Bill's Honda Helix pages
Scooter new and views, odds and ends - - -
May 19, 2007: Thoughts on scooter "types" - - -

1: "Twist-and-go" scooters like the Helix have the advantage of simplicity. You don't need to learn any left foot machinations, and there is nothing for your left hand to do except rest on the handgrip and "steer" a bit.

So what's the DISADVANTAGE ?

The centrifugal clutch drops out at low speed, leaving you with no power to the rear wheel unless you also raise the engine speed considerably. This has the unfortunate effect of making it nearly impossible to smoothly modulate rear wheel power, and thus CONTROL in very tight, low speed turns. That situation arises more often than most novice riders might believe; not only in maneuvering in close spaces like parking garages, but also in making sharp turns -- especially tight UPHILL turns -- in traffic where you cannot, or dare not, get out of your lane.

Here in my home town, I face this problem several times a month because Chattanooga, Tenn. is quite hilly and has lots of narrow, meandering older streets.

What can you do about it? I don't see any acceptable answer other than PRACTICE. Find an unpopular parking lot where you can practice slow, sharp turns. Be prepared to pick the scooter up, because you are almost surely going to drop it more than once . . . unless you are either highly skilled, or you don't push the envelope very far and make pretty big circles.

2: Displacement. Categorizing engine size is one reasonable way of classifying scooters:

  • 50cc (or smaller, if there are any): Limited speed -- about 30 mph unless the engine is running at a really outrageous rpm, like, say, 10,000 or so. In which case the life expectancy of the scooter is measured in hours, not years. However, 50cc scooters have been used for some classic rides, as in circumnavigating Australia (a 60 year old grandmother on an overloaded 50cc made the trip with very few problems. Of course she wasn't in any hurry!) Big selling points: about 100 mpg if ridden wisely, no "motorcycle" certification required on your license in most jurisdictions.
  • 80cc to about 125cc: Capable of keeping up with urban traffic of 35 to 45 mph but not much more than that, and then only lightly loaded. Well designed (preferably water-cooled) engines capable of excellent life expectancy and good economy (60 to 80 mpg.) A few jurisdictions will require a motorcycle certification, but only a few.
  • >125 to 180cc: Still not safe on Interstates, but can stay ahead of most urban traffic if desired. Carrying two is possible for reasonable distances. Many jurisdictions will require motorcycle certification for driver's license. Top speeds about 60 mph, fuel economy around 70 mpg.
  • 250cc (may be 240 or 255cc): smallest displacement engine capable of safe highway operation, if only barely. At this point, the scooters are typically heavier (around 300 pounds or more) and have longer wheel-bases (60 inches or a bit longer.) These physical characteristics yield a more comfortable ride and greater stability at high speeds. They also limit the nimbleness and restrict low speed maneuverability. Expect 60 mpg under modest operating conditions. Carrying 2 persons is not a problem, although speed and economy will, of course, suffer. Motorcycle certification will be required everywhere.
  • > 250cc: The line between "scooter" and "motorcycle" blurs here. The defining characteristic of these scooters is the step-through chassis and (usually) some flat floor area for the driver's feet. These machines are capable of Interstate highway speeds for long trips. Mileage will likely not exceed 50 mpg, and wet weight approaches 500 pounds or more. At 400 to 600cc it is hard to see why anyone would not recognize these as actual motorcycles even if you don't have to throw your leg over the seat to get aboard
Classic Odd Scooters from around the World - - - -

This is from Dregnis' "Scooter Bible" (Whitehorse Press, 2005) showing what people will try, given too much time on their hands and money they don't need badly!

There's something fishy about this scooter.


Then there's this fowl model!



Harley Hogs have nothing on this guy!

If your scoot doesn't get enough respect in traffic, this modification will definitely move those SUVs out of your path. Vespa with an attitude!

Yes, it works; and has been used in combat. (French, in Algeria.)

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©2006 Bill Laudeman; all rights reserved. Page updated Saturday, January 17, 2009 14:17 Eastern time.