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Scooters @ BikeNut


 

Chief Bikenut says it's all about having fun, that's right, what is life about if we can't have fun and if we can save money and help the planet at the same time by embracing the Australian scooter revoluzione, as the stylish Italians call it, then why not. I truly could not care less about what I am riding, as long as I am riding and I dare say that 99% of true BikeNuts would agree with me.

 

In Rome, police are stationed around the inner city to keep cars out. Motor scooters, on the other hand, are waved in enthusiastically. The Italians certainly know how to keep an overcrowded city running.Now there are signs that Australians are learning the same lesson. Scooters, scooters everywhere.

 

If you think there are more scooters around our cities every time you look, you're right. Not too many years ago, there were perhaps four importers of scooters in Australia, and three of those also sold motorcycles. Today, 18 companies bring in scooters from more than half a dozen countries, and their products range from buzzy little 50 cc two-strokes to rolling wardrobes with capacities of more than half a litre. Something like a hundred different models compete in our market.

 

What is happening is very simple: City slickers are becoming aware that there is an alternative way to get around their city, a scooter. It's better than a large, expensive car, that is difficult and expensive to park and hands down better than a crowded, smelly and sometimes inconvenient public transport.It's the answer, a scooter. Cheap to buy, incredibly cheap to run (Honda has announced that its strangely-named new Scoopy will travel for 50 km on a single litre of petrol), they are simple to park and easy to love. The scooter is the ideal form of transport for any city - but especially one like Sydney, New York, Hong Kong, Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Cairo, London, all with their narrow streets and heavy traffic. Things are not so congested in regional centres and the country side, so scooters are not catching on there nearly as quickly.

 

These minuscule two-wheelers can make a real difference to traffic density. In Sydney, Australia today where the only deliveries made by scooter are pizzas. In continental cities like Rome, the butcher, baker and, for all I know, the candlestick-maker all deliver goods and services by this convenient method. And of course scooters make going to work, to school and to the movies simpler, faster and more FUN.

 

Apart from being economical and easy to ride (almost all are automatic), the new breed of scooters are also very clean. Aprilia's SR50 DiTech uses clean-burning technology from Australia's Orbital Engine Company that reduces exhaust emissions by 80 per cent.I am practicing what I preach at the moment by riding a 250 cc scooter that's so convenient I may never go back to a motorcycle. Lots of storage space, combined with nippy performance that allows me to keep up with traffic, makes a scooter ideal for commuting and even shopping trips.

 

What's available?

 

The father of the motor scooter was Enrico Piaggio. With the family aircraft factory destroyed by bombs during WWII, Enrico knew he had to find something people wanted and that his skilled metalworkers could make. The solution was a small, convenient motorised vehicle, and aircraft engineer Corradino D'Ascanio designed the Vespa scooter for him.The first batch of 15 Vespas, powered by 98 cc two-stroke engines, left the factory in April 1946. Ten years later, a million had been built and eventually Vespas would be made all over the world.

 

Other manufacturers caught the scooter bug. There have been some truly disastrous versions of the concept, but today millions of scooters roll off assembly lines in Italy, Taiwan (where there are said to be more scooters than people), Korea, Japan and elsewhere. They all have their advantages.Scooters today are as different as butterflies, though they tend to have a few basics in common. Most have two wheels (though the Honda Stream has three), a more or less enclosing body to keep some rain and most road dirt off (the Benelli Adiva even has a roof) and a small engine (though Suzuki will soon offer a 650 cc scooter). Although they have many advantages, scooters tend to trade on their looks. The Malaguti Yesterday says it all with its name; it is a rolling evocation of past elegance. On the other hand, Gilera's Ice has styling as futuristic as the latest Star Trek accessory. Even machines made in the east will often have been drafted by famous Italian designers.

 

Practicalities

 

Probably the biggest drawback to riding a scooter in AUstralia is the need to have a motorcycle license. There are places in Australia where you can buzz about on one as long as it has an engine smaller than 50 cc, but not NSW. Meanwhile, there is a concession if you have a car license and all you want is to ride an automatic scooter up to 125 cc. You do not need to do the full motorcycle pre-license course, only the first part, and you are only on L plates for three months. Check with your local RTA for details. Keep in mind, though, that it is in your interest to learn as much as possible about staying alive in traffic. The training required for a motorcycle license will help.Scooters have many advantages. I have already listed some of them and you can add reliability (in most cases) and modest maintenance requirements.

 

Drawbacks

 

Most scooters have very small engines - sub-50 cc single-cylinder two strokes are almost standard. This inevitably sometimes makes them slower than the traffic around them. That can be a big problem, since one of the most effective survival mechanisms for the rider of any two-wheeled vehicle is to stay ahead of the traffic. With a scooter, you will have to think well ahead and plan your moves carefully.Something else that's usually small is the diameter of the wheels. This means that scooters suffer from the effects of potholes and rough road surfaces much more than motorcycles or cars. There are exceptions, like Piaggio's Liberty and Italjet's Torpedo, but most scooters will teach their rider to be very aware of the quality of the road.You don't need a garage for a scooter, but it will pay you well to invest in a good lock and chain or security cable. It is almost ridiculously easy to lift a scooter into the back of a utility and drive it away.

 

What to buy?

 

The range is huge, so look for a conveniently-located scooter shop and see what they sell and recommend. After all, you will want them to service and otherwise look after your baby.A scooter should be fun, so buy something that tickles your fancy, but don't forget that carrying the groceries home will require storage space - not all models have this - and any regular journeys on the motorway definitely call for something larger than a 50. Take a look at a 150 or a 250 cc machine. Apart from that, the choice is yours. A classic look with modern technology? Try the Vespa ET4. Something with a bit of performance? The Italjet Formula could be the one for you. And that Aprilia DiTech is definitely the latest and most hi-tech.

 

Have fun! Cheap motoring. Scooters are relatively cheap. You can be mobile for as little as $4,000 or you can go for the big end of the market with something like a quarter-litre Piaggio X9. There is plenty in between. Running costs can be very low; registration and insurance vary, but they are significantly below the cost of anything else on the road. Fuel, if you use the scooter only as a city runabout, can cost less than a dollar a week. Resale values should be reasonable, going by the prices that old Vespas and Lambrettas fetch.

 

TIPS for SAFE scooting

* Get your licence.

* Be visible. Turn your headlights on and wear a bright jacket to help other drivers see you.

* Protect your head. Always wear a helmet that meets the Australian Standard. Ask your dealer for advice.

* Drive defensively. Remember: other road-users may not always see you.

* Never ride a scooter under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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