All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.

Mark Twain

Scooters are muy peligroso because o’ ’dem teeny little wheels! They’re slow because they only have 49cc engines! Why would I want one when a real motorcycle is better? Arrrg! Motorcyclists are so misinformed about scooters it’s like talking to medieval peasants. “Burn the scooter! Burn the scooter! It is a tool of the devil, with its tiny, satanic wheels and un-Godly giant underseat storage!” Me not understand scooter. Me smash scooter!

Luckily, thanks to the modern marvel that is Motorcycle.com, you no longer need be ignorant. I, the enlightened coastal elite moto-journalist, will inform and uplift you, the unwashed and ignorant savage square-state big-bike rider, and you will move to Santa Monica, open an aromatherapy studio, and purchase a Vespa 946. No, no: there’s no need to thank me. Just read and learn, o mortal:

Moments after Troy Siahaan snapped this photo, Evans’ Grom mysteriously fell over because 12-inch wheels are just too small to be stable. Sadly, Evans had also just eaten a bag of Pop Rocks and drank a bottle of Coca-Cola. His stomach exploded and he instantly died.

Moments after Troy Siahaan snapped this photo, Evans’ Grom mysteriously fell over because 12-inch wheels are just too small to be stable. Sadly, Evans had also just eaten a bag of Pop Rocks and drank a bottle of Coca-Cola. His stomach exploded and he instantly died.

Oh, but your buddy Dave said they are, so I guess that’s why millions and millions of scooterists are just crashing for no apparent reason as their scooters suddenly highside. Said no scientific study ever. The fact is that scooters are highly represented in crash data worldwide because there are a lot more scooters sold than motorcycles, and the riders tend to be younger and more likely to engage in risky behaviors, researcher politeness-talk for “scooter riders are idiots.” But there’s little in the actual scientific data that points to scooters being somehow inherently dangerous. Maybe dangerously fun, but not dangerously dangerous.

If you think small wheels – and most scoots have at least 12-inch wheels – are unstable, whatever that means, please see the exploits of MO’s own racing team, which managed a jillion laps on teeny-weeny Grom wheels without suddenly losing control because of lack of gyroscopic effect, or whatever pseudo-scientific baloney Dave told you. Where they do want is going over obstacles like bumps and potholes, but you know that and you tailor your riding style accordingly (politeness speak for “not being an idiot”). Are cruisers “inherently dangerous” because they don’t have as much cornering clearance as sportbikes? Are sportbikes a hazard because they don’t go over speed humps as easily as an enduro? Oh, please.

Scooters comes in many sizes, including the motorcycle-like Suzuki Burgman 650. Photo: Suzuki.

Scooters comes in many sizes, including the motorcycle-like Suzuki Burgman 650. Photo by Suzuki

Somehow, there are a sizable number of motorcyclists who don’t understand that scooters, like motorcycles, come in all levels of performance, just like motorcycles. From the can’t-bust-a-wet-paper-bag 49cc Razz of the ’80s to the feared-by-all 850cc V-Twin Gilera SRV, you can find a huge range of power. Both the mighty Suzuki Burgman 650 and the Yamaha TMAX (sadly stripped from our market, sob) will haul serious ass with their two-cylinder engines.

Even when they are actually slow – most scooters are 150cc or smaller – they are so light and the power is so easily accessed thanks to the CVT transmission, that they don’t feel slow for their intended purpose – getting around town. If you think you can beat me across San Francisco on a GSX-R1000 because I’m riding a Burgman 200 you haven’t ridden a motorcycle in San Francisco, or you have no self-preservation instinct at all. There’ll be a crab Louie waiting for you at the Cliff House. I won’t order the clam chowder because it’ll be cold by the time you get there.

Triz gets all cray with a TMAX. Photo: Evans Brasfield.

Triz gets all cray with a TMAX. Photo: Evans Brasfield.

It is true. Some scooters are built as very low-budget commuting tools and would be at a disadvantage on a racetrack against a 1985 Chevy Geo. Others, though, do have what it takes. I tested the Yamaha TMAX and it was amazing, a similar design to Dan Gurney’s famed Alligator. It boasts a rigid aluminum frame and laydown Twin that feels like it’s about six inches off the ground. It went through corners like it was on Velcro, and I angered many sportbike riders passing them on the outside.

