By David Harrington
Last month we ran through many of the scooter offerings for 2017. This month we’re going to muddle through a working definition of a scooter. Why? Because there an increasing number of choices that aren’t really scooters and aren’t really motorcycles but worthy of a look. There are also a growing number of small displacement motorcycles that attract scooterists. As this article is written with scooterists in mind, I think it’s safe to cover some of these clearly-not-scooter machines.
Scooters are not mopeds… Sometimes. I’m old and can clearly (some days) remember “real” mopeds from the 1960s and 1970s. They had pedals. Yes, they had engines of about 50cc, but they had working pedals. There aren’t many (if any) of these available new these days. What there are would be “legal” mopeds. Those scooters that meet the state (Minnesota) definition and don’t require a motorcycle endorsement and gain preferential parking. As of this writing Minnesota requires that the vehicle have an electric motor or liquid-fueled engine with piston displacement of 50cc or less AND operate on two brake horsepower or less AND reach a maximum speed of 30 MPH on a flat surface to be considered a moped.
I’d like to take the following as a working definition of a scooter for our purposes: A two wheeled motor vehicle with a step through frame, wheels of 16 inches in diameter or less, an a engine/transmission unit that is part of the rear suspension, and some form of legshield/floorboard. A Vespa is a scooter, a Honda Cub is not. A Suzuki Burgman is a scooter, a Honda NM4 is not. Close enough?
Let’s chat about the hopefully-here-someday Honda X-ADV. This is being touted as a cross-over scooter. Being big (750cc & 500 lbs.) doesn’t disqualify it from being a scooter according to our definition. The front wheel size (1 inch over 16) and the engine/transmission mounting and configuration do. The X-ADV is kind of a step-through, it does offer underseat storage and it does have functional legshields/floorboards. As such, I believe Honda is hoping this will appeal to the maxi-scooter crowd who want something with MILD off-road capabilities and serious highway talents. I have to admit that the X-ADV does interest me, certainly more so than Honda’s NM4.
There is another powersports category that encompasses vehicles which are clearly not scooters but seem to have broad appeal to scooterists. Small displacement motorcycles. In the summer of 2016 I reviewed the Kymco K-Pipe (Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly August 2016) a machine that is clearly a motorcycle but sparks the interest of many scooterists. I would imagine that it’s the relatively light weight and heavy fun factor that does it. Sometimes it’s the retro appeal (in addition to weight and fun) that draws those of the scooter persuasion to a motorcycle. My personal favorite is the SYM Wolf Classic 150. It’s a very well-made machine that reminds me enough of my old 1973 Honda to generate serious nostalgia appeal. With a touch of luck, USA buyers will be seeing the SYM Wolf Classic 300 this season. This 278cc fuel injected retro styled motorcycle was dished out to riders in Europe in 2015 at Intermot. It should be just the sort of motorcycle that scooterists would be interested in.
There are several Japanese small displacement machines that have been in the USA for a while with more coming this year. Honda’s Grom has been very popular and they also have a Rebel 300 (and 500) as well as the CB300f sporty bike. Yamaha brings up the very retro SR400 and the small cruiser – V-Star 250. Kawasaki has been a major influencer in the small sporty bike market in the USA since 1986. The venerable Ninja 250 was the “go to” bike for many scooterists I know who were looking to expand their riding. LOTS of people have owned/continue to own them. Come on, raise your hand, I’m talking to you Krevin. The newer Ninja 300 is still a market force along with Kawasaki’s Grom-like Z125. There’s even a Versys X-300. Suzuki has one of the best small retro bikes out there in the TU250. They also offer the GW250 and now in 2017 the VanVan 200 that has great retro looks with multi-surface capabilities in a small displacement ride.
Though arguably not small displacement, we can’t ignore the Royal Enfield phenomenon. They don’t just look retro, they ARE retro. I’ve owned a C5 Classic Bullet 500 and it was one of the most fun-to-ride city bikes I’ve ever experienced.
It’s been my experience that most scooterists aren’t looking to replace their favorite scooter, they are looking to add to their stable and expand their riding options. I believe they are drawn to the easy handling lighter weight of small displacement motorcycles and often yearn for retro design elements. For me, they are ALL fun and I’m a believer that it doesn’t matter what you ride so long as you ride.
Twin Cities scooterist David Harrington owns and operates JustGottaScoot.com