Tuesday, August 26, 2008

No, really, we aren't laughing at you!!

A friend of mine from college recently wrote to me. He bought a scooter to use for small trips (e.g. to the supermarket) to save on gas. I received this email from him a few days ago:

You know I got a scooter from China last year, I fart around town on its 150 CC glory. I just use it to go to Grade A Supermarket to get some food for dinner or whatever, because it makes no sense to fire up the pickup truck for a quick errand. Sometimes I pass by people on real motorcycles, they give me some kind of gang sign. They lower their right hand and stick out two fingers like a peace sign.

Does this mean "Right on, brother!" or more like "Get a real bike, you jerk!"? The bike looks dorky, I look dorky, I even wear a helmet because even though Connecticut law says you don't have to, you can't appeal Newton's Three Laws. I'm not sure if I should just give this sign back to say "Power to the people!" Or "Twice as much back to you, you loser!"

Inquiring minds want to know!

I answered back:

Motorcyclists tend to wave to each other. Some give a full wave, others just hold down their hand. Some won't wave to scooter riders. I, and many others do. You're on two wheels. You're in the wind. You're a brother.

Sometimes I think of getting a cheapie scooter. My motorcycle gets 30 mpg. I know I can do a lot better, especially for a 10 mile commute that's pretty much no highway.

KTRSD! (Keep the rubber side down!)

He proudly told me about what a piece of junk his scooter is... direct quote: "It's a piece of junk but a really fun piece of junk." (no-name type of brand, comes with assembly required, pieces come pre-broken to save you the hassle, trip odometer doesn't work, etc.)

With gas prices the way they are, I've seen more scooters out on the road, and to a lesser extent, mopeds. In fact my aunt recently emailed the family and asked our opinion of her going out and getting a scooter (I'm all for it! She used to ride a motorcycle). I've also seen some of the impact of these new riders. They fit a sort of gray area. Most of the smaller scooters really aren't motorcycles, so as my friend pointed out, a lot of times helmets aren't required. (even in states that require motorcyclists to wear helmets) However, in at least Virginia and Maryland (I'm sure there are other states as well) they recently revised the laws. Now if your scooter/moped goes over 35 miles an hour, it is considered a motorcycle, and requires things like helmet usage, insurance, registration/license plate, etc. There is also more training being offered for scooter riders. In the past their only option was to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course, which means learning to ride with a clutch. Scooters tend to be automatic drive vehicles (I'm not aware of any that are shiftable, but then again, my experiences with scooters is negligiable. But now the MSF offers a program called "ScooterSchool." I've heard of other training options for scooters as well. Some MSF classes will let you use a scooter in a regular class with motorcycles.

As I said to my friend, I have been thinking about getting a scooter for commutes to work. I can see several advantages to using them. Besides the gas advantages, scooters tend to use the side of the road more, nice during traffic backups. Of course, there are several disadvantages as well. They are mostly smaller than motorcycles, thus even harder to see. They aren't as quick as motorcycles, so might be harder to get out of the way if something should happen. And the lower powered ones definitely can't be used on the highways (nor would I want to!)

This is something I'll be thinking about for a while. But regardless, I still continue to wave to those riding scooters, mopeds, and of course motorcycles.


A picture of the scooter my friend has. But as he puts it: "The bike in the picture looks much nicer than the reality of the one I own too. All the plastic parts fit together in the picture, and without all the gaps in mine. My turn signal stopped working right yesterday, it was always flashing left (turning it to right made both lights flash, like an hazard signal). I took out the switch, looked at it, found nothing wrong with it, put it back, and it worked fine. Go figure!"

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