Scooter Lust Mon, 11 Apr 2016 04:06:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Scooter Parking on the Allstate Blog Mon, 11 Apr 2016 02:39:42 +0000 I was interviewed for the Allstate Insurance blog recently when they did a feature on scooter parking. Check out the article at Allstate: Know the Laws and Etiquette for Parking Your Scooter. You can also read up on my full recommendations for scooter parking in the Scooter Lust post The 10 Secrets of Scooter Parking.

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Scooter Covers to the Rescue Wed, 28 Oct 2015 19:02:42 +0000 stellasnow9Parking your scooter outdoors is not for the faint of heart, even if it’s a necessity for many of us. Unless you’re able to pamper your ride in the climate-controlled comfort of a garage, it’s essential to shield it from the elements. Even in the garage, dust and other sediment can find its way into nooks and crannies uninvited.

Rain, snow, wind and even sun hammer away at your scooter. Moisture causes rust and can also do worse damage if it gets inside your engine or instruments. UV sunlight weakens rubber and fabric while fading paint. Birds do their business on your shiny metallic flake. Then there’s the little creatures bedding down for the winter in your tail pipe or cowls, destroying the integrity of your scooter in the process.

The best way to protect your scooter against all these hazards is with a high-quality, properly fitted scooter cover. It’s a simple, economical solution for protecting your investment.

Living in the famously rainy Seattle, I’ve gone through my share of scooter covers. Most of them last a season or two before getting stretched out, moldy, or blowing away all together in the dark of night. I peeled off the Frankenstella’s last cover in the spring to reveal an orgy of rust. Water got inside and the cover dutifully held it inside all winter, soaking all my chrome bits for months.

Then came to the rescue. I had the pleasure of receiving one of their scooter covers for review, and I’m here to urge to immediately to go order one. If you fully trust me, just click here and go buy their Ultimate Shield Scooter Cover. It’ll be the best $90 you’ve spent.

Need more convincing? Read on for a dozen things I love about this cover.

Customized Fit

One of the biggest problems I’ve faced with scooter covers in the past is fit. Generic covers are variable in size, and don’t necessarily accomodate your accessories like a topcase and windscreen. If you get a jumbo size one to make sure your trunk and windshield are covered, you may end up with too much cover, which simply billows in the wind and develops craters where puddles of water fester and eventually soak through. My Vespa suffered this fate since it’s equipped with what I affectionately call the “riot shield” – a super tall windscreen that makes fitting a cover a challenge.

Also there’s the fact that my Vespa GTS Super is significantly larger all around than, say, a Genuine Buddy or a Honda Metro. Yet many scooter covers claims to be “one size fits all.” Similar to me shopping for clothes as a girl at six feet tall — one size doesn’t fit at all.

So the first thing I noticed at is the drop-down box that allows you to select your exact model of scooter. Then during checkout, you specify which accessories are installed – such as topcase and/or windscreen. These details are factored in and the perfect size cover is chosen for your specific needs. Not totally custom, but darn close.

Excellent Customer Service

Ordering online can be a crapshoot, especially when we’re talking about a product with so many variables. But the website is well designed and user-friendly, and the ordering process seamless. They even have a live support chat option if you need further guidance after reading the comprehensive FAQ. Yay user experience!

Shipping is fast and free. In most cases, you’ll get your cover in a few days. And if you receive your cover and it doesn’t fit or isn’t quite what you expected, they offer a 30-day return policy for any reason. They’re also extremely accessible and provide many ways to get in touch with them, whether you prefer phone, email or chat. The whole process is easy and hassle-free.

High Quality Fabric

When I opened my freshly-arrived cover, the first thing I noticed was the material. The fabric feels like no other cover I’ve bought, which are usually some type of vinyl or plastic-coated tarp. The Ultimate Shield Scooter Cover is soft, but extremely strong. It won’t tear. And it’s all fuzzy inside to protect your paint and other scratchable surfaces.


Strong Seams

Past covers I’ve thrown in the garbage were quick to flap in the wind and come apart at the seams. Once a little hole opens up in the seam, the whole cover is compromised and quickly shreds. But the stitching on my new cover is clearly heavy-duty and able to withstand some serious weather. (The product specs tell me the seams are “ultrasonically welded.” Take that, Seattle rain!)



The cover features shielded vents to allow airflow without letting the elements in. Proper venting prevents mold and mildew, while also keeping the cover from becoming a sail in the wind. Air can pass through without catching and pulling, so the cover stays put.


Adjustable Buckles and Grommets

My favorite feature is the awesome buckle with adjustable strap. The elastic on the bottom holds the cover on place around the tires, but the buckle secures the whole thing to your scooter right around the middle. I know from experience how useful this will be in keeping the cover tightly fitted throughout the season.


The cover also has reinforced grommets for additional leverage.


Included Storage Bag

The cover comes with a sturdy draw-string storage sack for when you’re off enjoying your scooter. I was surprised how easily I got the giant cover back into the bag – it’s adequately sized and makes the cover simple to store.

Perfect Fit

As I mentioned earlier, the cover was sized perfectly for me during ordering. So even with the big rump of my GTS complete with topcase, the cover drapes perfectly.


