Honda scooter launch: the other two-wheelers (published Cycle Torque, October 2003)

Cycle Torque sent its editorial assistant and new rider, Lauren Katulka, to the launch of Honda's new scooter range. She came back wanting one.

Do you ride to work? No? That's because it would damage your bike, right? It's just not right trashing good tyres, racking up the kays, risking a fall off the sidestand, or having to carry a helmet around.

The fact is, most of us don't use our bikes for commuting anymore; we save them for recreation and fun. So get yourself a scooter as well - they are cheaper to buy and run than a car, are more convenient than a bike and are lots more enjoyable than public transport.

Why scooters?
Scooters offer the perfect package for city travel. All models in the Honda range use the latest four-stroke technology; making them ultra-quiet and environmentally sound. They’re affordable - prices start at under $2000 - and cheap to run and maintain. Fuel economy is exceptional, with a couple of dollars buying you a standard week's riding. Registration is also often cheaper than motorcycles (depending on models). Parking's usually even easier than parking a bike.

Honda's scooters are also a breeze to ride. My motorcycle experience consisted of two days on a Honda CB250 for my pre-learners course. I was nervous about changing gears and could not coordinate my front and back brakes. But Honda's entire scooter range is automatic, eradicating those learner's jitters about being stuck in neutral. Honda scooters also feature the revolutionary 'combi-brake' system. The left-hand lever works the front and rear brakes simultaneously, making for stable confident braking. With these learner concessions, Honda claim its scooters are easier to ride than a bicycle, and I would tend to agree.

Today 50
Retailing under $2000 and costing next to nothing on the road, the baby of Honda's range is the ideal introduction to scooters, particularly for those with little to no motorcycle experience. They are so easy to use that residents of Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory can operate one on a car license. The 49cc air-cooled engine is ideal for the frequent starts and accelerations of the city but will struggle to keep up in the suburbs. It tips the scales at a mere 71kg, making it effortlessly manoeuvrable in the traffic. Once you reach your destination, a tamper-proof ignition lock with shutter-closing system helps keep your scooter safe. There's no need to cart your helmet around all day either - there's plenty of room for it in the secure under-seat compartment. The low seat height and compact package is ideal for most women, but men are likely to feel cramped. The Today 50 is available in Taurus Grey, Orion Yellow, Sirius Blue and Candy. Red and retails for $1,990.

It was love at first sight when I clapped eyes on the retro styling of the orange and silver Scoopy. Another 49cc, the Scoopy is every bit as economical and fun as the Today 50. The most notable difference between the two is the styling. While the Today 50 appears basic, the Scoopy is bold and stylish with its European design, appearing as much as a fashion accessory as a mode of transport. The liquid-cooled engine makes the Scoopy very quiet and, in my opinion, a more pleasurable ride. Security has also been improved for the deluxe 49cc, with Honda's original centre stand locking system utilised to full effect - the special locking mechanism is only accessible after opening the seat with the key. The Scoopy is also suitable for riders with only a car license in Queensland, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, while if you hold a moped license in Western Australia you can also pick one up. All other states require a full motorcycle license. The Scoopy is similar in size to the Today 50 - women will love it but the men might want something larger. The Scoopy is also available in a Millenium Silver Metallic colour scheme and retails for $3,890.

For something a little gutsier the sophisticated @ 125 is your scooter. It's still a dream to drive around town, but the @125 also loves the challenge of the open road. The sleek European inspired styling is complemented by the famous scooter economy and user-friendly appeal. The extra grunt of the 125cc engine means this scooter is more than capable of accommodating a passenger over long distances, while the wide padded pillion seat means your guest will be as comfortable as you. With the fuel economy you'd expect from a four-stroke scooter, the nine-litre fuel tank is more than adequate for weekend getaways. While initially intimidated by its size, I found the @125 a pleasure to ride. You sit a little higher in the seat which inspires confidence and improves vision, and it's still light enough for skinny girls like me to manage. Men will love the extra legroom, while women will adore the handy little hook for shopping bags. The @ 125 is available in Excalibur Grey, Moody Blue Metallic and North Pole Blue/Silver, and retails for $5,890.

The Forza is set to convert even the most hardened scooter cynic. The Forza bridges the gap between scooters and motorcycles, offering luxurious comfort, impressive performance and head-turning sports styling. Powered by a compact 249cc liquid-cooled four-stroke engine, the Forza offers a strong surge of low-to-midrange torque for speedy acceleration around town and smooth top-end performance for cruising the open road. The sporty aerodynamic bodywork, complete with windscreen, deflects wind from the rider while improving overall stability. Both rider and pillion seats are roomy and luxuriously padded. With almost 40 litres of storage under the seat, a roomy lockable glove box, and a big 12-litre fuel capacity the Forza is ideal for extended trips. The Forza is available in silver and retails for $8,990.

The verdict
Many motorcyclists scoff at scooters, belittling the machines simply because they don't like them. Scooters do, however, suit many, many people; it's just that most Australians haven't realised it yet. Not only are scooters a great introduction to bikes, they also make for very practical transport - almost invariably better than a motorcycle. Which scooter is right for you will be governed by your experience and the type of riding you will do - a 50cc version for blatting about the inner city or your suburb, a l00-125cc machine for general commuting and a bigger machine if freeways, longer trips and two-up work are required.

For new riders, scooters are the perfect introduction to two wheels, offering stress free and fun riding. More accessible than a motorcycle, particularly in states only requiring a car license, scooters seem custom made to get more people riding and this new Honda range covers just about every-market niche. Convenient, fashionable, user friendly and affordable - they've won me over.

(c) 2006 Lauren Katulka