Should You buy a Motorcycle or a Scooter?
When I was planning to buy my first motorcycle, I wrestled with the choice of picking a motorcycle or a scooter. This choice might be pretty easy for some people but both vehicles come with their own pros and cons. We’ll try to take a closer look at each to find out if a motorcycle or a scooter is best for you.
I know most people my age, considering I’m still pretty young, would go for a supersport without even batting an eye. If you’re from the U.S. that’s probably the case since scooters aren’t very popular there. But in parts of Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, scooters are the king of the road.
How popular are scooters?
With the U.S. aside, scooters are pretty darn popular with a large majority of countries having them as the most common, and sometimes even primary, form of transport. Where I’m from, scooters and mopeds have a monopoly on road space. One might even say that they’re the kings of the road.
In parts of Europe and most of Asia, motorcycles are considered a cheap and reliable form of transport. In the U.S. they’re viewed more as “toys” or a hobby. Where I live, motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds are everywhere. Almost every household has one and almost everyone I know knows how to ride a scooter.
Are scooters motorcycles?
Technically, yes. Scooters are a type of motorcycle, but when people say “motorcycle” they tend to think of a sportbike or a cruiser. Scooters look vastly different from a typical motorcycle and that’s the reason I think they’re called a different name. Mopeds and scooters are indeed motorcycles but for ease of communication, I’ll refer to scooters as “scooters” and the typical motorcycle as “motorcycles”
If you have disagreements with this fact, even three-wheeled vehicles are considered motorcycles. Such examples are the Can-Am Spyder and Ryker. Even the Polaris Slingshot, which has a steering wheel, is still considered a motorcycle.
Motorcycles vs Scooters
There’s a lot of reasons why someone would pick one over the other. These include practicality, comfort, style of riding, pricing, and a lot more. Your decision would largely depend on your needs what you want to get from your vehicle. Even now, that I’ve ridden over 50,000 kilometers in under a year on my bike, I still think about what it would have been like had I chosen to buy a scooter.
Style of riding
The main difference between a motorcycle and a scooter is how it looks. Where the engine and tank would be on a motorcycle, you would instead find your feet on a scooter. The engine on a scooter is placed towards the back and the tank rests under the seat or under your feet.
Another defining trait a scooter has is its drivetrain. Most motorcycles are manual, in that you have to change gears manually. Scooters, on the other hand, are automatic and are similar to a car that has a continuously variable transmission.
On a motorcycle, you would constantly change gears with the clutch and gear levers with your left hand and left foot. With scooters, your left hand and feet do nothing. Most of the control on a scooter comes from your right hand, the throttle. That said, one thing to also note is that, where one would find the clutch lever on a motorcycle, you’d instead find the rear brake lever on a scooter.
Because of this, scooters are much easier to learn on than motorcycles. Scooters are also easier to drive without the need of having to change gears.
Motorcycles have a bigger assortment of engine sizes. Motorcycles can have engine sizes as small as 250cc to over 1800cc. A 250cc scooter, on the other hand, is a large-displacement scooter for its kind. Though there are maxi-scooters that go up to 500cc and some performance maxi-scooters or luxury scooters go up to 800cc.
This depends a lot on engine size, but if we put a 250cc motorcycle against a 250cc scooter, the scooter would actually do fairly good. To get the most acceleration out of a motorcycle, you’d have to hit the RPMs just right. Acceleration on a scooter is more instantaneous and actually has a strong pull on the rider, making you feel like there’s a lot of torque.
This is the same reason why automatic cars accelerate faster than manual cars. In a drag race setting, the automatic car would usually be the winner as there would be ni chops or imprecise gear changes that could affect how the car accelerates. The same goes for motorcycles and scooters.
Top speed may win races but in a real-world setting, acceleration is where you want your money at. Good acceleration helps you squeeze away from cars at stoplights, it allows you to overtake quickly, and it’s a lot of fun. Both motorcycles and scooters have makes and models that provide great acceleration.
