What defines a scooter?

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MotorScooterGuy50
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What defines a scooter?

Post by MotorScooterGuy50 » Wed May 09, 2012 10:28 pm

After debating if my newest addition is a noped or scooter, I am asking here. What do you think defines a scooter?

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Dan Durston
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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by Dan Durston » Thu May 10, 2012 12:25 am

An excellent question. Answers certainly differ on this one.

As a preface, I consider scooters to be a type of motorcycle - in the same way that dirt bikes, mopeds, cafe racers and goldwings are also all motorcycles of one stripe or another. Occasionally I run into the view that scooters are some sort of inferior alternative to a motorcycle, but my definition of a motorcycle is broad enough to include any motorized two wheeler (ie. motorcycle = motorized bicycle).

So what defines the 'scooter' class of motorcycle? It can be a challenging subset to separate from other classes of motorcycles such as mopeds and other small bikes. There are a number of criteria that are commonly mentioned, most of which don't work:

- Small wheels (ie. 10")
- Small engines (ie. 50cc)
- Step thru frame design / flat spots for the riders feet in front of the seat.
- Weather protection from some sort of a legshield
- Automatic (Twist 'n Go) CVT transmissions
- Engine comprises part of the swingarm (as opposed to being mounted to the frame)

Small wheels, small engines and CVT transmissions obviously don't work. CVT's didn't even exist in vintage scooter and scooters come in a large gradient of wheel and engine sizes so you can't put a clear cap on it.

Having the engine hinged/mounted as part of the swingarm is almost universally true in the world of scooters (and perhaps separates them from mopeds well) but one could easily imagine a scooter that doesn't use this design and I think Derbi made a few back in the 90's, so I'm hesitant to include it in any definition.

Of the above-mentioned traits, only two are consistently present in virtually all scooters and IMO embody the essence of a scooter. These are step thru frames and some sort of a legshield. Some 1930's Cushmans may not have had a legshield, but whether or not Cushmans were 'scooters' is debateable and one could easily argue this was simply the formative period where the scooter subset of motorcycles was evolving off.

I know of no vehicle that would be considered a 'scooter' that has zero provision for some degree of 'stepping thru'. Similarly all scooters place the riders feet in front of the seat in sort of a chair like seat position. Some mopeds also enable 'stepping thru' but the riding position is different. Many scooters do not have a full floorboard (ie. maxi's, Honda PCX) but they are still step thru designs and have some flat areas for the riders feet instead of pegs. The presence of some sort of a legshield is also a key trait. Even non-traditional scooters like Honda's Ruckus have this to some degree.

In essence, some degree of a step thru frame is the most core characteristic of a scooter. This step thru frame needs be accompanied by either a floorboard, or some sort of flat area(s) for the riders feet that provides a chair-like seating position. A 'scooter' should also have some sort of a leg shield appendage, but if lacking a case may still be made if the floorboard is particularly well developed and other common scooter traits are present such as a swingarm mounted engine.

Some mopeds have a heavily sloped top tube that allows for stepping thru, but they do not have any sort of legshield or a chair-like seating position. A moped will typically use foot pegs (or pedals) instead of flat spots for the feet, these pegs will often be located further back and wider than a scooter normally would place the riders feet, there won't be any sort of a legshield and the engine will likely be mounted to the frame instead of on the swingarm. Bigger wheels are the norm, but not the rule.

There have been a few bikes made that really blur the line between scooter and moped (Yamaha made a few in the late 70's/early 80's, called the V-series I think). They were essentially mopeds with legshields (ie. no floorboard at all).
Scooters Owned: 2003 Ruckus, 2006 Ruckus, 1983 Yamaha Beluga 80, 2007 Vespa LX 150, 2009 Yamaha BWS 125, 2008 Ruckus

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by MotorScooterGuy50 » Thu May 10, 2012 12:35 am

My SR meets all of your criteria, at least with its panels on. IMO, it is the first modern scooter from the big four in North America (I don't know European manufacturers well enough to include them). thanks Dan.

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by Dan Durston » Thu May 10, 2012 11:25 am

Maybe I missed it....what is your new scooter? The only 'SR' I can think of are from Aprilia (SR50, SR Motard) and Honda (Elite SR).

