The popularity of scooters and motorcycles has never waned since they were invented and introduced into the mass market. Although there were years where sales were low, the demand for these two-wheeled vehicles has never really gone off the radar. Events, cultures, traditions, clubs and ride outs have been formed because of the love people have for these two wheeled vehicles. Driving a car can be an amazing feeling, but riding a motorcycle or a scooter is a different high altogether. Plus, with the high prices of petrol or gasoline and traffic these days, a scooter or a motorcycle is a great alternative to cars.

1960's British Mods cruising around in their Vespa scooters. Image courtesy of  https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/7717522820/

1960’s British Mods cruising around in their Vespa scooters. Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/7717522820/

Scooters and motorcycles are becoming more popular as people are looking for ways to cut costs and stretch their budgets. Motorcycles and scooters were once more focused on the counter culture mod and rocker scenes in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s. The mods have their Vespas and Lambrettas and the rockers have their café racers showing the Triumphs, Nortons and BSAs. At present, there a lot of models ranging from 50cc up to scooter monsters having a 850 CC engine, this almost goes the same with motorcycles with 80cc at the lowest and up to 1500cc touring motorcycles that can be as big as a small car.

Rockers and their loud and fast cafe racers. Image courtesy of streetandsport.co.nz

Rockers and their loud and fast cafe racers. Image courtesy of streetandsport.co.nz

Both motorcycles and scooters give riders the joy of low fuel consumption, quick navigation through towns, cities and most tight spaces on back country roads. Although these two vehicles have a common riding principle, they have many differences in size, price, design, engine displacements, gearing, wheel sizes, safety features and highway speeds. Your vehicle needs will depend on your lifestyle, the use of the vehicle and how far you will take your two wheeled vehicle to experience maximum enjoyment. The question now is what two wheeled vehicle should you go for, a scooter or a motorcycle? In my case, I am always biased to scooters, specifically Vespas. I have been a scooterist for about 11 years now. I have owned a 2 Stroke Kawasaki Ninja AR80 for 2 years prior to owning my first Vespa PX 150E. That Kawasaki motorcycle gave me my first 2 wheeled freedom. Plus, I have lots of friends who are two wheeled fanatics. If I put everyone in this article it may take up 3 pages more. Now let’s try to understand the differences between a scooter and a motorcycle.

The Scooter            

A scooter is a type of motorcycle with a step-through frame and a platform for the rider’s feet. The worldwide popularity of scooters can be dated back to WWII and the introduction of the Vespa and Lambretta scooters in Italy. The scooters were designed and intended to provide a cheap and low-personal transportation for the Italian masses. It was also introduced into the market since the Italian roads were in bad shape after the war, thus a two wheeled vehicle was more appropriate.

A pair of 2013 geared, 2-stroke Vespa PX150E. This model is the most successful scooter Piaggio produced. Image courtesy of www.fercomotor.com.tr

A pair of 2013 geared, 2-stroke Vespa PX150E. This model is the most successful scooter Piaggio produced. Image courtesy of www.fercomotor.com.tr

The Vespa and Lambretta scooters are just like Germany’s Volkswagen, a cheap and reliable vehicle for the masses. The step-through design is possible for most scooters because the engine and the drive systems attach under the seat or towards the rear axle. Modern scooters allow the engine and the rear wheel to swing together while classic and vintage scooters have an axle mounted engine.

A restored 1967 Lambretta SX200. This model is a sought after model by collectors and scooterists alike. Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

A restored 1967 Lambretta SX200 geared 2stroke scooter. This is a sought after model by collectors and scooterists alike. Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

The body design of scooters features an elegantly designed front leg shield to protect the rider from dust, water and dirt and a body that hides all the mechanics. It also uses integral storage space behind the front legshield or under the seat. Traditionally, scooters have smaller wheel sizes using 8 or 10 inch wheels that are often interchangeable for front and rear wheels. The Vespa and the Lambretta are also designed to carry a spare which make it more reliable. The scooter features a more natural and comfortable sitting style so that riders can go on long rides and touring-style Rideouts.

2014 Kawasaki J300 maxi-scooter. Image courtesy of http://www.insella.it/

2014 Kawasaki J300 maxi-scooter. Image courtesy of http://www.insella.it/

A motor scooter is not a moped. Although there are some design similarities between them. A moped usually uses an engine size below 50cc while a motor scooter uses an engine starting from 50CC up to 850CCs for the maxi-scoots. Scooters and mopeds also differ in size, body frames and licensing fees. Most mopeds usually resemble a bicycle with motors. A scooter and a moped have a step through frame. A moped is commonly marketed for younger users while scooters are for people who are looking for more power and a more stylish ride.

The Motorcycle

A motorcycle is a two-wheeled or three-wheeled motor vehicle that is designed and suited for long distance travel, off-road riding, racing, cruising and commuting. Most modern and mass produced motorcycles are constructed from aluminum or steel frames with a telescopic fork that holds the front wheel and disc brake, a gas tank in the middle of the frame, an engine with a displacement starting with an 80cc engine up to 1500cc engine typically consisting of 1 -4 cylinders that use a manual sequential transmission drive. The rear wheel is mounted on a swing arm and driven by either a shaft, chain or belt. There are three types of motorcycles today  – dual purpose, street and off road and within these three types, there are many sub-types for other purposes.

