If you ask riders about how they got into riding, a lot of them will tell you that it started at an early age. My boyfriend knew since he was six. And that’s awesome. When he was able to buy his first bike, he took the safety course and (carefully) hit the road.
But some people (like me), might just now have realized they want to ride, and might be nervous about immediately hopping on a motorcycle. I mean, I’d never driven a manual car, and I didn’t even have much practice riding a bicycle. I worried that I was too uncoordinated to ride a motorcycle, that I’d end up hurting myself. But after I took the safety course, I knew one thing — I wanted to ride. So I got a scooter.
I think scooters have gotten a bit of a bad reputation. Before I bought my own, I kind of looked down on them — which I’m kind of ashamed of now. Because, to tell you the truth, scooters are FUN. They’re easy, many of them can actually go pretty fast (my Piaggio 150 tops out around 60), and they have STORAGE. I can’t tell you how many times J has asked me to carry something in my seat 😉
Scooters are awesome, and if you’re anything like I was— wanting to ride but not really sure where to start — I think you should get one. Here’s why.
It’s easier to learn to balance.
For me, one of the hardest things about learning to ride a motorcycle was getting comfortable with its weight. I dropped the safety course bike several times simply because I didn’t know how to balance it as I came to a stop. Because my scooter is so much lighter, however, it was much easier for me to get comfortable balancing (and occasionally manhandling) my scooter to keep it upright.
After becoming comfortable with the feel of a heavy two-wheeled vehicle, I soon realized that I could handle MUCH larger bikes. For instance, I’ve ridden my friend’s 1200cc HD Forty-Eight without any issues (except when I hit a hole in the road during a turn, oops haha). My point is that it’s not so much an issue of strength as it is balance, so if you’re short-ish (like me) or you don’t have a whole lot of body strength (also like me), it might be good to start out with something lighter. I only dropped my scooter once the entire first year I had it!
There’s less to distract you from learning to navigate traffic.
The first time you get out on the road on two wheels, it can be pretty intimidating. Especially here in Texas, where there are trucks, suburbans and 18-wheelers whizzing by, even on back roads. When you’re riding a bike, you have to be MUCH more vigilant in traffic, and you have to learn to drive more defensively, so the fewer distractions you have, the better.
During my year on my scooter, I was able to learn what kinds of car behavior or situations to watch for, and how to react, so by the time I got on my first motorcycle, riding in traffic was much less stressful. After 45 minutes of riding around a parking lot, I was able to take the bike on the road with no problems.
A scooter was not my first choice. After I took the safety course, I wanted a motorcycle. But I quickly learned that the bikes I thought were beautiful were not good beginner bikes, and frankly, I wasn’t interested in paying $3500 for a Honda Rebel that I would want to shuffle off in four months. When I realized I could get a great scooter for less than half that, I was sold. I found my Piaggio on Craigslist and snapped it up for a cool $1200.
Just a word of advice — don’t be swayed by those über-cheap 50cc mopeds. You can get them for less than a grand, even brand new, but it’s not worth it. Most of those 50cc mopeds get up to 40 mph — if you’re lucky. Because I got a 150, I could keep up on faster suburban roads, and I could quickly get away from dangerous situations. Spend the extra money — it’ll be worth it.
They get great gas mileage.
Many people think motorcycles get great gas mileage, and that’s really only partly true. From what I’ve heard/read/experienced, most bikes over 400cc get about 45-55 MPG, and while that’s not bad, you could get similar fuel efficiency (or better) with a hybrid car.
For 2015, the motorcycle with the best MPG was the Honda Grom, which tops out at 50 MPH, at 103.5 MPG. The best scooter was the Genuine Stella Automatic, which gets an impressive 140 MPG, and probably tops out around 50 MPH as well. Personally, I estimate that my Fly gets about 70 MPG, and I’ve pushed it to about 60 MPH.
Also, if you’re switching to a motorcycle because you think they’re more environmentally friendly… well, unfortunately that’s not quite true. Yes, they do use less gas, and they do produce less CO2 as a result, but bikes are not held to nearly the same emissions standards as cars. In a 2011 episode, the Mythbusters did some testing and found that bikes produced 416% more hydrocarbons, 3,220% more oxides of nitrogen and 8,065% more carbon monoxide than cars. RideApart attempted to tear that claim down with some valid-ish arguments, but in my opinion the issue still stands: we need better emissions standards for motorcycles.
Anywayssssss… what we’re we talking about? Oh, right, scooters 🙂
And the last reason a scooter should be your first bike is…
They’re a hell of a lot of fun.
If you want to learn to ride, chances are you’re not dreaming of struggling to downshift at 15 mph, or learning firsthand why gravel is a rider’s worst enemy. You want to ride because you want to fly effortlessly through traffic and feel the wind in your (helmeted) hair. With a motorcycle, it’s going to take you awhile to get there. With a scooter, you’ll get there faster and more safely, and you’ll be that much better on a bike when you’re ready.