Idiot Proofing

A small detail, but one that I immediately appreciated: the orientation of the cover is clearly marked with a tag that says “front.” Now why can’t they do this for fitted bedsheets?!



If anything does go wrong with your scooter cover, offers a seven year warranty against defects on the Ultimate Shield cover. The Platinum Shield has a ten year warranty. It will likely last longer than my scooter.


Right now, the covers range from $50 to $100, a total steal given the quality of the construction, the length of the warranty, and the level of protection they provide for your expensive little machine.

Protect the money and time you’ve invested in your scooter by shielding it from the elements with a high-quality cover. Even when garaged, a cover will protect your scooter both cosmetically and structurally. Keep your scoot under wraps and it will bring you joy for many seasons to come.

Atomic Fireball Genuine Stella Scooter #107 Comes Home Sun, 01 Dec 2013 02:11:52 +0000 So like a hundred years ago (okay, maybe it was 5) my friend Joni got an Atomic Fireball Genuine Stella scooter for Easter. She claimed the Easter Bunny brought it. Which is a fabulous image in itself: giant fluffy bunny ripping around the alleys of Seattle on a collectible two-stroke scooter with a flame job.

Joni riding Arson the Atomic Fireball Stella, and looking very much like a superhero.

Joni riding Arson the Atomic Fireball Stella, and looking very much like a superhero.  Fighting crime! With CANDY!

From the Genuine website:

Ferrara Pan Candies and Genuine Scooters present: Atomic Fireball Stella!

They’re here and going fast (and will go fast for you as well!) so contact your Genuine Dealer and put a deposit down soon! The Atomic Fireball Stella features a racing-style seat, yellow powdercoated rims, red powdercoated hubs, custom flame graphics, “raised” gearing for higher top speeds, Fireball mudflap, new grips, a coin tray, and more… It’s the hottest scooter on the block!

I mean, the coin tray even comes filled with Fireball candies for the love of God.

We dubbed the new scooter “Arson” and she rode him quite a bit that following summer. I lusted after that scooter with a ferocity I only experienced with the Frankenstella when we were  young.

Frankenstella gazing longingly at Arson's flame job at Luna Park in West Seattle.  Subtle, Frankenstella, subtle.

Frankenstella gazing longingly at Arson’s flame job at Luna Park in West Seattle. Subtle, Frankenstella, subtle.

There were 150 of these Atomic Fireball Stellas made in 2005, so there are a few floating around that hit the market every few months, sometimes even within driving-distance. So I started a Fireball fund in case my stars aligned and I had both access and means.

When my funding threshold was reached, I told Joni. In a cruel twist of fate, she revealed that she’d sold Arson that morning to a fellow in Idaho.

Timing has never been my forte.

I moped a bit over the loss of Arson. But the following spring I received an email from the fellow who purchased Arson. He discovered Scooter Lust while looking for information on the Atomic Fireball Stella and he wrote to see if I was interested in buying the Fireball back. Was I?! The stack of bills nestled in my mattress says yes.

But fate twisted cruelly again and this particular fellow decided to keep the scooter and not sell it after all. Something about his kids pitching a fit when they found out he listed it.

I continued to monitor my various sources of Fireball scooter classifieds over the next year hoping for one in the Pacific Northwest. Nada. Until I pulled up an ad for Arson — MY Arson — on Boise Craigslist. WTF? Really? So I email this guy and tell him I want the damn scooter but I need two weeks to get the rest of the money. He tells me it’s urgent he unload this thing — the very same scooter he refused to sell me for the past two years — so he can’t wait.

A week later the ad is taken down so I assume Arson is gone.

Another scooting season passes and I’m back on the classifieds search for an Atomic Fireball Stella (slightly saddened because it won’t be Arson, but oh well). When what I’m sure is Arson shows up on I know it’s him because the photo posted in the ad is one I took in Joni’s back yard.

THIS GUY! I’m at the end of my rope with this guy. I tell him I’m coming to pick up the damn scooter and if he sells it to anyone else he’s going to regret that decision for the rest of his brief and painful life.

So I present you: Arson!

God, this machine just curls my little toes. I mean, look at it!!!










Don’t you just love a happy ending?

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The 10 Secrets of Scooter Parking Fri, 12 Mar 2010 00:09:08 +0000 justforme2

Scooter parking can be easier than parking your car, and cheaper, too. If you commute by scooter or just ride frequently in the city, you need to know these parking secrets.

One of the main reasons I originally got a scooter was because I could park it at work for less than $1 a day, compared with $8 a day for cars. Combined with the fabulous gas mileage, riding a scooter to work can be cheaper than taking the bus! (And less nauseating, if you get violent motion sickness like me.)

After ten years and three major cities, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks for scooter parking that I’d like to share with you now. If you have secured garage parking with a designated scooter space, consider yourself lucky and go read a different post.

1. Learn the Local Laws

Before you park anywhere, investigate the laws in your town and make sure you understand them. Parking fines negate any money saved by riding a scooter, and in my city, those fines can break the bank. Most parking and traffic laws are outlined in depth on city and county web sites.


