With all of the new riders trying to save gas heading out onto the streets on 2 wheels, I started thinking about whether a novice should buy a small displacement “beginner’s bike” or a scooter. After watching a few new riders struggling down the road, it’s more than a hypothetical question.
The other day I was driving down a street in my neighborhood and saw someone, obviously very new to this whole riding experience, trying out his brand new scooter. As I approached his driveway, the wobbly rider headed toward the street with a look of panic as he tried to figure out how to stop, continuing his slow motion ride right out into traffic. He did manage to stop, finally, squarely in the middle of the street, then pushing himself backwards into the driveway out of harms way, … for the moment.
Obviously, he either didn’t receive any basic instructions from the dealer or didn’t listen, or perhaps he ordered his new ride from some other source, but I bet he isn’t unique in his complete lack of knowledge or control. As he continues his wobbly first weeks on the road, what are the chances he’ll be in some kind of accident, or cause one? Will the experience turn him into a long term rider or sour him to the whole experience? Might it have been any different on a small motorcycle?
Motorcycles and scooters present a very different rider environment, even beginner bikes have all of the standard motorcycle controls and you straddle it like a bicycle which most people are at least somewhat familiar with. A scooter has the feet on a floorboard, twist and go simplicity a new rider might be attracted to but the little wheels and unique handling mean you’re learning to ride a scooter and you’ll have to relearn a lot of the basics if you want to move up.
Scooters are fun and have a large following around the world but how many commuters trying to save gas money will stay with them long term? I have a hunch a lot of these new riders will end up selling their little gas saver and return to their car sooner rather than later, passing the little scooter to another new rider who will repeat the first owner’s experience.
If the rider begins with a scooter because his friends all own one or the area where he lives has a large and active scooter population, there’s a better chance it will turn out OK, but if someone just wants to park his truck because the gas pump is killing his wallet and turns to a scooter as the answer, I think his long term prospects are pretty dim. Motorcycles are far more numerous in most areas and finding a friend or riding buddy to get you through the rough spots might be easier. The early months are the dangerous ones and rider skill learned once on the motorcycle carries on even if you move up to a bigger bike.
So what do you think? Are scooters a good place to start or should a rider get a motorcycle to begin with?