Sadly, most scooters are unlike the Burgman 650 and TMAX and locate the motor as a combined swingarm/drive unit, which is Not Good for unsprung mass and weight distribution. That limits the effectiveness of the front suspension and overworks the rear suspension, which is usually underdamped and oversprung and goes over bumps like Kathy Bates on a pogo stick. But they’re also usually pretty light, 300 pounds or less, and being 100 pounds or more lighter than your riding buddies can turn into some serious leads, regardless of how badly the suspension works.

After all, did Jim Redman complain about lesser-talented riders passing him in the straights on their two-smokers? Probably, but he won anyway. A true artist doesn’t blame his tools, and if you’re slow on your scooter you need to learn how to ride better. Just sayin’.

060717-skidmarks-riding-gear

Mention scooters, and inevitably somebody will point out how scooterists ride around town wearing less protective gear than they’d wear to play beach volleyball, which is true, but not really a valid criticism of scooters themselves. It’s actually speaks to an advantage of scooters, if you think about it: they’re so cute, fun and inviting that you don’t think you could possibly be hurt riding one, but believe me, types the guy who hit the rear bumper of a very nice Turkish lady’s Jetta on I-5 one sunny Thursday leading to a worker’s comp claim, you can. ATGATT on a scooter is a must, like anything you ride, but it doesn’t have to survive triple-digit crashes.

Durable pants, securely fastening over-the-ankle shoes, an armored, abrasion-resistant jacket and full-face helmet are what you should wear around town at a minimum, just like a motorcyclist. Why scooterists think God beams his benevolent gaze upon them because they’re riding a cute lil’ scoot is a mystery.

And speaking of under-protected riders, yesterday I saw an old, porcine man riding an equally old and porcine BMW GS while wearing shorts, a tattered ADV-style jacket, huaraches and no gloves, but that’s not an argument against either being large and doughy or riding a BMW. It is an argument against wearing short shorts in your 60s, though. Yuck.

Peter Jones levitating to work at Kymco.

Peter Jones levitating to work at Kymco.

Oh, not you, oh-so-manly he-man with your giant diesel truck and motocross trophies and half-empty jars of protein powder all over your garage, you’d never ride a scooter. Or would you? Kymco PR guy Peter Jones, as manly a man as you can imagine as long as your imagination is limited to 1990s Lifetime Network movies, rides a scooter and told me that scooter demographics in the USA are all over the map when it comes to age and experience.

Many scooter buyers, especially of larger-displacement models, are older, experienced riders who want a lower-impact riding experience, often because of health issues or a disability. If you had a hand injury and couldn’t squeeze a clutch, or if you lost a foot and couldn’t shift gears, would you really give up riding forever just because of your oh-so-important image? If you’d rather take the bus than be seen on a scooter, I question your commitment to your sport. Are you in it for the image or the experience?

“Ha, ha, ha,” laughs Gabe. “We are all having such fun, being candidly photographed. This is not staged at all.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” laughs Gabe. “We are all having such fun, being candidly photographed. This is not staged at all.”

That’s the main thing I’ve learned in three decades of riding scooters. The latest case in point is Miccah D, whom I met last week on my Kymco event in Asheville, North Carolina. Miccah came to scootering late in life, a county employee and mom of two looking for a fun way to get around. She bought a Vespa and has been riding a couple of years, a self-described “glorified commuter.”

She showed up as the least-experienced rider by far in the company of veteran journalists with thousands of miles riding experience on every kind of motorcycle on any racetrack, road or trail you can name. Miccah fearlessly tackled gnarled roads, highways and city streets with aplomb, keeping up with our egos rain or shine. The choice of a scooter says nothing about your character – only your choice of how you ride does.

And if anybody posts the dumb joke about fat chicks, my column will be about nothing but scooters for the next six months, so help me.


Gabe Ets-Hokin is the 2002 Sanctimonious Prick of the Year Award winner for his book, My SV650 is the Best Bike Ever so STFU.” It’s available as packing material at your local FedEx office outlet.

