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Motor Scooter Enthusiast

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Each day, motor scooters zip past the Tower of London, down the streets of Paris and across the city of Rome. Yet in North America, scooters have remained the forgotten stepchild of bigger cars and SUVs -- until recently.

Now, that has all changed. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, motorized scooter sales are up 38 percent since 2002. That's good news for scooter dealers in urban centres ready to roll out new models to rev up our appetites for some fun, sun and excitement.

Pete Shattuck manages three scooter stores in Colorado. He says those numbers reflect what he sees in the Denver area.

"Of course, some say scooters are a fad, but fads don't drive an industry," he says.

"What has driven it is people realizing, like the rest of the world, that we can't keep driving our SUVs and big Cadillacs, and burning through 15 miles to the gallon."

Unlike gas-guzzling cars, scooters sip gas like fine wine and carry you 60 to 80 miles on one tank. With that in mind, vintage and modern scooters are getting second looks.

But it's for more than just economic reasons. Since 1999, the use of scooters in television advertising and movies has created a "chic" factor that is turning heads and creating a big demand for two-wheeled runabouts.

Shattuck says even Vespa, who pulled out of the United States in the early '80s when the company couldn't conform to new environmental standards, has returned. He says Vespa is capitalizing on the interest in nostalgia and helping recreate the status symbol of owning a Vespa.

The company began opening "boutiques" that hype tons of apparel. According to Shattuck, these stores even sell bath salts and $75 T-shirts with the word "Vespa" written on them.

Brenda Comeau-Watson has been riding since the early '80s. She says she owns and rides four Vespas. Her attachment started with a simple shopping bag.

"In 1980, a German friend gave me a 'Fiorucci' bag that had a beautiful graphic of a Vespa on it," she says. "I just loved the looks of it."

Comeau-Watson says that two years later, when she had a little more money, she bought her first Vespa scooter and has never looked back.

However, she says men do look back, especially when a female rides past. Scooters are a sure-fire way to flirt with the opposite sex.

"Maybe it's the offbeat style or the practicality, but it seems guys dig chicks on scoots!" Comeau-Watson says.

Getting Started

Scooters are hot, but it's important to do a little research before you buy.

First, consider where you live and what the transportation laws say. Helmet laws are also important to review.

In New York, you'll need a motorcycle license before you can operate a scooter. And just like any other motorcycle, scooters must be registered, inspected annually and insured.

Christopher Sullivan, who lives in New York City, says police don't always appreciate scooter enthusiasts parking their scoots on the sidewalks.

In Colorado, it's a different story. Laws are much more relaxed, separating scooters into two classes. Scooters just below 50cc with an automatic transmission are considered a moped-class scooter. As such, people in Colorado need only a driver's license to operate one.

Insurance for scooters is fairly low, especially compared to cars. Shattuck says that for $100 a year, most people in Colorado can obtain full-coverage moped insurance.

Other questions you'll want to ask before you open your wallet are:

  • What style and size will suit you best? If you don't want manual transmission (gear shifting), then an automatic "twist-'n'-go" might be a better fit.
  • What is your budget? Comeau-Watson says vintage scooters, if completely restored, can be quite expensive, but Shattuck says you should plan to spend at least $1,500 to get moped transportation that is reliable.
  • What is the availability of parts and service in your area? Like all mechanical devices, things will eventually need repair. Finding a reliable service department is essential unless you plan to do the work yourself.
  • How fast do you need to go? Thirty mph is top speed for some models, while other mopeds will go 40 mph. If you need to do the speed limit on your freeway, you'll need to buy a motorcycle-class scooter.
  • What is the weather like in your area? Enthusiast Kevin Schueller of Pennsylvania says that if you live in a frigid climate and have no alternative transportation, you're probably going to be uncomfortable during certain times of the year. Also, slick roads are a hazard, so consider how many days your scooter might be stored due to rain, sleet or snow.


Scoot! Quarterly
An online magazine for scooter enthusiasts

Vespa Club of America
Dedicated to collecting, restoring and preserving European motor scooters

Scooter Club Index
Find one near you

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