Motorcycles vs. Scooters have been a hot topic since the scooter resurgence of the early 2000s, despite the fact that scooters are technically a type of motorcycle.
Still, there are some pretty distinct variations between the two, and in some situations, a scooter is a way to go.
But what are the best reasons to ride a motorcycle instead of a scooter?
In this article, we’ll give you the facts about the differences between the two and our expert opinions on when a motorcycle is the better choice, cross-reference with the views of some experienced riders of both!
Table of Contents
1. Motorcycles Are Faster
While scooters certainly have their advantages in city traffic and tight spaces, the most popular reason to ride a motorcycle is simply that it’s faster.
While there are scooters out there that can top at 75 mph, the top speed of modern motorcycles averages between 85 and 185 miles per hour.
If you aim to test your skills at high speeds on a closed track or roasting twisty country roads, a motorcycle reaches the rates required not only to make it exhilarating but also to make it safe.
Or, as one rider puts it:
“Both have their advantages, but the average motorcycle goes considerably faster than the average scooter. Different strokes for different folks. Scooters cost less and are easier to drive because they typically don’t have clutch or gears.”
The fact is that on a highway, you want the extra speed that a motorcycle provides. Highway riding often requires scooter riders to push their vehicles to their limit.
Not only does riding a scooter at top speeds for the sake of reaching safe highway speeds already make for a sketchy ride if trouble were to happen, but you’d also have no extra headroom left to accelerate out of harm’s way.
A motorcycle with a top speed of 145 is barely working at 75; if you need the power, torque, or speed, it’s just a throttle jerk away, especially if you downshift first.
Here’s how one rider put it,
“Scooters are extremely dangerous compared to a motorcycle. At least in the USA.
They go too slow for traffic and create a hazard. So driving with [highway] traffic isn’t an option and acceleration, handling and braking are all [poor] compared to a motorcycle.
Having a full size bike is safer than a scooter, by far.”
If you plan on highway riding, you’ll need to at least keep up with traffic, making the useable torque and high-speed potential of a motorcycle the first reason to ride motorcycles instead of scooters.
2. More Functional Wheel Size
Motorcycles have a more functional wheel size and tire tread than scooters, especially for riding on hazardous pavement full of potholes and debris.
When we say bikes have bigger wheels than scooters, the actual wheelset has a bigger radius. On average, the tire to wheel ratio is actually thinner on a motorcycle, which nurtures the ride with a more precise response, stability, and traction even with a higher center of gravity.
This means that, despite being more narrow, motorcycles’ tire is more precise for dodging rocks and more stable when rolling over them, thanks to the fact that it’s taller.
This difference is likely nominal on freshly paved roads. That said, on rough roads and technical stretches with s-curves and sweepers, a tall narrow tire provides better handling.
Don’t take it from us. Here’s a quote from a real-life rider:
They have tiny wheels and our roads, while paved, needs help so potholes are frequent and they don’t handle them well at all because the tires are tiny. Plus, stopping is sketchy with such tiny tires, and the handling is [shakey] compared to a motorcycle.
The scooter’s tire puts more surface area on the road, providing extra stability, particularly at low speeds and on straightaways.
Still, that increase in the surface area also causes them to wear quicker.
3. Rugged and Aerodynamic Frame Geometry
Most of the more rugged motorcycle frames integrate the steering shaft with the rear suspension axle.
On the other hand, scooter frames are fabricated in a U-shape that doesn’t have the rugged sturdiness of its motorcycle siblings.
The simple difference in fabrication materials and design shapes between scooters and motorcycles does more than boost performance and, therefore, rider safety. The engineering that goes into a motorcycle frame is more technical, making for a more aerodynamic ride as well.
Now, we’re generally speaking here, of course. High-end “art-on-wheels” scooters like Vespas are made from a rugged steel frame that will outlast its owner, but you pay for the longevity with added weight.
Maxi tourer scooters are a trending new concept that combines a rigged framed travel-ready scooter with hard bags and large displacement motors, available in the motorcycle price range.
4. Versatile Riding Positions
The riding positions of motorcycles vary depending on the style of bike, whereas in most scooter designs, manufacturers implement the same upright seating.
Furthermore, the seating position on motorcycles is adjustable and customizable, with highway pegs and reach extension and reduction accessories offered for most of the modern moto models.
These accessories allow riders to change positions in the middle of the ride; I can vouch that switching my legs between forward and middle positions throughout long-distant rides will enable me to endure more distance, harsher riding conditions, etc.
