Other than bicycles, scooters are likely the most popular two-wheeled vehicle in the world.
That said, here in the states, there’s nothing more iconic than a motorcycle rip-roaring through the countryside a la Dennis Hopper, Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Evil Kinevil, Catwoman, from Elvis to Elvira, and the list goes on.
Motorcycles might make better props for photo ops, but are scooters easier to ride than motorcycles? Let’s find out!
Here’s the Answer to Are Scooters Easier to Ride Than Motorcycles:
Scooters are easier to ride than motorcycles due to their automatic transmission and their twist-and-go throttle. Plus, scooter frames are narrow and low to the ground, making them easier to ride, park, walk, and start from a stop.
1. Automatic Transmission
The primary aspect of a scooter that makes it easier to ride than a motorcycle is the fact that the scooter comes stocked with automatic transmission.
Most motorcycles use manually operated clutches that use multiple gears.
Us moto-riders are forced into a balancing act of disengaging our clutch with a left-hand lever and shifting up and down through the gears via our left foot control, all while adjusting and maintaining our throttle input based on the roads, traffic, and environment!
For scooter operators, it’s as simple as twisting the throttle until you achieve the speed you’re looking for—the automatic transmission adjusts accordingly.
The downside is that scooter riders don’t learn the intricate shifting skillset motorcyclists do, but the trade-off is worth it unless you have aspirations of riding motorcycles someday.
Scooter riders get to skip past the learning curve of adapting to the friction zone, the ratio of throttle input to clutch input.
Moped maniacs get to brush past the awkward phase of stalling out while learning how to shift and slide straight into the cruising.
Not only does the automatic transmission make riding easier mentally, requiring less training, but it’s also less physically demanding.
Navigating stop-and-go traffic on a motorcycle requires constant clutch action—it wears on your left hand, shoulder, and neck. The automatic throttle on a scooter bypasses this whole uncomfortable experience.
Motorcycles are irreplaceable for those of us who like the complex technical layer of riding that manual shifting adds. But if jumping in the saddle, hitting the throttle, and cruising out to your destination sounds more appealing, scooters are certainly the easier choice.
2. Easier to Own
For the most part, scooters are more accessible to keep up with than motorcycles when it comes to easy maintenance and ownership habits.
One of the charms of owning a scooter is how easy they are to fix when something goes wrong.
Whether at a shop, at the home garage, or living in the field, anyone with a basic tool set can wrench on the straightforward 2 and 4 stroke engines most scooters come with.
Scooters use belt drives and simple powertrains that only require the bare minimum upkeep associated with any engine; regular service, proper storage, and responsible riding.
Twist-and-go throttle, gas-and-go maintenance—that’s the general philosophy of scooter ripping… of course, gas implies filters, fluids, and suspension maintenance as well.
That said, the scooter genre is becoming a complex field of sub-genres, more and more so annually with each new lineup.
These days, the big scooter brands all offer large-displacement scooters with Antilock Brake Systems, tour packs, and cutting-edge navigation technology.
Obviously, the more advanced the technology is, the more maintenance is required; some of these sophisticated moped models are every bit as complicated to maintain as modern motorcycles.
3. Easier to Maneuver
Scooters are low to the ground, and their frames are narrower than the average motorcycle frame, making them more agile to maneuver through traffic, when parking, and when backing up. Scooters are also easier to walk through pedestrian zones than motorcycles.
That’s right, not only are mopeds easier to rip around city obstacles thanks to their more nimble design, but consider how much easier a small, lightweight scooter is to walk through a crowded parking lot than a fully dressed dad bike?
Parking a scooter is almost as easy as parking a bicycle—there’s always space for a moped, even when it’s hard-pressed to find motorcycle parking.
And finally, not all big bagged out bikes have reverse functions on them; I own an 800-pound bagger. I have to reverse-power with my own two feet and a whole lot of leg muscles I didn’t know I had before I started riding.
Meanwhile, I watch moped-cruisers zip their scoot between two cars and back it up with the effort it takes to reverse a bicycle.
4. More Efficient
Due to the lightweight nature inherent in a scooter’s frame and compact motor, scooters are more efficient than motorcycles.
The automatic transmission does more than just make for a less intricate riding experience; combined with the compact engine and chassis, the automatic transmission makes scooters more economical.
As we mentioned earlier, most scooters equip either a two-stroke or a four-stroke engine. Fuel efficiency makes riding a scooter easier thanks to less frequent stops, gallon for gallon.
Believe it or not, modern mopeds average up to 110 miles to the gallon!!
