Monthly Archives: August 2011

Guess what made Motorcycle.com’s Best of 2011 list…

Yep, it goes to show what is old is new again, especially if it comes with a new twist!  According to motorcycle.com, the best scooter on the market in the US for 2011 is the Stella 150 4T!

It’s really no surprise, since LML (the manufacturers of the Stella for Genuine Scooter Company) totally re-designed the engine to accommodate 4 cycle fuel management and did away with having to mix oil and gas, but kept the steel chassis and manual shifting goodness. New conveniences like disc brakes and old favourites like the ability to use nearly every Vintage Vespa PX/Stella 2T accessory make it a winning combo.  Add to this the continuing good sales of their “Buddy” line of scooters and rumblings of an automatic “crusier” scooter soon to join the line up, and Genuine is shaping up to have a strong return to the top of the scooter heap

The Kymco People 300i took honorable mention, which isn’t a bad place to be for a great large scooter.  It’s upgrade to fuel injection along with an equally needed injection of updated styling make this bike a good freeway commuter for the money at $5399.  While about the same price as a Vespa GTS300, it gives a much needed alternative for scooter riders who don’t want a scooter version of a Goldwing

So, it’s something for everyone tonight!


Why not a Chinese Scooter? They’re “Cheaper”! Well, this is why…

I’m a bit of a scooter snob.  I only ride “major market” bikes.  Why? Well, because I enjoy breathing and really don’t want to die on a Chinese POS  made in the same fashion you make toasters or Hello Kitty rice cookers!  I also dislike companies that make deathtraps and purposely lie to gain sales, and who copy designs simply to mislead you from your money.

“But, they’re cheaper!  You must have something against the Chinese.  Or, perhaps you’re just a snob!” is the usual response I get.  I also hear many claim Chinese scooters are superior to Vespa for the low, low price of $999, but by people who still have the 30 day plate on their bike.  I have yet to hear this argument from anyone with a  Chinese scooter older than 1 year.  Also, the most vocal of those insisting people NOT buy bikes from companies like Honda or Vespa are the ones selling them, and insist it’s a “plot” by the oil companies to keep scooters expensive to keep the poor from having efficient transport.  But, there’s always a line…

I always insist that if you have either never heard of the bike, or you cannot find MULTIPLE brick-and-mortar dealers within one state that have a legit company and product line behind them, don’t buy.  But, how do you know what’s Chinese-made and what’s not? And, what makes Chinese bikes so bad? If you’re new to the scooter scene, you may not of heard of a lot of the vintage bikes like Heinkel, Lambretta or Italjet that everyone keeps raving about… so what makes Chinese scooters like Roketa, Lance and TN’G any different?

Long story short: China is currently the masters of mass manufacture.  They have the ability to copy, retool and produce at an alarming rate.  When it’s something like a Microwave or computer components, that’s a good thing since they are easy to quality check and don’t normally have lives on the line.  But, the more complex the machine, the more quality control is needed.  The problem is that many scooters made in mainland China are slapped together and use copies of copies of old engine designs from Honda or Yamaha.  And, they use the cheapest materials in order to bring the price point down.  You get bikes made like bargain basement dishwashers and Wal-Mart TV’s that you’re supposed to trust your life to at 55mph?  They have ZERO delaership networks too!  You won’t find parts for a Chinese scooter, because once they crank out a few hundred thousand of one model, they scrap the ENTIRE line and re-tool from fresh for the new model.  That means they don’t have compatible parts on hand, since dead-stock=no profit. 

Another trick they use is to claim the engine is “Honda Made” or “Same as Honda”. This has some origin: 99% of all Chinese scooters are powered by a copied variant of an engine developed by Honda called a GY6.  Now, this was a very innovative engine and pretty high tech… for 1989.  It’s a good engine when you have an engine blueprinted, built and inspected by the high-tech plants at Honda of Japan and when high-end metals, rubbers and electronics are used.  Chinese copies are just that: Copied plans that have been copied several DOZEN times.  Ever put a picture through a Xerox machine a dozen times?  Then you know what I mean when I say that once you copy something too many times, the end result is pretty messed up and garbled.  Things get changed along the way, and the quality of materials gets worse each time in order to cut down on costs.  Soon that “Honda Engine” has a sort-of similar shape, but not one part will fit it from the original engine design, and nothing will look the same on the interior.

