Basic personal transportation is the name of the game and, depending on where you are, it can range from two feet to four wheels. In the US, for example, the car is basic transportation, and there are plenty of people whose first vehicles were a beaten Civic or Blazer. Shift your gaze abroad, however, and it’s a very different story, and cars are a luxury that people just can’t afford. Instead, basic personal transportation is on two wheels, and many people count scooters and motorcycles as their first rides, perhaps their only ride.
Scooters vs Other Transportation
A scooter is basically a two-wheel motorized vehicle, not unlike a motorcycle, but not quite like one either. You sit on a scooter – you don’t straddle it like a motorcycle, and there’s a large area to put your feet. A windshield might be available, but not typically. Engine sizes typically range from 50 cc to 850 cc, generating power in one or two cylinders and transferring it to the rear wheel via the transmission. Depending on age and locale, the transmission might be a manual, just like a motorcycle, or a CVT belt-drive. There is usually some onboard storage, perhaps under the seat, and most of the mechanical parts, such as the engine, transmission, and suspension, are covered by body panels.
The basic appeal of the scooter is economy. Compared to cars and even motorcycles, very little training is required and they are easy to ride. Since the 1980s, the CVT belt drive made them even easier to operate, as they didn’t even require a clutch – they just twist and go! Because of their small size, you can park a scooter practically anywhere, which makes them popular for city-dwellers. Finally, because of their small engines and light weight, they get great fuel economy. Most of the time, they’re also far cheaper to insure than cars or motorcycles.
World’s Most Popular Scooters
Vespa – Mention “scooter” and most people immediately think of Vespa. Enrico Piaggio’s family factory in Pontedera, Italy, had been ravaged by WWII, both physically and economically. Piaggio turned his attention from airplanes to something more practical, and designing a vehicle practically anyone could drive, personal transportation for the masses. Fifteen Vespa rolled off the factory floor in 1946, and it took just three years to top 35,000 and ten years to top a million! Today, Vespa is an icon with truly global appeal.
TVS Motor – Another popular scooter comes out of India, perhaps the perfect breeding ground for the type. India is well-known for traffic congestion, some of her main cities topping world charts for population density. If you have to get around Delhi or Mumbai, both of which are over 20,000 people per square kilometer – Delhi is close to 30,000 / km2 – then a compact home-brew Indian scooter fits the bill nicely. Last year, they sold nearly 800,000 across their lineup in India.
Honda – The world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer, Honda, has the world by the wheels. In 2013, for example, Honda sold 15.5 million motorcycles and scooters around the world, hugely skewed toward Japan and Asia, where Honda scooters move off the showroom floors rapidly.
If you’re planning on heading abroad on vacation, perhaps there is no better way to tour than on a rented scooter. Just be sure to brush up on the local parking and helmet laws before you head out and enjoy the ride.