Rider training is indispensible. Advise your daughter to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Beginning Rider Course at a local junior college or municipal recreation department. The bikes are provided in this course. All your daughter will need is a helmet and footwear that protects the ankles (boots or hightops). The course assumes no prior knowledge about bikes and consists of a day of classroom prep and a day riding on a closed course. Once your daughter has taken this course, she'll be ready to buy her first scooter or bike.
For the price of a new scooter, you may be able to find a good used motorcycle that is small enough for a beginning rider but big enough that she won't quickly outgrow it. Some 250cc bikes such as the Honda Rebel get mileage as good as a scooter.
50cc Scooters are considered dangerous because of their limited acceleration and braking response. But they are also exhibiting a growth of about 30% a year, so they cannot be ignored! They are, a relatively inexpensive way to get around, and are very popular around college campuses and crowded cities. Two websites I would recommend is www.vespausa.com and honda.com, so that you see what they can look like and what they cost. Both of these are manufacturers with excellent reputations, the Vespa being more of a style Icon, and you will pay the price! The Honda Metropolitan is probably the slowest Scooter out there, because of its 4-cycle engine, but it is a Honda! The key, to me at least, is that there be a servicing dealer nearby. Yamaha also makes the wonderful Vino, which is a 2-cycle design and faster than the Honda, and there are a number of Chinese manufacturers, and also Kymko, which I believe is Korean and has a good reputation. As with most things, the dealer can make or break the experience! Hopefully some other reader can guide you to a Scootering Experience article. I know that there is Scoot Quarterly magazine, but I am not sure if they will give you the information that you seek. Also, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, offers Scooter Courses, in some locales, check their website at www.msf-usa.org. Good Luck!
www.scooterbbs.com is a good place to start. A good 125cc or 150cc scooter is plenty quick and no more dangerous than any other 2 wheeler. Check out the Buddy 125 which is made by PGO, an excellent scooter at: www.genuinescooters.com
Yes, I'm a scooter AND motorcycle lover. Have ridden both for years and when it comes to gettin' around Chicago I choose my Stella over my old but reliable XS650. For longer jaunts it's the XS. I just don't understand why so many guys think scooters are shi+, cuz they're not. They have their place and are an absolute hoot to ride.
My wife rides a 2003 Honda Metropolitan 49cc scooter around town (suburb of St Louis).
It's a wonderful machine, but don't ask too much of it. Riding on a street with a speed limit of more than 35 mph carries risk of being run over. Top speed is no more than 35. She rides mostly in subdivisions and side streets to get to work or the gym, but there is always the potential she won't be noticed.
For getting around campus? If your daughter is an alert rider and people are halfway reasonable about driving around campus, you can't beat the Met. It gets a legitimate 100 mpg, it's got all the lights, turn signals a fully equipped motorcycle has, it's easy to maintain, and, according to my wife, it's a cute little thing.
Personally, I have something much, much more powerful, but I'm 225 lb, 6 ft 3, and comical on a scooter. Were I a college student again, I would DEFINITELY have one.
Honda is great, but Yamaha also makes a great scooter with more power that looks good, try them out, too. You pay for style points with Vespa. Personally, I would avoid the cheap Chinese scooters.
There are some good forums out there (scoot.net, urbanscootin.com) for you to check out.
I've owned a couple of scooters (currently, my wife and I have a Yamaha Vino 125 and a Piaggio BV200), and I have demo'd, rented, or borrowed a bunch more. Scooters are fun and practical, and they are becoming ever more attractive as fuel prices climb.
If your daughter is interested in scootering, I'd recommend a Yamaha, Honda, or Kymco. All are very reliable scoots and a good value for the $$. Vespas, while beautiful, are more expensive and typically will cost more to purchase, repair, and maintain. A Vespa will also be a greater theft risk.
In most states, a rider will need a full-on motorcycle endorsement to operate a scooter larger than 49cc displacement. These larger displacement scooters are capable of speeds greater than ~35mph (our BV200 can do 90+ mph) and will make it easier to "keep up with traffic" on urban streets and parkways. Earning a motorcycle endorsement (especially if she earns it via a MSF course) will also teach her the basics of motorcycle control and safety. Very important for your little girl's well-being...
Finally, remember that at a college campus, theft is rampant. Make sure that your daughter has a secure place to park the scooter at night and during classes.
These are some of my initial thoughts. Got more questions? Fire away
By the gods man, just do an online search for scooters! For that matter visit a local Japanese, Korean or Euro dealer and check 'em out.
I wouldn't let my daughter on a scooter without and MSF course. I'd say a motorcycle is a wiser choice, but scooters are crazy fun on campus' or little european street. That said, they have no place on major roads -- get a moto for that -- and for campus, I'd just recommend a bicycle.
I am an MSF instructor so by all means get your daughter to take a motorcycle safety class. If you have purchased the scooter by time she takes the class she can sign a waiver and ride her scooter during the class. Some schools specialize with a scooters only class.
I'm not a fan of the little scooters because of power, braking, and handling. My wife has a Suzuki Burgman 400. You can doddle around town all day on it or load up the trunk strap on a bag and go touring. It has larger wheels and a lower center of gravity for better handling. It is also the best selling scooter above 125cc.
The Honda Reflex is probably not a bad ride as well as the Piaggio's and Aprilia's but I would definitely get at least 125cc.
My daughter is in LA and found the Aprilia Scarabeo. It's the most motorcycle-like of the bunch with bigger wheels and more power (150cc, 250cc, 500cc). I feel more comfortable that she'll be safer on a 'real' bike. It seems like a motorcycle except for the step-through frame and transmission.
Having looked at scooters off and on, if I were to buy one, it would likely be the Yamaha Vino 125. It's got that classic scooter styling that you find in the smaller 49cc models but a little more juice to the wheels. And at $2500 MSRP, it's a tough combo to beat.
The smaller Vino Classic is a usable machine though. Still having a 49cc Z50 I know a machine that small will be quick enough to get away from a stoplight, however the top end is probably around 35 MPH. If she's just blasting around a campus though that 49cc version would be great. With a 1.6 gallon tank she'd probably only be filling it every few weeks.
The term "scooter" can easily be misunderstood. There are scooters out there weighing up to 600 pounds that will hit over 100 MPH and blow the doors of most Harleys. The Maxi-scoots like the Suzuki Burgman 650cc, and Honda Silverwing run around 9 or 10 grand out the door depending on the state you are in and its tax structure.
I must agree that possibly a 50cc "putt-putt" is not the best choice, with a 250cc being a good middle ground. I must also agree that taking the MSF course is a very necessary first step!
The good news is you will get great gas mileage and pay less on insurance with a "Scooter," and you will have a lot of fun with it.