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Scooter (motorcycle)

Scooter (motorcycle)

A scooter is a two-wheeled motor vehicle with a step-through frame. Many modern scooters have their engines located forward of the seat and affixed to the frame.


The classic scooter design features a step-through frame and a flat floorboard for the rider's feet. This design is possible because the scooter engine and drive system, transferring power to the rear wheel, is either attached to the rear axle or under the seat. In contrast to a frame mounted motorcycle engine, this front-hinged arrangement allows the engine to swing vertically in conjunction with the motion of the rear wheel. Older Vespas, most vintage scooters, and some newer retro models have axle mounted engines with a manual transmission with the gear shift and clutch controls built into the left handlebar. Most newer scooters use a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

A typical mid-1980s "twist and go" scooter.In contrast to most motorcycles, scooters generally feature bodywork, including a front leg shield and body that conceals all or most of the mechanicals. There is often some integral storage space, either under the seat, built into the front leg shield, or both. Most modern motor scooters have smaller wheels than motorcycles, between eight and 12 inches (20-28 cm) in diameter (though maxi- and big-wheel scooters may have larger wheels). Most scooters have smaller engines than motorcycles (between 30 cc and 250 cc with a single cylinder, though larger models have twin cylinder 400 to 650 cc. motors). Most jurisdictions have no legal definition for "scooter". In general, 50 cc and under scooters are classified in most states and countries as a moped and are subject to reduced safety restrictions and licensing fees. Scooters above 50 cc are generally legally considered motorcycles, though some states have an in-between definition for motorized bike for scooters and motorcycles between 50 and 150 cc.

Until recently, most modern motor scooters came with air cooled two-stroke cycle engines with automatic two-stroke oil injection although some of the higher spec small ones and large ones are water cooled. Scooters increasingly have four-stroke engines to meet stricter emissions controls. Trends world-wide have seen new variations on the classic scooter. A common variation, the 'big-wheel' or commuter-style scooter features wheels as large as a motorcycle.

High-end scooter models now include comprehensive technological features including cast aluminum frames, engines with integral counter-balancing, and cross-linked brake systems. Some of these modern high-end scooters also come with comfort features such as windshields, heated hand grips and full instrumentation (including clock or outside temperature gauge.)

High-powered electric road scooters are on the horizon now that small electric motorcycles like the e-max and the eGO have been released.

In an effort to reduce emissions, there are now LPG powered scooters that run on LPG rather than petrol or diesel.

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Scooters trace their ancestry back to France with the Auto-Fauteuil mark in 1902, 1903 in the USA, where Cushman and Salsbury created some of the first motorized two wheelers with the traits that have come to embody scooters. Salsbury produced the first automatic scooter with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Cushman's light, compact, and rugged scooters were used by the United States military as ground vehicles for paratroopers during World War II. The Vespa, originally manufactured by Piaggio in post-WWII Italy, quickly popularized motor scooters in places where inexpensive transportation was in dire need. Constructed using aircraft design and materials and eliminating belt drive by mounting the engine on the axle it redefined the vehicle type for 35 years. Despite Vespa's dominance of the scooter market, they were not without competition. Lambretta offered models that rivaled those in the Vespa product line. In the 1980s new versions of scooters began to be released and become popular, especially in Japan and Far-East Asia. This styling of scooters began to reflect that of larger, sporty, higher-performance motorcycles of the time and the trend has continued to the current day. With the release of the Honda Ruckus, new trends towards dirt-bike scooters are just beginning. The classic styling of the Vespa has never lost its popularity, however and remains the most popular and most imitated scooter design. Almost all manufacturers now carry both a classic/retro model and a sporty/modern model.

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In many parts of the world, such as Asia and Europe, motor scooters are a popular form of urban transportation due to their low cost and easy driving position. In fact, in many nations in Asia, scooter sales growth outpaces automobile sales growth. For many people, a motor scooter is the family vehicle until sufficient funds to purchase an automobile are amassed, although in crowded cities, scooters can be preferred over automobiles regardless of cost, due to parking, storage, and traffic issues. In Taiwan, road infrastructure have been built specifically with two wheelers in mind, with separate lanes and intersection turn boxes. In Thailand, scooters are used for street to door taxi services, as well as for navigating through heavy traffic. Motor scooters are also popular because of their size, fuel-efficiency, weight, and typically larger storage room than a motorcycle. In many localities, certain road motor scooters are considered by law to be in the same class as mopeds or small motorcycles and therefore they have fewer restrictions than do larger motorcycles.

