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Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Brotherhood of Two Wheels - Scooters and the biker's wave

I have a question for you as a scooter rider. Here in Ottawa I wave to anybody on two wheels but scooter riders never seem to wave back. What's up with that?

David Drouin, who maintains the excellent Motorcycle Addiction blog sent me an email concerning the so called "biker's wave."  It's one of those questions that pop up now and again on the various forums I frequent.  Scooters in most states require the same licensing, the same training as motorcycles.  Today many of the maxi-scoots are certainly as powerful as many motorcycles.  That line continues to blur as motorcycles are redesigned with automatic transmissions and internal storage.  So why don't we scooterists wave?

I generally wave at passing bikes, either the traditional motorcycle or a scooter.  Hell, I even wave at bicyclists...they are part of the brotherhood (and sisterhood) too.  Generally speaking I get a wave back - although there are those snobs that will only wave at a particular type of bike, or worse - a particular model.  Actually I have noticed that I tend to get a "one finger" wave as I pass certain types of bikes whose brand name I will not mention here.  David's question did get me thinking however, so I'm introducing a new series which I'm calling "The Brotherhood of Two Wheels."  Anything dealing with the perceived divided between the scootering and motorcycling community, anything that deals with helping out our fellow riders will fall into this category.

I really don't worry about if I don't get a nod or wave in return.  Frankly you never know what is going on in the other bikers world.  He could be concentrating on shifting, turning, safety, etc.  What really annoys me however is two things I've come across again and again.  The first is a arrogance, either real or perceived by those in the motorcycling community that scooter riders are not real "bikers."  Therefore we are not worthy of a wave.

For example, when I lived in Tampa proper there was a big motorcycle garage.  This was at the beginning of the scooter boom and they had a big sign hanging out front,  "WE DO NOT SERVICE SCOOTERS - DON'T EVEN BOTHER ASKING" 

It's been a few years since and to the best of my knowledge they still don't service scooters, which seems to be cutting off the nose to spite the face, after all scooters are the fastest growing segment of the motorcycling world.  Some forums, like (which I am a member of) have a section dedicated to scooters, but with the caption "If your secure in your manhood."  I know, it's meant to be funny.  It's not and again, shows a perceived bias against those of  us that ride "scooters."   That somehow we are not "real men."

I've been asked questions about my scooter.  "Is it street legal?"  "Can you ride on the highway with it?"  These questions often come from the non-riding public.  But I've been asked those same questions by "bikers" as well.

The second issue is the nature of scooters themselves.  I ride a maxi-scooter - generally defined as anything above 250cc.  Well I'm not a rarity; it's much more common to come across a smaller, slower scooter often in the urban environment putting along between 30 to 50 mph (48 - 80 kph).  Even as a scooterist myself, I've railed against these smaller cc machines.  For me it's an issue of safety.  If your top speed is only 45 mph your limited to what roads you can ride safely.

When I first started riding I had a Zuma 125.  My top speed was 55 mph (89 kph) and although I felt safe on the city streets, I was always looking about to make sure I was not going to get hit by some moron behind me.  Any two wheeled vehicle is invisible to most cagers.

Scooters are smaller due to their very nature.  So did I wave as often as I do now?  No, I did not.  Putting aside the safety issue however, we scooterists seem to have a bit of an inferiority complex.  I will admit to lying about what I ride at times because of perceived bias on someone's part.  I felt the sting of others scorn because I don't ride a "real bike."  Even my beloved girlfriend wants me to buy a "real bike" sometime in the future.   

Is it because we are underpowered for the most part?  Is it because popular culture recognizes the motorcycle and celebrates the "outlaw lifestyle" it represents?  How many shows and movies involved motorcycles?   Can you name one movie other than Quadrophenia that has scooters in it?  Even the quintessential American Graffiti  has a kid riding a scooter, who promptly crashes it in the opening credits.  At the end of the movie he is given a car.  Given these images it is any wonder why scooterists have an inferiority complex.

We have very little in the culture that celebrates the scooter.  American culture is about speed and power and going long distances.  Sure a scooter is going to go further, some of them are capable of nearly 100 miles on a gallon of gas...but to do so we have to give up speed and power.   Most Americans are not willing to do that.  So the scooter is "inferior."  Those of us that ride them are "inferior."

Finally, and sadly, I think most scooterists don't give the wave for one simple reason.  We don't know any better.  We don't get the wave, so we don't give the wave.  Give the wave.  Give a smile.

I'm going to continue to ride Kimmie in all types of weather and on all types of roads.  I will continue to wave at scooterists and motorcyclists.  Hell, I'm even waving at bicycles.  If I see an issue I'll pull over to offer what little help I can.  I'm a scooterist, I'm a biker, I'm a proud member of the brotherhood of two wheels.


Unknown said...

Just to let you know, I do a bike wave when I'm riding. I've got an hold Honda Elite 150, so not quite a maxi scooter, but not a turtle either.

I do notice that most scoot riders don't wave, but I think that might be less on arrogance and more on lack of education. They don't know what the wave is about.

Make blogs like you have posted and boards like Adventure Riders with it's Battle Scooters section are what is needed to create more awareness.

And yes, I'm very secure in my manhood. Went from a Harley to an Elite. I'd take the Elite most every time (although I do miss cross country riding).

Captain Jim and the Blonde said...

