Motorcycle scooter... motorcycle... motor scooter... gas scooter... Just different terms meaning the same thing?
While obviously there are many similarities, there are also some significant differences between motorcycles and motorized scooters. Let's take a closer look...
To get on a motorcycle, you swing your leg over the back of the seat, which you then straddle, often while leaning forward (except for Harleys), your feet resting on pegs on either side of the frame.
Conversely, motor scooters offer what is called "step through" access. There is open space between the handlebar area and seat. You can literally step through this space to sit on the seat.
Seating is upright, like on a chair, with your feet resting flat behind the front carriage on a horizontal floorboard. Your legs are protected.
Motorcycle engines are typically exposed and mounted midway between the front and rear wheels. The engine's power is then transmitted to the rear wheel via a driveline consisting of sprocket and chain, a drive shaft or belt drive.
In a gas scooter, though, the engine is typically mounted in front of the rear wheel. Because it is connected directly to the wheel, a secondary driveline is not necessary. Also, having the engine so low means the scooter enjoys a lower center of gravity, making it easier to balance and control.
Motorcycles typically have a manual transmission, with the clutch on the left handgrip and the shifter on the left pedal. Learning how to work the manual transmission can be tricky, at least at first.
Scooters – at least most of the modern ones being produced today – have what is know as "twist and go" automatic transmissions. All you have to do is twist the throttle on the right handgrip for instant acceleration. You can be up to 30MPH within seconds, making them convenient for heavy, stop and go driving in congested areas.
By the way, scooters brake a lot like bicycles, with brake levers on each handgrip, one for the front brake and the other for the back wheel. But motorcycles have the front brake on the right handgrip and the rear brake on the right foot pedal. Weird how different they are, isn't it?
Scooters can vary greatly in size, but for the most part, they tend to be a lot lighter in weight than motorcycles. For instance, my 125cc Buddy is only about 200 pounds, while my boyfriend's smallish sport-touring bike weighs around 600 pounds.
This was a major attraction for me in a scooter. I don't think I could handle even a small motorcycle with ease, because I'm just too little. But a 125cc scooter fits me to a T.
Gas scooters' small size also makes them easier to transport, store, and maneuver.
On a related note, motorcycle scooter wheel size differs as well. Motorcycles generally have much larger wheel sizes than scooters do. Again, this makes scooters easier to handle and drive. Some of the new maxi-scooters do have larger wheels, however.
Scooters probably have a reputation for poor performance in relation to motorcycles. And in the past, this reputation may have been deserved... at least if you defined performance by ability to go fast and far.
The newer crop of gas scooters available these days, though, can hold their own against motorcycles... at least many of them can. You can still buy the little "putt putt" 50cc scooters, reminiscent of the old Vespas and Lambrettas that reached popularity during WWII, and that are best suited for round-town type of driving, where speeds are relatively low and trips short.
But 125cc and 150cc scooters are probably more the norm for people desiring a great commuter vehicle. My little Buddy (125cc) can accelerate easily up to 65 MPH (some reports are even higher), which makes it a street-legal freeway-safe alternative to a car or big bike.
And then there are the larger size scooters. Even the moderately-sized 250cc scooters can hold their own in performance against motorcycles. Maxi-scooters, with engine sizes ranging up 750cc or more are truly equivalent in performance and power.
One other big difference between a motorcycle and scooters is built-in storage. Motorcycles don't have it... scooters do.
To my mind, this was an important distinction. My significant other rides a Yamaha motorcycle back and forth to his work as a teacher, and each day he has to spend 5 to 10 minutes at either end of his commute, loading his various cargo bags on to the bike and then taking them off again.
On the other hand, I go out to my scooter, turn & press my key in the ignition to pop open my roomy underseat storage compartment, stow my stuff and I'm good to go... in about 15 seconds! And when I get where I'm going, I can walk away from my scoot knowing that my stuff is securely locked in the storage compartment.
I happen to think that's a big advantage of a scooter over a motorcycle. But maybe that's just me...
So, in many ways, I think if you compare motorcycles to scooters, it just comes down to personal preference as to which way you want to go. And you might even choose to go both ways! From what I've seen at online discussion boards, quite a few people do have both a motorcycle and scooter.
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