5. Easier to Afford
To be honest, a significant consideration when considering what makes for a leisurely ride is the cost, not just of maintenance but of gear, insurance, ownership, and the vehicle itself. I don’t know about you, but the fact that scooters are so cheap puts my mind at ease and helps me focus on the cruise.
Scooters are not only easier to ride than motorcycles, but they’re also easier to afford. Since the bottom line on a brand new moped is lower than that of a motorcycle, the average cost of insurance is lower as well—the low cost of parts and labor also impacts the ease of scooter ownership.
On the used market, you can score a top-of-the-line city-scooter for under a grand.
You can score a brand new scooter for $6k out the door that gets better gas mileage, costs less to maintain, and has a lower insurance quote than a motorcycle would manifest.
Now, to be clear, there are some pocket-emptying moped models out there. A high-class Aprilla, Emporio, or Vespa will run you $11,000 plus.
Furthermore, these days there are touring scooters with hard bags, off-road suspension, and GPS navigation that come close to motorcycle prices; gear like that costs the same regardless of the vehicle it’s on.
6. Easier to Modify
Not only do cheaper parts and labor make scooters easier to own and afford than bikes, but they also make them easier to modify.
Stage 2 exhaust and air cleaner upgrades to stage 3 cams, performance-boosting scooter-mods are getting better every year.
More and more aftermarket manufacturers and mechanics are focusing primarily on cultivating these little automatic cruisers into city street rocket ships.
The moped resurgence in the early 2000s did wonders for the accessibility and affordability of scooter modifications. But scooters have always been iconic, to be sure.
7. More Accessible
From custom motorcycles to stock bikes, there’s no denying the impact motorcycles had on American culture.
At this point, the freedom-seeking American-biker rebel image diverged into a culture of its own that spread across the world.
Still, scooters have their own image, a little more approachable, albeit more sophisticated, than the anti-social, fingerless-glove-wearing tough guy on the hair-metal, robot-terminating American fair package.
The more approachable image of scooters makes joining the scooter riding community less intimidating than fitting in with the bikers.
Since the 50s and 60s, Vespa has successfully cultivated an image of craftsmanship and aesthetic elitism. The Vespa crowd considers their vehicle a sculpture on wheels as much as the chopper community, but in a classy-artist demeanor.
The moped culture celebrates their unique approach to two-wheel riding with a scarf around their neck and a friendly but profound nice-guy smile.
Honda’s scooter branding has been printed around friendliness and approachability since the late 50s when they launched a campaign that claimed the nicest people in the world ride Honda scooters.
The openness of the scooter community is, in some sense, a parody of the toxic masculinity of biker culture, making it less intimidating to participate in.
In short, the friendly attitude of scooter culture makes them easier to learn on and learn to wrench on and therefore, easier to ride than motorcycles.
When Are Motorcycles Easier Than Scooters?
A motorcycle is better than a scooter for riding at highway speeds for extended periods. Motorcycles also handle better technical curves, turns, and switchbacks.
Scooters are intended to be used for straight-and-narrow town riding, through traffic, and around city obstacles.
Some modern mopeds can hit speeds of 75MPH, but their available torque and RPM numbers don’t come close to the average moto. Not to mention, motorcycle top speeds average between 100-175 these days.
Motorcycles are also better for cross-country touring.
There are more highway-ready, bagged-out touring scooters than ever, some of which have off-road tires and suspension. Others still have tour packs, truck compartments, blue tooth connectivity, and GPS capability.
But all those electronic gizmos, a long-distance-ready suspension package, and a large-displacement, automatic-transmission-powered motor can’t change the fact that scooters aren’t yet highway-legal in all 52 of the United States.
Still, while motorcycles are legally permitted on the highways of all the U.S., there are some restrictions on the smaller engine sizes.
Still, if you want to be able to hit the highways without discernment of which state you’re in, a motorcycle might be a better choice.
Finally, motorcycles are a better choice if you plan to get into racing, stunt riding, dirt trails, and even just ripping some fun technical mountain roads.
Leaning on an automatic scooter is great if that’s the realm you aim to stay in.
However, riders who plan on graduating to a manual, hand-foot-controlled motorcycle at some point should learn on one from the get-go to avoid the backward phase of transitioning your muscle memory later.
The physical and even much of the mechanics of riding a scooter and motorcycle are similar; the feel, position, muscles, and mental aspects vary between the two.
There are many ways in which scooters are easier to ride than motorcycles and a few situations where bikes are a better choice than mopeds.
At the end of the day, we suggest learning about the style of two-wheeler you plan on sticking with for the long haul… why not both?