2. Park Correctly!

I have a really big pet peeve: incorrect scooter street parking. This offense is usually illustrated by parking head-in to the curb, or parallel to the curb – as though the scooter is a miniature car.

The reason this drives me mad is that it’s one of the first things discussed in any state cycle manual or safety course. So if your Vespa ET4 is parked facing the curb, you didn’t read the manual. Which also means you didn’t take a safety course, or get a cycle endorsement, so you’re riding illegally, endangering my life, and giving scooterists everywhere a bad name. Knock it off, go home, and read the manual.

Okay, I’m stepping down from my soap box now.

3. Don’t Ask the Cops

In my experience, few law enforcement individuals are able to correctly answer parking questions. Sometimes I ask them a question I already know the answer to. They give the wrong answer about half the time. This explains why I’ve been able to park illegally on the sidewalk without a single ticket, while racking up fines for legal use of street space. Nobody really knows what’s allowed. Whether or not I get a ticket on any given day has more to do with who’s patrolling that street and what kind of mood they’re in.

A friend of mine saw this firsthand in court, when she went to fight a scooter parking ticket. The judge and the cop couldn’t even agree. Her argument was, “If neither of you can explain the law, how am I supposed to follow it?” Good point. So seek out and learn the rules yourself. That way if you do get a ticket, you can point out Ordinance 28.9.1 and say, “Toldya so.”

4. Respect Other Vehicles

Being a slender and spritely two-wheeler, it’s easy to forget that other vehicles aren’t so nimble. When squeezing in behind that parallel-parked car, be sure to leave enough room for the driver to pull out easily. It doesn’t further the cause of scooters to block other drivers in. Plus, you could end up with a towed scooter, or worse – a damaged one.

5. Use Space Wisely

In retail parking lots, like at the grocery store, you can often find a place to tuck your scoot without taking up a whole car space. Often times there’s triangular spaces at the end of rows, or half-spots in front of cement light posts. If you use these pseudo spots, be sure to stay inside the painted lines, which designate manuevering room for cars. Otherwise you could get side-swiped by an unknowing driver coming around the corner.

If you have to use a regular car space, be sure to park in a manner that discourages other vehicles from trying to squeeze in alongside you, only to knock your scooter over. I park facing out, so if someone thinks the space is open and pulls in, the headlight can alert them of their error. My untested theory says that if they hit my scooter head-on, they are less likely to knock it over; hitting it from behind will push it off the kick stand and topple it. Luckily, I’ve never needed to verify this hypothesis.

6. Don’t Use a Car Space if You Don’t Have To

I’m not here to philosophize about the inherent rights of individual vehicles or personal karma. I am here to help you keep your scooter upright and in one piece. Be forewarned: in a crowded, high-traffic parking lot, cage drivers get ticked off if they see a scooter parked in one of “their” spaces – even when the scooter is parked legally and has every right to be there.

I’ve gotten my share of threatening Nasty-grams left on my scooter by cage drivers. On more than one occasion, I have had my scooter removed from its legal spot and disposed of in order to free up the parking space for a car. Once it was tossed into a planted parking strip, and another time it was tossed off a bridge into a river.

These occurences made me very angry and I would hate for them to happen to you. I now invest a little extra effort seeking a low-profile space, like behind a dumpster or similiar, when parking at a concert, sporting event, or similiar gig with abundant alcohol.

7. Avoid Parking on Hills

Don’t park on a hill unless you have to, mainly because it’s difficult. On a very steep incline, it’s hard to back your scooter into the curb since it doesn’t have reverse. You may also find it challenging to get your scooter off the kick stand. This all depends on your scooter, of course. I try to avoid parking my 350 pound Vespa GTS on a hill.

I almost never park my Genuine Stella on a hill. Every time I do, the spark plug gets soaked with oil and the scooter is nearly impossible to start without swapping the plug, which is a drag when you’ve got chrome cowl protectors on. My mechanic told me this is a common problem with two-stroke scooters. If anyone has a remedy for this, I’m all ears.

8. Smile at the Lot Attendant

I’ve had many great experiences using parking lots downtown and I rarely have to pay for them. One lot I use regularly has a shallow space on each floor where the support beams are. It’s the width of a car and the depth of a scooter, so there’s often five or six of us parked there. The lot manager assured me that the free scooter parking was due not to the generosity of the owner but to the limitations of the technology; the attendants couldn’t print a violation for a space that lacks a stall number.

Often times I ask the lot attendant if they have anywhere I can “tuck my scooter” and they direct me to a nook or cranny free of charge. One older guy at a lot I frequent is a motorcycle rider and fiercely guards the cycles in his charge. That lot has a large space in front where scooters, bicycles and motorcycles can park for free.

9. Find Street Parking for Cycles

Seattle is undergoing changes to the parking structure, and the Department of Transportation held a hearing for scooters. Supposedly, they are trying to make the city more scooter friendly. It has its moments. Downtown features a handful of spots specifically for cycles, each with its own meter at a discounted rate. Your city may have a similiar area, especially if you live in San Francisco.

The benefit of designated spaces is, of course, the discounted rate. (The feeling of entitlement is a bonus.) In cities with park-and-pay kiosks, as opposed to actual meters, scooters get shafted. Four scooters parked together occupy the space of one car, but all four have to pay full price for the privelege.

