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
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
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
In an effort to reduce emissions, there are now LPG powered
scooters that run on LPG rather than petrol or diesel.
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.
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
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
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
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.
- 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
- 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
- A ride is a one-day event in which scooterists from a single
area ride together.
- 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
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.
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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