I would propose the following test.
Can you ride a bicycle with confidence? Can you move from sitting to standing to walking in a semi-fluid motion? Can you catch a ball bounced off a wall 10 feet in front of you? If you answered yes, then you can almost certainly ride powered two wheelers. Think scooter or motorcycle. Think freedom.
Now the question is, which two wheels?
Imagine a motorcycle vs. a scooter. You probably have a strong vision of each. However, most DMVs see size being all that matters. The short version is:
· over 50CCs, must be registered and require a motorcycle license.
· under 50CCs, must be registered and many states support a special class (under 50CCs) where the driver can be anyone over 18 with a regular car license.
· Mopeds – typically under 50CCs, may not require registration or plates and can often be driven by anyone over 18 with a regular car license or no license at all. They do however have bicycle pedals.
· Nopeds – typically under 50CCs, may not require registration or plates and can often be driven by anyone over 18 with a regular car license or no license at all. The phrase was coined decades ago to account for the moped design, but fixed pegs, rather than bicycle pedals.
What about scooters?
Scooters are a form of motorcycle. Size defines when and where you can use a motorcycle/scooter. Since we are all now brethren of the under 4-wheel church(R), lets us talk about why you may choose a scooter over a traditional motorcycle.
First my disclaimer. The deeper you research the more you are going to see that the line between scooter and motorcycle is blurred.
To some, the distinction is where the gas tank resides. This sets the stage for how you get onto your vehicle. Most scooters are like cars and you slide into them and your feet rest on the floor. You shift into gear and out. Gas and brakes control everything. Motorcycles are like horses, you ride “on them.” The gas tank is between your legs and you get the feeling of being on a horse as you grip the tank with your knees.
Motorcycles tend to have manual transmissions. You shift. The upside to manual shifting is you can wind out the gears and get very fast acceleration. On a scooter, you turn the throttle and the scooter speeds up or slows down, just like your automatic car. You will never beat a comparable standard off the line, but you trade that for reduced effort of shifting as well. And yes, you can certainly pick up a standard scooter as well. Choices, folks.
Motorcycles tend toward larger engines, with the Triumph Rocket III topping the scale at 2294CCs. Most scooters are 250CCs or less. However, this is merely a manufacturing decision. Piaggio Gilera GP 800 is an 839CC beauty.
So why did we choose scooters?
1. They are simpler for the novice or older rider to master.
2. In most cases, they can be stepped into or at most over, without the need to “climb on.”
3. You can get a nicer scooter for less money than a nicer motorcycle.
4. The varieties of options abound with some very distinct features from the classic Vespa to modernistic Honda Elite of the 70s to the bullish Gilera.
It’s up to you.
Now the question goes back to the reader, is this for you? Do you long for open roads or local commutes without the massive vehicle around you? If so, you may be ready for to join the church of the under 4-wheel. But how can you be sure?
Let’s face it, no one wants to plunk down even $2000 on a possibility they may hate something. Or worse, have their first experience being that of dropping their $18,000 investment as they roll to a stop.
Let us give you another option.
One that frees you to get the basics, without even locking you into the scooter vs. motorcycle discussion yet.
Our experience was that of two people. One who last rode motorcycles 35+ years ago. The other, a newbie at over 50. We cannot say enough good things about the Motorcycle Safety Foundation(https://www.msf-usa.org/BRC.aspx). From zero experience to those polishing their skills, this is an awesome course. PA offers it for free to anyone getting their license. The state pushes the program hard to ensure that we get better drivers with real skills on the road. Making it safer for everyone.
MSF has exceptional instructors; small class sizes and they supply the motorcycle on a closed course with hands on training. Regardless of your experience level – you learn on their machines, in simulated conditions. Ours was an enormous parking lot with lanes, lines for cornering and curves. At the end (in PA), MSF performs the driving part of the exam and you walk out with your license. From there, you can gain the confidence to understand what you are looking for in your purchase.
And that’s where the fun begins. Are you ready to ride?