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So You Want To Buy A Scooter

Ok, so you've been bitten by the scooter bug. YOU WANT TO BUY A SCOOTER. All around you are CHOICES. Everything you read, everyone you talk to, just conspires to confuse the issue more and more. Where? How? Which one? How much??..... the questions are endless. Where do you start?

Whatever you do, stop and think it through first. Oh I know, you've seen those movies with sleek sexy women on scooters, in their skirts and heels, dark sunglasses, scarf tied loosely around the hair and blowing breezily, as they zip along cobblestone streets (a la Audrey Hepburn). That could be YOU, buzzing through the streets of downtown Wherever, all eyes on you as you ride your merry way along doing your errands and then stopping by for a latte afterward. Your friends will be impressed, no doubt about it! Your parents will get that look in their eyes (you know, the same look they had when you first got your drivers license and took the family car out for a spin?). But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here….

FIRST THINGS FIRST. What is your budget? The range of prices in the scooter market is enormous. Of course you want the best bike at the best price you can get. Do not (let me repeat this) DO NOT be tempted by those “too good to be true” deals you see on the internet. 99.5% of those deals are not a deal at all, in fact many of them are out to take your money and rip you off. Sure, you can buy one of those bargain scooters, but within a short time you will regret it. Problems range from poor workmanship to serious mechanical problems, all capped by the inability to find anyone who can or will fix it for you. You say your budget is limited? Not a problem… look for a decent used “brand name” scooter that will give you many years of good service. And if (or rather WHEN) you need service, you’ll find a good network of licensed dealers who will be there to help you. Honda and Yamaha are two companies that produce good quality scooters. Piaggio manufactures the famous Vespa, considered by many to be the top of the line in the world of scooters. Prices run the gamut, so once again… consider a good used bike, especially if this is your first one. You will never know if scootering is really your passion until you’ve been riding for awhile. Don’t make a major financial mistake that you’ll regret later on.

Next to consider: how fast do you want to go? This simply means that you need to think about what you’ll be using your scooter for. This will help narrow your field of choices. Daily commute to work? Ok then, what kind of roads will you be traveling on? Pleasure rides on weekends? What are the speed limits and conditions of the roads you’ll likely be riding on? Remember that scooters can range from small 50cc bikes that will top out anywhere from 28 to 40 MPH, to gargantuan maxis that can fly along the highways at speeds in excess of 85 MPH. Consider what you need before you start shopping. It will save you a lot of time!

SHOP AROUND! It’s time to SHOP! This is the fun part. Visit scooter shops in your area. Some motorcycle dealers also carry a limited line of scooters, so visit them as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! If a salesperson is rushing you or brushing off your questions, turn and walk out the door. Let’s face it, if they can’t be bothered to give you their time and attention when you’re looking to buy, what kind of service will you get AFTER the sale is made?? Ask to sit on the bikes, and for the ones that really capture your interest, ask if you can take them for a test ride. Keep in mind that some dealers will not allow you to do this (for insurance reasons), while others are open to letting you ride around their parking lot to get a feel for the bike (they may ask you to sign a waiver first). Take your time on your test ride. You want to be sure this bike is going to fit your needs if you decide to purchase it. Nothing is worse than realizing that you made a mistake and got the wrong bike for you! Also be aware that in addition to the purchase price of the scooter, you’ll also be paying extra fees: taxes, dealer prep, shipping, etc. This can add a couple hundred dollars more to the price of your prospective scoot. Another consideration: if your chosen scoot is over 50cc, in most states you’ll need a license to ride it on public streets. Check with your local DMV about the laws for your area BEFORE you make your decision.

Ok, you’ve found THE scooter for you. Not so fast, don’t close that wallet just yet! Here are a few additional items you should consider to be essential when riding.

• HELMET: It’s foolish NOT to wear a helmet, even if your state doesn’t require it. Once again, you have CHOICES. I always recommend a full-face to anyone who asks. Just think: what part of your face would you like to have damaged in an accident? Oh ok, in that case, a full-face offers you the best all-around protection to your face and head area. Other choices include a ¾ helmet, which can leave the facial & chin area exposed to injury, and a half-helmet (they don’t call it a brain-bucket for nothing).

• ARMORED JACKET: There’s a slew of choices for jackets on the market. Look for one made of leather or cordura if possible, with good armor in the shoulder, elbow and spine areas. Yep, they take some getting used to. Remember though, that this jacket will save your skin in case of an accident. If you live in a variable climate, buy a jacket that’s roomy enough for you to wear layers underneath. You’ll be glad you did!

• GLOVES: For obvious reasons, you need a good pair of padded gloves. You’ll find lots of styles to choose from, in leather, cordura, nylon, etc. Remember, your hands will feel the chill even in fairly cool weather, and you’ll be grateful for a nice warm pair of gloves. Besides keeping you warm, good gloves will offer essential protection from road rash in case of an accident.

• BOOTS: Yes yes yes! You DO need boots! Find a good pair with an oil-resistant lug-style sole and protection in the toe and ankle area. Some people find Doc Martens with more than adequate protection for riding, or you can go the route of the Harley dudes and dudettes and find motorcycle boots that will give you the protection you want.

• OTHER ACCESSORIES: Many riders like padded jeans or riding pants, either leather or denim with extra protection in the knee and seat area. Those are worth checking out too.

Ok, you’ve got your scooter (at last!). You’ve got all the necessary gear. You’ve taken the motorcycle safety course and gotten your license (congratulations!). Now you want to RIDE! If you can’t find other scooterists to ride with you, try the online route to search for people in your area who might like to join you on rides. YAHOO has bazillions of scooter groups for all interests in all corners of the world. Or post a notice in your local Pennysaver or newspaper. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get a riding group going. After all, what’s more fun than scootering with friends?

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