They will even ripp off the names and appearance of well known bikes!  One Chinese scooter company even bought out the Shwinn bicycle company just to get it’s copyright to sell electric kick-scooters AND China-made motorscooters under the same brand!  Needless to say, they both failed.  This aping also applies to the exterior look, with designs from Kymco, Honda, Vespa and even Harley Davidson applied to make the bikes look as much as their Asian and European cousins in order to con people into thinking their bike is in any way related to the big guys.

Also, most Chinese bikes don’t even pass basic DOT road worthiness inspections or air-quality standards.  How do they get around it?  Well, they sell them as “off road only” bikes, and don’t give a buyer a title.  You get what’s called an MCO (Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin) and the dealer leaves it up to YOU the buyer to fight the DMV to get a real title.  And in the US, without a title you don’t really own an automobile or motorbike, and can’t get it registered for street use.  If the ‘dealer’ makes you get the title yourself and doesn’t provide you with actual plates, then you are at a China-bike dealer!

Other “major market” bike builders like Vespa, Honda, Kymco, Genuine/PGO, LML and the like think different.  They put the money into inspecting the bike and using QUALITY components first, and know that the true money is repeat service with reliable supplies of parts to keep bikes on the road for a long time.  This keeps the rider coming back for upgrades and parts, and that makes good money.  It’s good business.  And, unlike no-name Chinese scooters bought from Habib at the corner tire shop or from Pep Boys, you can go to a DEALER who has direct contact to the manufacturer if there is a problem.  Good luck trying to get that park-n-swap guy to service your Chinese copy of a Kymco/Ruckus/Vespa. 

But, I can only extol the dangers so much.  The man who can accurately describe WHY is a legend in the Scooter scene: Phil from Pride of Cleveland Scooters.  His shop deals in the best of bikes, and are renowned nationwide for not only their service, but aftermarket support for all things scooter. Be it Vespa, Buddy, Stella, Lambretta or Honda, they see it all and Phil can fill you in.  He’s responsible for making a series of “public service announcement” vids that show what a Chinese scooter looks like, what it is, and why they are dangerous!  Once you see his run down on what to look for, you’ll start to spot Chinese scooters all over the place and will begin to understand why they are so cheap, and so reviled by the scooter community. 

Check these few out:

A great example of the “low grade” materials issue”
You hear a lot of Chinese scooters claim “Anti-Lock Brakes”, but in truth they are FAKE and actually are dangerous! Phil explains why in this classic example of a Chinese scooter style very popular in the US…for about 100 miles
This is the BEST example of what a true “China bike” is, and what to look for. Phil knows his stuff, and probably sees HUNDREDS of these. Heed his words!

Are all cheap scooters bad? Well… yes!!!  But, there are inexpensive major market bikes that will blow these China-rific scoots out of the water.  In fact, one of the biggest bike manufacturers in the world, Kymco, is constantly ripped-off by China and two of the three bikes in the videos above are clones of their own Cobra-Cross!  Their bikes start at a low $1299 and go all the way to $8,000.  But, unlike the bikes made in China, Kymco has a long reputation, hard dealerships and excellent quality.  They are also based out of Taiwan, which is NOT subjet to mainland China’s lax laws and ignorant copyright approaches.  Did I mention Kymco is also a manufacturer of a bunch of engines and components for other bike companies such as Yamaha?

PGO is another company that sells great bikes that you may not know off the bat. But, if you have seen the Genuine Buddy or Blur, you’ve seen their bikes! In fact PGO under partnership with Genuine Scooters currently makes the most popular scooter in America!  And, they’re so good that even Vespa dealerships sell them next to their Italian wares.  And, unlike Chinese scooters that may come with a 30 day “warranty” Genuine’s Buddy and Blur come with a 2 YEAR warranty!  And, since they’re sold all over the world, the aftermarket is huge for them.  And, like Kymco, they’ve even built scooters for other bike companies you may of heard of, such as Vespa!