When using a park-and-pay kiosk, attach the receipt to your headlight. Not only is that the legal place for it, but you’ll avoid removing any paint or leaving sticky residue on your scooter. I always keep a permanent marker in my glovebox and write my license plate number on the parking receipt, along with the word “cycle.” Theoretically, this should dissuade anyone from stealing my receipt to use in their own vehicle.

10. Park Near Other Scooters

Safety in numbers – it’s as simple as that. Plus – don’t they look so pretty all lined up together?

Sometimes tricky and sometimes a breeze, scooter parking in the city is always an adventure. Follow these guidelines and you’ll score a sweet spot while staying out of trouble.

Have any secrets of your own? Please share! I promise not to steal your spot.

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How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Scooter? Mon, 01 Mar 2010 01:37:53 +0000

Getting Your Groceries Home on Two Wheels Wed, 24 Feb 2010 01:23:42 +0000 Scooter cargo space is essential, whether you’re commuting to work, grocery shopping, or even toting your significant other to the movies. Let’s take a look at the cargo carrying capabilities of various scooters to help you decide which models meet your needs.

Scooters vary in their ability to carry cargo or store items like helmets and covers. You’ll find some scooters pre-installed with enough options to suit your needs, and others will come as a blank canvas with a wide array of add-ons available to help you haul your goods.

Even if you don’t need all your storage solutions immediately, be sure your potential scooter has options for expanding to accomodate your lifestyle. Read on for the details.

What Do You Need to Carry?

When deciding how much cargo space you need, it’s helpful to think about how you’ll be using your scooter. If you’re an urban professional using your scooter for commuting, you likely have different needs than the avid camper using their scooter as a get-away vehicle.

As an active girl on the go, my scooter needs lots of storage options to support my myriad activities. On a typical day, I have my messenger bag with laptop, a canvas tote of groceries, an extra layer of clothing, two helmets and extra pair of gloves. (I’ve also been known to cart home Ikea purchases on my Vespa GTS using packing twine laced through the scooter’s chrome crash bars.)

When I got my Vespa GTS, “Aphrodite,” the only storage space she had was the under-seat compartment and a factory-installed mini rear rack. The rack provided about enough space for a box of cereal – not very useful when you’re doing all your grocery shopping on two-wheels.

I decided a topcase, or rear trunk, would be best for some of my items. Topcases come in many sizes and colors, lock shut to protect your cargo, and are water resistant (not waterproof, as I discovered at the car wash!). If the scooter you have in mind features a rear rack – or the ability to have one installed – a topcase may be a great option for you.

The Vespa brand topcase I bought came with hardware that bolted directly to Aphrodite’s existing rear rack. My topcase fits two 3/4 helmets plus a small tote. When the helmets are on our heads, the topcase fits my large messenger bag and a picnic blanket. It’s the perfect size for my needs.

I chose a Vespa brand topcase because it had a passenger backrest and matched the color of my scooter – metallic midnight blue. But there are other manufacturers with universal product lines that fit most scooters, and they will likely be much cheaper. You pay extra for that Vespa logo!

To further expand my cargo carrying capabilities, I installed a front chrome rack on the GTS which is great for carrying a bedroll or bag of groceries. I’ve even used it to carry flats of flowers home from the nursery.

Scooter Cargo Capabilities Vary

Some scooters don’t offer much in the way of storage aside from the rear rack and topcase option, but you may just need a spot to tuck a small bag of goodies on your way home from the store. Stella scooters and P-series Vespas have an amazing array of add-ons available, from front racks to glove box trays and luggage rolls that mount on the rear rack.

Genuine Buddys also have quite a selection of both front- and rear-mounting storage options, so any of these scooters could easily meet your cargo needs.

One of the most cargo-friendly scooters I’ve found is the Honda Big Ruckus, which has a fold-down passenger seat that makes way for an enormous storage area and easily accommodates double rear luggage carriers so you can fit everything you need for a weekend in the woods – tent included!

Storage Standard on Most Scooters

Most scooters include the following cargo carrying capabilities, but their size and functionality vary scooter to scooter so be sure you examine a few different models to get an idea of what’s available.

  • Mini Rear Rack

    Most scooters come with a small rear rack already installed just behind the seat. You can strap your bag to that with bungee cords, attach a chrome bicycle-style basket, or go for the cheapie ubiquitous milk crate secured with zip-ties.

    I’ve seen some pretty creative rear rack solutions, including a Stella with a garbage can bolted to the rear rack – perfect for filling with ice and refreshments to be enjoyed at the destination after a long ride. If you opt for an add-on topcase (covered below), it will be mounted to this mini rear rack.

  • Glove box

    The glove box of some scooters is just big enough for, well, your gloves – and little else. If there’s room, the glove box is a great spot for a mini tool kit. (In fact, some new scooters come with a tool kit stashed the glove box.)

    Some glove boxes offer more cargo space than others; I can fit my small messenger bag in the glove box of my Stella, along with a fleece hoodie, while the glove box of my Vespa ironically lacks room for even my gloves. I do have big hands, but still.

