When I tell people I ride a “scooter”, they usually think of this:￼
When what I ride is this:￼
Not quite the same thing, eh?
A “scooter” is simply another form of a motorcycle, not particularly any more different from a standard cruiser style than a “lean forward” crotch rocket sport bike is. Scooters are usually on the lower end of the power spectrum — the smaller ones are intended for in-city commutes, mostly — and they have a floorboard, so you usually sit upright. Most scooters are also automatic transmission, and they usually have under-seat storage.
Mine is a Kymco Downtown 300i — at 300 cc, one of the more powerful scooters. (Kymco is a Taiwanese company. They also make engine parts for Vespa and BMW.) I have had this one for a little over a year (since April 2011), replacing my previous Kymco People S 125 which I had ridden for the previous 3 years. When I upgraded to the Downtown, I stuck with a brand I knew and trusted.
When people hear that I ride a “scooter”, they picture me putt-putting along at 25 mph on city streets, doing short trips of a couple miles max.
In 15 months, I have put just short of 10,000 miles on my Downtown, with over 15,000 miles on the People S before it. It is my primary commute vehicle — my only vehicle until the car gets some cooling system repairs — 5 miles each way including segments on the freeway, in traffic. I ride year round, in everything from sun to pouring rain; only the threat of snow keeps me off it.
(Oh, and thunderstorms. Lightning and motorcycles don’t seem to be a smart mix. We usually have none of these a year in Seattle, but the morning after I wrote this post, we had our fourth one in two weeks. And I delayed going into work until it passed.)
I have ridden my Downtown on hours-long trips to Portland, Vancouver, and Richland — the last being 4 hours each way with a rest break (which is where that pic was taken), including a mountain pass — at highway speeds, topping it out at 90 mph. (Shh, don’t tell the cops.) With the trunk, the space under the seat, and a bag strapped behind me, I can carry enough luggage (including my leathers) for a long weekend trip. I can also carry my inflatable kayak (uninflated, of course) on it. Or a dog cage suitable for puppy play.
I get as high at 74 mpg in cool weather. I can almost always find a parking space, and parking in the downtown garages is just $5 for the day, usually with a space for me on the first level of the garage. And insurance is $100 for the entire year.
So please feel free to sneer a little when you hear I ride a “scooter”. I’ll do the same when I hear you complain about gas and parking and insurance prices for your car, or when I see you get your own motorcycle out only on the sunny days in Seattle (all 14 of them each year). Even a “scooter” motorcycle beats one that doesn’t get ridden or one that doesn’t even exist.
Oh, and I’ll see you at Folsom in September. I plan to ride down, over 800 miles each way. On my “scooter”.