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Friday, May 11, 2012

The future is the Maxi - Scooter.

"Hey Rob!"
"Yea, what's up?"  I leaned back in my chair and rubbed my eyes as the, the problem, I was working on my work computer had somehow determined it was going to be unsolvable.  
"How difficult is it to get a motorcycle license?"

I get these questions from time to time.  I also get questions about how fast my bike can go "I've had it to 90 MPH but I don't feel safe at that speed." I tell them (which is more of a comment on my ability as a rider than the bike).  Questions like "Is that highway legal?", "What's your fuel economy?", "How much to fill up the tank?"  In general I don't mind answering them.  After all most people are curious, but its a rare few that actually continue to look into things.

Later that same day, I saw him checking out bikes on various websites.  He wanted a used sport bike, but wasn't happy with the horsepower on a lot of them.  "Really, I don't need to go 120 mph" he said.
Special thanks to Genevieve Schmitt.
Motorcycle sales have been falling over the last couple of years, on that everyone can agree, but the reasons vary.  I, personally, think one of the reasons was the failure of the industry to recognize a changing market.  Scooters continue to grow in popularity and I think it's because most Americans want convenience and simplicity; not the complexity of the traditional motorcycle gearing.  Raising gas prices are actually hurting the industry.  A average motorcycle gets roughly 35 - 40 mpg, which sounds great but now with hybrids and flex fuel cars the consumer has a safer option that might get 50 mpg.  Woman riders are also the fastest growing segment of the motorcycle market and this is going to sound sexist but the motorcycle world has a lot of models geared towards men.  The bikes are heavy, loud and fast.  Woman are generally more practical and really don't need a 1200cc powerhouses if they are looking for a commuter bike.

However, unlike Detroit in the 1970's the motorcycle industry is actually paying attention to a changing world, thus the number of "Maxi-scooters" that are coming out in the next few years.  If you think about it it makes perfect sense.  A lot of the riders that purchased smaller scooters (the dreaded 50cc) are realizing that they are under powered.  For many that means selling off the scoot, but for a few that means an upgrade.  In a way it's nice to see companies like Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW and others create something that has the best of both worlds.  A scooter traditionally has the under seat storage, a pass through frame, smaller wheels and a front facing fairing with floorboards.  In other words the iconic Vespa.  The automatic transmission has also traditionally been linked with scooters.

Motorcycles on the other hand generally had bigger wheels, have a manual transmission and foot operated clutches and brakes, you threw your leg over the bike to mount it as well.  A larger engine was also a defining characteristic of a motorcycle.  Generally speaking "storage" on a cycle was saddlebags or a backpack.
The "Maxi-scooter" has blurred the lines.  You have a smaller engine (with ranges from 250cc to 800cc) but with enough power to drive safely on any road and in nearly any condition., lighter weight - the ave maxi scoot weighs about 300 pounds (136 Kilo), the ave motorcycle 500 pounds (227 Kilos).  The maxi scooter provides more storage, good fuel economy, automatic transmissions, the larger tires of a maxi-scooter provide more stability, etc. When I went looking for a bike what sold me on the Suzuki Burgman was a simple sentence in a review.  Even though I can't remember the phrase word for word one of the things the reviewer said was "This will replace your car."  I believe that the maxi-scooters will continue to grow in popularity as people realize their needs will be met with these small to mid-range motorcycles.  And lets be honest, the trend over the last few years has been to bigger and bigger power-plants.  There are simply no bikes that a beginning rider can buy that are in a reasonable cc range.

At the end of the day though, what really matters in perception.  Will the general American public accept the new style of motorcycle?  Will dealerships make an effort to sell a "scooter" or continue to push a more traditional motorcycle?    Will companies like Kymco become major players in a tough field because of their success with smaller scooters?

As someone interested in marketing it's going to be interesting to see how things go in the next few years, but I wouldn't be surprised with the "maxi-scooter" market takes off in the next few years.  I expect they will be marketed to the new riders too.


Dar said...

I have thought the very same things about the maxi scooters. I have to say as one of members of the fastest demographic of new riders it was definitely a toss up over maxi scoot or motorcycle. The motorcycle won out for now because I enjoy shifting, I have driven a manual transmission since I started driving as a teenager. However the motorcycle loses when it comes to urban commuting, the is absolutely no storage and I have to resort to a backpack. The scooter beats it hands down when it comes to hauling stuff,

Honda however is looking at their motorcycles and does have a new model out with a helmet storage space where the gas tank would traditionally be and it was easy for me to throw a leg over.

For the most part though the motorcycle industry is slow to react to the female riding population in so many ways from lack of gear to bikes that are just too tall. The average woman in North America is 5'4". Not everyone wants to ride a cruiser and some of the other bikes have to modified by lowering them or shaving the seat down and adding risers to the handlebars, all of ths adds to the price too.

Maxi scoots fill some of the gap, but also have their issues. Again weight and height of he scoot. I sat on a Burghie, loved it, but it was too wide & too heavy. I would have had to have leaned over when stopping.

I am no speed demon by any means, but I love having a good cc sized bike, gives me a good range of power for different traffic scenarios. I prefer the maxi scoots bigger tires over the smaller Vespa tires, particularly for highway and could not see myself doing 90km/h on a scoot with tiny tires.