  • Helmet & grocery hooks

    You may find a hook under the edge of your seat or even on the legshield of your scooter that’s capable of hanging your helmet on while you’re in the store and a small bag of groceries when you come out.

    These hooks can be handy while parked, but bags can interfere with your feet while riding – especially dangerous if your scooter has a foot brake. Before you hit the road, it’s wisest to secure your cargo to the appropriate rack where it’s out of your way.

Under-seat storage

Not all cargo space is created equal! The under seat compartment may be roomy and perfect for your sweatshirt, but not for your ice cream. Why? In many scooters, the engine is located just below it. The under seat storage provides a toasty spot to stick your gloves when you park so they’re warm when you put them back on.

But stow the wrong groceries under the seat and you’ll arrive home with par-boiled produce. In fact, there’s a recipe for Helmet Bucket Chili which you can make in your Vespa under-seat compartment. I’ve had better chili, but you can’t beat the novelty of cooking in your scooter.

The under-seat storage is a great spot to store your helmet, if it fits. I have four helmets and only one fits under the seat of my GTS. But Aphrodite’s under-seat storage compartment is spacious enough for my rain gear, an extra fleece layer and a selection of bungee cords.

The Stella and P-series Vespas have no under-seat storage because the gas tank is located there, but as I mentioned earlier, the glove box is very roomy on these scooters to compensate.

If the scooter you have in mind doesn’t quite meet your cargo-carrying needs, never fear! There are tons of accessories you can have your dealer or shop install – or you can do it yourself. Check the scooter manufacturer to find out if the accessories are available for the model you’ve got your eye on. Popular scooters like Vespas, Buddys and Stellas have limitless possibilities for cargo add-ons.

Secure Your Cargo and Be Safe!

One last note – no matter what you’re carrying or where you’re carrying it, always secure your load safely. Be careful of where your load is situated – down low and toward the back makes for the most stable ride. Make sure the weight of your cargo is balanced evenly on the scooter, and never exceed the weight recommendations of various racks.

Improperly stowed cargo can endanger your life. I’ll post soon on best practices for carrying cargo safely.

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How Much Scooter Can You Handle? Thu, 18 Feb 2010 00:01:13 +0000 When picking the perfect scooter for you, scooter size, engine power, and scooter weight are essential considerations.

Scooter weight affects handling, comfort and safety. A heavy scooter is more challenging to maneuver than a light scooter, both while riding and on the ground. Here are some things to keep in mind while deciding how much scooter you can handle.

How Scooter Weight Affects You

Maneuverability while riding

Heavier scooters require more leaning in turns and are harder to corner. They often have increased braking-distance, which means it takes you longer to stop. But heavy scooters are also less affected by external factors like gusty wind on bridges, making them a more stable ride in certain cases.

Handling on the ground

The heavier a scooter is, the more strength is required to handle it when parking and putting it up on its center stand. If you doubt the importance of easy handling on the ground, try wrestling a 375 lb. Vespa GTS into a parking spot on a hill. (As usual, I speak from highly personal experience!)

Remember that scooters don’t have “reverse” for backing up; if you want to go backwards, you have to push it.

Gas mileage

The weight of a scooter will also affect your gas mileage. In general, lighter scooters tend to get more miles per gallon. For comparison, take two scooters with equal engines: the Genuine Buddy, at 220 lb. averages 90 mpg; while the Vespa LX weighs 242 lb. and gets about 68 mpg.

This difference in mpg doesn’t exactly break the bank when compared with your average SUV, but it’s still a point to consider. (Other factors besides weight also affect the gas mileage of a scooter.)

What Determines Scooter Weight?

Scooters vary wildly in weight. A couple of things influence the weight of a scooter:

Overall body size

In this corner, weighing in at a slight and slender 127 pounds, the diminutive Honda Metropolitan! And in this corner, tipping the scales at a hulking 340 pounds, the massive Vespa GTS. If you want to go super heavyweight, check out the Piaggio MP3, which appears to rival your average sedan in mass.

Engine power

A general rule of thumb: the more powerful the engine, the heavier the scooter.

Metal vs. plastic body construction

A metal-bodied scooter will weigh more than a plastic-bodied scooter of the same size. Plastic is much more common in modern scooters.

Even the Vespas with steel chassis have some plastic panels, like the horncast on the GTS. I discovered this when attempting to cover my scooter with magnetic refrigerator poetry and it wouldn’t stick in some places!

Accessories and bling

Accessories also increase the overall weight of the scooter, especially after-market items like chrome cowl protectors, cargo racks and windscreens.

My Stella’s accessories, including chrome fender guards, legshield crash bars, cowl protectors, extra mirrors, rear rack, spare tire carrier, and passenger seat easily add another 40 pounds to the weight of my scooter. They also add 40 pounds of sparkle, which is worth every ounce!

The Importance of Weight Placement

Where the weight is placed on the scooter, and how well it is balanced, is just as important as the overall mass.
My Vespa GTS, “Aphrodite,” is a big girl – nearly 400 pounds with all her accessories, a full tank of gas and my laptop.

But the Vespa GTS is so flawlessly designed that the scooter feels weightless as soon as you open the throttle. The center of gravity is low and the weight evenly-balanced.

