2002 Scooter Smackdown
In Which Calvin, Stickie Actually Smack Down
Get the Flash Player to see this player.Impressions
That's right; God gave man wine because he wants him to be happy, and it's the Vino for me. Big powah, combined with absolutely no road feel whatsoever from the leading-link fork. Anyway, it looks cool, and how much trouble can you get in with a 40-mph top speed anyway, Calvin? Ah, Calvin. With a commanding lead on the first lap in the Normandie Ave. 50cc GP, Hackfu threw it down the road. I feel the video is one of MO's finest postings ever. After the fall, Calvin put on his gloves (I think to contain the swelling. Good times.)
Good times are in fact what these scoots are all about. You can't travel on them very far (though if you've got time to take surface streets, oh the places you'll go.) But when you're hanging in the 'hood, they're tough to beat -- especially if the 'hood is near a California beach where parking is tight during the summer. Throw a twelver of chilled beverages and a bag of ice in the underseat compartment and you are ready to roll out in commanding style in chrome beanie, cool shades, flip-flops and board shorts.
Yamaha's Zuma (which was here but somehow isn't in the test) would be my second pick -- it's the only one you can take a passenger on. (Only one you're supposed to take a passenger on anyway.)
You can drop a little kid off at school easily on any of these and be the hero -- and they're fantastic for quick errands close to home. The Zuma chassis, with its front disc brake, telescopic fork and fat tires, gives back a lot more road feel than the Vino. (Our pal Peter is working on one that will do 80 mph.) Honda's Metropolitan is nice enough, but unfortunately just too slow. In our going-to-lunch drafting battles, the Metro couldn't even stay in the draft.
Two-strokes are limited to 50cc, why didn't Honda give the Metro a little more displacement? (Probably cause in most states you can operate a 50 without a motorcycle license.) Other than that, it's just like the Zuma. Aprilia's Scarabeo has the finest chassis, brakes, fuel injection, etc. -- but was badly mauled by the ugly stick, and when you flip up the seat... ah, where's the big storage compartment all the other scoots have? The single best feature of the others is the ability to pop down to the shops, pick up a few items or 12, and be able to lock them up out of sight while making other stops. The Scarab's lack of storage renders it useless for Job One, and it costs a bunch more than the others too. What were they thinking at Aprilia that day?
Just as all politics are local, I suppose so too are all transportation needs. Here in L.A., where we're busy packing 847 pounds of sand into a ten-pound bag every day -- I love the scooters. They're not motorcycles, but they are motorcycles. For under $2000, I think a lot more people should have one. (See the last paragraph of Sean's Tuono opinion.)
2. Elliot "Stickie" Strong
These scooters all support my theory that it's possible to have fun on almost anything with two wheels as long as you are in the right mindset. We putted around on these scooters for a while, and then what flash of brilliance did we come up with? "Let's race them!" It was a natural progression of events as we were racing them to lunch anyway.
I didn't suck as badly as I thought I would on my lap times, but unfortunately in my haste around the track I dumped the Metropolitan on a right-hander. It felt like the back end came out, but whatever the reason was, the video makes me look pretty goofy.
"It was the Vino that stole my heart. It was by far my favorite to ride; it felt just like a scooter should, a little raspy and rough around the edges, but a hoot to ride."
Rightfully so... the Metropolitan ended up being my least favorite of the group, and not just because it had the wheeziest engine. The suspension was good and the brakes were decent, but as superficial as this may sound, I thought the styling was a bit on the cutesy side.
Aprilia's Scarabeo came in second for me; its lack of pick-up off the line was offset by its high top speed (the highest of the group). I couldn't tell if the lack of drive was due to the DITECH direct fuel injection system or the transmission. The consensus leaned towards the tranny and final drive being geared so high, but I still think that the DITECH has something to do with it. In any case, its suspension and brakes were far and away the best of these scooters with disc brakes on each end, large wheels and tires, and real forks and a shock.