Scooters have great acceleration from a stop but so do a lot of motorcycles. Street bikes and naked bikes like Yamaha’s MT-10 and FZ-07 have lots of torque down low. These bikes were made with torque in mind and would blow a lot of scooters, even maxi-scooters, out of the water with the amount of torque they have.
Top speed and performance.
Motorcycles take the cake on this one, obviously. Though scooters have good acceleration, they don’t do too well on top speed. Scooters just aren’t built for top speed. But there are exemptions. Performance scooters like the Yamaha T-MAX and Honda’s XADV are built with performance in mind. If you’re looking for something you can wring out on a twisty road or take ot the track, motorcycles would be a good choice but if you’re looking for a scooter you can do that with, there are options as well.
Talking about performance, if you’re considering to buy either a scooter or a motorcycle, the two differ in wheelbase and so this affects stability. Scooters have a shorter wheelbase and a short swingarm, making them less stable at high speeds but incredibly easy to flick at low speeds. Motorcycles, on the other hand, have longer swingarms and are much more stable at high speeds.
One big factor in determining whether you’d want to have a motorcycle or a scooter is the practicality. Both motorcycles and scooters are highly practical forms of transport if you just want something to take you from point A to point B. Both are cheap, excellent in commuting, and fuel-efficient. But one might be more practical than the other depending on what you need.
Pricing and value
There’s a reason why scooters are so popular in a lot of third-world countries – they’re cheap! For the price of a ‘starter’ or small bike like the ninja 400, you can already buy a mid-level scooter with a lot of features.
Take for example the Yamaha Xmax. This little 300cc scooter has cruise control, ABS on both wheels, large storage areas, a charging outlet, full LED lighting, and a lot more all for the price of an R3. I think you kind of see where I’m getting at. Scooters may be cheap but they have great value.
Yamaha TMAX 530
A long haul cruiser with perfect design
- Weight 213kg
- Engine 562cc
- Fuel Injection
- Smart Key Operation
- Centre Stand Locking System
Arguably one of best looking scooters in this list the Yamaha TMAX 530 is both nimble and agile making it perfect for commuting and city riding.
Boasting features such as advance traction control and ABS it is scooter that gives you control and composure.
The addional storage space under the seat means their is more than enough storage space for travel wear or a motorcycle helmet.
A powerful and sophisticated ride
- Weight 238kg
- Engine 745cc
- Brakes front: double disk
- Brakes rear: single disk
A scooter that’s at home on the commute as much as it is the weekend cruise. The Honda X-ADV agility makes it a perfect ride for weaving in and out of city traffic, while the laid back ride position makes cruising an absolute joy.
Under the seat the 21 litre capacity allows easy storage of a crash helmet or other ride wear. An illuminated 12 volt socket is also accessible should you need it.
The engines punch and zip comes from the 745cc twin cylinder engine delivering exceptional torque, which comes in especially handy if your a city rider.
Kymco XCITING S400i
Luxury urban riding with an affordable price tag.
- Fuel Injection
- Weight 195kg
- Day time running lights
An exciting upgrade on its predecessor the Kymco XCITING S400i brings affordable luxury to the maxi scooter sector.
Designed for the commuter market the XCITING S400i boasts features such as ABS, luxury seat and adjustable suspension to make any rush hour ride a little more bearable.
By far its most impressive piece of kit is Kymco’s Noodoe System. This piece of tech allows you to connect you phone via Bluetooth and can display sat-nav directions on the dashboard. If you so choose you can also use it to read texts or view apps.
In terms of storage you get somewhere to stow your motorcycle helmet which features a double locking mechanism, and two glove boxes.
Piaggio Beverly 350 Sport Touring
What it lacks in power it makes up for in prowess.
- Fuel tank capacity: 12L (3.2gal)
- engine: 350cc
- Fuel System: electronic injection
- Consumption: 65.4 mpg (27.8 km/l)
If your commute entails noisey, poorly heated wagons full off sneezing coughing companions it could be time for an upgrade.
