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Buyers Guide: Scooters

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      20.04.2007 16:34

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      A good product when working - but very expensive for spares if and when you can get them

      Brought the Piaggio Zip 100 last November, the exhaust fell off 3 weeks ago and have been waiting ever sonce for a replacement. Have contacted Piaggio direct and they can offer me no timeframe as to how long before the part is available. This is a brand new scooter which is now collecting dust and I (or anyone at Piaggio) have any idea how long it is going to be off the road. The customer services are just as bad as the scooter, I would advise anyone considering buying one of these scooters to think again

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      29.04.2002 23:42
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      ' I quite fancy getting a scooter.....'

      That was how it all started. At first, I was picturing the sort of scooters that all the kids seem to have nowadays but I then realised that he did in fact mean a moped.

      I am not talking about a teenage lad here, as some of you may be imagining. I am talking about my husband - a grown 'man' of 24.

      All manner of questions began whizzing through my mind:- What's going on?...Did I hear him correctly?... Is this a desperate attempt to recapture his youth?... What planet is he on today?... Does he just want a new toy?... Something to show off on?...

      It turned out though that I was being a bit hasty and these questions were completely unnecessary. His reasoning behind it actually made sense!

      I found out that he'd not just thought about this new investment. He'd actually taken it upon himself to toddle off, have a look in various scooter shops, and collect some facts and figures to put in front of me (he knows me all too well!), knowing that I would not even contemplate the idea without finding out about the ins and outs of it all. Am I really that predictable?
      I fired all sorts of questions at him, hoping to catch him off guard, but the swine really had done his research and he had an answer for everything!

      We have been a two car family for quite a while now, one being a fairly new car, the other being a petrol guzzling heap (for my husbands use of course!). Running two cars is an expensive business so hubby started to think about ways of reducing the cost. That is when he came up with the idea of a scooter....Damn. I wish I had thought of that!

      Weighing up the pros and cons, it is undeniably cheaper aswell as having lots of other advantages. Okay, so there is the initial cost of around £2000 for a brand new model (obviously less if you purchase second hand) but in the long run, you can inevitably save a lot of cash. It's ideal for us because my other half only works approximately seven miles away. Unfortunately it's not on a convenient bus route so a scooter is the next best option.

      ~ A BRIEF HISTORY ~

      The origins of the scooter date back to Munich in 1894 when the first successful two-wheeler, the Hildebrand & Wolmueller, was produced.

      This was the first powered two wheel vehicle to be offered to the public on a production basis and it became a massive money spinner, paving the way for a new wave of practical and affordable transportation.

      It was not until the end of World War 2 that the scooter really came into its own. Following the war, there was the increasing need to mobilise Italy again so the government offered to help any company that was interested in finding a solution.

      In Lambratte, an area of Milan, a man named Ferdinando Innocenti was inspired by some military motorcycles that he had seen in Rome. He approached a designer, Corradino Dascanio, and together they created the first blueprints of the scooter that we know today.

      Unfortunately, the two men could not always agree so they went their separate ways. Dascanio left to join the Piaggio company, eventually creating the Vespa scooter in 1946. It had a 98cc engine and had a top speed of 47mph.

      Innocenti, with the help of an engineer, went on to design the Lambretta (named after the region where the factory stood). It was unveiled in 1947 at the Paris Motor Show. At the time, it had an engine size of 123cc and a top speed of 45mph. During its first year on sale, 9000 were sold.

      Both of these bikes were continually developed over the years and were eventually in the midst of the scooter revolution of the mid 1960s.

      ~ CHOOSING A SCOOTER ~

      Today, when it comes to choosing a scooter you will be spoilt for choice. There are lots of makes and models on the market by manufacturers such as Gilera, Piaggio, Aprilia, Yamaha, Peugot, Honda and Suzuki.

      Like cars, there are different engine sizes to consider. Scooters start at 50cc (cubic capacity). The next is a 125cc and there is also a 180cc. How fast the bike will go depends on the size of the engine, for example, a 125cc can reach approximately 85mph.

