Scooter Motorcycles: Should you ditch your sportbike for them?
A motor scooter is defined as a small-engine motorcycle that allows your feet to pass through, rather than being straddled. Basically, you are seated in a ‘chair’ position, rather than straddling it like you would a horse. This is also called a ‘step-through frame’.
Scooter engines go underneath your seat or behind you, allowing the space for your feet where the engine would typically go on a motorcycle. The wheels and tires are smaller than those on a motorcycle. The scooter was originally designed to provide low-power personal transportation.
In general, a motor scooter is a more comfortable, less powerful, chair-seated version of a motorcycle. If you’re looking for more power, higher end models are available now that claim top speeds over 100 mph. Generally, though, scooters are not high powered vehicles. So that’s something to be aware of for a beginner, that you need to get used to having less power when riding, to keep yourself safe on the road.
Some smaller models may also have more unstable handling. These are things to be aware of when considering your purchase. There are models that are not ideal for highway driving, for example.
Photo by Illusive Photography
Scooters have been around since the early 1900’s. The first generation of motor scooters were somewhat unstable, with flexible frame issues, unless you spent the money for much higher-end ones.
The first continuously-variable transmission was introduced in 1938. Basically that means the first automatic transmission scooter. Many were manufactured for different military purposes worldwide.
Scooters grew in popularity after World War 1 and have been in demand ever since.
Advantages of a scooter motorcycle
Since you’re in a chair-like position, these bikes are much more comfortable than the classic hard-ride motorcycle. Being able to sit up straight is often better for your back as well.
Long distance travel
Again, being more comfortable, it’s much easier to ride for longer distances. Many scooters are designed to allow for a lot of storage, so you’ll be able to bring your things along. Most are designed to carry two passengers comfortably, which is important if you want to take a road trip with someone else.
Another factor in ease of use is automatic shifting. Having an automatic motorcycle allows a more inexperienced rider to enjoy the riding experience, which is important when considering what type of motorcycle to buy.
Scooters are very versatile. They are very good for riding in cities that are crowded because they are very maneuverable. They can also be parked almost anywhere, so that gives you a lot of freedom.
Scooters get great gas mileage, as they have smaller engines and less weight. Some get over 100 mpg. This is a very appealing factor, as everyone would like to spend less money on gas.
Disadvantages of a scooter bike
Photo by Tinou Bao
A lot of scooters just don’t have a very streamlined look to them. They pretty much are rolling chairs with handles in the front. Some people consider them to be not as attractive as a standard motorcycle.
They don’t go as fast as another type of motorcycle might. If you’re looking for speed, you’ll likely need to look at a standard motorcycle body to get the acceleration you’re looking for.
The design of scooters means they have higher drag, so that also slows them down somewhat.
Different types of scooter motorbikes
The current evolution of motor scooters is trending towards better diversity and consumer appeal. For example, the maxi-scooter. Maxis have larger engines, larger frames, and are usually designed to be very comfortable two-seater bikes.
Some manufacturers are attaching the engine to the frame itself, which allows better handling and moves the center of gravity on the bike farther forward. They may also be called a touring scooter.
Electric motors for scooters have typically been powered by batteries. More recently, the advancements in fuel cell technology have created a lot of promising prototypes. There are also petroleum-electric hybrid vehicles available on the market now.
Battery technology is still improving and there are models available that work very well. A rider would need to be aware of the battery capacity and make sure to keep the bike charged.
These are basic body modifications on a regular scooter. An enclosed scooter offers an actual roof and windscreen, so that you have much more protection from the elements.
Three-wheeled scooters have been around since World War 2. Modern versions have gotten to where they offer two front wheels with tilting suspension, allowing the body to lean when cornering just like a standard two-wheel motorcycle.
So, should you choose a motor scooter?
Photo by Ronnie Gavelin
They are cheap, they are light, they can be parked anywhere. The chair design means that almost anyone can ride one in comfort, even people with certain disabilities.
Motor scooters are really ideal for city transportation, and will also easily take you on a nice long cruise. Modern bikes offer newer body designs, and many options are now very stylish and attractive.
The insurance on a motor scooter also tends to be much less, so that can save you a bundle. Those living in the city may choose a scooter because they can save on long-term parking fees.
So overall, scooters cost less to purchase, less to run, and less to park than a standard full-size motorcycle. They are also a lot of fun to ride!