Also, who are the big 4? Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki? I'm not familiar with that term and Kawasaki is a guess.
Scooters Owned: 2003 Ruckus, 2006 Ruckus, 1983 Yamaha Beluga 80, 2007 Vespa LX 150, 2009 Yamaha BWS 125, 2008 Ruckus

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by MotorScooterGuy50 » Thu May 10, 2012 12:40 pm

DandyDan wrote:Maybe I missed it....what is your new scooter? The only 'SR' I can think of are from Aprilia (SR50, SR Motard) and Honda (Elite SR).

Also, who are the big 4? Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki? I'm not familiar with that term and Kawasaki is a guess.
Express SR.

Correct on the big 4.

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by Dan Durston » Thu May 10, 2012 2:14 pm

Very interesting....I was never aware of the Express SR until just now. I knew about the Express series, but I never looked into it too much because I thought they were all mopeds.

It looks like this was sold '81 - '82 in the USA. While it has a bit of moped blood in it, I would agree this is a scooter due to it's clear step thru design, floorboard areas and chair like seating position. The only 'non-scooter' part about it is the exposed engine/lack of sidepanels. One of the original ideas behind the scooter concept (or at least the post WWII scooter concept) was to enclose the bikes mechanicals to shield the rider from grease, heat and noise. At the time, motorcycles were thought of as dirty, somewhat crude bikes so the scooter was a way to let working professionals, womens etc ride without these problems.

I wonder what sort of similarities exist between the Express SR and Honda's Gyro (TG50) and Spree scooters. The front end looks similar to the TG50 Gyro ('85 - '87) and other bits look similar to the spree...possibly the motor.

I might need to re-write/update some sections of the website that refer the early Riva 50/80 and Honda Aero 50/80 as the first modern scooters in north america. The Express SR is a neat missing link in the evolution from mopeds to scooters and it's a lot more scooter than it is moped.
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Scooters Owned: 2003 Ruckus, 2006 Ruckus, 1983 Yamaha Beluga 80, 2007 Vespa LX 150, 2009 Yamaha BWS 125, 2008 Ruckus

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by MotorScooterGuy50 » Thu May 10, 2012 2:31 pm

The nx uses the nu engine with different gears. Variated horizontal engine. Air cooled instead of fan cooled. Rims are 1.5x10 but they have a different form in the spokes. I'll take some pics. As for exposure, the belt cover is the only part you see. The carb cover blocks engine view. It doesn't have drop downs like most scooters.

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by Dan Durston » Fri May 11, 2012 12:28 am

Very neat stuff. I'm looking forward to those pics.
Scooters Owned: 2003 Ruckus, 2006 Ruckus, 1983 Yamaha Beluga 80, 2007 Vespa LX 150, 2009 Yamaha BWS 125, 2008 Ruckus

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by MotorScooterGuy50 » Fri May 11, 2012 3:10 am

Clearing off the memory card now. I'll take some side by sides of the nx50 with the sb50 to get you some scale.

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by Dan Durston » Fri May 11, 2012 8:14 pm

....that memory card must take a while to clear off 8-)
Scooters Owned: 2003 Ruckus, 2006 Ruckus, 1983 Yamaha Beluga 80, 2007 Vespa LX 150, 2009 Yamaha BWS 125, 2008 Ruckus

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by MotorScooterGuy50 » Fri May 11, 2012 8:24 pm

Stripped down. Just waiting for the rain to clear.

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by donny » Sat May 12, 2012 7:21 pm

Well, us hard core folk can argue about what defines a scooter because of the many different but close models that are made that are part step thru part motor cycle. But if you were to ask the general public they think of a iconic Vespa style i would imagine.
presently enjoy riding a Ruckus and a Super 9. Tinkering with a Riva 180 and a couple of old Puch SV's. In the off season I enjoy a 1999 Polaris Indy 600 XLT Touring and a 2014 Artic Cat Prowler side by side

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by MotorScooterGuy50 » Sat May 12, 2012 11:27 pm

Partially stripped Express SR.
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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by MotorScooterGuy50 » Sat May 12, 2012 11:32 pm

If you really want a challenge, try to figure out all of the background of the honda caren as a two wheeler and as a three wheeler.

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Re: What defines a scooter?

Post by Dan Durston » Sun May 13, 2012 8:51 pm

Whoa....the 3 wheeler is wild. It's like a moped with a side car enclosed in a 50cc car. I can't believe they sold that.
Scooters Owned: 2003 Ruckus, 2006 Ruckus, 1983 Yamaha Beluga 80, 2007 Vespa LX 150, 2009 Yamaha BWS 125, 2008 Ruckus

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