So, while a cheap scooter is tempting, ask yourself: Would you hurl yourself down the road on a bike with the same build quality as a Wal-Mart blender (and on a bike that probably uses the exact same bearings as previously mentioned blender)? Or, would you rather have a bike you KNOW is going to work and is sold worldwide legally?  While many of us can’t afford a $4700 base model Vespa, you  don’t have to resort to a $999 Pep Boys China clone.  Research is your best friend, and don’t be afraid to join popular scooter club message boards and to even stop the average rider on the street.  If they genuinely love their bike, they’ll gladly chat about it.  I myself have owned a $500 Chinese scooter all the way to a top of the line Vespa GTS25oie with every engine upgrade imaginable, dropping nearly $10,000 on it over all.  And, I learned the same way: Asking others, researching like mad and getting my hands on as many bikes as possible.

And, in the end, even my happy butt is picking up a Genuine Scooter Company bike next month!  Be it the Stella 150 or the Buddy 125 (not sure yet… both are VERY tempting), I’ve learned that in some cases, you get what you pay for but it doesn’t hurt to try to get a good deal when it’s a SMART deal!


Setbacks….

Part of the reason we started this online gang was to reach a greater scooter community than what’s available on the ground here in AZ, but another reason was to document the year from getting my first scoot (1970 Vespa VBB 150) to the gang hitting the road for AmeriVespa 2012, in Lake Geneva, WI.

The hubby and I have been working to get my scooter since April with the help of a close friend who’s a wealth of knowledge and a stellar local shop owner, who happens to have said scooter. Well, he’s been in the process of putting the V back together after a good once-over/ replace some stuff thing.

Now, I know there’s a category of people who say you’ve never lived until you’ve built your own bike. I agree, to a point. I also think that if there’s one available to you, essentially put together, it makes no sense to take that person’s work away from them and tear it apart just to “live”. I also am very short on time and if it helps someone else keep the lights on and feed their family, I’m 100% about it. I have much less time to devote to a huge project than I’d like, so I’m having someone else take the lead on that deal, this time.

Anyway, I’ve been expecting it to be ready, though we never established a firm complete date, just because we’ve been busy and saving up money for the scooter. However the last time we were in the shop we were telling him that we were looking to have it in the next month or so, and that was just about a month ago. The man went back in there a couple of days ago and it seems that a couple of parts were back ordered (I’m sure Mr. Shop Owner said that when we were there the last time, but I’ve got a memory like a goldfish so I put it out of my mind I guess). The parts had literally JUST arrived when my man was there, and while he got to see what they looked like (along with my fancy new white wall tires), they were obviously yet to be put IN the bike. Our shop guy has been working himself to the bone, 7 days a week for several months trying to get projects done and running his business, so I can’t blame him for not jumping right into putting mine back together. But the next two weeks is going to SUCK. I really wanted to be on my new Vintage Vespa like, this weekend. Call me impatient…

Isn’t it cute???

So, yeah, it’s going to be 2 more weeks before me and the V are together. Just more time to get my riding gear and time to geek out over scooter stuff I suppose. Two. More. Weeks. I think I can manage. It’s already been months…

peas and scoots.

wend e


16k miles. On a Scooter. Yes… insane, but AWESOME!!

I won’t clutter this crap up with useless drivel, so I will let this video kick it off.  The man’s name is Peter Waterman.  His achivement? Taking a Genuine Scooter Company Rattler 110 scooter 16,000 miles through Canada and the US to the Artic Circle.  This is simply a time lapse of the entire trip, but on his vimeo channel you can see the entire event unfold before your eyes in episodic glory. 

Behold! Proof that scooter riders really have no sense of self-preservation and an extra gland that exudes more awesome than most humans will ever handle (It’s behind the lymph nodes I think…)

16k Miles on a Scooter! from Peter Waterman on Vimeo.


How Vespas, music, anti-racism and braces make me want to ride again.

Reflections Scooter Society, approximately 7 or 8 years ago (as cited by another rider)

So, I get quite a lot of comments when someone hears about me riding a scooter, and get tons of the same comments over and over: “Don’t those only go 25mph?” “Oh, those are good for students and grandmas as commuters, but not a REAL man’s bike” and my personal irritation… “What’s so great about ‘scooter clubs’? They’re just for hipsters!”