  • Old MOron

    “Peter Jones, as manly a man as you can imagine as long as your imagination is limited to 1990s Lifetime Network movies.”

    Bwa-ha-ha, funniest cut I’ve heard in a long time. That one, alone, was worth the MOronic subscription fee.

    Here’s the 7th thing about scooters: if you can find a girl who rides a scooter and who can put up with you, marry her!

    http://motorcycle.com.vsassets.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ash_kim_ray1.jpg

    • I actually have great respect for PJ. He’s really great to hang out with and an outstanding writer.

      • Old MOron

        Great to hang out with, an outstanding writer, AND he can take a joke.

  • Ulysses Araujo

    Thanks for the one page format, helps a lot especially reading on the phone (those damn​ little buttons!).

    Regarding scooters, we medieval ignorants want to know: do they float? (Monty Python jokes are old, I get it) Seriously though, any difference because of the altered center of mass position when riding in low grip conditions such as wet pavement?

    • DL Nielsen

      As someone who regularly rides a Honda Helix to work during the summer months and who regularly gets caught in the 5pm summer thunderstorm (rainsuit always stowed in the trunk for such occasions), I have experience. No, scooters do not handle any differently in low-grip situations than motorcycles do. I have an FJR1300 for cross-country trips. The scooter is just as capable as the FJR in wet conditions. Because she (the Helix) is relatively light and low to the ground, I willingly tackle dirt roads and paths with her with no problems; places I would not go on the FJR.

  • John B.

    7. If you find yourself two-up, and needing to transport 80 ducks, 20 chickens, and a bird house around Ho Chi Minh City, it’s the only way to go. I didn’t want to post a photo without the owner’s permission, but you can Google it for yourself and see scooters serve an important role in poultry transportation.

    • …and I’ve seen a lot of turkeys riding motorcycles, too. Ba-rump-pump!

      • John B.

        Can’t argue with that.

        I would say Scooters work well in great cities like San Francisco, Rome, and Bangkok, and not so great in places like Dallas and Phoenix.

        • Douglas

          Well, ya just gotta have a big enuf one (150 or more) for those 40-45mph main streets in PHX, DFW, HOU, LAX, OKC, et al,….but places like SFO, BOS, PDX, AUS….the 125’s work great. The 50’s aren’t much good for anything but villages or campuses (at least I don’t think so)….

          • Agreed, unless it’s a kitted 2-stroke.

          • thm4855

            But is it legal to to the highway with only 50ccm? I thought it was a law that you have to keep up with the speed.

        • Expat47

          Here in Athens, Greece you best be able to hit 100KpH (60MpH) or know how to bob & weave. We don’t put up with a whimpy 40!

          • Douglas

            That’s tellin’ em, boy howdy!….

  • David de Vernon

    Many years ago, I sold a Honda Fireblade to buy a Vespa. Best decision I made. I used the Fireblade as a daily driver in very heavy traffic.

    Now days I use a Honda 150 PCX, its paid off and I’ll add something fun for the weekends sooner or later.

  • DL Nielsen

    I have 6 scooters ranging from 250cc – 530cc, and 12 motorcycles ranging from 800cc – 1300cc. I don’t get the scooter vs motorcycle divide. I have fun on all of them and enjoy each for a different reason. From the Helix to the TMAX, and from the Tiger XRx to the FJRs, I enjoy them all. I just traded a Honda Magna in on a new 2016 Aprilia Tuono RR this spring. The Tuono is a blast to ride but doesn’t quite cut it when you want to go shopping. 🙂