In the last few years, new technology has emerged. Fuel-injected scooters are very efficient and durable. Aprilia released the SR Ditech in 2001. The fuel consumption of this direct injection scooter is, allegedly, one litre of fuel for 50 kilometres of driving (117mpg) (however, due to it being two-stroke, such generous claims are hard to believe). Later on, more brands, such as Derbi and Peugeot, started using direct injection systems for their scooters. Due to new environmental laws, scooters had to change because the Euro3 standard allows only four-stroke engines. Some scooter drivers don't agree this is a good solution because they are used to two-stroke motors. Also, while four-stroke engines generally grant sufficient performance in sizes from 100cc upward, 50cc four-strokes tend to have barely enough power to drive at city speeds. While their incredible fuel efficiency makes up for it, not everybody is willing to accept the compromise.

More recently China has become the largest manufacturer of scooters producing over 50% of the worlds supply according to the MIC (Motorcycle Industry Council). With lower prices and better quality control, China is now making scooters which meet strict United States DOT & EPA standards. Some manufacturers from China and Mexico like Ricardo Motors meet the very strict California Air Resources Board's CARB requirements.[citation needed]

In the 2000s they have gained popularity in Latin America, specifically in Puerto Rico.


Another trend in the USA and elsewhere sees larger scooters, called maxi-scooters, with engines ranging in size from 250 cc up to (a planned) 850 cc. This trend began in 1985 when Honda introduced the CH250 Elite/Spacy, and continued with the 1999 introduction of the Suzuki Burgman 400. A few years later Suzuki launched the Burgman 650. Honda, Piaggio, Yamaha, Aprilia, Kymco and others have also introduced scooters with engine displacements ranging from 400 to 650 cc. Honda's PS250 or Big Ruckus defies common scooter classification in that its step-through is high and the bike features no bodywork but rather a motorcycle-like exoskeleton.

The more advanced (and expensive) maxi-scooters differ from traditional scooters in that the engine is mounted on the frame, as opposed to the swing-arm. This arrangement can improve the handling, by allowing the centre of gravity to be moved forward and making fewer demands on the rear shock absorber(s). A final drive is necessary to connect the clutch assembly to the rear wheel.

This trend toward larger, more powerful scooters with fully automatic transmissions is matched by an emerging trend in motorcycle design that foreshadows automatic transmission motorcycles with on-board storage. This is exemplified by the Aprilia NA 850 Mana automatic-transmission motorcycle that provides built-in storage for a full-face helmet.

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Scootering terms
  • A scooter rally is an overnight event for scooterists that may include camping, group rides, sales of scooter parts and related merchandise, parties and concerts. The Garden City Rally, held every Victoria Day in Victoria, British Columbia, is the longest continuously running scooter rally in North America.
  • A meet is a single-day event in which scooterists from various areas gather in one spot. A scooter meet may include a group ride.
  • A run is an overnight event in which people from a single area ride to an overnight destination (e.g. Seattle's Monkey Run. In the case of the Cannonball Run, there are multiple overnight destinations.
  • A ride is a one-day event in which scooterists from a single area ride together.

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Various types of scooters
  • 2 wheeled Vespa-styled scooters 0-60 mph
  • 2 wheeled Stand-up scooters (like a kick scooter) 0-25 mph
  • 2 wheeled-side-by-side stand-up scooters like manufactured by Segway PT 0-10 mph
  • 2 wheeled Seated scooters 0-25 mph
  • 3 wheeled standup scooters like manufactured by Zap 0-15 mph
  • 3 through 4 wheeled Mobility scooter (disability riders) 0-10 mph
  • 3 through 4 wheeled Seated scooters/golf carts 0-25 mph

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Electric motorcycle or electric bicycle

2 wheeled motorcycles are generally differentiated from motorized bicycles and mopeds (motorized pedal cycles) by speed with motorcycles having greater speeds usually greater than 30 mph. Although, this line for what constitutes a 2 wheeled motorcycle has blurred due to marketing, styling, and public opinion.

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Main categories of 3-wheeled motorcycles

Due to vagueness in motor vehicle laws, any 3-wheeled vehicle that can travel over 30 mph is often classified as a motorcycle. This classification does not depend whether the operator is fully enclosed by a "cage" or exposed to the elements. But for design purposes, three wheeled vehicles are divided into 2 categories:

  • 1 wheel in front and 2 in back, known as a delta design or the traditional trike (tricycle) design
  • 2 wheels in front and 1 in back, known as a tadpole design.

Some three wheeled motorcycles enclose the rider in a "cabin" or cockpit. These include the Gizmo, Twike, NmG.

Some three wheeled motorcycles have independent suspension allowing the vehicle to tilt or lean.


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