      Each bike has its own advantages and special features. When it comes to actually purchasing a scooter it's entirely down to your own preferences - that combined with any advice or experience that friends and family may have to offer. A wide variety of colour combinations are available and where appearance is concerned, some look a bit sporty in style while others (like a Vespa) have the more traditional styling of the 60s and 70s.

      Believe me, you will not know which scooter to choose!!

      ~ WHAT TRAFFIC JAMS? ~

      A big advantage of having a scooter is that it can cut a lot of time off your journeys as you do not get stuck in rush hour queues and jams. No more being late for work because of the traffic!
      My hubby describes it as 'nipping in and out of traffic'. I wish he wouldn't say that as the term makes my heart leap and fills me with dread everytime he sets off in a morning. I am slowly getting used to it though.
      It worries me because I know that a lot of drivers can be completely oblivious to motorbike and scooter riders. All it takes is for one motorist not to realise that he's nearby.
      Which leads me onto...

      ~ SAFETY ~

      Safety factors were the only doubt that I had about the whole scooter idea. I questioned him with all the 'What ifs...' but there was no putting him off. Even the prospect of having to ride to work in the sleet and snow did not seem to phase him - this man was determined!

      Obviously, a helmet has to be worn at all times when riding a moped. Not wearing one is illegal and would also mean that if you were involved in an accident, you would probably be killed instantly. Say no more.

      For safety purposes, you should aim to renew your helmet approximately every three years. Any small bumps or minor scratches to the helmet can cause more damage than you would expect. They can create weak points which mean that in an accident, it would not protect you adequately. It's also advisable to replace the visor at more frequent intervals as they scratch very easily. This can impair your vision or, as with the actual helmet, cause weak spots.

      I know that it is tempting in the summer, but it really is not advisable to wear either shorts or t-shirts when riding a scooter (basically, no exposed flesh). Even if you were to fall off doing only 30mph, hitting tarmac would still scrape the skin straight off. Ouch!!

      Nobody can deny that four wheels are somewhat better, and safer, than two. I must admit though that scooters are a lot sturdier than they used to be and hubby has assured me that he will be careful etc, etc. Oh, and if he falls off, I have been given permission to say 'I told you so'....and I will, dont you worry!

      ~ C.B.T TEST ~

      Anyone that wants to get a scooter has to take a C.B.T Test (although 50cc bikes are covered under a normal driving licence). This stands for Compulsory Basic Training and it is not actually a test as such, it is more of a training day to learn how to ride a scooter safely.

      A C.B.T Test involves a bit of classroom work where you are given safety facts, advice and information You also ride through cones and obstacles on site to get used to handling your scooter, then it is out onto the open road. The instructor follows you and tells you where to go, assessing how you are getting to grips with riding a scooter.

      It is virtually impossible to 'fail' but it can happen if the instructor does not think that you have got the hang of riding your bike, meaning you would not be safe on the roads. If he/she is satisfied that you have picked it up adequately, you will be issued with a Certificate of Training (DL196) which is valid for two years. You then have to retake it unfortunately!

      With a C.B.T certificate, you are required to have 'L' plates on your bike and it also means that you are not permitted to carry passengers on the back. A proper test has to be taken in order to lose the plates and begin having passengers.

      ~ INSURANCE ~

      Yearly insurance for a scooter is a lot cheaper than it is for a car. As with car insurance, it is best to shop around because the quotes will vary dramatically. On a brand new bike with a 125 cc engine, we have got the insurance down to £270 for a year (this is with a company called Bennets and was the cheapest by far).

      Some insurers require you to already have taken the C.B.T test before they will insure you on a bike. Others will allow you to actually take part in the training using the insured bike.

      When obtaining quotes you have to be aware that an insurer who seems to be really cheap could have an underlying excess amount of around £600. If you pay a little bit more for your premium, the excess is about £250. I think it is worth it as in the event of an accident, £600 is a lot to pay out in one go!