    • John A. Stockman

      I don’t get the hostility either. I wasn’t a hater, just a skeptical sort regarding power and handling. As my disability continues to get worse, I kept exploring my options. A local dealer I’d done business with, and offers terrific customer service, asked me if I’d ever ridden something like a Burgman. No, just the usual 50cc scooters. He had a left-over previous year Burgman 400 and said I should take it for a ride. That’s all it took. The handling, braking, lean angles and power were quite good. I started out on a KZ250, then moved up to a KZ440. I had 3 KZ440s in succession over the next 12 years. The Burgman 400 had more power and acceleration than the 440, and could easily travel at 70mph as long as I could. I bought that Burgman right after the test ride and never regretted it. Because of that bike, I was able to extend my riding “career” many years. I learned what a “retracted” wave was. I took many long trips on it, always wore my complete kit and got 65mpg doing it. Great article, keep ’em coming! It also gave me opportunities to meet many cute girls, who apparently regard these bigger scooters as accessible and approachable. Many pillion rides ensued…because I could carry an extra helmet under the seat! Being a disabled guy riding a motorcycle was enough of a novelty, but riding a cool looking scooter (from the front according to many observers) like the Burgman made it even more so.

  • thm4855

    ” Motorcyclists are so misinformed about scooters ” – no, we are not, lets clear up one thing, a 50ccm is not a scooter, its a moped – but because of design ofte called scooter.
    A scooter is 100/114/125/150-55/250and up. Moped – motor/pedals are not allowed on the highways in US – am I right here? And the 2stroke is forbidden because of the pollution from the oil/benzin mixture, and also the lack of speed. I use my Yamaha d-elight 114ccm scooter in the city for shopping, and my Harley Lowrider 103cui for the tour. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a6817691bcf8534bafa2a27d31b03a7b45ef7ffd5393c9943571252dc76db5a4.jpg

    • Every state has different regulations regarding classifications of motorcycles and freeway legality. In California, a moped has pedals, and a “motor-driven cycle” is every street-legal two-wheeled motorized vehicle smaller than 150cc. A “motorized bicycle” is supposed to be speed-limited to 20 mph and doesn’t require insurance or registration. A “motorized scooter” is a thing you ride while standing on like a Go-Ped. Clear as mud, right?

      • thm4855

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b2ac2c2cadc17cfb736c871f9280384407bd3c544743ba95d75080bfa198a1a5.jpg Yes, I know that, but if you take a trip to another state and you are stopped for checking – will you have trouble because of that? I live in Norway, – we have the same laws/rules in all communities. Our mopeds dont have pedals, – also called scooters here, beacuse of the design, and turnsignals are integrated in the body – mostly in the front, but there is a difference in US, – the signals are to be a minimum distance form the center og the vehicle, which is a problem when you park in your own narrow garage – easy to break even if they are rubbermounted.

        • Yeah! DOT-mandated turnsignals are horribly ugly, but what can you do? The DOT has spoken.

          The way it works in the US is that if your state license authorizes you to ride your motorcycle/scooter/what have you, you can ride in any other US state, so if you’re just passing through it’s no problem.

          But most states require you to get a driver’s license in the state you live in, so if you move to California from Utah, you’ll have to get a motorcycle license to ride your scooter when you register it in California and you take up permanent residence in California. The exception (at least in CA) is for college students and military, who can keep their home-of-record license.

          • thm4855

            OK – thank you for answer – it seems to me its better to stay home or take the bus, if you are unsure.

          • Ha! In California people ride for years with the wrong license or no license. Sometimes even the cops don’t know what license you need.

    • cdw

      Not all two strokes are slow. On the scooter cannonball many of the vintage Vespas cruised at 65 without issues. Okay 65 isn’t exactly record breaking speed but it isn’t slow.

      • Snowblind

        I love the look on people’s faces when I take off on my Hot Rod Al modified P200.

        Keeping the nose down is the hardest part!

        • I rode Barry Synoground’s legendary 100-mph, 30-plus hp touring Lambretta. Terrifying!

      • I got involved with MO when I was Derbi’s star salesman for California and let Sean Alexander ride my kitted 72cc supermoto (the stories have swirled down the Internet rabbit hole, sadly). Good times.

      • thm4855

        I know that cdw – a 2stroke engine is much faster in start (accelaration) than a 4stroke. And 2stroke mopeds (50ccm) are the most sold mopeds here in Norway, it seems to me that all the youngsters have one.

  • JMDGT

    Nothing wrong with a scooter. Utility and fun. What else do you need to know?

  • notfishing

    I figure we’re all going to eventually be on scooters if we ride until we’re gone. At 63 it’s getting harder and harder for me to swing a leg over, muscle around a 550 lb liter+ bike.