One such upgrade could be the Piaggio Beverly 350 Sport Touring a real trail blazer in the maxi scooter sector.
The 350cc engine punches way above its weight and class and boasts an impressive 65.38mpg (27.8 km/l) fuel consumption.
There is an impressive storage compartment for two full face helmets as well a USB charging port should you need to charge your phone on the go.
Slamming on the anchors is under full control thanks to the ABS and ARS traction control. ASR traction control is designed to counteract loss of grip from wet and dirty surfaces.
Scooters up until the last few years have been very simple machines that anyone with basic tools could fix. Most of them are simple 2 or 4 stroke engines that need really basic care. Things like belt drive and CVT powertrains are almost maintenance free. Add gas and go is what these bikes are about. Simple, easy… nice.
That still holds true for the majority of the models, although with the advent of the Yamaha TMAX, Honda X-ADV and Aprilia SRV 850 ABS/ATC things are changing. The same sophisticated technology found on any high-end motorcycle is crossing over.
There’s no manual clutch on scooters making them the very definition of automatic. Learning smooth clutch and gear shifting skills can drive many new riders out of motorcycling or make those first few months a little challenging or dangerous.
Cutting out that irritation allows a learner to skip to the good part of motorcycling. For some reason, many bikers turn their nose up at the idea of automatics when really they shouldn’t. It really does make motorcycling better by allowing the rider to FOCUS on the ride instead of the mechanics of shifting and clutch control.
If you would like to see a CVT in action and learn a bit about it here’s a great video where YouTuber activity10cc does show and tell about one he’s working on.
Are Scooters To Slow to Ride on the Highway?
Small engines with lightweight frames and automatic transmissions can only mean excellent fuel efficiency. Depending on whether equipped with a 2 or 4 stroke engine most scooters will get between 80 and 110 mpg! You can’t beat that.
There’s no denying the motorcyclist culture is tangible and grown especially by companies like Harley Davidson. That culture embraces a daredevil and death-defying bravery aspect along with a tough guy bravado that is sometimes too intimidating or off-putting to some people looking to join the riding scene.
Not so with Scooters. They have their own, different image that is much more friendly and approachable.
Are Scooters Relevant for Motorcyclists?
Female riders especially seem smitten with scooters. Scooters are lighter, lower to the ground and dare I say it… prettier, cute and cuddly. It’s the motorcycle you can bring home to your parents without fear.
That’s always been the goal for scooter builders like Vespa and Honda. Honda introduced the Cub back in 1958 with the slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” Vespa likes to play up the idea they don’t just build scooters, they build art. That has definitely been embraced by the artistic community and scooters are firmly embedded in the pop art culture. Scooters have the “nice guy” image and project the idea that anyone and everyone are welcome to ride a scooter.
This is a photo of the Vespa 946 RED model. Vespa teamed up with RED to help in the fight against the AIDS epidemic and will donate 150 from each scooter purchased to RED’s fight against the disease. RED has no overhead to take out of the money used to help the cause so rest assured all donations are 100% beneficial. I can’t recall ever seeing another motorcycle company undertake a project like this. Bravo Vespa!
Scooter Safety Tips
Consider following these tips to stay safe while you are riding a scooter:
- Make yourself visible: Wear bright-colored or reflective clothing while riding.
- Practice defensive riding: Always be ready to alter your course if a driver makes a sudden maneuver or fails to check their blind spots.
- Wear a helmet: They significantly reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury and death.
- Think of the scooter as a motorcycle: Apply the same safety tips and wear the same safety gear you would if you were riding a motorcycle.
If you were severely injured in a scooter accident in Hawaii, you could seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses if someone else’s negligence was to blame. Contact a Hawaii scooter accident attorney at Recovery Law Center to discuss your case during a free consultation. We serve clients in Honolulu, Waipahu, and throughout Oahu.
