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I thought that some of you may be interested in this insightful article in the November 2004 edition of “Canadian Biker” A free on- line addition is available if you fill out a questionnaire however you may want to wait for the next addition that will include a review of the Burger 400 & 650 road trip.

Cheers Al

T H E C - N O T E
Take scooters. Seriously, though.

If a freelance writer pitched a scooter story to this magazine, the response was generally a polite “thanks but no thanks.” When manufacturers suggested that our road testers might want to have a go at their machines, we usually expressed sincere appreciation, then humbly declined. There’s never been a banner over our Market Street door that’s read “Sorry we don’t do scooter stuff,” but perhaps there ought to have been. Scooters have just never been taken very seriously around here. But the recent proliferation of interesting machinery and the inescapable realities of swerving social influences may well force a sea change ... and soon. Our working philosophy has always been predicated on a belief that scooters aren’t motorcycles and scooterists aren’t bikers. That’s not a knock against them; there’s nothing wrong with being a scooterist. Heck, even our Vintage Motorcycles Editor Robert Smith is now the proud owner of a scooter. Robert swapped a 1982 Yamaha Seca (his “winter bike”) for a 1960 Triumph Tigress, a shell-blue 250cc scooter. (See, ‘English Speaking,’ July 2004.) I visited Robert and the Tigress just the other day, as he and I were expected at Suzuki Canada’s western headquarters in Richmond, BC. Our assignment was to take delivery of two new models which, in turn, we were to hand over to CB columnist Nancy Irwin and Kathryn Hunter for their road tour of BC and the state of Washington. You’ll read about their journey, next issue. One of the units was the Burgman 400, a machine that Nancy initially found off-putting but soon came to embrace. The little ‘Burg’s many charms became quickly apparent even during a parking lot inspection. There’s plenty of storage room, good power (although not nearly that of its 650cc big brother), the comfort levels are excellent and it’s a handsome package. After many hundreds of miles on mountain roads, Nancy now wonders aloud whether the Burgman brothers might not even be considered “pivotal” vehicles that will directly influence future trends. “It’s like the Gold Wing,” she says. “I remember that when it came out a whole bunch of new people started riding. People who didn’t want to wrench all the time or weren’t the type to ride Harleys.” Honda’s ground-breaking touring bike met the needs of a whole new generation of riders, who approached riding in a completely new way. “I’m expecting it’s going to be the same thing [when people discover the emerging breed of scooters],” says Nancy. “There’s going to be a lot of people for whom these scooters are going to work.” She cites older riders whose declining mobility now makes throwing a leg over a motorcycle increasingly difficult. Ironically, some of those aging riders might well be the same people, the same seminal wave, to have opularized hassle-free Japanese bikes like the Gold Wing. Two years ago, at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show, a Yamaha representative said that scooters were the company’s top sellers in the country. Never mind the R1s or Road Stars, half-pints on short wheels were this major nufacturer’s hottest items. What that means to me now (two years later) is that there are a lot of people out there who see scooters in a completely different light than bikers do. And they can’t all be foreign exchange students, can they? A friend of mine, Rob Harris, editor of Canadian Motorcycle Guide Online, once borrowed a Honda Ruckus for the time he spent in Daytona Beach during Bike Week. The Ruckus has the look of a trellis-framed machine because of the tubular structure supporting the rider’s seat. It features under-seat storage and twin headlamps that could remind you of the Speed Triple if you were drunk. There’s a 49cc engine, room to plant your feet and an undeniable urban-guerilla hip style to the little guy. It might not be everyone’s ride of choice for power-hungry Daytona but Rob sure got a kick out of it during that rainy, miserable version of Bike Week 2003. He took the scooter seriously. Although it’s still a bit of mystery to me exactly how seriously Rob actually takes anything. And of course he’s English, like Robert Smith. So he has that excuse. But, at what point do the rest of us begin to toy with the concept of taking harder, second looks at the new scooters such as Yamaha’s two-year-old Vino? This is a marvelous piece of work, full of sassy styling elements, functional features and impressive mechanical bits. The new line of Aprilia scooters in Canada (there are five models) ranges from the 49cc SR Ditech, an Italian sportbike looking thing with flashy graphics, to the 460cc Scarabeo, a lushly elegant competitor of Suzuki’s Burgman 400. They’re worth a look, if for no other reason than mechanical curiosity. Vespa has also entered the country with new offerings featuring classic styling cues. The company’s two- and fourstroke choices have already attracted the attentions of celebrity scooterists such as actress Gwyneth Paltrow. This I’m sure of because I read it on Vespa’s American distributor website, “Spotted in London: Gwyneth Paltrow on her Vespa ET,” declares the headline. “Stars—they’re just like us,” confirms the sub-head. However, most of us won’t be swinging along the streets under the Tuscan sun anytime in the near future, which is really the sub-text to owning a Vespa. So, the current Vespas may not really fit into Nancy Irwin’s definition of pivotal, in the sense of the Gold Wing or Willie G. Davidson’s Softail, designs that profoundly re-shaped the way we think of motorcycles. Recently, Honda announced production was to commence of a fuel cell powered scooter. (See, ‘Newsline,’ pg. 14.) This has to be considered carefully for its long-term implications. So does the Burgman. If step-through architecture is all that separates it from motorcycle status, then where are we going with all this?

John Campbell
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