      ~ SECURITY ~

      One word that can be used to describe a scooter is 'desirable'. Unfortunately, this word is not only applies to scooter owners, but to thieves aswell. They are more easily accessible than a car so are prone to being stolen.

      On a night, it goes without saying that a scooter is best off tucked away soundly in your garage. A great feature when purchasing a brand new scooter is built in immobilisers. Wether you have an immobiliser or not though, the best thing you can do is invest in some decent locks - chain, padlock, D-lock, front disk lock. Buying good locks might set you back a bit (could be nearly £100!!) but the expense is definately worthwhile. Some dealers do have offers though - we got all locks included in the sale. Others offer a discount on locks and accessories when you buy a bike from them.

      ~ PETROL ~

      Not much to say about this except that an average scooter only costs approximately £6 to fill with petrol. This should last for about 60 miles. I wish the same could be said about cars!

      ~ TAX ~

      Like a car, there is a yearly tax to pay for a scooter. For anything up to a 125cc it is only £15!! Can you believe that?!

      ~ MOT & SERVICES ~

      Scooters have to go through MOT tests to make sure everything is as it should be and that it's safe to ride. These only have to be done every three years though, not yearly.

      Services are also advised to keep the bike maintained and running smoothly. These should be done a bit more frequently than a car - about every 5000 miles, but not all of them need to be a full service (which costs £70). At some stages, only certain factors need to be checked, obviously making it a little bit cheaper too.

      ~ 2-STROKE OIL ~

      Up until now, most scooters that have been produced have run on a 2-stroke engine which requires the 2-stroke oil to be topped up/replaced every 400 miles. New model bikes have a warning light that actually tells you when the new oil is due. Foolproof! For a decent recommended oil, it costs £5 for 1 litre and I think a bike holds around 2 litres.
      Nowadays though, more environmentally friendly 4-stroke bikes have been introduced to cut down on exhaust emissions. These bikes are great because they do not have this oil that needs to be replaced.



      To sum it all up, it is definitely worthwhile investing in a scooter for commuting and other short journeys. It wouldn't have even crossed my mind if it wasn't for my husband but I'm glad that he brought the subject up. As we originally thought, we are indeed saving a lot of money every month. It's great!



      ~ UPDATE ~

      Well, he did fall off, and I did say 'I told you so'. Luckily it wasn't a nasty accident and he only got a couple of minor scrapes. It didn't put him off though and he always thoroughly enjoyed riding his 'ped'.

      We no longer have the scooter as a change of job has meant that my hubby has been given a company car. If circumstances were to change again though, we would definitely invest in another scooter!