When I bought my topcase (a fancy word for “trunk”), Vespa included weighted chrome tips for my handlebars. These were screwed into my handgrips to re-balance the weight distribution after installing the topcase. The GTS may be loaded down with 40 pounds of accessories, but everything is balanced and evenly-distributed so I barely notice the extra weight.

Contrast this with the Stella scooter and P-series Vespas. My Stella’s center of gravity is much higher than the GTS. Additionally, the engine is located on the right side of the scooter, causing a total imbalance in weight distribution.

You’ll especially notice this when riding behind a Stella or P-series Vespa – you can see the bike tilting to the left slightly as the rider compensates for the imbalance.

After riding my GTS, the Stella feels top-heavy and tippy, even though it’s 100 pounds lighter. I get used to the feeling after a few minutes, but it drives home the point that weight distribution is just as important as total weight.

You’ll also notice the importance of weight placement when you carry cargo – a 25lb. bag of cat litter is much more noticeable perched up on the rear rack than in the compartment under the seat. Like wise if you split a heavy load in half between two saddlebags located low on either side of the scooter.

Before deciding on your perfect scooter, be sure to sit on a few and feel the difference in weight, as well as the distribution of that weight. If you can easily manage the scooter on the ground, you’ll have an easier time handling it while riding.

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Goldilocks and the Perfect Scooter Wed, 17 Feb 2010 00:01:57 +0000 When deciding on the best scooter for you, size is a major consideration. Just like our fair-haired heroine, you want a scooter that’s not too big and not too small, but juuust riiiiight.

How big should your scooter be? Well, how big are you? While riders and scooters do not necessarily need to be matched proportionately, you do have to be both comfortable and safe while riding.

Let’s talk about why seat height is important, how size affects visibility, and essential factors to consider when deciding how big or small your dream scooter should be.

Comfort and Safety While Riding

One of the most important criteria when deciding on scooter size is rider height. When sitting on your scooter, you should be able to put at least one foot flat on the ground. This enables you to balance the scooter safely when you come to a stop.

The length of your leg, height of the scooter, and thickness of the scooter seat will determine whether or not this happens easily. Ideally, you don’t want to be forced to balance your scooter on one tiptoe – or slide off the seat to reach the ground each time you come to a red light.

Of course, the opposite end of the height spectrum applies as well. I simply adore the Genuine Buddy scooter. I’ve been craving a pink one with a white seat and matching trunk for years. I finally got to sit on one, and my heart sank.

At six feet tall with a 36” inseam, my knees were buried in the handlebars – and that was after sliding way back on the seat! I was physically unable to ride it because of my height.

One of my fellow scooterists, affectionately known as “Tiny,” is very small. She rides a Venice scooter, which allows her to comfortably reach the ground while riding. She also has a vintage small-frame Vespa Primavera scooter (in bubblegum pink… ahhhh…) that fits her perfectly.

Visibility on the Road

To some degree, scooter size also affects visibility on the road – your ability to see and be seen. Smaller scooters are closer to the ground so they’re potentially less visible. This can be easily remedied, however, by increasing your visibility with color, illumination and reflection.

Giving Yourself a Few More Inches

Lots of folks have custom seats made to give them a few more inches of ground access. Seats can be “cut down” to remove a couple of inches of height. The cover is removed and the foam padding inside trimmed so it’s thinner. Then the cover is put back on.

When I got my Genuine Stella scooter, the previous owner was a foot shorter than me and had the seat cut down to ride more comfortably. I didn’t realize this until I sat on my friend’s Stella, and noticed not only the extra height, but the cushiness of the seat!

After sitting on that Stella’s stock seat, my custom seat felt like riding on a two-by-four wood plank. Since I don’t need the extra height, I’ve been planning to install a cushier seat that’s kinder to my behind.

Scooter Size and Passengers

One additional point to keep in mind when considering scooter size is whether or not you’ll be carrying passengers in the future. If you’re new to scooting, I don’t recommend carrying passengers for a while. I’d give it at least a year of steady scooting before adding another person to the mix.

Passengers add a whole new dimension to riding, adding distraction and changing your scooter’s maneuverability and handling. There are too many variables to worry about when you’re new to the road, so you should feel very confident on two wheels before carrying someone else along for the ride.

But if you think you might want to be able to carry friends in the future, choose a scooter that can accommodate two people. You will need extra length to comfortably share your seat, and the right amount of engine power to handle the additional weight.

Scooters that have enough power to handle riding two-up usually have seats to accommodate both people, as well as fold-out passenger footrests. Some scooters also have “buddy seats.” Some vintage Vespas and the new “revival” Vespa LXV and GTV models have two separate seats – one for the rider and one for the passenger.

Give it the “Sit Test”

When choosing your scooter, give it the “sit test” to be sure you can reach the ground comfortably. With the engine off, try backing it up and pushing it around. Put it up on its center stand and take it back down.

You’ll get better at maneuvering with practice, but your first impression gives you a good idea if you’ve found the right size scooter for you.

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Pros and Cons of Buying a New Scooter Mon, 15 Feb 2010 00:01:31 +0000 Don’t you just love that new scooter smell? Nothing is more tempting than a glossy rainbow of fresh new scooters lined up at your local dealer for the choosing.

