I’ve owned a motorcycle before. I’ve had 2. A Honda Ninja 250cc as a starter and eventually upgraded to a Honda Nighthawk 750cc. When I got the 250cc I had to have the seller ride it home for me then I gave him a ride back, I learned how to ride it trying it out around the block. Of course I did a little research first but I eventually figured it out and just started riding after that. I have a tendency to throw myself into the deep end, a bit reckless to be honest. To this day I still don’t have an M1 license. If it’s any better I did have a learners permit at the very least. I technically just couldn’t ride on the freeway, with a passenger or at night. Anyways, when I eventually stepped up to the 750cc it was a relatively hefty bike compared to the 250cc. It gave me everything the 250cc was lacking, the power on steep hills and freeways to accelerate on demand as well as the stability and top end speed for longer trips on the freeways.
I loved being able to jump onto the smaller bike and zip around town like it was a toy. I loved the ability to go on the freeway with the larger bike. The 250cc however felt like a half-assed version of a real bike and I never really go on long trips on the bike anyways anymore considering I have a young kids and a family now. One of the things I loved about owning a bike in general was that it was something to tinker with as a gearhead and also the creative side of me loved customizing it. Maybe putting different bars or playing with the colors a bit, lowering the stance, customizing a new seat and more. In fact, I completely stripped off all of the plastic from the 750cc and also pulled out the mufflers to give it a bit of a post apocalyptic utilitarian cafe racer and Harley mix. It was more mellow looking than it sounds but just had a general bad-ass look. It was also a decent size bike, just manageable enough to easily maneuver it around but just big enough to not feel zippy and light around town like the 250cc.
Enter the scooter. It’s purpose built for zipping around town and seems to be a fun little alternate ride. “Fun” and “little” doesn’t really go with the bad-ass theme that I went with on my last bike, nor will it really jibe with me in any future ride. Enter the scooter conundrum that I think many have faced while considering purchasing one. For me, it doesn’t necessarily have to be bad-ass. I just don’t want it to look like it was made for the female or hipster demographic.
Where I live the general population is growing due to the jobs and quality of living in the area. It’s in a transition period where traffic is getting worse and the population is getting more dense but the public transit infrastructure is not scaling to accommodate the growth at the same pace. Smaller fuel efficient vehicles become more practical in this scenario. Scooters are a good option for those that commute by themselves or possibly with one other. Especially for short trips while avoiding fees for public transit and parking as well as saving a significant amount of time waiting for the next bus or searching for parking.
For whatever reason there always seems to be a cultural barrier into the widespread adoption of something that is otherwise, in theory, a great product. Right now the scooter is not the most popular form of transportation in America in general but where I live I do seem to see more and more out on the street.
I did find that there is popularity within sub-cultures and/or smaller groups. The Honda Ruckus scene seemed to have a sub-culture that may have stemmed from the motorcycle scene that has taken to increasing the performance and customizing the looks much like custom motorcycle and car scenes where people bring their one of a kind renditions to shows and such. With it’s more rugged utilitarian look it’s not hard to understand why it was a solid foundation for that scene. I believe there is a Vespa scene that is around and may resonate a bit more with the hipster crowd with its retro look and history. This one seems to be more of a natural trend in the culture itself versus it itself defining the sub-culture altogether. More recently I got exposed to an Aprilia group that ride the higher end freeway capable scooters and would frequently go on long road trips together as a group. So there are definitely sub-cultures and scenes out there but I would say it pales in comparison to other trends and scenes.
The general scene and popularity is still quite lacking. I feel it can use a facelift. Two ways I can think of this happening. Change in mindset of general public and the stigma around scooters. The other would result from necessity and the practicality around that necessity, where other options are reduced by other variables(e.g. affordability). I think the country is too well off for the latter to become a circumstance in the near future. That leaves the mindset change that can come organically or via clever marketing campaign by a large company pushing the scooter scene.
So as I consider a scooter for fun, hobby and some commute around town, it’s dawned on me that I’ve written this because I have a personal issue with the stigma of a scooter that I have in my head and that I need to get over it and realize that maybe I actually do want to just have a “little fun”.