on Selecting Your Scooter
life of a scooterist is a happy one. You will spend less money at
the gas pump, riding is pleasureable, will experience the joy of
riding around the town or countryside without the steel and glass
"cage" of a car isolating you from the outside world,
and you'll look cool and get the golden opportunity to hang out
with folks like us! It's a good purchase, we as Americans are gasoline-addicted
as it is, so the smaller your oil-eating footprint is the better
off we'll ALL be! Not to mention, parking is easier, insurance is
MUCH cheaper, and getting around all the traffic is just a snap.
Safer? Not really - anyone who rides without the luxury of 4 stable
wheels, airbags, seatbelts, a crumple-proof body around you, and
a larger profile for all the other drivers to see is skirting danger
more readily than your average Suburban Uh'sault Vehilce driver.
However, I have personally found that my scooter is much safer to
ride in city traffic than my big-bore motorcycle, because of its
tighter turning radius, lighter weight and greater lower-end torque
- I feel I have more control over my vehicle.
first task in the rites of scooterdom is to figure out exactly WHICH
scooter you want to ride. This is not always an easy task, as your
options are quite varied, and you might want to do a good deal of
research before you select a model. Why are you getting the scooter?
What kind of riding do you plan to do with it? How much do you want
to spend on it? How good are you with a wrench? These are all good
questions to start with, and will dictate what kind of scooter you
want to choose as your second skin.
would be a good place to start this discussion, especially considering
you're at vtscoot.com and not honda.com. The vintage scooters such
as Vespa, Lambretta, Heinkel and Fuji look like almost nothing else
on the street, hold a special place in motorized history, and are
terribly easy to fall in love with. There are a lot of reasons to
purchase a vintage scooter, but even more reasons NOT to buy one!
I would have no other scooter. I love my old Vespa, it's a big part
of me both aesthetically as well as culturally, but she's not always
an easy mistress. These are older bikes, some of them older than
40 years, and so you're dealing with older technology and older
materials. If you're not good with a wrench, or don't think you'll
want to take the time to do regular (and occasionally frequent)
maintenance, a vintage scooter might not be the bike for you. A
vintage scooter can be quite reliable as far as vintage vehicles
go, but if your main purpose is simple reliability nothing beats
a brand-spanking new vehicle.
the other hand, you don't neccessarily have to be a seasoned mechanic
to keep your vintage scoot running in top condition. The technology
is old and the design simple. You won't need computerized equipment,
or welding torches, or even an air compressor to work on your bike,
and nowadays parts and information are as easy as a few well-placed
clicks of your mouse. If you're willing to learn, and put in the
time, you can in fact teach yourself to be a scooter mechanic, and
you will get to know your scooter more than most people know their
scooters also drive differently than your modern twist-n-go scooters.
Most modern scooters have automatic transmission, twist the throttle
and you're going! Almost nothing to learn as far as that goes. Vintage
scooters, on the other hand, are almost all manual-shift vehicles.
Though many people might not see how this makes a difference, a
lot of people would shy away from anything with manual transmission...
"Sure, I can learn and get used to clutching and shifting,
but this is just a zip-about-town bike so I really don't want to!"
Most vintage enthusiasts (myself included) love love LOVE the manual
shifting, love that "clack" sound as you change from one
shift to the next and the greater sense of motorscooter "Zen"
you get with more direct activity.
is a middle ground, of course, in the modern-built "retro"
scooters. These can be as contrived as most modern retro scooters
that have the aesthetic flavor (though not completely), or scooters
like Genuine Scooter Co.'s "Stella" or Bajaj's "Cheetak,"
which maintain the older lines better and keep the manual shifting.
Both models have been discontinued (though the Stella is going to
be making a comeback), but you can find plenty of used Stellas and
Cheetaks if you look for them.
scooters, by nature, are smaller than other bikes on the road, but
not all scooters are built alike. Here is where you want to know
what kind of riding you plan to do. If you want to just zip around
town and take nice leisurely rides, a 49cc scooter could fit your
needs quite nicely. These are classified by the VT DMV as "Mopeds"
because they have displacements less than 50cc, and have a top speed
of 30-45mph. You do not need a motorcycle endorsement to ride one
of these (only a regular drivers' license), there are no helmet
laws with "mopeds," annual registration is only 15 dollars
(and insurance is cheap), and you can park it on the sidewalk. However,
you are limited in where you can ride this small a scooter.