New scooters come with added peace of mind: a warranty and a known history. But you’ll pay a premium for it. If saving money is your number one goal, a used scooter may be a better bet. Still, buying new has definite charms and may provide benefits you haven’t considered. Let’s have a look.

Benefits of Buying a New Scooter

Here are some items for your “pros” list.

A new scooter is just… NEW!

It’s flawless and shiny and mine all mine!

New scooters provide instant gratification

You can decide what model you want, walk into the dealership, and ride it home an hour later. No need to search the classified ads or wait for your perfect match on craigslist.

New scooters come with a full factory warranty

Depending on the manufacturer, your scooter may come with a 1- or 2-year warranty. You may also have the opportunity to buy an extended warranty from the dealer if you want one. Some manufacturers, like Vespa, add on roadside assistance.

Coverage like this can supply great peace of mind, especially if you are relying on your scoot as your sole mode of transport or are concerned about breaking down in the sketchy part of town.

I cover my personal experience with warranties (and lack of thereof) here.

You can finance your new scooter

If you don’t have the cash handy to swing your new purchase, many dealers offer financing. The interest rate tends to be much higher than a car since scooters are usually considered “recreational vehicles.”

But you may also be able to participate in a manufacturer financing deal when they’re offered, like the like Vespa Spring Sales Event that got me on my new GTS a couple years ago.

Drawbacks of Buying New

There are two sides to any argument. Here are some items for the “cons” portion of our list.

New scooters are more expensive

New scooters cost more than used scooters, plain and simple.

New scooters lose value quickly

Like most vehicles, scooters lose a big chunk of their value the second you ride them off the lot. Even six months later, your scooter will be worth about 20% less just because it’s “used.” Keep this in mind if you intend to upgrade or re-sell your scooter.

You pay dealer set-up fees on a new scooter

Dealers charge “set up fees” on new scooters, and some charge freight or shipping as well (even if the scooter was shipped way before you came along).

Set-up fees can run $300 – $600 and are sometimes rolled into the “tax, title and administrative” fees. MSRP doesn’t tell the whole story.

You have limited negotiating power at the dealership

While you can go to a private sale with a wad of cash in your hand and talk the seller down, you have limited negotiating power at the dealership on brand new scooters. In a down economy, you will probably have more pull in the showroom, but the MSRP is not terribly flexible.

New scooters require early service

New scooters require a few regularly scheduled service appointments in the beginning as they “run in.” These are around the 500, 1000 and 3000 mile mark, and include service like oil and filter changes, which are required to keep your warranty valid.

Service is not normally included in the purchase price of the scooter and can add an additional $400 – $500 to your first year of ownership.

My Vespa GTS needed the 500- and 1000-mile service the first month of ownership, so keep that in mind if you plan to do a lot of riding. And trust me, you’ll want to do a lot of riding!

It hurts more when it gets scuffed up

If you drop your scooter or it gets bumped in a parking lot, it hurts more if it’s new. This may seem like a lame reason to buy a used scooter, but lots of newbies put their scooters down the first year of ownership.

It might be worth considering a used scooter you can scratch up a little while learning to ride without wanting to kick yourself. It’s very hard to see your flawless, glossy custom paint job mucked up. As always, I speak from highly personal experience.

Ultimately, your decision comes down to your comfort level and your price point. Be sure to review the pros and cons of buying a used scooter before you decide. Do you like to gamble or do you want the sure thing? Only you can answer that one.

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Is Buying a Used Scooter Worth the Risk? Sat, 13 Feb 2010 00:00:33 +0000 Maybe it’s the hunter/gatherer in us, but stalking the local listings for a perfect steal can be so gratifying. While saving money is the obvious advantage when it comes to buying used, there are other issues you may not have considered. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Benefits of Buying Used

In my experience, the benefits of buying a used scooter are worth the perceived risks. (My experience is detailed at the end of this post.) But this is a personal decision based on individual comfort level. Your mileage may vary. Either way, here are some items for the “pros” list when buying used:

Buying a used scooter can save you money.

Used scooters are cheaper, period.

Used scooters keep more of their value.

A used scooter keeps more of its value, so if you buy one and decide to upgrade a year later, you’ll hold on to more of your money, assuming the scooter is still in good shape.

Used scooters come with free accessories.

When buying used, you may also get add-ons like cargo racks, topcases, spare tires, windscreens and chrome crash bars thrown in. The price of these accessories can add up substantially when purchased at retail and installed on a new scooter. You may pay a few dollars more for a used scooter with a topcase and full chrome kit, but the savings can still be enormous.

As a sidebar, one accessory I don’t recommend getting second-hand is a helmet. You just don’t know its history, and if it’s been in a crash or even dropped, the integrity has been compromised. Take the money you save buying a used scooter and splurge on a new helmet.

Initial service has been done on a used scooter.

(The one’s you would buy, anyway.) As mentioned above, the first few services for your scooter as it’s “run in” can add up to a big chunk of change the first year. A scooter with 1200 miles is still very new but (ideally) has had at least the first two services performed. This saves you money and the hassle of taking it in to the shop. You’ll want to ask for paperwork confirming this maintenance has been done, of course.