And nothing compares to getting up to 50 mph with a twist of the throttle, or beating your boyfriend off a full stop because he was in neutral (hehe).
So, before spending a bunch of money on a good “beginner” bike that you don’t really like, try a scooter. Who knows? Once you buy a motorcycle, you might just decide to keep the scooter too 🙂
Whatever you decide to do, just remember that your first bike isn’t meant to be your last. Learning to ride a motorcycle isn’t something you do in just a few weeks or months. The only way to do it is through experience. So don’t worry about pushing your comfort zone right away. The more you ride, the more your comfort zone will expand, and you’ll be on the Ducati of your dreams before you know it. Just relax and enjoy the ride.
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Want more advice on shopping for your first two-wheeled fun mobile? Here’s what I wish someone had told me.
Brian Elgin says
Love it! My first “bike” was a Yamaha Razz scooter at age 13. I mowed yards and my folks paid for half of it as a combine birthday/Christmas present.
Aw, that’s awesome! Thanks again for reading, Brian 🙂 Looking forward to seeing how your project bikes turn out!
Andres Evans says
Nice article! I would love to have the RnineT, but I am financially limited. On the other hand, getting a GTS300 doesn’t sound too bad either. Also, there is a big community for scooter riders where I live in Lima-Peru.
I’m a big fan of saying that everything on two wheels is fun! 😀
There will always be dream bikes, I figure it’s better to have something to ride than nothing at all. Cheers!
I had a Yamaha Riva 125cc scooter in high school. I went everywhere on that thing until I could afford my first car.
Thirty mumble years later I decided I want to explore on two wheels again, so last year I bought a 155cc Yamaha S-max scooter.
Not even 2 months later I decided I wanted a little bit more power so I bought a Yamaha R3 sportbike, but I kept the scooter.
My only complaint about the Smax is that you have to change the oil every 2000 miles and adjust the valves.
It’s kind of a pain to do yourself and expensive to have the repair shop do it. Having to clean and lube the chain on the sport bike every few hundred miles is much easier.
That being said, CVT in bumper to bumper traffic is way better on the nerves.
Thanks for reading, Eric! I kind of wish I still had my Fly 150, it was a lot of fun and so easy to get around on. And yes, having to switch gears makes being in traffic so much more annoying!
Ride safe 🙂
Papa Bear says
A wonderful take on an excellent topic… knowledge of riding, which leads to awareness while riding, which leads to – well, the sky’s the limit!!!
Another thing to consider is that many old(er) riders are trimming down their riding times and distances, and a scooter is an outstanding way to do just that. I’ve been riding well over 45 years, and have owned dual-sports to full-dressers. However, about 5 years ago, when I found myself (very temporarily) bike-less, I opted for a Yamaha Zuma 125 scooter to get me back in the wind for awhile. What. A. Hoot! I did pass her along during a trade-in on my current motorcycle, but I’m aching to get back on a scooter for around town and some backroad fun. Suzuki’s Burgman 650 is on the list, as well as Kymco’s Xciting 400, and XTown 300. Time and $$$ will tell.
Thank you for your insightful and very encouraging piece.
In the meantime – y’all ride safe – and often!
Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. I totally agree that scooters are underrated. Even now that I have three (!) motorcycles, I find myself missing having a little lightweight scoot for city rides! As I’ve taken to saying, anything on two wheels is fun 😀 Best of luck building up your stable, and thank you for your uplifting comment!
My first bike was a 1980 Kawasaki KE100. I was 16 when we got it. My parents had a summer place way out in the sticks and we used it there. I rode it every weekend I was out there as a kid. Could do wheelies and jumps over mounts of dirt. It was awesome. But as I got older, went to college, graduated, did other things on the weekends, I went out to their summer place less and less. Now it’s 2018, I’m a geezer, and they decided to sell their place. So we cleared it out and I brought this bike home. Took a class in April and got a motorcycle license. 38 years and now finally, I can finally legally drive it. Cleaned the carb and the gas tank, checked the tires and lubed up some parts and my KE100 runs great, Only has 2800 miles.
However late last year I picked up a Honda Elite 80 at a garage sale for $200. Didn’t run but had 300 miles on it and was in perfect cosmetic shape. I got it running over the winter and now that I have my motorcycle license I end up riding the elite 80 often for small errands and don’t use the KE100 much.
The KE100 will beat the elite 80 off the line and top speed (It goes about 55 and gets there in a hurry) but has ZERO storage and makes the typical blue smoke trail.
Just picked up a Riva 125 in excellent shape. Needs some TLC here and there but may use that next summer and sell the Elite 80. Still though, the Riva has little storage. The glove box is probably a bit smaller than the front trunk on the Elite 80.
You’ve got great taste! The KE100s are adorable, and the Elites have such a classic 80s scooter vibe. I do miss having the storage like I did on the scooter — mine also had an aftermarket GIVI box, and between it and the under-seat compartment I could carry a whole week’s worth of groceries (for one, at least! haha). Sounds like you’ve got yourself a good stable of small bikes 🙂 Enjoy!