NOTICE TO CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS
Motor Scooters Today
Allow us to provide some information on the use of motor scooters in America -- street legal gas motorscooters and electric motorscooters. If you are considering the purchase of a road-ready gas motor scooter, already have one, or are simply an enthusiast who would like to discuss them, this is the right place to be.
A World Phenomenon
In Asia and Europe, gas motor scooter and electric powered scooters fill the streets. "Scooters are really only news to Americans. From Madrid to Madras, the scooter is an indispensable part of a typical street scene, and to urban dwellers in other major European cities, seeing a man or woman riding a gas powered scooter in business attire isn't a surprise. But the spread-out cities and gaping highways of the U.S. make the gas motor scooter less practical and therefore rarer. Gas motor scooters have become the predominant form of transportation in many places. Taiwan, with a population of 23 million has 11 million registered gas motor scooters -- almost one gas powered scooter for every two citizens. It is really only in America that large, heavy automobiles are used for even the smallest errands. Gas motor scooters have several advantages over cars and motorcycles in both efficiency and convenience, but the American commuter has yet to embrace these advantages fully though inroads are being made. Figures released by the Motorcycle Industry Council show that annual sales of the gas motor scooter has grown every year since 1999, when only 25,000 were sold. By 2004, sales had reached 86,000. Gas prices have continued to push sales even higher.
The motor scooter differs widely in concept from its close relative, the motorcycle. The motorcycle is very clearly a machine – it's got bits of machine sticking out all over the place, bits of motor showing there, tubes here, wires there, an unmistakable gas tank bloating out and exposed and a great roar is emitted from the engine. Oh yes, it also has a seat and footrests, almost as though they were an afterthought.
The Motor scooter
The motor scooter, on the other hand, is much more about the human -- the rider and passenger. It's easy to step into a motor scooter without having to swing one's leg over. There is a comfortable floor for one's feet. You can choose from several different sizes which include the 50cc motor scooter, 150cc motor scooter and 250cc motor scooter. Controls are minimal and very easy to use, noise output subdued, and the engine, fluids, fuel tank, wiring are all safely tucked away behind designer panels, cowling and fairings. The noisy, oily, hot, smelly, metallic power of the machine is not a part of the gas motor scooter riding experience. Instead, the motor scooter is more like an elegant piece of furniture whose whose look and feel is dictated not by the machine below but by aesthetics and the ergonomics of the human interface above.
Riding a motorcycle is rather like going on an ocean cruise and spending all one's time in the engine room instead of in luxury cabins and lounges. The motorcycle is consciously and unabashedly unevolved though it certainly inspires an atavistic primordial fascination. However, the gas motor scooter exemplifies intelligent evolution.
Fuel prices in Europe have always been higher than in the U.S. and have therefore always been more of a factor there. Recently, though, with gasoline exceeding $3 a gallon, this factor is gaining recognition even on the streets of America. Filling the 1 1/2 gallon gas tank of most gas motor scooters is barely significant in contrast with that of gassing up an SUV, minivan, or even a car.
When gasoline topped $3 in California, I reconsidered my old childhood dream of acquiring a gas motor scooter. The time was right. With the price of an inexpensive gas motor scooter being approximately equivalent to that of twelve tanks of gas in my pickup, and the glaring statistic that the point at which it would have paid for itself, insurance, and extraneous costs in gas savings -- was about 5000 miles, it was easy to justify the expense. It has since paid for itself in gas savings, and many times over in convenience and enjoyment.
-- With the payback point being what it is, a gas motor scooter is one of the most justifiable investments any driver with significant local traveling to do can possibly make. (Besides being a gas saver, it's also so much fun.)
Many are unaware of the low prices of low-end Chinese scooters. Although many scooters have gone up in price with the weak dollar, gasoline prices have increased even more. With some cheap scooters running for less than $1000, and many going for less than $1500, the return on a gas motor scooter investment can be just about a year, a compelling argument for them.Ease of Use
With the manual gearing of motorcycles -- clutch in the left hand and the gear shift operated by foot -- the learning curve for riding a motorcycle is daunting for many. Nearly all modern gas motor scooters, on the other hand, use stepless automatic transmissions which require no attention at all from the driver -- traffic, throttle and brake are the only concerns of a scooter driver. Commuting, shopping, visiting and most simple errands lend themselves easily to a scooter solution.Splitting Lanes
Together with motorcycles, scooters may proceed between lanes when car traffic has stopped or is creeping along. Even California law specifically permits it: Lane splitting is permissible if done in a safe and prudent manner according to the California Highway Patrol.Cargo Storage
Unlike most motorcycles, gas motor scooters generally have a lockable storage compartment under the seat. Many also have a lockable glove box in the front and a lockable factory "trunk" that bolts onto the storage rack in back. With room for picnic blanket, helmets, jackets, chessboard, emergency frisbee, and an ever-useful jar of pickled onions, one is equipped for the unexpected contingency, and as compartments are lockable, one needn't carry one's equipment into and out of department stores, airport terminals and pubs guarded by humourless unimaginative goons named Spike.Motorscooter Codger Appeal -- The Aging Scooterist
Many who drove scooters in the fifties and sixties (as well as many who didn't but would have liked to) are returning to the old dream.