Leaning forward for a while allows the back to stretch out while sitting upright keeps the rider stable and aware of their environment and takes the pressure off the wrists.
The scooter position is like a chair, forcing the riders back into an unhealthy curve shape that puts limitations on how long you can ride before your back starts aching.
The general “horseback” position of the chair on a motorcycle is also more intuitive to the rider, as it’s closer to the spine and leg position of walking.
According to one rider experienced in both scooter and motorcycle operation, this allows the brain to approach motorcycle operating and ergonomics with the subconscious awareness present during basic daily walking.
The horseback riding position of the motorbike is more intuitive to humans and close to walking. The brain is wired to subconsciously balance a person when walking. It just extends that activity when riding a motorbike.
However, sitting on a chair-like seat is akin to just that, sitting on a chair. It’s more relaxed and the brain does not have to constantly balance the lower part of the body. This comfortable position on a scooter relaxes a person to a point where they can be less alert than necessary.
I don’t have any scientific evidence or statistics to support this observation. However, this is what happens with me on a scooter. I’d rather be alert and alive riding a motorbike.
Without evidence, this is more of an opinion than a fact, but there’s no doubt that motorcycles offer more variety in seating positions than scooters.
The fact is that the variety of riding positions is yet another reason to ride motorcycles instead of scooters.
5. Manual Geared Transmissions
Most motorcycles are equipped with gears. Riders operate the gear via left-hand input on the clutch lever and shifting via an up and down motion with the left foot, making motorcycle riding more intricate and stimulating than a scooter.
The position of the clutch and shifted and the action of the clutch lever is adjustable to meet rider standards.
The clutch and gears are operated automatically via the twist-and-go throttle on a scooter. The transmission auto-adjusts and changes gears based solely on the rider’s throttle input.
So, while a motorcycle rider is fully engaged with all four limbs, the scooter is operated by throttling with the right hand and braking with one foot.
In theory, an automatic transmission is easier to master since it requires less eye-hand coordination.
If you’re looking for a simple way to cruise, the automatic transmission of a scooter might be more appealing to you.
However, throttling through the higher gears on the automatic scooter transmission gets difficult since there’s no way to disengage the force-producing clutch like there is on a bike.
That said, two-wheel enthusiasts looking for a more intricate experience should ride a motorcycle instead of a scooter.
6. Balanced More Effectively
On a motorcycle, the motor, storage capacities, and fuel tank are all engineered to integrate with one another and the frame in an aerodynamic, well-balanced way. Most touring bikes are engineered so that the bike’s balance is maintained even if its bags are empty.
The engine of the motorcycle is centered beneath the seat, and frames are designed to integrate with the engine, putting the center of gravity between the rider’s legs. This gives the rider control of the motorcycle’s physics, which prefer to stay upright thanks to the same design.
Conversely, the motor on most older scooters was off to one side of the frame. The scooter’s weight is balanced by adding storage compartments or shifting the rider’s seating position. On some scooters, handling and balance are poorly impacted when the storage compartments are empty.
To be clear, modern scooters are engineered to be much more balanced.
Still, because motorcycles were more balanced to start with, the developments in motorcycle design have helped them to maintain their superior balance. In short, if balance is important to you, we suggest you ride a scooter instead of a motorcycle.
7. Easier Turning
The turning radius on a scooter is tighter than that of a motorcycle and must be executed with precision and care to avoid handlebar hangups.
The clearance of a typical scooter frame is lower to the ground than the average motorcycle; the lean clearance during sharp turns, s-curves, and switchbacks is difficult on a scooter without scratching the user’s body or, worse yet, falling over.
These hazards are all present on a motorcycle, but there are bikes specifically designed for technical riding at speed.
Better handling and easier turning are popular reasons why riders choose motorcycles over scooters.
8. Safer on Unpaved Roads
If you have a passion for riding on dirt trails, gravel roads, and grassy country parking lots, a motorcycle is a more reasonable choice than a scooter.
Not only are the tire options more prolific for motorcycle riders, the spectrum of motorcycle types is simply a wider range.
There are bikes with high clearance and suspension systems made intentionally for dirt, as well as dual-sport motorcycles made for safe riding on and off the roads.
That said. There are more and more dual-sport-styled scooters on the market than ever; they’re gaining popularity.
Still, as far as a general rule goes, motorcycle tires, wheel shapes, suspension, frames, and clearance are all far superior for riding on unpaved roads than scooters.
Gravel and dirt roads are as good of a reason as any to ride a motorcycle instead of a scooter.