Seriously? I mean, I know most people in the United States are sheltered and rarely leave their den of fast-food-laden, Wal-Mart furnished comfort and conformity.  But, there is some serious negative image typing going on.  Granted, most of it is perpetuated by the media and by companies wanting to sell Americans more expensive, less useful and less fun bikes.  But, Take a look elsewhere and you will find out that the REST of the civilized world has taken a different view, and that view is growing in the US, and how the scene started WITH scoots, but only because they were a gateway to a larger sub culture and the bikes were machines that enabled.

I grew up in between two cultures: Redneck-istan (Arizona/Arkansas on the American side) and Lower-class English (ex-Navy mum with that side of the family from the UK). We bounced around a lot and by the time I was a teenager, I was attracted to three things: Theater, mechanics and scooters.  Eventually, I found out about “Skinhead” culture, and no it’s not the kind that wears bedsheets and is stuck in the American Civil War.  We’re talking about SHAPRS: Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.  English Skinheads are working class scooterists, gearheads and hooligans who were known for mixing “below their class” with blacks from both the US and the Caribbean, adopting their Motown and Reggae music and mixing in English punk and motoring.  Sort of a militant Liberal labour class if you will. It’s always had a presence in the US, but usually is lost in the “Punk” world.  Emo bois today are scared of them since most of us are older, bigger and angrier by default.  That and the constant mistake that Nazi types are in the same vein will get you bashed up pretty well.

But, it’s their love for modified scooters that make them stick in the US.  The Vespa in particular was a bike that EVERYONE could afford, and like the Mods, Skins picked up these bikes too.  But, rather than go with flashy bits and tons of mirrors, they kitted the engines out to insane specs during the off time at shops they worked at (since many Skinheads were industrial workers, hence the close cropped hair, clean and well kept simple look, workboots and no-nonsense labour attitude). They cut off bits that added weight, ported and re-sleeved engines, upfitted carburetors and generally did very wrong things to small bikes to make them go VERY fast! While some had flash, it was all about the business of going fast!

(this one has a bit of fluff in the form of Horns, but aside from that you can see this Lambretta has been cut down and tweaked to get the most speed with the least weight)

Funny part was, the older I got, the more “Geek” I became.  I also wasn’t able to get a scooter until College.  It took me a while to balance my highschool attitude with my grownup development in the more “nerdly” field of the arts.  It was a weird mix that some found unsettling.  So, the geek side won out.  But, it’s not to say I don’t have a hard time keeping down the attitude towards bigots, bikers and generally any conservatives.  Especially when I get shit about my scooter. Yes, awkwardness still prevails, but luckily in today’s society it’s cool to be geek, so I can let that side fly and not worry about hitting the weights so much or having the fastest bike in the group!

And, I suppose that’s one reason why this gang appeals to me: To, in part, bring that skinhead back.  He’s not a bad guy, loves wrenching and ready to get back on the road.  I’m sure there’s other blokes like me out there who have “blended” in, but I think it’s time we found some bikes, dug out those braces and came back to where we belong.  I myself may have other reasons, but the bikes do help!


My first time… trying on riding gear, that is.

I recently went out to check out cycle gear. There were a couple places my friend and I went and here’s some things about that adventure I’d like to share. This is mostly geared toward women getting riding equipment, but in no way is it specifically anything.

Disclaimer: I’ve never owned a motor bike or cycle. I am getting my Vespa in just a couple of weeks though. So on this trip, merely a scouting expedition really, I learned a thing or two.

1) As a woman, you’re going to be limited in “women’s gear”. There IS a growing market as more and more women are coming to the sport and demanding female oriented gear, if you step into a store, there’s going to be much fewer options for you than the guys. You can definitely get away with wearing a men’s jacket, but it’s not necessarily going to fit you as well, depending on your body style.

2) I recommend going to an actual store, at least once. Since we are all (obviously) shaped differently, it’s a good idea to try on a few different styles, cuts, materials etc. If you’re getting an armored jacket (highly advisable), you need to make sure that the armor fits in the right places… such as elbows, forearms.

3) Once you’ve gotten a good idea what’s out there, then check online. It’s much easier to know how certain brands fit your body style before you try to select something. I say that because I am usually a medium to a large, and while I was absolutely a large in some jackets, the one I ended up buying, was actually a medium.

