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April 24, 2008 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Scooting Mefites: What do I need to know before and after buying a scooter? How do I keep it safe in my neighborhood where cars are relatively unsafe (Hyde Park, KC)?

I'm looking at buying a Genuine Buddy. I've ridden neither a motorcycle nor a scooter. I'm attracted to Genuine's warranty, and the fact that I can have this paid off by the end of the year. I've beenn wanting a sccoter for years now, but had no real need. Now I'm carless and need to get around. I had my eye on a Bajaj Chetak, but those are now discontinued.

My neighborhood's not exactly rough, but it's known for car thefts. (Hyde Park, Kansas City for those in the area) This Worries me a bit with a vehicle that's so easy to steal. I rent, and have a parking space visible from my bedroom (offstreet).

So my big questions are should I take a motorcycle rider course? How do I keep this safe? When buying a new scooter is haggling common or is it MSRP all the way? What else do I need to know?
posted by piedmont to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
A motorcycle safety course is a great idea (and some communities even offer them for free through the police department or public safety department).

Yes, go ahead and haggle if you want to. With the economy going downhill, a dealer might be willing to make a sale at a lower price rather than not make a sale at all.

As for your parking, if you're on the ground floor, could you bring it into your apartment overnight? If you've got room, you could pick out a designated parking spot for it in your apartment, but make sure to put down an old mat or rug underneath it, so it doesn't damage your flooring/carpet.
posted by amyms at 3:40 PM on April 24, 2008

For security--- Scooter cables here and here. I just Googled "lock up scooter" and found some info, including this site and this site (scroll down for scooter info).

Or do they make boots for the average citizen? That would be great.

Also, you should keep all the relevant ID materials handy---do scooters have VINs?, registration, etc. in case it does get stolen (knock on wood).

Also, another MeFi post on stolen scooters (the aftermath).
posted by hulahulagirl at 4:01 PM on April 24, 2008

Best answer: Yes, definitely take the rider's course. A few things (like gear shifting) won't apply to most scooters, but the general stuff of how to brake, how to deal with traffic, etc, all translate back and forth perfectly between motorcycles and scooters. (This video is a short and funny demonstration of why training is a good thing.)

Haggling is normal and expected, although profit margins can be pretty slim on a cheap scooter, so there may not be all that much room for movement on the price. Assuming you mean the 50cc version of the Buddy, that looks to be in the same price range as a bunch of other scooters (Honda Ruckus and Metropolitan, several by Kymco, the Yamaha C3, Vino, and Zuma, and lots and lots more) -- between about $1800 and $2200, you probably have ten or fifteen models to choose from, if not more. They all have their fans and detractors; I'd suggest choosing by the dealer as much as anything -- buy a brand that has good local support, with a good shop and parts availability.

Security: buy (and use!) a good lock; even better if you can lock the scooter to something (a bolt in the concrete, a post, a car that no longer moves). Putting a cover on it helps, because someone can't glance over and instantly see what's under it. Price out comprehensive insurance (for me, it is only $2 more per year than basic liability!), which gives peace of mind if nothing else.

Also, there are some motorcycle/bicycle locks that have built-in alarms. I've never used one, but that might be a way for you to feel better about parking it outdoors. Parking it indoors is nice, but probably not allowed in your lease (not that anyone will ever know, but still).
posted by Forktine at 4:04 PM on April 24, 2008

Buy a used one.
posted by jclovebrew at 4:10 PM on April 24, 2008

while riding...assume that every car you see is trying to kill you.

And, take the safety course... Like chicken soup, it can't hurt!

I rode from the time I was 15 until I was 41, all sizes of cycles... Last year I decided to start riding again after 18 years of no bike at all... after putting 4,000 miles on the Sportster, I'm signed up for the safety course in two weeks.
posted by HuronBob at 5:17 PM on April 24, 2008

You need scooter insurance that covers theft. I had it when I had a scooter in Lawrence, Kansas and the payment was something like 60 dollars for 6 months.
posted by aetg at 6:03 PM on April 24, 2008

Response by poster: OK, let me throw a few out based on what I'm hearing (if that's allowed.)
Should I take my new scooter to the class, or should I use one of the small bikes they allow use of at no cost, hence laying down there machine instead of mine?
Should I even consider driving it in the city before the course? If not, how should I get it to the course?
Our asphalt is pretty messed up at my complex, are the holes for anchors big enough to even be noticeable?
posted by piedmont at 6:08 PM on April 24, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and one more!
Is there an advantage to two stroke? I was looking at four stroke models with the vague idea that they're more environmentally friendly.
posted by piedmont at 6:10 PM on April 24, 2008

I'm in the scooter buying game myself. From what I've gathered, there really aren't any discounts on the Buddy. If you're lucky, you might get $100 off as the margins are pretty thin. The demand is pretty high, especially with gas prices being what they are. If you're going to haggle, try to get free accessories or have them remove the setup charge. Scooters arrive from Taiwan mostly disassembled, so there's some pretty big labor overhead in putting them together.

