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Scooters 101: Your guide to awesome

By Staff | Aug 25, 2010

(Ed. note: Motor scooters have, unfortunately, been most recently associated with that waif of an actor Zach Braff, thanks to his overrated “Garden State” movie. And that’s a shame because scooters are awesome — and can be quite  badass too (see Page 12). Anyway, read on to see why the proof is in the Vespa.)

Motor Scooters are one of the most popular forms of two-wheeled transportation.

In fact, there are more Vespa scooters on the road worldwide than Harley Davidsons (Harley even made its own scooter model, the Topper, in the ’60s).

In America today, scooters mainly fill a niche as city transportation, but can be found nearly everywhere.

The motor scooter has been around since the early 1900s. The post WWII era was easily the golden age of scooters. The slowdown (or breakdown, depending on which side of the war you were on) in the aviation industry left lots of aircraft parts, sharp engineers and design teams needing a focus, and a public need for affordable personal transportation. 

Italy’s Piaggio Company introduced its first Vespa model in 1946, and the Vespa has been the standard of scooters since.

A few months following, the Innocenti Company launched the Lambretta, sparking a 30 plus year rivalry resulting in the creation of the most exquisite Italian steel motor scooters produced.

• Small displacement motors are quick, efficient and capable of speeds up to 75MPH. Easy on gas; they often reach 100 miles to the gallon. Who says you need 1200cc’s of motor to lope along at 45 miles per hour?
• Style with a European heritage. Even many modern scooters harken back to the heyday of scooter design. Scooters have an enclosed motor to keep you clean and a legshield to keep you dry. A low seat height and step through frame allows anyone to comfortably ride and carry necessities. Scooters handle very easily, are light weight and fun to ride.
• Another point in favor of scooters is the uniqueness factor; you’re not riding another ‘cookie cutter’ sportbike, or cruiser.
• No Pedals = Not a Damn Moped!

Today’s market offers many variations on the original step through motorcycle. Most modern scooters have plastic bodies, use a continuously variable transmission (no clutch, just twist and go), and come in displacements of 50cc-800cc. Examples include:
• 50cc Honda Metropolitan, Honda Ruckus, SYM Mio
• 150cc Genuine Buddy, Vespa LX, Genuine Stella
• 200cc SYM HD 200, Aprilia Scarabeo
• 250cc and up Kymco Xciting, Yamaha Majesty

Seek out a reputable dealer. Ask about warranties and if they service what they sell. There is a growing problem with the increased sales of cheaply priced, low quality Chinese scooters.  Many break down prematurely, and parts can be very difficult if not impossible to find. Remember, you get what you pay for. Never buy a scooter from the Internet, sight unseen.

For those who appreciate vintage styling, have the skills and enjoy wrenching, vintage scooters can provide endless enjoyment and frustration. If you like the vintage, beware the “vietbodge.” Often seen on eBay, originating from southeast Asian countries, these are bikes or parts of bikes that have been pieced together with bondo, zip ties, cans or whatever else may have been on hand.  They often have shiny, eye-catching two-tone paint jobs and excessively silly chrome. These can be very dangerous, unreliable rides. An educated buyer should know what parts came on the particular model. This is also why you should buy from a reputable dealer who can support you should there be any issues with your ride.

Every major city has a club. There are vintage clubs, modern clubs, local, national and international clubs. Clubs focus on getting together for fun, scooter maintenance, hosting rallies and, of course, riding.  There are also many online forums for all things scooter. 

On Sept. 17-19, the Columbus Cutters are hosting their 13th Annual Scoot-a-Que Rally.  

Scooters are motorcycles, and West Virginia requires a motorcycle endorsement and helmet.  A Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course (www.wv-msp.org) is highly recommended.

Contact Alishiya and Matthew at