  • johnbutnotforgotten

    First a slight correction.
    As thm4855 points out “Moped” means motor and pedals. if it ain’t got pedals, it ain’t a moped.
    Most 50cc scooters do not have pedals, therefore they are not mopeds.
    So even scooter riders can be misinformed about scooters
    Most 50cc scooters are considered “limited speed motorcycles” in Canada (i helped write the definition of LSM for the BC Motor Vehicle Act and only the CVT ones are LSMs in BC)
    Re your GSXR example, when i was teaching advanced rider training in the 80’s i had a course with a student who built drag cars, riding a GSXR 750, and a university student on an Aero 80.
    By the end of the course the guy on the Aero 80 was lapping our police training course faster than the GSXR (with the rear footrests bouncing off the concrete in corners)
    Around town i’ll take my Piaggio 250 MP3 or my Zero S over my Moto Guzzi 1000SP or California Special Sport any day.

    • John Ferguson

      Many states call 50s mopeds…offhand, NH 50cc scooters get moped plates.

  • sgray44444

    Gotta admit it… I have always wanted a Burgman 650 for commuting. Seems like an ideal way to get to work. The only thing I’ve never liked about a scooter is the open feeling. It doesn’t allow you to get a knee onto the tank to shift weight.

    • …but you can hang your purse under the handlebars, which makes up for it.

  • Robert Goggin

    I bought my Suzuki Burgman 650 a month ago. Since then I have put over 1700 miles on it. Due to medical reasons I have stepped down from a Yamaha Stratoliner 1900. The scooter handles more like a sport bike, can out corner my old bike, easier to get on. My biggest problem is having to watch the speedometer because I tend to go too fast on it(speed limit wise). I didn’t want to go with the third wheel yet so the scooter was a great choice. BTW I am a past first officer of a large riding club and am still an officer in the club.

    • Keep ridin’ Bob!

    • michael32853hutson@yahoo.com

      that’s a fair amount of miles for a month!

  • michael32853hutson@yahoo.com

    good for you Gabe! after all the point is to get mo’ folks on 2 wheels,and we can’t all be Marlon Brando(or Lee Marvin)(or Steve McQueen)

  • Expat47

    So, if we DON’T post a fat chick joke we DON’T get any more scooter articles?

    • You won’t not won’t get them. Remember: nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.

  • pwndecaf

    I have four bikes, two being scooters. The scoots are a Yamaha TMAX and an Aprilia Atlantic 500, so both are fine on the interstate, but not my first choice if I am planning on traveling there, but definitely not out of place, either.

    My only wish is that they had named them something other than SCOOTERS. In Wisconsin, a moped is 49cc and lower and a motorcycle is anything above that. People see my scoot and say, “Oh, you have a moped.” I say, “No, it’s a SCOOT-er” with voice rising appropriately on the first syllable. Bah!

  • Campisi

    Scooters are like fat chicks: lots of fun, but if your friends see you with one Gabe writes about it for six months.

    • Goddamn it! Next month: naked photos of me on a Razz 50.

  • Pasha

    Upgraded from the 400 majesty to the 650 Burgman executive, the ride can’t be better!

  • BTRDAYZ

    Wait a minute! Are we NOT getting the new 2017 TMax here in the US?!!! I’ve been looking at the TMax or BMW C 600 Sport, and I’m leaning TMax if we get the new model.

  • James Edward Zeiser

    I only have one question. Why are the only articles I see on this subject people defending scooters. Where are all the articles extolling the virtues of a motorcycle against a scooter located? Could it be that scooter owners are a tad bit insecure or defensive? BTW I own two scooters and several bikes. They’re all the same to me.

  • Thomas J.Stratford

    The author is a retard! The science proving scooters are less stable is called “physics” , specific to center of gravity! Now let’s see all those stable scooters used to do ramp jumps, and their compatibility in dirt track racing to motorcycles. Too funny!

  • Steve Birkin

    ‘.. It is an argument against wearing short shorts in your 60s, though. Yuck…’ I am 61 this year and a fully qualified sex god…

  • l’ingenieur