Vintage scooters are 2-stroke, but then again, so are lawnmowers. A 2-stroke engine burns a mixture of fuel and oil, and burning oil spews an incredible number of bad-for-the-environment hydrocarbons. Sure, it's not burning much, but every little bit helps. I'll be going 4-stroke myself.
posted by hwyengr at 6:16 PM on April 24, 2008

Definitely take the motorcycle course. I, however, did pick mine up and drive it home and then drove it around a lot without taking the course. It's a good idea to take it at some point.

Also I'd check out the rules in your state about what = a moped and what = a motorcycle. Here in MA it's muddy. Under 50cc AND a max speed of 30mph makes something a moped which means only a $10 registration sticker and no motorcycle license is needed. The tricky thing is a lot of scooters are 49cc, but go maybe 35mph. My insurance agent would not insure my 49cc (max speed 35mph) scooter as a motorcycle. Here in MA a motorcycle means a different license, registration fee and insurance and no sidewalk parking. I actually did get pulled over by a cop who insisted I needed a motorcycle license plate, etc.

I'd also get the biggest lock you can tote around with you. I used the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit lock.

Lastly, think about your helmet. I got a full face and anytime I got sick of wearing it (particularly in the heat), the local scooter folks would always remind me how important my chin is to me... and I'd keep the full face. Good luck--scooters are so much fun.
posted by jdl at 6:29 PM on April 24, 2008

Best answer: Should I take my new scooter to the class, or should I use one of the small bikes they allow use of at no cost, hence laying down there machine instead of mine?

Definitely use theirs, for exactly that reason. (I think most beginning riders courses don't allow you to bring your own, because of the liability problems when Johnny Racer wads his new 90000GSXRRRRR superbike into a lightpole in the first half hour.)

Should I even consider driving it in the city before the course? If not, how should I get it to the course?

Best answer is always "no," of course. (And, do you need a motorcycle endorsement to ride a 49cc scooter in your state? Check on this.) But the truth is, the video I linked above notwithstanding, a semi-trained monkey could figure out how to ride a scooter given five minutes in a parking lot. There just isn't anything to it: twist throttle to go, use both brakes to stop, look where you want to go, not at where you don't want to go. Traffic is harder, and this is where the riders course will keep you alive. So... safe answer is don't do it, honest answer is everyone does and mostly it works out ok. Don't even ride across the parking lot without a helmet, though -- head injuries come mostly from the vertical component of the crash, which is the same at 2mph as it is at 60mph.

Our asphalt is pretty messed up at my complex, are the holes for anchors big enough to even be noticeable?

I've only seen them used in concrete, not asphalt, but the answer is "not really" -- you drill a fairly small hole (1 inch or less, usually) and use adhesive to install the anchor. Removing it later might be a trick, though. Google is your friend for this -- there are a lot of competing products out there, example, another.

Is there an advantage to two stroke? I was looking at four stroke models with the vague idea that they're more environmentally friendly.

2 stroke advantage is better power to weight ratio, sometimes cheaper to buy. Disadvantage is ecological (except in some new, high-tech two strokes, I think) -- more emissions, less mpg. A new and efficient 4 stroke scooter (eg Ruckus, C3) should get between 90 and 115 mpg; the 2 strokes are good but not that good. The 4 strokes should last longer with less maintenance -- many people have taken the Ruckus and Honda Elite 80's well over 10,000 miles with minimal work.
posted by Forktine at 7:01 PM on April 24, 2008

Best answer: I'm going to break tradition here and suggest that you might not want the motorcycle safety course and, yes, it can hurt. Are you taking a course where they supply the motorcycle and not a scooter? I did. It was a costly mistake that I recommend against for the pure scooter rider.

Last year after a couple hundred miles on my new Vespa LX-50, I took the safety course to better survive the travails of living in a car-oriented nation in a heavily trafficked area. More precisely, I took 75% of the course and watched everyone left do the last 25%. There are a number of fine differences between operating a scooter and a motorcycle and, long story short, when learning low-speed tight turns I dumped the motorcycle on my side, broke my collarbone, had a few weeks of a lovely multicolor bruise running from my hip all down my leg, and my big toe turned a fascinating shade of black (got caught on the peg, I guess).