I've owned 25 motorcycles over the years, been riding 45 years. This year, we bought a pair of Honda PCX 150s, our first scooters. What a hoot! I promptly sold my "real" motorcycle, a V-Strom. I admit there was a time when I didn't think a scooter was a "real" bike. I am secure enough that I don't give a rat's rear what anyone else thinks about what I ride... I don't ride for anyone else, and I sure don't make my buying decision based on what someone else chooses to ride. Of all those bikes, 9 of them were Harleys, 4 Goldwings, 2 BMWs... I know "the wave." These days, I just wave at the pretty girls! ;-)

Captain Jim and the Blonde said...

Oh, and the movie "Larry Crowne" (2011), starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts featured plenty of scooter scenes.

Nan said...

I ride a Burgman 400. I give almost everyone waves! I even have people putting their arms out of their cages giving me waves. I will admit though that I may not do it for the small scooters because I'd rather them pay attention to what they are doing. Many ride dangerously, two on a bike, no gear, sandals, etc.

Unknown said...

Have you forgotten about dumb and dummer? there is a scooter and they go to the rookies 2 up!

Any way, noce post! I ride my 100 cc scooter most of time, while the KLR sits.

I have notice that most people down here don't wave, very few, and the vast majority of people on motorcycles don't wave... I would be happy to just see them with a helmet on, completely on, not just like a hat or as an elbow protector...

Anonymous said...

I ride a PCX150 PROUDLY! Amongst a garage full of other bikes the PCX scooter gets the most seat time due to convenience. I have noticed I will get a wave from a guy on a Harley if he is riding alone but not if there is another Harley around. The other day I met a group of 20 to 25 Harley riders passing opposite from me and I stuck out my hand and waved with a big toothy grin as they all passed by me. Only one of them waved back... The last guy in the group. I had to laugh out loud when it happened.

Martha said...

Well, since you brought it up...

I met a guy once who said "No real man would ever ride anything where he could put his legs together." Yes, yes he said that. I just stared at him. Of course, he had a huge motorcycle parked out front, but felt the need to skewer scooters and scooter riders.

Anonymous said...

When I ride the faired China scoot, I get the abbreviated (Oh, crap, what am I doing?) wave from the sportbike crowd. On the bigger bike, with the Auxillary driving lights on either side of the headlight, I get the left arm down wave from the Road King riders. When I'm on the Honda Big Ruckus, I just get the WTF is that!? look from everybody.

mike's spot said...

This was enlightening - I just bought my first motorcycle, an older gs1000. I figured, everyone with a motor and 2 wheels is in the same boat (aka cars don't see us and smear us) so I wave at all 2 wheeled motorists. Scooters never wave back, and occasionally just honk the horn.

I figured I was just missing something and the cultures weren't as related as I had originally thought.

Helio said...

I believe that the real question is not scooter or motorcycle, but mainly city or road.

Scooter riders, specially the ones riding small scooters, are used to ride in the city, where waving is not a common behaviour.

I ride a Burgman 650, and I usually wave while on the road, and never wave while in the city, except for colleagues riding Burgmans who are usually a part of the same club I am.

So maybe this is the point.

Keith - Circle Blue said...

The "Wave" is a funny thing. Here in St.Louis most folks riding motorcycles return my wave even when I'm riding my Symba. Scooterists not so much. I tend to agree with a comment above. I think much of it has to do with ignorance. I often get a surprised look from the scooter folk I wave to. At other times I can almost hear their thoughts, "Who is that? Do I know him?"

Another thing I've noticed is a thing I call "wave fatigue." In the Spring everybody waves. Come September not so much.

Also, I'm noticing more riders simply giving a nod of acknowledgment than a wave. I good with that, too.

Deb said...

On my back road adventures on a little 49cc (we go slower, but we see more and it takes a tad longer!)

I have noticed that most of the motorcycle riders do "the wave" with me regularly.

Sometimes they initiate, sometimes I do.

On the very few occasions that I have encountered a scooter rider, no wave.

Coincidence? Who knows. I don't care. I am a "rider" be it slow or fast.

Very nice post, BTW.

P.S. Your Zuma 125 only went 55mph?
I thought they hit 70ish.

David Drouin said...

Hey! Thanks for the mention of my blog!

My first bike was a Suzuki GZ250 and some people would tell me that I rode a "chick bike". What's makes it a chick bike? I don't know. It was not like I had hearts and unicorns painted on the gas tank. And even if I did: Can't a 21st century guy like hearts and unicorns?

What really made me laugh was the fact that most of the people who told me it was a chick bike didn't even ride. They were apparently saving up for a "man" bike.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

Dave_B said...

I wave at other riders and always reciprocate if waved at if my left hand isn't busy.

It's kinda hard for other riders to tell that I'm a scooter when seeing the front view of my kymco maxi approaching, though. It looks more like your vanilla rice burner. Wtf not giving a crap, whatever, etc :)

Anonymous said...

It's a mix here in Utah but mostly positive, we get waves from those on bikes as well as other scooterists. There's waves, and nods of acceptance.

What I enjoy looking back on the most is a recent ride through a neighborhood, as we past a Dad and his little boy (I'd say about 8) in their yard the Kid gave us the 'ROCK ON' hand sign. Loved it!

Anonymous said...

I just bought a sym evo rv200, and my buddies that ride motorcycles are busting on me. But I did have to get my permit for a motorcycle. They stated they will be more than happy to ride with me. Just leave them the 1/4 mile gap! :D I plan on waving to everyone!

ronsurf said...

Ride a lambretta chopper and really confuse the Neanderthals!

I have a 63 Lambretta which I'm enjoying riding again, and also making a nice chop out of a Lambretta GP150. Looking forward to finishing it!