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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell


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I rode a scooter home last night. Emphasis on night, as in dark, as in nobody saw me. You can’t prove it. That wasn’t me. This kind of thing can put a serious crimp in your credibility.I didn’t really mean to. But like other questionable pursuits carried out under cover of darkness, it seemed like the thing to do when you’re knocking off work at 8:05 p.m. Especially after 11 hours of trying to carve a few thousand of somebody else’s ill-chosen words down to a few hundred that won’t trigger serial gag reactions, subscription cancellations and hate mail. Besides, there’s no way to strap my Bag O Stuff to the B-King. There <is> the key to a Suzuki Burgman 650 on the Official Motorcyclist Key Board, and the Executive model, no less with a full tank of gas. I have opportunity and motive. It’s a slippery slope from there.

Said key is in my pocket before the reverse-rationalization sequence can boot up. My overstuffed bag slides into the cavernous, well lit under storage bay beneath the seat to ink the deal. Like most forms of social suicide, getting started is easy: just pull the hand brake and thumb the starter. A vague, muddled whirring beneath the floorboards implies the initiation of internal combustion. Suzuki’s spec sheet says there’s an 8-valve liquid-cooled 638cc twin down there. I’ll take their word for it. Judging by the inconclusive aural evidence, it could just as easily be a single, an industrial-strength aquarium pump or a blow dryer with indigestion. As Lord John Whorfin once said, “Laugh-a while you can, monkey-boy.”

It’s creepy at first. La-Z-Boy ergos are counter intuitive. Feet out in front. No shifter or brake pedal and just air between the knees. Three blocks later, the all these odd pieces start to fit. The dash is vaguely reminiscent of a Honda S2000 or Need for Speed Carbon on Xbox 360, except we’re playing with real cars. Switches and buttons abound. Shall I let Suzuki’s electronic automatic shift on its own, or toggle through the quintet of virtual gears on my own? Will that be Normal or Power mode? How many guesses do you want?

The guy in the Audi A4 was submerged in a conversation with his broker/bookie / Feng Shui practitioner. Then the light turned green. He floored it, just in time to see a curiously silent maroon blur pull ahead and disappear into the tangled chaos of Highland Avenue. “What was <that>?” I would’ve explained that manual shifting lets Herr Burgman hold a virtual gear a little longer, but since Power Mode is only available when computer is in control, that was actually automatic. But I didn’t have the heart. Neither of us had the time. Traffic is grim for a Wednesday, and he’s still trying to explain to Her Majesty of the Passenger Side why they just got roasted by George Jetson’s recliner.

I’m not sure myself, but I’m not complaining either. Peel off the professional stigma and this could just be most efficient Southern California commuting appliance yet devised. The amorphous twin goes 55 miles on a gallon of regular unleaded, even when 90 mph shows up on the speedo now and then. Electrically retractable mirrors are sheer genius. Triple-disc brakes are good; ABS is better. Suspension is derisible by sporty bike standard, but I can’t quite picture myself paying $8999 to <own> one. Yet.

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  1. jrhoyt0895
    Posted on: April 14, 2009 1:39 pm

    “Do you choose a motorcycle based on what other people think? I think that attitude puts a crimp in your credibility.”

    I agree.

  2. scooternut
    Posted on: April 7, 2009 10:43 pm

    sounds like a want-a- be to me

  3. Honda919Rider
    Posted on: March 7, 2009 8:31 am

    Scooter rock, and the large ones are the sleepers of the modern times.

  4. blueorleans
    Posted on: March 6, 2009 9:53 pm

    Flat out, I think scooters need to be part of all mass-market motorcycle publications like this one. That should be beyond question. I loved the editor’s response to one of several, suprisingly ignorant letters in the current issue: “Then you don’t want to hear that the thing really goes 90, do you?”

    No, scooters won’t be mistaken for Hayabusa’s on one end of the scale, nor Boss Hoss’s on the other end. But within normal riding parameters, they’ll continue to do everything regular motorcycles do, yet typically cheaper and more fuel-efficiently.

    One thing I never see mentioned about scooters is that I believe they should be the standard way motorcyclists get started. After all, you usually don’t start out driving on stick-shifting cars, so why should you start out on shifting motorcycles? The automatic shifting and lesser weights of scooters make them ideal for learning the ways of the road.