Now, you might say that this was a freak accident, and I'd agree. I'd even agree that it could easily have been much worse if it had not happened on a closed course and at a higher speed than 12 mph. But, for a variety of reasons I won't go into unless asked or challenged, I don't think the most significant damage during the practice would have happened if I had been riding a scooter. Motorcycles are more complicated to operate than a twist-and-go scooter and the differences can definitely affect your riding, particularly as a beginner.

It's very important you understand I'm not saying you shouldn't get educated before tooling about on the scooter. You absolutely should get early and strong education and experience; one moment of carelessness can kill you. Riding a scooter or motorcycle is inherently more dangerous than a car, as trips across town (and my wife) often remind me. But if you can't use your own scoot in the class, there are reasonable alternatives to taking the class than using a not-quite-the-same-thing motorcycle.

For one, immediately practice low-speed manuevering and stops in a semi-protected area. After I got my Vespa, I bought several mini-cones, went to a secluded parking lot, and practiced braking and tight riding around obstacles for several days. The subsequent classroom portion of the safety course I (.75)took was also very helpful, but you can duplicate and improve on their printed booklet with other books. Try the The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Guide to Motorcycling Excellence: Skills, Knowledge, and Strategies for Riding Right, by the same people who run the course. Consider the heavily recommended book by Hough Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well and his followup More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride.

Anyway, six weeks after my safety class when the doctor cleared me for riding again, I rented a 200cc scooter over a weekend with a friend who had a class 'M' (unlimited motorcycle) license and practiced variations on the driving license course for hours (you can usually find the specs for the driving license course on the net). This is extremely helpful to pass the test, which can be difficult to do depending on who you get as a tester, plus the learned skills do translate to the real world. I passed my test the first time and am a proud possessor of an 'M' class license, yeaa me.

If you do take the course, though you will (probably) always be running less than 20 mph, think about wearing more than their specified minimum protection. I was wearing a long-sleeve nylon jacket when I dumped. I wish I had worn a motorcycle jacket with protection plates, like I have now. You might think an armored or leather jacket is a ridiculously overkill expenditure for a little scoot, but I'd trade my $80 (eBay) purchase against my $2000 worth of doctor bills after insurance for taking a spill at a measley 12mph any day, because with the street jacket I probably would have just had a really sore shoulder. I don't know if you need motorcycle boots for a scooter, at least I don't have them, but think about boots with toe and ankle protection even so. A better jacket and steel-toed boots would have saved me a lot of money and pain.

As for your other questions, I can't say for the Buddy, but with my Vespa even at last year's gas prices, it was MSRP all the way. The dealer moved all their stock quickly and had zero interest in haggling. However, that could be also be influenced by the demographics of the surrounding area.

If you are looking for a nice used 50cc, it's too bad you aren't closer, because I am looking to trade up the LX-50 to a Granturismo 200, if I can make the free cash flow situation work a bit better than it is currently.
posted by mdevore at 7:06 PM on April 24, 2008

I recommend joining Modern Buddy to get answers from actual (or should I say Genuine?) Buddy owners.
posted by kimota at 7:56 PM on April 24, 2008

Hi. I'm the proud owner of a Honda Metropolitan. You're going to love your scoot. Here's my advice.

What do I need to know before and after buying a scooter?

The biggest thing is that you need to understand your local laws re: what is a moped and what is considered a motorcycle. If your scoot is small enough (in terms of cc's / speed or whatever your local regulations require) to be a moped you won't need a special motorcycle licence. If its over those limits, you will. There is a big difference, and you should do independent research (call your DMV) before you buy.

How do I keep it safe in my neighborhood where cars are relatively unsafe (Hyde Park, KC)?

I bought a Kryptonite brand lock for mine and have been very happy with it. Kryptonite will also give you cash if your scoot is stolen while the lock is properly secured.

So my big questions are should I take a motorcycle rider course?

My scoot was a gift from two avid motorcyclists who knew I needed to move to two wheels. It was their opinion that the motorcycle course would be unnecessary for me, and I think they were probably right. A scoot is much more stable than a motorcycle, and drives/handles very differently. Just be sure to get a helmet and a good riding jacket, and gloves (in case you ever do lay it down) and you should be up and running in about five minutes. I'm about the klutzyiest person on earth, but I was stable on the bike in a few minutes and haven't ever even had a close call.

Congrats on your choice. You'll love it.
posted by anastasiav at 5:29 AM on April 25, 2008

Used Buddy on
posted by o0dano0o at 11:24 AM on April 25, 2008

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