4) Scooter cut jackets are different than sport bike cuts. The scooter jackets, also touring jackets, are cut to allow you to sit more upright than a sport jacket. That’s really important, especially if you’re doing a lot of riding, because if it’s cut wrong, it’ll be uncomfortable.

I ended up trying on probably 10 jackets between 2 stores and the one that I fell in love with fit like a glove.  My problems are this: I have a smaller chest and really long arms. Finding a jacket with long enough arms, where the armor is in the right places and doesn’t slip around that ALSO has a smaller chest area, I have to say is almost impossible. I’m sure they make them, but finding one to try on, limited. While I am most definitely a “tee-shirt and jeans” kinda girl, I want to still look like a girl. I want to look cute and also be comfortable. Enter the houndstooth armored jacket that I found!

Not only is it smashing, but it was also on sale. Which brings me to

5) Look for sales. Money is tight, keeping your skin attached to your body is important and you’ll be surprised what you might find for really inexpensive.

I also tried on helmets… a LOT of helmets. So the following info is for new riders or inexperienced gear buyers. Getting a helmet is a VERY personal thing, even more so than jackets. Your helmet is what will protect your brain, cost more than most things (in some cases) and can save your life. Many states don’t require helmets be worn, like my home state of Arizona, HOWEVER… I strongly recommend it. Scoots are usually quiet and hard to see on the road. The incidence of car- scooter collisions is high, even with experienced riders. Please be safe while riding.

I happen to like the style of the half helmet. They’re super cute and they go with a vintage look. However, they provide MUCH less protection than other types (full face, modular, 3/4). I’m probably going to wear one of the half helmets around my neighborhood, but for longer jaunts: going modular. They have a button release that flips the front up so you can see and talk comfortably without taking off the whole helmet.

I hope this helps with gear info… But please note that this is all my opinion and observation. As with all things, it’s up to you to find what works.

Happy riding!


We have emerged!!!

This is just a brief ‘ello to the world out there with a warning: We’re almost on the road! 

What you are looking at is one of the newest clubs (or “gangs”… the actual description will be a constant debate that will never be solved so get used to it. We default to “gang”) in the Phoenix/Metro area for motorscooter enthusiasts.  Now, this isn’t a bullshit club with officers, dues, colours or restrictions on bikes other than a group for scooterists.  Nope.  We don’t roll like that.  Simple fact is that we’re riders of vintage and modern scoots who want to ride and cause havoc! If you want to ride with us, just keep up and leave the Drama Llama at home grazing. Do that and you’re in for a  kickass time!

All scoots are welcomed: Manual shifters like Stellas or Vintage Vespas or TNG Automatics like Modern Vespas, Genuine Scooter Company bikes, Yamahas and the like.  There’s even love for the Honda Cub 50’s and Chinese scooters (as long as you pick up the parts that fall off along the way… you’ll understand if you try to ride a Chinese scooter).  The goal is to bring scootering in the US back into the faces of the general public and to get them to realize the culture and the awesomeness that the rest of the world has already adopted, and how they suck for not noticing it before!

All types, breeds and lifestyles are welcomed since the scooter is as culturally broadening as the cities they were born from.  There is no uniform and no required rituals.  We’re canning the hipster chic attitude that has brought the image of vintage scoots down and kicking down the door of exclusivity that infects the scene in our own way. If you like that kind of thing, then we’re where it’s at.

Stay tuned for updates on the progress of this new club formation and developments of our grand goal: A Cross Country trip to Amerivespa 2012 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin! Yes… a 4,000+ mile journey of discovery, adventure, challenge and mayhem!  You’ll hear a lot of talk of this as the year goes on and in the various other club rallies we will be attending and perhaps even hosting if we get bold enough.  Life is good with goals, and we roll the same way.

Interested? Stick around then… You may like it.  And, if you don’t have a scoot yet and are itching to know more, keep your eyes peeled on this blog for bits and articles on everything scooter related: The history, the bikes, how to build and ride them and the culture that arose out of them from the Northern Soul, Ska  and Mod culture of the English scooter scene to the Jazz infused Beatnik scooter movement in America in the 50’s and today.

We got lots for you to enjoy…