Two years ago today I purchased my red & white Honda Metropolitan scooter. Like everyone else, I had just witnessed the horrific images from New Orleans and gas prices were climbing quickly. Here is some of what I wrote two years ago:
Today I took a step toward having more efficient means of motorized transportation â€” I bought a small motor scooter. Iâ€™m not giving up bicycling. But there are times when I need to get somewhere faster than my bicycle will take me. I look at it as having multiple modes of transportation: walking, bicycling, MetroBus/MetroLink, scooter and finally my car. I plan to use all of these methods of transportation.
I estimate that given current fuel prices every 5,000 miles I can put on the scooter rather than my car Iâ€™ll save at least $600. As fuel prices rise the savings will be even greater. In less than 3 years the scooter will pay for itself in fuel savings.
As regular readers know, I got rid of the costly car a few months ago. But admittedly I have not continued to bicycle as I had thought I might. I used to ride to the #40 Broadway bus to get me downtown and then I’d bike all the way home. Not a long ride but not bad considering my favorite of my bicycles (yes, plural) is a single speed bike. One of my grad school classes is meeting next week off-campus and we plan to do a post-class bike ride.
I’ve also not ridden the scooter as many miles as I had first expected. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I continued to drive my car often and on the longer distances in the region. Second is that I learned to combine trips, avoid unnecessary trips, to ask friends about sharing a ride, and simply to live a more local life. So in this past two years I’ve put just over 6,000 miles on the scooter.
On July 1st of this year I had 4,863 miles and by September 1st I was at 6,456 — almost 1,600 miles in two months time. I’ve given up trying to track gas mileage because it can vary greatly depending upon how much a fill up the tank — when you are getting a tad over a gallon an extra tenth of a gallon makes a big difference. Overall I’ve been averaging around 85-90mpg. To track miles I simply take a picture of the odometer each time I get gas. I also take pictures of the pump to see how much I bought and what the price is. For example, on July 1st I paid $2.81 per gallon for regular. By July 12th I paid $3.10 per gallon.
Even though gas prices have dropped considerably that doesn’t stop the people from asking how much a scooter costs and how many miles it will go on a gallon. Yesterday I saw an older guy with a bicycle that jokingly said, “I’ll trade you” and this morning a lady working in her front yard said, “Take me for a ride.” Kids continue to be immediately attracted to the scooter. Last week a guy walking down the street asked me about the scooter — he had 3 DUI’s and needed to get around. I answered his questions and added that a driver’s license was required. I saw him later that day riding a bicycle rather than walking.
The view from the scooter is great, especially for taking pictures. However, it was the distraction of buildings that caused my one accident. I was captivated by the great buildings on Chippewa near Jefferson when I approached a 4-way stop intersection. I had not noticed the increasing oil/grease in the roadway and before I could get in a better area I had lost control and down I went. There was no traffic to speak of in this area and the couple of drivers approaching me from both directions stopped to offer assistance. The grease that caused my fall also prevented me from getting torn up by the asphalt. The scooter was undamaged and still running — I simply hit the kill switch on the handlebar, picked the bike up and pushed it to the curb to regain my composure. The only thing bruised was my left knee and my ego. I’ve had a few near misses with pavement that is rolled in weird directions near bus stops, massive potholes, and wet man hole covers.
To anyone considering a scooter I say give it a shot — unless you are that guy with the DUIs — he needs to stick to walking, biking or public transportation. Recently I played a small role in helping form an online scooter discussion forum for the St. Louis region — check it out at stlscooterforum.com
OK, I get lots of questions so let me see if I can answer most of them:
What does a scooter cost?
My particular scooter costs roughly $2,000 new. Don’t forget to add sales tax, helmet and depending upon engine size, registration and insurance. I purchased mine used on Craigslist. Some scooters, mostly Chinese made knock offs, can be had for considerably less. I’ve heard mixed reviews so buyer beware is all I can say about those. Some brands, such as the well-known Vespa, can be well into the $3,000-$5,000 range. A large “maxi-scooter” can approach ten grand.
How fast will it go?
My scooter tops out around 30mph but large engine models can operate at highway speeds. Some are quite fast and can outrun many sports cars.
You don’t need a license plate?
Missouri considers scooters like mine a moped — a motorized bicycle. Due to engine size and limited speed, no licensing is required. However, I cannot legally ride my scooter across the Eads bridge into Illinois as their rules are different. Illinois considers a 49cc scooter a motorcycle and as such requires registration, a motorcycle license and insurance.
Do you need a special driver’s license?
In Missouri you only need a regular driver’s license but as indicated above, in Illinois you need a motorcycle license. In Missouri you also need a motorcycle license if you operate a motorcycle/scooter with an engine larger than 49cc.
Do you need a helmet?
Missouri requires helmets for motorcycles (presumably omitting mopeds) while Illinois does not require a helmet for any classification of motorcycle. Head injuries are hard to survive so I recommend a helmet for all riders and passengers.
How do you shop?
The underseat area is surprisingly large. I carry a couple of canvass bags in there so I can put larger purchases on the floorboard between my feet. Shopping locally means I also shop nearly every day. I think ahead about what I need such as toiletries like toothpaste and shaving cream. I’ve never been a bulk shopper anyway so I simply buy what I need. Having a 3-year supply of bar soap is just not worth the hassle no matter what the price.
What about the weather?
Mother Nature does not always cooperate! I’ve been caught in downpours, endured hot and humid temperatures and some freezing cold extremes. Proper clothing is the normal answer to such a question posed to a motorcyclist or bicyclist — rain gear, gloves, a handkerchief to wipe the seat and so on. Last winter I did pretty well with long johns and neck protector used in skiing until it got bitter cold and I switched to my car. I don’t have that open now so we’ll see how it goes.
Won’t it get stolen?
Theft is a potential problem but at night it is locked up safe and sound inside my house. When I am out somewhere I usually park in a highly visible location so it would be obvious if someone was trying to steal it. My scooter, like most, has a couple of anti-theft deterrents. One is a kickstand lock that prevents the kickstand from releasing. The other is a steering wheel lock just like your car. Both make it impossible to just wheel the scooter off — thieves would have to physically lift it. Although I don’t mind arguing with folks on the street, I’m not going to take on anyone big enough to lift my scooter and carry it away. For times when I need added security, I carry a cable and lock.
Since the above was published I put another 3,000 miles on the scooter through January 2008.Â On February 1, 2008 I suffered a massive stroke and spent three months in the hospital.Â My recovery is going well but I could not ride the scooter anymore.Â On June 19th 2008 I wrote ‘My Beloved Honda Metropolitan Scooter Has Been Sold.‘ It’s hard to go wrong with the Honda Metropolitan, it performed flawlessly for me for several years and 9,000 miles.Â In a few years I plan to buy & ride another.
My stroke recovery is going well and I’m nearly ready to try to ride a scooter again.Â I hope to try someone else’s inÂ 2009 and buy my own in 2010.Â The neighbor that bought my Honda Metroploitan rode it for a year and just sold it so he could buy a larger engined scooter.Â I miss seeing it in the parking garage.