    All that said, I sympathize with Carrithers about how some scooters, maxi-scooters typically, lack the cool factor with their designs. They strike me too as “recliners on wheels.” But that’s changing. I love the industrial look of the new Piaggio MP3 500 (plus the Italjet Dragster 250, if it ever makes it to the states), while the new Yamaha TMAX is a sporting step in the right direction. Then, there’s the always-classic styling of Aprilia’s Scarabeos and the whole Vespa line, among others.

    When I bought my Vespa GTS 250 last year — my first-ever two-wheel ride at age 49 — I took everything as seriously as any regular motorcyclist, in terms of gear, safety, training, education and technique. I also went everywhere regular motorcyclists went, including one 1,700-mile trip down and up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Harley guys would encounter me at rest stops, look at my way-out-of-state license plate, and exclaim in disbelief, “You rode all the way down from there on that small a bike?” “Yep,” I’d reply, before zipping away to out-maneuver more cruisers on another 50 miles of curves. To them and others, I would always describe my scooter as a motorcycle-in-disguise.

    Recently, I upgraded to an Aprilia Mana 850. It gives me all the functionality and performance of a regular motorcycle, yet with all the operating ease of my scooter. It’s been great. I’m especially looking forward to being quizzed by the inevitable Harley guys, and telling them, “Yeah, it’s an 850-cc scooter. Has a 130-mph top end. Pretty cool, huh?”

    One of the British motorcycle magazines has an article this month about how Honda is committed to applying the automatic transmission on its new DN-01 to a whole range of otherwise regular motorcycles. So, motorcycling chauvenists, beware! The scootering world is fast approaching in your rear-view mirror.

  5. moonbandito
    Posted on: November 14, 2008 7:43 pm

    Scooter. The word implies the machine isn’t even a cousin of a ‘motorcycle’. Aren’t scooters pushed down the street? In my minds eye a scooter looks like a skateboard with with a podium bolted on the front. Two Honda products, the helix and the Elite, permanently de-coupled the motorcycle world from the scooter world. The Burgman works hard on that ecumenical task of re-uniting the scooter and the motorcycle. The truth is the Burgman is the bastard child of a covert relationship between a honda Pacific Coast and a Vespa LX. When we talk ‘junk in the trunk’ – no motorcycle will be able to compete with a Pacific Coast. Just put a newfangled automatic tranny on a pacific coast and you’ve got something a car salesman could love. Could a motorcyclist grow to love a Burgman? You say you believe an affair could occur between an adventurous motorcyclist and th Burgman. This affair would not be based on passion – but of convenience and practicality. I just don’t know of any romance that really started that way.

  6. vulcanlady
    Posted on: October 31, 2008 6:38 pm

    Hilarious, well-written article. Especially about the sound of the engine. Some have told me that I “should” have a scooter instead of a motorcycle because I’m so petite. But I’m not a scooter person; they just don’t do it for me like motorcycles do. To each her own.

  7. jesseziegler
    Posted on: October 23, 2008 3:46 pm


    Ride it like you stole it. Seriously. Even tell people you stole it so you have the macho-motorcycle-vibe-thing running strong.

  8. martyo2468
    Posted on: October 23, 2008 5:29 am

    “gag reactions, subscription cancellations and hate mail.”
    And you have done just that with your opening words.

    You work for a motorcycle mag. And you cut down some thing down before you even try it.
    I have been riding for over 30 years. I am getting tired of the way people still think about 2 or 3 wheelers. We enjoy the open air and the open roads, does it matter what we ride?

    You should see the looks that I get when I take my moped for a ride with full gear on. If you go down at 45mph does not matter if you are on 50cc or 1200cc? I also have a 2008 Burgman 400cc. People still think because it is a scooter that it will only go 55 or 60 and is for in town riding only. I tell people that it is an automatic motorcycle; it will do everything any other 400 road motorcycle will do.

  9. RickRussellTX
    Posted on: October 17, 2008 11:23 am

    “This kind of thing can put a serious crimp in your credibility.”

    Do you choose a motorcycle based on what other people think? I think that attitude puts a crimp in your credibility.