What Is the Difference Between a Scooter & a Motorcycle?


Many people are finding different modes of transportation for pleasure, economics or impact on the environment. Today, two common vehicles found on the road the motorcycle and the scooter. But what are the differences between these vehicles and what do these vehicles mean in terms of benefits and riders needs? Defining each type of vehicle is the first place to start.


The definition of a motorcycle is actually very straightforward. It is defined as a vehicle that is designed to travel on not more than three wheels and is equipped with a seat for the operator. Part of being street legal means that the motorcycle must have a headlight, taillight, directional signals and mirrors. According to this definition, it is safe to say that there truly are many vehicles that fit the motorcycle description. Some common examples of motorcycles are the Harley Davidson, Honda CBR, Suzuki GSXR, and the Honda Gold Wing.


The scooter, as of late, has become a much more common vehicle. Many are drawn to this form of transportation because of the low gas mileage and the ease of commuting. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles Motorcycle Handbook, a scooter is defined as "any two-wheeled device that has a motor, handlebars, and a floorboard for standing on when riding. There is also the option of having a drivers seat that cannot interfere with the riders ability to stand and ride and the ability to be powered by human propulsion." Some of the common scooters on the road today are the Vespa, Honda Bravo, and the Aprilia.


Because both the motorcycle and the scooter are both seen on the road and typically have two wheels, there are some common elements between the two. One of the most obvious similarities is the fact that they are street legal. As in the aforementioned definition of being street legal, it is necessary that there is a brake light and headlight, directional signals and side mirrors. They both are excellent vehicles in terms of fuel economy. There is also the fact that both the scooter and the motorcycle both possess handlebars and a seat. Typically this is where the similarities end.


There are many differences between the scooter and motorcycle. Traditionally the scooter is a simpler vehicle, which is often an attractive incentive for novice riders. Some of the main differences between the scooter and the motorcycle are that the motorcycle does not have a step-through frame. In other words, it is necessary to sit on the bike as one would straddle a horse. On a scooter you simply step through and sit with your legs firmly planted on the floor board. The scooter typically has smaller wheels than a motorcycle as well as a smaller engine. Because of the smaller engine size, the scooter frequently has an automatic transmission where the motorcycle has a manual transmission. Motorcycles, with their larger engines, are allowed on the the freeway, and can maintain highway speeds. While some of the newer models of scooters are equipped with an engine large enough to travel on the highway, the vast majority of scooters are only allowed on surface streets. It is extremely difficult for them to maintain highway speeds and because of their light weight, they can sometimes be difficult to control. Lastly, one of the most visible differences between the motorcycle and the scooter is the style. It is easy to spot a motorcycle according to the definition versus a scooter. The floorboard on a scooter can frequently give away the identity of the type of vehicle that it is.


Both the motorcycle and the scooter have great benefits. However, because of the differences between the two vehicles, the benefits may vary. Some may want a vehicle simply for commuting. A great choice for this need would be the scooter. Some may want a vehicle for longer distance travel. A motorcycle could then be a better choice. If weight of a vehicle is a concern, the scooter may be a better choice because of its lighter weight. No matter the need, it is important to weigh the differences between both of the vehicles in order to find which benefits suit your needs.

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