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        06.03.2002 02:40
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        So are you fed up too? I was! trains packed, late, too much traffic and its bloody expensive travelling in London. A scooter must be the answer. I had wanted on for ages. After talking to some scooter owners I decided it was for me. Tip No 1. Talk to other owners. See if it is for you. See what bikes people like for what reasons. What are the best routes to take. Riding a scooter in London traffic can be scary and frightens a lot of people off. Find out what other people have experienced?it might help you to make your decision. Tip No 2. What bike do I buy? There are seven body types of scooter: Body type Example classic Vespa PX200 retro Aprillia Habana maxi/touring (good for longer distance) Suzuki Burgman sports/performance Gilera Runner chopper Honda Joker commuter Piaggio Zip off-road Aprilia Rally Part of the decision will be style and looks. The next decision will be engine size. 50cc is great for around town but the engines are a bit delicate?it?s good to have a bit of top end grunt left. The main advantage is that you can just get on one and scoot off (as long as you have a car licence). My scooter is a 50cc and it fine for around town, besides, sometimes the 50cc ones are f aster off the mark than their 125cc brothers, but they do not have the same power (so you will not out run the pizza man in front of you). Any further than around town I would recommend at least a 125cc. Generally bikes with smaller, but wider tyres are more stable BUT are not as good with potholes. You should be asking yourself question like: Is there enough storage? Most bikes these days have underseat storage for helmets, but most only carry an open face helmet. Will it seat 2 (remember that your insurance premiums will go up if you have a pillion passenger). Does it have a bag hook in the front? Is it automa
        tic? (most are). Check the dimensions of the bike. I keep mine in my hallway (a la Jamie ?gaw blimey guv?nr? Oliver) and it fits quite well. That lovely Aprillia Habana scooter might not fit?So CHECK! Tip no 3. I will look cool in black Good equipment is a must. And you must be visible. Scooters are hard to see, especially to big lorries, white van drivers, Old people or anyone driving an Austin Maestro. A good crash helmet is a must?open face ones look cool, but full face ones offer more protection (but they can steam up so look for one with good ventilation). It?s always better to be protected! I recommend a flouresent jacket or band. Remember, get yourself seen! And get some waterproof trousers also?it is Very cold on a bike sometimes. Those neckband that skiers wear are good also. And get a really god pair of gloves! Tip no 4. New or secondhand? A new bike has to be run in. And that is SLOW! They are expensive and the value drops as soon as you start it up. You can get some good deals, but beware of getting stung for insurance if the first year is free in the coming years. There are some really good reviews on dooyoo about this. I suggest scanning loot, ebay and yahoo auctions. There are some really good bargains out there and if you find that scootin g really isn?t for you after all you can get your money back. Go for as new a scooter as you can afford. Italy isn?t really known for it?s grasp of wiring a plug and things can go wrong?if it?s still under warranty then the problem will be fixed free of charge (or if they wont fix it then they will get a bad review on dooyoo!). Tip no 5. On the road Ok?it?s well worth taking the CVT test. Otherwise have a practice driving the bike before taking it on a long journey. Remember, always overtake on the right and keep an eye on the front wheels of cars as they can be unpredictable! Generally a lot o
        f it is common sense. Don?t take risks?bikes account for 1% of traffic but 14% of road deaths. Be late, don?t be a statistic. Use your horn and ride with your light on. Tip no 6. Parking It?s free! Well, in a parking bay it is! There is a website called http://www.motorcycleparking.com/ that has details of parking regulations in London... I wont repeat them here as they will keep changing and I don?t want to just copy out what?s on another website. Generally though, you can park in a paid parking bay (on a meter) as the space is paid for, not the car. Cheeky, but free (depending on borough). Another tip. GET SOME GOOD SECURITY! A heavy padlock/chain/D-lock AND a front disk lock are essential. Get your scooter security coded and keep it indoors at home if you can. It also helps to keep insurance costs down?for you and everyone else! Yet another tip. How much!!! Get yourself a good mechanic. They are cheap to work on but can go wrong. Find someone you can trust! Road tax is only £15 a year and insurance is (depending on your bike) between £100 and £400 per year. The reviews on dooyoo can help you choose an insurer or try Motorcycle Direct 08706061692. Direct line will not insure a scooter, in-fact not many people seem to! So shop around. Petro l (and don?t forget the oil) is used in tiny quantities?my scooter (a Benelli Pepe) does about 100MPG?so all my commuting costs just 2 pints of beer (depending on where you go!). Bloody traffic, Bloody trains, It's all driving me insane, To get to work, So hard to do, Too many obstacles to get through, Sweaty armpits, Near my nose, Why don't people wash their clothes? Like sardines, From zone two, Move on down, Not hard to do, Delayed again, It's hot in here, Someones drunk too much beer, Can I escape This travel hell, And save some
        money as well? One route to take, Is on two wheels, With added thrills, And the wind to feel, A scooter then, Is what I'll take, Here?s some tips, For less mistakes? If I think of anything else I will add it later (so come back!) Scootering can be scary, but also great fun and it?s cheap. So get onboard and get the wind in your face and happy scootering! P.S. For extra information I recommend www.scootering.co.uk P.P.S. If anyone has any tips of their own, please feel free to add them in comments. You can never know too much! Thanks for reading. Please add your comments...or nominate for a crown!

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