For over 29 years, attorney Glenn Honda has helped people injured in accidents throughout Hawaii get the best outcome for their case, whether it’s maximizing their settlement, or balancing costs and risks vs. putting the whole experience behind them. As the founding attorney of the Recovery Law Center, he is passionate about helping his clients with their physical, emotional and financial recovery. Mr. Honda will fight to get you coverage for your medical bills, lost wages, damaged property and other costs related to your accident.
What Is A Moped?
The word “Moped” is an amalgamation of the words “motor” and “pedal”, proving that these little machines started life as a motor powered pedal bike – the sort of things French teenagers would use to get to school or, more likely, to woo members of the opposite sex with. That said, they don’t come with pedals these days and even when they had pedals, what self-respecting teenager would want to use them?
Moped used to look more like bicycles, with larger wheels and a ‘step-through’ frame but these days, often the only way to tell the difference between a scooter and a moped is either the badge on the bike or the speed it’s being ridden at!
Mopeds are defined by their engine size, speed and output. Most mopeds will have an engine size of 50cc or less and a modest top speed of around 28mph. Not one for the speed freaks, but perfect for newbies on the roads, or those who enjoy a more leisurely pace, their speed, or lack of it, isn’t the real draw for moped riders.
Mopeds are generally cheaper than scooters, due to their smaller engine size, and are very economical to own and run.
In some cities, like London for example, it can be far cheaper to buy a moped to get you to and from work every day as it can be to take public transport. Vintage mopeds are also making a comeback with the hip and the trendy more than happy to be seen on a motorised pedal bike, to remind them of their misspent youth.
Mopeds can be ridden from the age of 16 if you have a provisional license and complete your CBT. When you pass, you can ride a moped with a maximum engine capacity of 50cc and a top speed of 28mph.
What Is A Scooter?
A scooter, is, funnily enough, a bit like a moped! It is the engine size, however, that sets the two apart.
Scooters do not come with a set sized engine and you can get a huge range of engine sizes, from 70cc right up to 800cc!
This means that a scooter can obviously achieve much higher top speeds and has a far greater capability on the road. Given its greater power and speed, a scooter will also be more expensive to buy and run than a moped.
Scooters tend to have a big fan-base with lovers of all things retro and even a modern day scooter is the perfect hip transport for trendy young things living in urban environments. Like mopeds, they are fairly cheap to run and insure and are a practical alternative to a more expensive, high powered motorbike.
What is a Maxi Scooter?
The term Maxi Scooter refers to larger engined scooters. Back in the day, it used to be easy to classify the different types of scooters, you had 50cc mopeds, 125cc scooters and then big engined (usually 500cc) scooters, which were called maxi-scooters. There was almost nothing in between.
However, as scooters have risen in popularity, so has the range available. Now the variety of engine sizes is vast. Take Piaggio’s Vespa for example, they sell 50cc, 125cc and 300cc scooters, yet they all look very similar.
So what defines a maxi scooter? For some the dividing-line is capacity alone, with most quoting 250cc as the line; anything below 250cc is a scooter, above 250cc and you’re in maxi scooter territory.
For others, the defining line is where the engine is placed. A tradition scooter, they argue, has the engine mounted to the rear of the bike, in most cases over the rear wheel. Some of the larger-engined scooters source their engines and running gear from motorcycles and therefore can’t locate it all over the rear wheel, instead it’s slung under the chassis – this makes them maxi-scooters.
Then for others, it’s all about wheel size. A scooter has small 12″ wheels, just like the majority of Vespas, almost all 50cc moped and the majority of 125cc machines. Maxi scooters have larger wheels, often 15″ or 16″. This theory works, until you look at the likes of Honda’s SH125, which has 16″ wheels but a 125cc engine. Is it a maxi-scooter? No. However it’s elder sibling, the SH300 has the same chassis, with the same 16″ wheels but a 278cc engine, making it a maxi-scooter.
OK, so we might not have given you the crystal clear answer you were looking for but we have given you all angles of the story! So, like everyone else; make your own mind up as to what a maxi-scooter is.