The kinks have been worked out.

If there are any “known issues” with the scooter, the first owner gets to sort them out for you. One example is the problematic fuel lines in 2003 Stellas that became apparent after the first model was released. The fuel lines were too long and would get crimped, blocking gasoline from getting to the engine.

Ideally, a brand new vehicle comes problem-free right from the factory. But the reality is, you hear lots of stories about new scoots being problematic until they have all the kinks worked out. I’ve purchased two new scooters, and I’ve got two stories about a long list of “kinks.” Not the word I used at the time, but let’s keep this place polite, shall we?

A used scooter is already scuffed up for you.

When your neighbor backs into it while trying to park on the street, you won’t feel as bad about the chips in the paint if the scooter has already seen some light wear.

Used scooters have been around the block and lived to tell.

The longer a model of scooter has been on the road, the more information there is available. You can get more feedback from other scooterists, read about that model on scooter blogs, and peruse reviews for more ammunition in making your final decision.

Drawbacks of Buying Used

Like any coin with two sides, buying a used scooter is not without its drawbacks. You can minimize the risks of buying used by buying a recent model with low mileage. Or you can take a gamble on an older scooter with a deep discount and hope for a diamond in the rough. Here are some possible issues you could encounter, along with ways to lessen your risk.

Finding the right used scooter requires patience.

While dealers may have the model you want in the showroom today, you’ll likely need to be patient if you’re shopping the classifieds.

You might have to settle.

When buying used, you may not be able to get the exact year or model you want unless you’re very patient. This will depend on the market in your area. Some geographic regions have lots of scooter activity and you could likely get just what you’re looking for. Others you may have to make do with blue when you really wanted gray.

Used scooters could potentially be less reliable.

Buying used is a crapshoot. The odds depend on how old the scooter is and how many miles are on it. If it’s going to be your only mode of transportation to work, avoid the 20-year-old scooter with 30,000 miles on it. (Although I’ve purchased one of those, lucked out and had no problems! I did have a back-up to get to work, just in case.)

Used scooters have unknown histories.

The first 500 – 800 miles of a scooter’s life are essential. Manufacturers provide details for properly “running in” the engine, such as not riding the scooter at open throttle for long periods of time while the engine is adjusting to life on the road. It’s difficult to tell how the scooter was treated as an infant, and improper running-in can lead to big problems later on.

You can get some information about how it was treated by asking the owner how it was run-in. There’s no guarantee they’re being totally honest, but if they ask, “what’s that mean?” you might want to move on.

A used scooter probably doesn’t include a warranty.

In a private sale, you probably won’t get a factory warranty unless the original one is still active and it’s transferable. If the seller still has the factory warranty, read the fine print! Be sure they haven’t voided the warranty by skipping required service appointments or adding modifications like performance exhaust pipes or cylinder kits.

If you’re buying used from a dealer showroom, ask if they can include a warranty. Some dealers offer an in-house warranty for a few months after purchase.

Used scooters might have cosmetic imperfections.

Cosmetic blemishes can be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it. A lightly scuffed scooter is no worse for the wear and lets you off the hook if you drop it while parking or leave it out in the rain.

But if you’re looking for a flawless, glossy paint job, it’ll be harder to come by in the used market. Particularly since lots of new riders wipe out, decide they don’t want to ride anymore, and sell their scooter.

Payment is by cash only.

If you have to finance your purchase, you’ll probably be out of luck in the used market, unless you buy from a dealer that offers financing on “certified pre-owned” scooters.

Availability of parts and/or service may be limited.

Getting replacement parts for an older model scooter used to be more of a concern – now we have the Internets. Some of the more popular vintage scooters, like a 1978 Vespa P200 for example, have ample parts easily available online.

Are your sights set on an older scooter? Check out the availability of service in your area before you buy. If there’s nobody within 100 miles who can work on a 1985 Honda, don’t buy one unless you’ve got a garage and the ambition to learn how to fix it yourself. Or you can play it safe and just stick to scooters that came out in the past couple of years – especially ones that are still being manufactured.

My Experience

I’ve bought both new and used, and ironically, I’ve had more problems with my brand new scooters than the used ones. My Vespa GTS had several electrical problems initially that were covered under the factory warranty. While it was a royal pain in the patootie to break down (on my birthday), need countless tows, and be scooterless for weeks at a time, I didn’t have to pay for any of the repairs.

The Frankenstella included a “gentleman’s warranty” that was not really honored. (Perhaps I’m not a gentleman?) That’s the last time I make that particular mistake. In the end, the Frankenstella cost me about $8,000.

Afterwards, when I bought the Vespa GTS, I opted for the extended warranty for peace of mind. This decision worked out well for me, but the extended warranty cost a pretty penny.

Meanwhile, the ugly-as-sin scooter I picked up for less than a month’s rent never gave me the slightest hiccup despite being more than 20 years old. It required only new brakes a year after I bought it.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a used scooter comes down to your comfort level and your price point. Do you like to gamble or do you want the sure thing? Only you can answer that one.

If you have additional pros or cons, leave them in the comments. I’d also like to hear about your experience with either new or used scooters – good or bad!