline, and they are sometimes a little noisy in a bee-buzzing sort of way. Keep in mind that you won’t be filling up the tank very often, so mixing up oil and gas certainly won’t be a daily routine anyway.
Electric motor: Yes, electric scooters are readily available and becoming more popular every day. The advantages are obvious in terms of not having to buy gasoline or oil. The disadvantages are the relatively short distance you can go on a single charge (versus a tank of fuel), and if you need to maintain higher speeds during your commute, then you may not reach your destination on a single charge depending on your commuting distance. If you have access to an electrical outlet near your parking spot, then electric scooters might be a great choice. The Vectrix electric scooter even comes with a retractable power cord right under the seat. There is also development being done on hybrid motors for scooters for the future.
Some of the more popular makes and models are listed below for reference. This is not attempting to be a complete listing, but is an overview to get you started on your way to finding scooters that might be right for you.
CAUTION: Because of the sudden rising demand for scooters, there are a lot of off-brand scooters being imported. Make sure what you are buying is really right for your needs. Pricing of scooters varies, but quality varies greatly. If you buy an inexpensive off-brand scooter, it might be just perfect for what you need, or it might be a big disappointment. If you plan to ride it every day to work, you might want to think about paying a little more and getting a good brand just in case something goes wrong and you need service or parts quickly.
For insight to motorcycles, you can find all sorts of motorcycle information on other pages of this web site, including riding gear, motorcycle accessories, getting a motorcycle license and other related articles.
By the way, if you are going to commute to work on your scooter, be prepared for cool weather. A perfect accessory to add to any scooter is a Scooter Windshield. The one shown here by Sportech is one of the better ones around and it fits just about any brand of scooter. We also like it because it’s made of polycarbonate material, not acrylic. Acrylic motorcycle windshields are not quite as durable and safe as polycarbonate.