But it was the Vino that stole my heart. It was by far my favorite to ride; it felt just like a scooter should, a little raspy and rough around the edges, but a hoot to ride. It made cool sounds (unlike the others that were almost silent), and though the brakes and suspension were a step below the others, the strong engine more than made up for it in my opinion. The looks also helped to win me over. It's classic and cool without trying too hard and I didn't feel like any less of a man for riding it, unlike the Metropolitan with its baby blue paint scheme. Add up all the factors, and I nabbed the Vino over the all the others whenever I got the chance.
The Vino is the devil incarnated into a scooter machine. It's so small and light that the de-restricted motor just overpowers every aspect of the machine. On the other hand, that small stature and light-weightedness make the Vino easy to maneuver in really tight situations. How tight? Hows about inside a building tight. If the street is too packed with caged fools, then hop the bike up onto the sidewalk and, assuming the fuzz is elsewhere, have at your own lil' avenue!
Even with these desirable attributes, the Vino still has its faults. While the Scarabeo sports fancy disks, the Metropolitan and Vino both sport drums. I'll keep it simple for everybody. The drums suck. Also, the front forks are barely worthy a, of a... of something that's really, really crappy. At top speeds, the front is not very happy, especially riding over the rough terrain that is Sepulveda Blvd, and spreads this unhappiness through the chassis.
The Metropolitan, on the other hand, had far superior suspensionization, but shockingly enough, had even worse brakes than the Vino. Lever-to-the-bars type braking situations became the de facto standard for this little, linked-brake Honda. Its power delivery through the mid-range is smooth, and unlike its two-stroke compatriots, slight inclines didn't seem to effect the speed -- probably because it's the only one here with a top-speed limiter. Torque is a good thing. However, off-the-line, the Metropolitan was more Suburban than anything else.
Last but not least, the Scarabeo. While physically the largest of the bunch, it felt the most frail. While the Metropolitan and Vino have most of their weight two-thirds toward the rear, the Scarabeo felt like the weight distribution was near 50/50. I know it wasn't, but compared to the other two, it did. Anyway, with its large front and rear tires, bumps seemed to melt away. Hence, I liked the ride on this Italian machine the best. Disk brakes helped too. However, one thing I did not like is the lack of underseat storage space. For shame! However, sources indicate that the US-spec model (we tested the Euro version, notice the grossly illegal, yet stylishly functional turn signal lights) will include a rack-mounted top case.
4. Sean Alexander
Do you think using 100 percent of available acceleration and braking 100 percent of the time sounds like fun? I do, but I dream of racing an 8-valve Indian Board Track Racer. Folks, "cool" is a state of mind, not a fashion accessory. If you've ever participated in the 50cc Grand Prix that is a Saturday afternoon in Key West, you'd know that Scooters are easily the second most fun thing to do in a small tropical location. Though it didn't participate in the MO GP, I must chime in for the Yamaha Zuma II.
The Zuma, as John mentioned, will legally carry two adults. It will also wheelie from a standstill and maintain that wheelie for as long as you wish. It will in fact loop out, if you are over-zealous. (I've tested this ability for you, gentle reader.) I'm sorry Eric but in my experience, I'd have to say that around town, the Zuma is a much higher performance vehicle than your sissy-boy Harleys. If you need a tattoo or a hog to prove how tough you are, I'll grant that a scooter probably isn't your ideal mount. For the rest of us rabid two wheeled denizens, scooters can be sinfully fun.
|Aprilia Scarabeo 50 DITECH||Honda Metropolitan||Yamaha Vino Classic|
|Engine||2 stroke, forced air cooled single||4 stroke, liquid cooled single||2 stroke, air-cooled single|
|Fuel Induction||DITECH, direct injection||15mm CV with automatic choke||14mm TeikeiReed valve induction|
|Fuel Capacity||2.1 gal||1.3 gal||1.6 gal|
|Brakes, Front||Disk, 190mm, with dual 32mm piston||Drum||Drum|
|Brakes, Rear||Disk, 190mm, with dual 30mm piston||Drum, linked||Drum|
|Dry Weight (listed, dry)||190 lbs||157 lbs||150 lbs|
|Fuel Mileage (observed)||104 mpg||79 mpg||64 mpg|
|MSRP||$2,499 (includes top case)||$1,699||$1,799|