Scooter Heaven or Bust!
I have a radio advertising client who was trying hard to convince me to purchase one of his new line of motor scooters, a Chinese brand of gasoline-powered scooters called "Bronc". Failing to convince me to cough up $1,100 for one of his nifty Bronc scooters, he talked me into taking a black-and-silver 50cc Bronc scooter for a free, week-long test drive.
I took that scooter out for it's maiden voyage in June, 2011, and the rest - as they say - is history. I had a blast! Me, a boring 56-year old sales representative with a wife and 6 boys at home, and I am riding this little Chinese scooter with a big grin on my face! Hassles, rejections, arguments, routine and boredom seemed to fly behind me, along with the 20 strands of hair on top of my head. Wow! I'm a husky guy, so I was impressed that this little scooter could haul my bulk around at up to 30 miles per hour, on flat stretches of road. One of my first thoughts, after I'd had my first few minutes of riding on this soon-to-be-mine Bronc scooter, was that this isn't just a scooter ride ... this is SCOOTER THERAPY!
My Blessedly Brief Backstory
I am not a total newbie to the world of motorized cycles, believe it or not.
In my teens and twenties, I owned three motorcycles: a Suzuki 120cc trail bike, a Yamaha 175cc enduro and a Suzuki 450cc street bike. I loved cruising around on these bikes, although I found highway and high-speed travel to be stressful on all of them. Dangerous oil spots and sand traps on the road surface, bugs and dirt in my face and mouth, unexpected cross-winds, wind-blasting semi trucks and car drivers blind to motorcyclists ... these all contributed to a general feeling that motorcycling was a pretty risky proposition. (Obviously, a larger - and more expensive - motorcycle would have alleviated some problems.)
After I sold my Suzuki 450 at age 30, I occasionally thought of buying another motorcycle, but fearful wives, bittersweet cycling memories and a frequent lack of funds, all conspired to ensure that I would not be able to buy another motorcycle. Every so often, I would think longingly of owning a motorcycle again, then I would take two aspirin and lie down. (But my longing for a motorcycle never completely went away.)
Back to the Present: I'm in heaven ... Scooter Heaven!
This is where I should expound on the pleasant raptures I experienced while riding on my new Bronc scooter. My pleasure in riding (while wearing a good bicycle helmet and goggles, of course!) around the scenic family farms, deep valleys and steep hills of southwest Wisconsin's 'Driftless Region'.
But I will spare you my deathless prose and stream-of-consciousness ramblings about my scooter riding adventures. Instead, I will focus upon practical matters that would be more interesting and useful to everyone.
Fun (but Odd) Facts about today's "50cc" Motor Scooters
(1.) The modern motor scooter has looked the same since the pre-WWII Cushman scooters and the first Vespa scooters were sold in Italy, starting in 1946. The primary difference between motorcycles and motor scooters has always been a low, step-through frame for motor scooters. (For those who live in a bubble, a motorcycle looks similar to a "man's" bicycle with the high frame bar, while a motor scooter looks similar to a "woman's" bicycle with the low frame bar.) Modern scooters usually have no-shifting-required automatic transmissions, while most modern motorcycles have shifting-required manual transmissions.
(2.) The modern motor scooter is made of components and parts that are manufactured in foreign lands, mainly China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Brazil and Italy. Even the handful of scooter brands that claim to be "Made in America" or "Made in Canada" are, at best, assembled in America or Canada of parts that were originally manufactured in a foreign land (i.e., not manufactured in Canada or the U.S.A.).
(3.) Since the late-1970s, most motor scooters manufactured around the world are manufactured with the same small set of scooter engines. Sometime in the early 1970s, as the near-mythical story goes, Honda Motor Company of Japan (you know, manufacturer of the now-ubiquitous Honda motorcycles and automobiles, seen and sold everywhere) designed a relatively powerful and reliable 49cc / 49.5cc / 50cc scooter motor called the 'GY6'. In a business move that Honda would later regret, they later arranged for a Chinese manufacturing company to produce the 'GY6' engine for Chinese and export markets, with most production to go to Japan. (Oops!! As the world's manufacturers are still discovering to this very day, the Chinese government has an extremely liberal and one-sided view of all of those messy legal and commercial restrictions, collectively known as patents, copyrights and trademarks.) The Chinese government started to make duplicate GY6-type engines in other Chinese factories and the rest, as they say, is history. Since it was first designed, the GY6 has been morphed, upgraded and up-sized into many larger-sized and differently-titled scooter motors (such as 100cc, 125cc, 150cc, 175cc, 200cc and 250cc engines) that have all joined the smallest GY6 motors as practically 'freeware' or 'shareware' engine designs. But frankly, the GY6's basic Honda design was very good, right from it's beginnings in the early 1970s. (This is where all of you Honda automobile, truck, motorcycle and scooter owners start to nod your heads.) Aside from a few minor or custom tweaks, no scooter company has apparently been able to design a better scooter motor for such a relatively low price! The GY6 continues forward as an example of a great motor design by Honda, although few GY6 motors (if any) are made in Honda's Japanese manufacturing plants, anymore.
(4.) The GY6 scooter motor - or a similar variation thereof - is powering most of the 49cc/49.5cc/50cc scooters around the world (at least, since the 1980s). Honda wisely designed the GY6 motor to run optimally at 49-1/2cc in displacement. Why is this important? Because in many nations, states and municipalities - such as most of America's 50 states - any motor sized 50cc or larger will lead the motor scooter or motorcycle to be classified as "full size motorcycle" requiring the time-consuming advanced licensure - and specialized training - required of motorcycle drivers. By specifying the original GY6 motor at 49-1/2cc's, the Honda designers kept the 'official' (and precise) size of the GY6 engine just slightly below that tedious 50cc ceiling, so it would be considered a motorized bicycle, moped, mini-scooter or motorized toy by most of the world's governments. Whenever you see a motorized scooter classified as having a 49cc or 49-1/2cc or 50cc engine, it has a cylinder size of 49-1/2cc (a.k.a., 49.5cc). Using the terms "49cc" or "50cc" is simply easier for scooter customers to understand, but they are 49-1/2cc motors, as far as your motor vehicle licensing bureau is concerned - and that's a good thing!
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