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Scooters to Beware Of (part 1: Modern)

If you're in the market for a scooter, the initial research can be quite daunting. You want a decent-looking bike that won't cost you much money, and there is a flood of makes and models you've just never heard of. It seems easier to buy a motorcycle in America, because you recognize almost every manufacturer name and can safely assume Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, etc. won't steer you wrong! However when you make the leap to scooter, there are three times as many manufacturers from all over the world. Roughly 75% of these scooters come from China and Southeast Asia, where traffic congestion is a way of life, poverty is very common, and often entire families will share a bicycle or scooter as the family vehicle. So an economical vehicle that burns very little gas is a serious concern, and often times, these economical concerns lead to completely substandard (and frequently dangerous) scooters being cranked out by the manufacturers as fast as their little 6-year-old fingers can assemble them!

Sounds ominous, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of manufacturers in India, Taiwan and South Korea that build perfectly wonderful bikes that are safe and affordable, however, be very aware of the bike that seems almost TOO affordable!

Much of the scooter traffic out there is not built, so much as it is cloned. Meaning, a lot of these scooters are substandard copies of other scooters built by other manufacturers, in a land where ripping off the competition is a way of life (these same people will be just as happy to sell you a discount "Rolecks" watch I'm sure). Most scooters built in the People's Republic of China seem to be victim of this identity. Scooters from makers such as Tank, Geely, Xtreme, Motofino, Strada, and Verucci, for example, are particularly suspect. Don't let the Italian names fool you - they're Chinese crap, branded with Italian and pseudo-Italian nomenclature to take advantage of a public that doesn't know any better. Even established names, like Schwinn, can be found on cheap Chinese imitation scooters. That makes scooter-shopping even MORE tricky, when a name you can trust lands on a scooter you cannot.

Another barbed cog in this wheel of injustice lies with the dealers (especially the internet dealers that you've never heard of, but Googled up and "Hey! Look at these great prices!"). There are few standards when it comes to dealership requirements, and basically anyone with a few thousand dollars buring a hole in their pocket can set up a shop in their back yard (then disappear completely when their stock is sold). Even worse, the drop-shipping outfits, operate much like a two-bit telemarketing office. Three guys in their apartment man their email accounts for incoming orders, send these orders to their scooter broker, and the rest is a tidy slice of profit, just for having an active email account and the ability to maintain their Google Adwords. What do you think happens when you eventually (or as is frequently the case: Immediately) have troubles? Who do you call? Will anyone get back to you with the needed support? How about a refund for what is now a leaky black-and-orange plastic lawn ornament? Not going to happen, you've been fleeced. Be thankful that you probably never had the misfortune of getting that deathrap onto the road!

So be sure to do your research, read the message boards, ask questions of friends who might know better, or you could even call up and ask some of the legitimate bike shops in town their opinion. Avoid any impulse buys, if it seems too good to be true -then it is. As for the pricetag on an unknown scooter, you may wonder "Just how safe is this 1,200-dollar scooter?" Well, how safe do you feel on a 1,200-dollar scooter?

Article by Kevin Montanaro


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