Should I buy a moped from these people?
November 3, 2006 10:18 AM   Subscribe

ScooterFilter: Anyone know anything about mopeds from

I need to get to the theatre for Tech week seven days out of the month, three months out of the year. The theatre is some thirty miles from me, but in a car it take about 50 minutes. Via public transportation, however, it's at least two and a half hours. Via bicycle, I would die (there are no shoulders on the roads out there).

My best thought so far was to spend as much money as I possibly can (which is right around a thousand bucks) on a 149cc moped--it looks like they can go fast enough that I won't get killed by cars on the street (no higway driving needed). I'm not crazy about the safety (especially in the Chicago winters) but I fear that a thousand dollar car will cost a hell of a lot more than that in repairs, fuel and insurance. Scooters look like the way to go, although the ones I can ride (I weigh 230 pounds) seem way outside my budget.

So I found this place online, gsMotorworks, that has really fantastic prices--$900, and it looks pretty cool. Even though the website reassuringly says, "What's the catch? There is no catch." I have to wonder.

So my question:

1) Can anyone out there tell me anything about this place, or about buying scooters online in general?

2) Failing that, can anyone tell me whether riding a scooter 30 miles in the winter is suicide, and I should just buy a really nice bicycle and hope no one runs me off the road?

3) Other suggestions?
posted by Squid Voltaire to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought is stay away. These scooters are Chinese imports. Compared to Japanese, Italian, or Taiwanese scooters, they aren't as well-built. So reliability might be an issue, and, since you're buying online, you've got no dealer to take it to. Parts availability might be an issue.

I ride a scooter year round in Cincinnati, which has a real winter, but not as brutal as Chicago. You'll need proper gear, at minimum a good jacket, nice gloves, and a good full face helmet. Even with proper gear, riding in the cold can be a torture test. I rode in 8 degrees last winter and had some pre-hypothermic symptoms.

If you're still up for it, I'd check Craigslist for used scooters in your price range. classifieds are another good place to look. There's a ton of vintage Vespa repair information online, and I'm sure there's a helpful community of riders in Chicago. You might search them out and ask around.

Speaking of Chicago, it's home to Scooterworks , a vintage parts supplier and restorerGenuine Scooter Company, which imports and markets Taiwanese bikes from a company called PGO.
posted by cramer at 10:42 AM on November 3, 2006

If you're riding in the cold of winter, you might want to think about getting a snowmobile suit. I've heard of people riding mopeds year-round in Toronto, but mopeds don't go as fast as scooters.
posted by glip at 11:06 AM on November 3, 2006

I second Scooterworks. They've got one of the best reputations in the industry. I do, however, think you are insane for riding 30 miles in the winter. It gets DARN cold, so you'll need to be pretty hardcore. I love scootering, but not too much in the wintertime months up here.
posted by ScottUltra at 11:18 AM on November 3, 2006

Response by poster: Well, to partially answer my own question (for future viewers), these people are not very happy with gsMotorWorks at all, so I think I'll be avoiding them. Sounds dreadful.

It does seem like it might be possible for me to get a decent Chinese some-assembly-required scooter, however, so I'll keep looking.

Cramer, those pages looked delicious, and I'd love one of those, but the prices are all at least a grand more than I can afford.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2006

I'd think twice before combining all of:
  • New to motorcycling
  • Street tires
  • Riding in snow and ice
  • Commuting
  • Big city
as my first motorcycling experience. Being new means there's a better chance you'll make a mistake, and you won't be able to read the road surfaces and traffic as well as someone experienced. Having street tires and not, say, dirt or ice tires (on a dirt bike) means you won't have as much margin for error when it comes to traction. And when there's the potential to hit snow and ice on two wheels, you can't lose traction or you're not on two wheels anymore; where a car can lose traction on one or two wheels for a second and recover fine, you'll be under the bike or flying through the air.

Add in commuting and you've increased the pressure to make the trip even when the conditions are marginal; it's one thing to say "I'm not going to ride today" when you're thinking of making a pleasure trip, but it's another thing to say "I'm going to leave the bike here at the theatre and take public transit home", or even "I'm going to get up two hours early every day just in case I can't ride". Lastly, riding in a big city means that you won't have the opportunity to learn bike handling in a good learning environment -- it's going to be second nature since you're going to be spending more of the time watching traffic.

I'd plan to buy a scoot or a bike in the spring, and use the summer to gain proficiency maybe in time for next winter. (I'd recommend a bike rather than a scoot, though -- at your price range it really only means you'd be looking used instead of new, but a bike in that price range means you can do city and highway miles, and it'd be a bit more comfortable for you as well.)
posted by mendel at 11:21 AM on November 3, 2006

Another thing to think about is if you're buying a 149cc scooter that most likely (it is in MA and most other states) considered a motorcycle. This means you'll have to register and insure it and also get a motorcycle license.

Also I second Scooterworks and the bbs.

Oh and riding in the winter is beyond cold and ice is scary unless you've gotten really good at handling your bike. I ride a 49cc scooter in Boston and put it away during the super cold months.
posted by jdl at 12:02 PM on November 3, 2006

Take the winter temperature in Chicago, and calculate a 30 mph windchill factor. If it's 30° F outside, it will feel like 15° F on your scooter. Be prepared to invest in a few hundred dollars of serious cold-weather gear.
posted by mbrubeck at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2006

Any vehicle you purchase is going to entail the additional costs of insurance and fuel, as well as the potential for maintenance. Some other suggestions:

Use Craigslist to find someone who can drive you (barter services maybe?), or someone you could ride-share with for those days. SOMEONE out there must drive from your town to the theater's town daily; ask everybody you know, post flyers, etc.

Take public transportation at the beginning of your tech week, and beg/borrow/rent someone's couch and live near the theatre for the week you are working.
posted by junkbox at 12:39 PM on November 3, 2006

The ones I can ride (I weigh 230 pounds) seem way outside my budget.

For what it's worth, one of my scooterist friends is a 350lb Samoan who rides a 150cc vintage Vespa that prolly tops out at 40 mph.

I use my scooter to commute through Houston — take a motorcycle safety class, it was instrumental in giving me the confidence I needed to drive in a town with the craziest traffic in the world and where every fifth car is a Hummer. Also, I got a discount on my insurance for it.
posted by Brittanie at 3:46 PM on November 3, 2006

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