By David Harrington
In my experience, there are three kinds of scooter touring: 1) Two-wheeled touring that happens to occur on a scooter meant for the task, 2) Touring on a scooter that most would consider too small for the task, and 3) Touring on a scooter that most would view as insanity.
Insanity scooter touring happens more often than one might think. Hmmmm, I wonder what that says about scooterists in general. In July of 2006, local scooterist Dave Marquis rode a Genuine Stella Fireball from the Twin Cities to the AmeriVespa rally in Denver and back again. That’s a boatload of miles on a ten-inch-wheel & two-stroke scooter. Into the mountains, no less. There have been numerous instances of people touring continents on old school Vespa. I don’t imagine this is the sort of thing that normal riders would do. Of course Dave Marquis is to all outer appearances a perfectly normal guy, so … you just never know.
Every year members of local scooter group TNR (Tuesday Night Ride) participate in the Blister Run. They ride north (to Duluth, maybe Canada) on mostly 125–150cc scooters, with a healthy mix of Stellas usually in the group. Not insane, but a trip on scooters that most would consider too small for the task. Lora Murtha (emeritus Scooterville faculty) has even made the Blister Run to Canada run on my Genuine Blur 150. There are at least a couple of people who have ventured all over the USA on Genuine Buddy 125cc scooters. Small wheels and small displacement make touring challenging, but not impossible.
A sub-set of this “middle” sort of scooter touring involves the 200-350cc class. People unfamiliar with scooters would likely view these machines as too small for “serious” touring. They’d be sadly mistaken. For single-person touring, they are my favorite and I’ll go a bit deeper as to “why” in just a bit.
The most common form of scooter touring takes place on maxi-scooters. The behemoths of the scooter world include machines like the Honda Silverwing, the Kymco Xciting and even bigger Kymco MyRoad, the BMW C650GT and the King of them all, the Suzuki Burgman. I have personally racked up some miles on a Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive and can attest to its utter suitability as a touring mount.
I’ve owned and ridden Gold Wings, BMW air-heads and oil-heads, and big baggers. A good maxi-scooter is the touring equal of any of them. In some ways, the maxi-scooters are even better in my opinion. I added a 50-liter hard topcase to my Burgman and also utilized a semi-rigid extra case in the passenger position when riding solo. In combination with the massive underseat space and glove boxes on the Burgman, I never wanted for luggage capacity. The 650 has more than enough oomph to haul me AND my wife anyplace we wanted to go. At over 600 pounds, the Burgman is a true heavyweight in the scooter world and that size gives it a great deal of stability and smoothness at highway speeds. Compared to the well over 900 lbs. a Gold Wing weighs, the Burgman is feather-light.
Ergonomics and shelter are what pushes maxi-scooters out in front in my book. The step-through design means the rider isn’t straddling the fuel tank (real or faux) when mounted and that one needn’t swing a leg over in order to mount. Laugh all you want, this becomes increasingly important with age. The number of small adjustments to the seating position that are possible on a maxi-scooter add to the all-day comfort capabilities. Just like many touring motorcycles, the OEM seat may not be optimum for touring comfort, but there are many well-known names providing cures for that. Check Corbin or Day-Long among others. The full front end and floorboards inherent in the maxi-scooter design give seamless coverage to the rider helping to keep interference from road dirt and weather to a minimum.
Yes, a good maxi-scooter can make for a great touring mount. So that’s what I ride most often for trips, right? Well… I’ve put more miles on my Kymco People 300 GTi than on my Burgman. Before that, I racked up tens of thousands of miles on a Kymco People 250 – including some iron-butt events. My People 300 has taken me to distant rallies and back. When it’s just me, it’s my go-to choice. With 16-inch wheels, true 90 mph capability, excellent ergonomics and rock solid reliability, the People adds an element of “closeness” to the trip that a bigger machine can’t match.
Most of my touring includes more time on county roads, city streets, and state highways than on freeways. When I rode down to Lake Geneva for a rally, I took I-94 and US-12 the whole way down. Around six hours of freeways and the People handled it just fine. After riding all around the Lake Geneva area for several days, I went home via a series of backroads that had been recommended to me. Wow, what a great trip. It took a LOT longer to get home that way and I couldn’t have cared less.
Yes, touring on a scooter can be very similar to motorcycle touring, but there are advantages and options a scooter can provide that you might not have considered.
Twin Cities scooterist David Harrington owns and operates JustGottaScoot.com