Scooters are an excellent vehicle choice for drivers looking to save on gas. They are also a fun hobby for many. While scooters now come in sizes large enough to be easily confused with a motorcycle, a 50cc scooter can be a money-saving choice for those simply looking to run errands on local streets.
License, Tag & Title
Laws about whether a driver needs a motorcycle license to operate a 50cc scooter vary from state to state. Most states do not require a license. However, 50cc scooter drivers are not prevented from obtaining a motorcycle endorsement and many scooter clubs (and law enforcement agencies) suggest that drivers do so regardless of their state's laws. Similarly, many states do not require 50cc scooters to be tagged and titled, but owners may wish to do so anyway.
Most scooters listed as 50cc are actually 49cc scooters. This designation refers to the size, in cubic centimetres, of the engine. The size of the engine determines how fast the bike will go and also, to an extent, the gas mileage that it will get. Most 50cc scooters have fuel tanks that hold only 1.3 to 1.5 gallons. However, since a 50cc scooter can get as many as 80 miles to the gallon, riders need not fill up as frequently as might at first appear likely. Engines may be two-stroke or four-stroke, though most late model bikes have 4-stroke engines because of the heavy emissions produced by 2-strokes.
50cc scooters usually have a top driving speed of 30 to 40 MPH. This speed restriction, coupled with their small size, is why 50cc scooters are not allowed on the interstate highway system. Some states also disallow 50cc scooters on state highways. However, scooters are still motorised vehicles and, as such, are banned from public sidewalks and from trails and paths restricted to non-motorised equipment. Many states do not allow 50cc scooters to be ridden after dark on any street. 50cc scooters are often not heavy enough to trigger traffic light signals, so riders may have to let a car or heavier vehicle pull beside them to trigger the light.
When many people think of scooters, they immediately think of Vespa. In fact, the Vespa LX (the 50cc model manufactured by Vespa for the US in 2010) continues to be one of the most popular scooters on the road. However, U.S. buyers had over 50 model choices in the 2009 manufacturing year and over 30 choices in 2010, including bikes from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Piaggio, Schwinn, Kymko, Tank, Sym and Aprilla.
Safety is critical, whether you're riding a 1200cc motorcycle or a 50cc scooter. Anyone on a two-wheel vehicle is at serious risk in a crash and riders should do what they can to protect themselves. While not all states require riders to wear helmets, and most that do merely stipulate that the rider wear "head gear," riders who value their heads should invest in a Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet. Many 50cc riders choose a "shorty" or half-helmet over a full-face or three-quarter helmet because of the reduced speeds at which they drive. A neon or reflective vest can increase visibility and an armoured vest, jacket or pant can protect a rider's body in case of impact.