Although weather in much of the nation works against motor scooters – as does traffic most of the time – scooters still represent an very intriguing way of getting around town and saving a boatload of money, at the same time.
Not an easy switch
Surely, it is a wrench to move from a full-sized or SUV for your morning commute, but the figures don’t lie and here are a couple that should have you thinking:
SUVs, no matter what kind of technology is used under the hood for highway cruising, still only average at best – and we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt – 17 mpg around town or in daily commuting when it’s slow and slower.
SUVs have huge gas tanks, while car tanks are a little smaller, but the average fillup for either is let’s say – based on the $3.63 that was at a local station this morning – is, based on 20 gallons of gasoline, $72.60 or much more for bigger vehicles.
So, now you have a vehicle that gets 17 mpg (car, SUV it’s little matter as the around-town gas mileage is about the same) and you use at least a tank or tank-and-a-half per week, so you are averaging between $72 and $108 per fillup per week. This is based on a 200-mile weekly commute (40 miles per day).
Contrast that with one of the Vespa models that have been on sale for a bit and its 100 mpg and you have a vehicle that costs you about $8 per wee to operate, based on the same commute.
Now, we’ll grant that lots of the year in the northern states scooters just aren’t the way to go. They are too light for the snow; their engines, which may still be four-cycle air-cooled units, may not be up to the subzero weather in the north. And, being truthful, scooters can’t handle in the snow. As a quick jerk or swerve and you could find yourself on the end of a rather nasty dustup.
But, what about days like today when the sun is out and the weather is beautiful; a scooter is the way to go. Even in hot, sticky weather, it’s better to be riding in the air with a breeze blowing through your helmet and onto your skin than it is to be riding a gas-guzzling behemoth.
Imagine doing a week of driving on $8 or less, rather than $70 to $100 or more! It’s possible and actually good for the environment because all engines are now required to be four-stroke which means that instead of the old two-stroke engines that many people still associate with scooters, where oil is mixed directly with gasoline, the four-stroke has an oil pan from which the oil enters powerplant for lubrication and cooling (oil cools) and the oil is then recycled through the engine oil pan and there’s no mixing between the oil and the gas. Instead the oil goes through various lubricating galleries and returns, to its pan or concentrator where it is put back into work again. There’s no more of that aggravating oil/gas mixing.
Training a good idea
With that said, though, you still do have to know a few of the rules of the road and it is still a good idea to get some training in how to handle a scooter.
The key to today’s scooters is that they are more like small motorcycles than less. Yes, there are still small Vespa-style hard-shelled scooters out there where you sit over the engine and which have a small clutch on the floor (you usually use handbrakes to stop the vehicles and today’s scooters rely on disc brakes on each wheel for sure stopping).
And because they are more like bikes, they do take training and the proper equipment. Today, you have to ride with a good quality helmet and if the weather isn’t hot, then a set of light leathers isn’t a bad idea. (It’s not as crazy as you might think because given today’s bike-style scooters with engines that can run up to 300ccs and with top speeds of over 90, if you lay down a scooter in an accident, it’s a good idea to have more than a pair of Old Navies between you and the street.)
Around-town, though, is when scooters shine – the smaller scooters meant for around-town commuting or driving. They can be parked just about anywhere and achieve some mean mileage (90-100 mpg).
Even commuting to work, on a normal workday, a scooter is a good idea, if you just remember to stay as far to the right as possible and watch out for drivers who really can’t see you all that well.
You do have the advantage over drivers in two ways:
You can see them before they see you
Your scooters is much more flexible than a car. You can get out of the way of vehicles in a hurry, but you do have to be constantly on the lookout for them.
One thing that might encourage more scooter use, aside from Prince Phillip of England demonstrating the advantages of a lightweight electric bike the other day, is if more towns took advantage of allowing scooter-drivers the right to use bike lanes. Yes, this will elicit howls of protest from the spandex and helmet crowd who believe that every right-hand roadside is theirs to ride on and if there is a “bike” lane it is their exclusive province. It might be, but, small scooters would work, too.