I am really looking forward to seeing BMW's new scooter 600cc's of sexy! Beautiful scoot and the fit & finish are beautiful. I could definitely see me riding that in the future.


Steve said...

Good article, you say in the article that maxi-scooters will range between 250cc and 800cc. Who has the 800cc? I have a Burgman 650 and I was pretty sure that was the largest in the scooter field.
I love my bike and I too think that the market for these machines will increase, however, I am struck by the fact that Suzuki did not have a 2010 line and they haven't expanded the Burgman line in the last two years. I guess it's the economy mostly but I still think some of it is the whole macho image of riding a vehicle thats called a scooter. I see BMW is marketing them as Urban Mobility.

The City Mouse in the Country said...

Hey Steve. Aprilia just introduced a 839.3 cc model called the SRV 850.

A few years ago Gilera, which is only sold in Europe, introduced a 800 cc model as well. I don't know if it's still in production. Gelera is part of the Vespa group.

Unknown said...


I have nearly always ridden motorcycles, except for a few years when I tried scooters. I used to have a Kymco X500Ri which I though would replace my motorcycle, Suzuki I had at that time. I even rode my X500Ri down to Oregon, I blogged about it a few years ago. I do not like the way CVTs handle hi speed. I also like to shift my own gears and wind out of a corner, shift down etc. You can't do this on a scooter. So now I am back to motorcycles.

Also, Maxi-scoots weigh a lot more than a m/c of the same displacement

Riding the Wet Coast
My Flickr // My YouTube

The City Mouse in the Country said...

Hey Bob,

First let me say I enjoy your blog alot. This is just my opinion based on what research I can find and my backround in sales, marketing and researching trends. I'm not trying to upset anyone that is a motorcycle rider and I certainly understand what your getting at.

As I did my research however for this article I found that "in most cases" the ave weight of a motorcycle was equal to or HEAVIER than a scooter of the same displacement. The result surprised me as well.

Keith - Circle Blue said...

I'm trying to figure out what way to go next. Mileage is important to me and when you get above 250 there is a big drop off. Unlike Bod I am no fan of shifting but find myself coming back to something like the Honda CBR250R because of the mpg. We will see.

Very good post.

claudia shaw said...

The market is full of different models and types of scooters and the maxi scooter is one of them. Thanks for sharing about them everyone.

maxi scooter

Unknown said...

funny I ride the Gilera GP800 and as one the post said "it replaced my car", I look forward to having the Asprillia 850. Overall the maxiscooter has been a good experience in terms of speed, stability, fuel efficiency etc, though i still get a little envious with the "roar" of the motorcycle my friends ride. Weighing the gains it is indeed the right machine for the Urban Lifestyle.

Rattlecanman said...

Steve Kymco will soon release there Kymco's Myroad 700i{24C6D819-8905-49F1-9D13-F106787D55CD}

Chris said...

I agree with you in principle, but I don't feel we're there yet where the maxi-scooter replaces the motorcycle.

I've loved my Burgman 400 and would've thought nothing could replace it. It has more storage space under the seat than any other maxi-scooter. I did a SS1000 and found it very comfortable, so it is not only capable of extended freeway speeds, but you can do it in comfort. For short people like myself, the seat is low enough to put both of my feet mostly down comfortably. Maintenance requirements are simple and not too costly. And because of the design, you don't get engine heat baking you in the hot summer temps. And the gas mileage is superb in the mid-60s and occasionally into the low 70s.

I recently purchased a new Honda NT700V (not one of the new model Honda 700cc bikes). It sits higher than the Burgman so that when I stop, either I slide slightly to put my left foot down, or have both toes touching on each side. It gets less gas mileage, though it is actually pretty good. The storage isn't as convenient since it is split into the two panniers, but at least I do get @60 liters. The seat is comfortable, but less so than the Burgman. And you do get to experience the engine heat on your legs as they rest against the metal gas tank. And lastly, the tires will be twice the price of the maxi-scooters tires.

Which bike do I ride daily? The NT700V. Logic tells me I should take the Burgman 400; it has all those advantages. But the NT700V feels more planted on the road. The road grooves left over after the DOT has resurfaced our freeways, don't phase the bike at all. It feels much more planted at any speed and even feels more stable as you near a complete stop.

Those are all intangibles that won't show up on any checklist of "features" you can point to when comparing bikes. But they show me that maxi-scooter design still has room to grow. And likewise, motorcycle design has room to grow also.


Anonymous said...

Too many people choose and buy a motorcycle based on how it looks and about impressing everybody else with their motorcycle. I own a bike or scooter that impresses ME! I get hassled and made fun of for riding a maxi scooter, but I love riding it so much I don't care what others say. What I see is too many people that ride the giant cruiser bikes can't ride them.

Anonymous said...

May I ask what brasnd/type/model of maxi scooter that is? The brown one, I love it!

Dar said...

So funny I read this post two years after writing it and oddly the bike I was talking about with the storage area up front that fits the helmet is what I now own. I have been looking at maxi scoots, but still struggle with them, because of their width, they reduce my leg length & make them non-starters. Sigh I wish I could have the best of all worlds motorcyle & scooter! I am fairly close with my NC, but not quite!