For nearly 2 years, I have been riding on a 49cc scooter as my primary means of travel. From the day I first bought my ride to today, there have been a barrage of questions on my chosen transportation method.
Some questions are either curious piques or judgmental attempts to make me regret my decision. Regardless, I felt compelled to provide a Q & A about scooters after watching some YouTube videos of fellow scooterists.
In the near future, I hope to post an article on commuting via scooter. For now, here is a series of questions that I get on a near daily basis.
How fast does your moped go?
Many scooters have a good range of different engines. Some are 49 cc while others have a larger 300 cc.
My Honda Metropolitan is a 49 cc scooter. Like others in its class, it is a slow vehicle.
On average, I can ride at 35 mph on a flat surface, but tops off at 40 mph if going downhill or slows down to 25 mph if going uphill.
I can hear the sighs right now, but it is fast enough for my current needs (although I want something faster). This thing isn’t meant for busy thoroughfares or the interstate, but handles smaller streets and back roads fairly well.
Of course, something like a 150 cc scooter or motorcycle would be ideal.
How often do you fill up on gas?
The cool thing about scooters is they are fuel-efficient. Riders can get a lot of mileage on their commutes with little gas.
My Metro has about a gallon sized gas tank and only needs to be filled up once or twice a week. To put things in perspective, I commute roughly 20 miles a day.
The scooter gets about 100 miles per gallon, so after about 4-5 days it needs to filled up. Since it holds a little over a gallon of gas, it costs me generally $2 to fill it up with premium fuel.
How much does your scooter cost?
Unlike automobiles, scooters and motorcycles are fairly inexpensive in comparison. Prices vary depending on make and model.
Thrifty shoppers tend to go for Chinese made scooters like Tao-Tao which fall in the sub $1000 range. However, the most premium scooters to be found are Vespas with the most expensive one being roughly $8000 (a typical “wasp” is around the $5000 range).
I am in a mid-tier of sorts when I comes to manufacturers. Mine is made from Honda, which makes quality parts without being too expensive.
My 2015 Honda Metropolitan’s sticker price was $1600. With theft protection, taxes, and other added crap, it ended up being shy of $3000.
Can you store stuff like groceries in your scooter?
You can absolutely store stuff in a scooter. It’s one of the main reasons why I chose it over a motorcycle.
Underneath the seat, you’ll find ample storage which can fit a couple of grocery bags, a six-pack, some books, small laptop, or even a full-face helmet.
Some scooters have a compartment under the handlebars that can store gloves or even a travel mug. There are also some with bag holders and space in the front or back to add a little “trunk” to store additional items.
With scooters, you don’t have to worry too much about strapping something down or saddlebags.
What do you do when weather gets bad?
This is my favorite question because it seems like one that people don’t give me credit for when planning accordingly.
As some people know, I don’t own a car which has a set of challenges but I can handle it.
In the past 2 years, I’ve dealt with some bad weather and have managed to make it work.
Basically, I will ride out in any weather situation, but the most severe cases prove most difficult.
If it is hot, I don’t wear a jacket but long-sleeved shirt. If it is too cold, I put on layers.
If it is rainy, I will wear a jacket that is rain resistant. If there’s a severe thunderstorm or heavy rainfall, I either wait it out, pull over to the side and find shelter, or (in worst cases) get a Lyft ride.
For the rare instance of icy or snow covered roads, I’ll take a Lyft or Uber. If travel conditions aren’t too dire, I’ll ride slow, take my time, and make sure not to break too hard.
Fortunately, I’ve only had to do this once. Thankfully ice storms and blizzards are not common during Memphis winters.
In short, I suck it up and ride out regardless of the weather.
Do you need a special license to ride a scooter?
The laws are different in many states, but most are firm that any motorized bike with an engine of more than 50cc needs a motorcycle license or endorsement. Some states like Florida, Mississippi, and New York actually require one for 49 cc scooters like its faster brethren.
In Tennessee, you don’t need an endorsement nor registration and insurance. However, you do need a M class license or endorsement for anything over 50cc and you’re require to get tags and insurance above that threshold.
To get one, you can either take a test at a local DMV or take a MSF course. The course awards a certificate upon completion. It can be used to bypass the road & written test at the DMV and get a M class license.
Is it easy to ride a scooter?
I don’t have experience with higher end mopeds, but I can say riding a 49cc one is fairly easy. If you have experience riding a bicycle or even a dirt bike, then you should be okay on riding a scooter.
All you have to do is twist the throttle slowly and go. It’s also a pretty smooth ride.
For prospective buyers, I would suggest testing a ride out or find a friend that will allow you some time to get familiar with one.
I imagine lighter scooters (like the Metro or a Vespa) will handle better than something like a Honda PCX 150 or Yamaha SMAX. Weight might have an impact on riding ability though.
Have you laid it down?
Sadly, I have and the worst part was it happened shortly after I bought my first scooter. After turning onto a street with trolley tracks, the front tire got stuck into a groove and flung me to the side of the road.
Fortunately, I just had a few scrapes and some cosmetic damage to the scooter. I wasn’t seriously hurt, but it sucked.
Lesson learned: slow down while turning and avoid hazards like trolley tracks.
Do you like motorcycles or scooters more?
I do not hate motorcycles, and some of them look really cool. However for my needs and being a sucker for a retro look, I prefer a scooter.
In addition, you don’t have to worry about clutches and gear shifting. Think of it like this: motorcycles are like trucks with stick shift and scooters are like cars with automatic shifting.
Like previously mentioned, scooters have storage space. This space appeals to me so I can have a place to store my belongings or make a small grocery run.
What can you do if your scooter gets stolen and how to prevent it?
Before taking a vacation to New York City around Memorial Day, my first scooter (2014 Met) was stolen from my driveway. Without the keys and handlebars and ignition port locked, I thought my scooter was secured. I was wrong.
As of this writing, the police haven’t recovered it and I am still dealing with getting a payout from a theft protection policy. It’s an awful feeling and hate it that I didn’t do more to secure it.
After that incident, I keep it out of sight and locked up. For you, either buy a chain and lock it to a secure post, store it in a back yard or in the home (either garage, shed, or back house).
Another recommendation is get some tracking solution like a “Tile” which sends a GPS signal to pinpoint it in case of theft. You can also have a security camera to identify would-be thieves.
Unfortunately, theft is not entirely preventable, but you can cut down a criminal’s chance by taking some extra precautions. Simply locking the handlebars will help but crooks can still walk off with your ride.