2014 Ducati 1199 Sport bike. whenever you hear the name Ducati, Its red, sexy and fast. Image courtesy of www.bestfreejpg.com

2014 Ducati 1199 Sport bike. whenever you hear the name Ducati, Its red, sexy and fast. Image courtesy of www.bestfreejpg.com

2014 Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Boy Special. Harley-davidson = bad ass cruisers. Image courtesy of www.autoevolution.com

2014 Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Boy Special. Harley-davidson = bad ass cruisers. Image courtesy of www.autoevolution.com

2014 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure bike. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman rode in their BMW GS in "Long Way Round" and "Long Way Down" trips. Image courtesy of rideapart.com

2014 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure bike. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman rode in their BMW GS in “Long Way Round” and “Long Way Down” trips. Image courtesy of rideapart.com

 2011 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer. Italian, beautiful and fast. Image courtesy of http://www.pipeburn.com/home/2011/07/26/review-2011-moto-guzzi-v7-racer.html

2011 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer. Italian, beautiful and fast. Image courtesy of http://www.pipeburn.com/home/2011/07/26/review-2011-moto-guzzi-v7-racer.html

The Differences Between Motorcycles and Scooters

Scooters and motorcycles have many differences as mentioned in the descriptions above. Knowing further differences between the two vehicles will help decide which vehicle to choose for your adventure.

1. The Learning Curve

In general, scooters are easier to drive, ride and navigate through roads and traffic. Most modern scooters are using the CVT transmission or or a twist and go drive. Classic and vintage scooters on the other hand, use a twist shifting mechanism and a clutch. Motorcycles use the traditional manual transmission using a clutch on the left handlebar and gear shifting using the left or right feet. Motorcycles are heavier as compare to scooters thus is makes it a challenge in maneuvering tight spaces or going slow speeds while the scooter’s lighter weight is more suited for these kind of situations.

2. Engine Power And Acceleration              

Traditionally, scooter engines are smaller and less powerful as compared to motorcycle engines. Traditionally scooter engines range from 50cc to 200cc stock engines, but with continued development and technology, there are many after market kits that are sold today to upgrade scooter engines. Maxi-scooters are also popular nowadays with engines starting from a 300cc engine and up to an 850cc-engined scooter. Motorcycle engines can start from 80cc and can go up to 1500cc engines. Scooters with smaller engines can go well on roads with light traffic but are dangerous on freeways since the speed of the scooter is too slow and poses a serious danger to the rider. Motor cycles will not have any issues with highway traffic since they can keep up with any 4-wheeled vehicles.

The Honda Super Cub C50, considered as the greatest motorcycle in the world. Image courtesy of wtfcustoms.blogspot.com

The Honda Super Cub C50, considered as the greatest motorcycle in the world. Image courtesy of wtfcustoms.blogspot.com

3. Wheel Size

The scooter is more agile and maneuverable on slower speeds because of its small wheels while motorcycles are more stable at higher speeds because of their larger wheels. Motorcycles can also handle road obstacles better because of their larger wheels while the smaller scooter wheels will feel a bit bumpier and shaky unless a good scooter suspension is installed.

4. Storage

With exception of touring  motorcycles, Scooters usually have built in storage, either behind the legshield or under the seat. This is so because the engine is located just in front or beside or right above the rear wheel while motorcycle engines are usually located in the middle of the frame just below the gas tank. Racks and panniers can be added to motorcycles for additional storage.

Vespa PX150E storage box. Image courtesy of www.moto-choice.com

Vespa PX150E storage box. Image courtesy of www.moto-choice.com

5. Gas Mileage

The smaller engined scooter will save more gas as compared to motorcycles with larger engines. But all in all, motorcycles and scooters are great gas savers as compared to cars and trucks.

Before Buying A Mototrcycle Or Scooter, Consider These Things:

There are things that you need to think of and consider before buying your two-wheeled vehicle. You just don’t go out and buy because you find the color attractive or everybody is buying a certain model and you have to have it too. Your choice should fit your needs. Below are some things that you need to think about before purchasing a scooter or motorcycle.

  • Your level of experience
  • Where you want to ride
  • The scooter’s or motorcycle’s body style
  • The type of trips that you do once you have it
  • How often would you use the scooter or motorcycle
  • Price
  • Parts, accessories and maintenance
  • Engine displacement and the size of the vehicle
  • Your height and body size
  • Would you like to have a brand new vehicle or a used one?
  • Will you be riding with a pillion?
  • How will you pay for the motorcycle or scooter
  • Safety gears

Choosing the right scooter or motorcycle will give you an automatic cool factor. You just have to take note of your safety since a two-wheeled vehicle can topple easily and injuries can be more severe because you are not as protected as you would be in a car. Once you have purchased your scooter and motorcycle, invest in safety gear like a full-faced helmet, motorcycle gloves, jacket and pants. Riding a scooter and a motorcycle will give you a new world of freedom and enjoyment. Once you get the hang of riding, just leave the stunts and the Evil Knievel exploits to the professionals. Arriving alive and happy at your destination is always better than spending your time in the hospital with broken bones. Let’s Ride!

2014 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure bike. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman rode in their BMW GS in "Long Way Round" and "Long Way Down" trips. Image courtesy of rideapart.com

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.