scooters (80cc, 150cc, 250cc, etc) are still very light but have
greater horsepower, so you can go much faster (many with a top speed
of 60-70mph). Mind you, this is not your cruising speed, more like
your passing speed. You could expect your scooter to cruise at a
good 45-50mph with that kind of horsepower, which is great for riding
up Rte 15 or on Spear Street between Burlington and Charlotte, but
you might feel a little slow on Rte 2, or Rte 7, and you certainly
cannot take I-89! That's not what these bikes are designed for.
you want a scooter you can take just about anywhere, you might look
into a "maxi-scooter," such as the Suzuki Burgman, the
Honda Silverwing, the Yamaha Majesty, or the Kymco Xcting. These
run between 400 and 650cc in engine size, and give you much more
horsepower than other (stock) scooters. However, these are more
like step-through motorcycles than they are scooters, at which point
you might want to ask yourself "Do I indeed want a scooter,
or am I more in the market for a motorcycle?"
Scooter Do I Buy?
that we've narrowed down your style of riding, you're going to want
to look into the actual scooter itself. Here there are a lot of
things to consider, such as price, performance, reliability, and
availability of parts and labor.
off the bat I have to stress that price isn't everything! I was
recently asked "I'm assuming that getting an expensive scooter
will provide me a pretty reliable form of transportation?"
when addressing a potential purchase of a brand-new 6-thousand dollar
Vespa. On the other side of the spectrum, you could ask "How
safe and reliable is this 1,300 Vento scooter?" How safe do
you FEEL on a $1,300-dollar Vento scooter? For most riders I wouldn't
recommend buying a 5,000-dollar Vespa unless you are tied to the
brand name or want it as a fashion accessory, and I would never,
ever reccomend purchasing an 1,100-dollar "Tank"-brand
scooter - unless you used to pick on me in high school!
are some major scooter companies to consider:
list only addresses scooters currently being manufactured--
Do I Buy It?
a good question! If we were in San Francisco, or New York or Chicago
it would be a piece of cake to go out and get any scooter, new or
vintage. However here in Vermont our options are significantly more
limited, as our scooter scene is in its absolute infancy. If we
wanted to get a major-label Japanese scooter it would be as simple
as going to Roadside
Marine or Land
Air, however if you're looking for a Derbi, Kymco or a Stella
the options become tricky - and even moreso if you're looking for
a vintage bike!
1: Never buy a vintage Vespa on Ebay
are just far too many Asian deathtraps out there, non-roadworthy
antiques that are 95% bondo and paintjob, slapped together with
some substandard engine work in some Vietnamese, Malaysian or Cambodian
garage. It looks great in the pictures, all the fancy chrome, shiny
colors and two-tone leather seats, and the price is out of this
world! Get it home and take off the paint and bondo and you'll find
a frame with rust and with holes on the verge of folding inward,
or built with the parts of other bikes welded onto the frame to
make one complete bike... and I don't even want to TALK about what
you'll find in the motor and electricals!
the exception of ScootRS,
I would avoid any and all Southeast Asian vintage Vespa/ Lambretta
restoration shops, on Ebay or otherwise. There are plenty of shops
here in the United States that can ship a scooter to you.
2: The Internet Can Be Your Friend
should regularly check a variety of internet resources to locate
your scooter. Looking on scoot.net
or on scooterbbs
(or even in the Free
Press classified ads) for used scooters is a good start. You
can find any number of good scooters, in good condition, with reasonable
prices. Sometimes they can crate it and send it to you forward air,
other times you'll need to make your own arrangements - be sure
you know in advance as to how the delivery portion is to be handled.
can also use these resources to locate reliable dealers who can
take care of your scooter needs and ship them to you. Some examples
of reliable shops are SCOMO,
Scooter Center, Scooterworks,
the internet can mislead you as well. Those same shops in Singapore
and Burma that I mentioned earlier will often disguise themselves
as American companies - hook up with an American reseller, get a
dealership set up, and start pumping Asian restos into these shops.
As far as their victims are concerned, these are top-notch Italian-shipped
Vespas sold in an exclusively American shop, but in reality they
are the same deathtraps found on Ebay. So if you're not sure about
a particular shop online, ask around the scooter forums.
3: If All Else Fails, Just Go and Get It
are close enough to a number of metropolitan areas that, if all
other options fail, you can rent/ borrow a truck or van and drive
to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York or Connecticut and pick
up a scooter like anyone else. Plenty of people do it all the time,
granted it's probably the most troublesome way of attaining a scooter
(unless you already own a van and enjoy driving it all day long),
but I suppose if you really want that scooter it's a small price
Article by Kevin Montanaro