This retro-fascination is clearly demonstrated by the changing demographics of Motorscooter purchase. In 1990, retired people accounted for only 7.5 percent of gas motor scooter sales, whereas in 2003, that percentage had risen to 22 percent. The median age of scooter owners increased from 26 in 1990 to 46 in 2003.All-weather Scootering
A gas motor scooter is far better equipped for driving -- and staying dry -- in inclement weather than is a bicycle or motorcycle, this largely because the step through design both protects one somewhat and also permits one to wear full length raingear -- generally backward.Comfort
Many find motor scooters more comfortable than motorcycles, at least the small ones. The simple step-in step-out feature also makes them more convenient, especially when one has a large trunk attached over which one would otherwise have to swing one's leg.Insurance Savings
Motor scooters are more inexpensive to insure than larger vehicles. Insurance requirements for scooters are usually more flexible than equivalent liability coverage for cars and motorcycles as gas motor scooters simply aren't capable of inflicting damage on the same scale as cars and even motorcycles.
Motorscooter/Motorcycle Safety Issues
An expert and experienced motorcycle rider is so comfortable with the complex gear-shifting tasks of his/her vehicle that they probably pose no serious distraction hazards and safety issues. However, this is a level of skill acquired only after much practice. During that practice time required to achieve that skill level, that driver is on the road, fumbling to a greater or lesser extent with the gearing. This fact in itself renders the motorcycle more dangerous to drive, and less likely to be driven on a regular basis by an overwhelming number of people. Driving a motorscooter, on the other hand, requires very little attention from its driver from the very first day of operation. It is much easier to and safer to become an expert and experienced motorscooter rider than a motorcyclist.
Much of the engine and mechanism of a motorcycle is exposed, both exposing the driver to potential contact with hot engine parts and exposing the engine itself to sun, rain, wind, mud, and other environmental hazards. The gas motor scooter, enclosed with panels as it is, not only minimizes these problems, but presents a cleaner more aesthetic image to the onlooker. The scooter image differs greatly from that of the motorcycle.
Another significant advantage of the scooter is the fact that one's legs which, on a motorcycle straddle the vehicle, rest on the floor of the scooter and are entirely within the body of the machine. Unlike on a motorcycle, they are not the first thing to be struck in the event of a collision and one's leg does not necessarily end up underneath the vehicle if it falls over. Of course, injury is still a danger not to be discounted, but scooters have some advantages.How to Justfy Buying a Motorscooter (to your spouse, parents, or yourself)
This can be a tricky challenge. If you are a teenager trying to persuade your parents, an octagenarian looking for a new experience, or just a parent going through a midlife crisis and trying to persuade her children that has not gone entirely bananas, we have attempted to put a set of cogent arguments together for you. Our goal is to put you on a gas motor scooter.Here's how to explain it to your spouse, parents (or children):
Each mile in an SUV costs in gas PPG/MPG where PPG is the price per gallon and MPG is the mileage of your vehicle. If the price per gallon is $3.00 and your vehicle gets 12 miles per gallon, 3/12 = a cost of $0.25 per mile.
Now calculate cost/mile for a gas motor scooter, guzzling gas by the teaspoon and getting 85 MPG... about three and a half cents a mile.
With these figures, it is simple to see that each mile on a gas motor scooter costs $0.215 less than it would in an SUV.
Thus, you can see your savings on your gas motor scooter's odometer. When it reaches 5000 miles, you will have saved 5000 x $0.215 or $1075.00. It is clear that, if you have purchased a cheap gas motor scooter before your motor scooter registers 10,000 miles, it will have paid for the cost of the scooter and insurance, and be keeping significant savings in your pocket – even if your car gets a good deal better than 12 MPG.
Fuel economy and emission reduction alone justify the decision to use motorscooters for local commuting, but the history and image statement reflectedby a gas motor scooter are also major factors in its acceptance throughout the world and its gradual increase in popularity in the States.
Motor scooter technology has improved a great deal since the early two-cycle machines of the 50s and 60s and the scooter world has split largely between devotees to the classic design, high dollar motor scooters of Italian and American make (commonly upwards of $4000), and the modern Chinese imports, some quite reputable at a fraction of the price -- with the better established Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese machines somewhere in between (though it must be noted that many of the high-end espensive scooters have their parts made in China anyway). There is also growing pariticipation by Electric Scooters, a technology which has seen such improvement that they have become a very viable option for commuting.Buying Inexpensive Scooters Online
Many would-be scooter riders fear that buying a scooter online is a very risky business, that it is too easy for online distributers to ignore customer queries, complaints, and problems. This assumption is also strongly encouraged by brick-and-mortar dealerships. The reality of online scooter purchasing is another story. Yes, there are unscrupulous online dealers who ignore their customers, but these generally don't stay in business for very long. Some dealers have generally good track records over a number of years and have many satisfied customers.
One characteristic of inexpensive scooters is that repair costs are naturally going to be more as a percentage of the price of the scooter than would be the case with a more expensive scooter. Though the actual cost of repair may not differ greatly, if faced with a $600 repair prospect (and trouble-shooting can be tricky with any machine), the $999 scooter owner is more likely to opt for a new scooter than is the $4000 Vespa owner. This innate disposability is somewhat unfortunate from an ecological perspective but is definitely a factor in the ownership of an inexpensive scooter in a developed country. On the other hand, the milage achieved with a Vespa is not particularly good and is even surpassed by some fuel-efficient cars, let alone by modern high-efficiency inexpensive scooters.Cutting Through the Confusion
The Economical Choice
Scooters are such an obvious and elegant solution to simple transportation in a world of steeply rising gas prices. Since cost so often is a factor in the decision to buy a gas motor scooter, it is the inexpensive scooters which are most likely to make a motorscooter revoltuion possible and those can be a viable option.
We hope that you will find scooters a part of your future and will recommend them to others.