50cc scooters, or mopeds, are the most commonly bought scooters in WA for two main reasons. Firstly you can ride them from the age of 16 with an R-N class license, and secondly you can ride them if you are the holder of a car license. We are one of the few Australian states that are enlightened enough to realise that riding a 50cc scooter really isn't particularly difficult, is (despite what some may tell you) as safe as riding a bicycle, and if you already know the road rules through driving a car, you really don't require the additional hurdle of going through the entire licensing process to gain the means to ride one. Now that isn't to say that some training wouldn't be useful - we would strongly recommend getting a lesson or two from a qualified instructor, and by that I don't mean the guy who runs the scooter shop, but one who can give you best advice on the tips you need to make your riding experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.
So lets put the issue of how to get an R-N license aside for the moment (more info at the end!), given that many of you will be car drivers, and lets look at some of the key characteristics of this class of vehicle that makes them different to all the other scooters on the market. Or if you just want a quick summary of the 50cc scooters that we sell, jump down towards the bottom of the article.
With 50cc the most important issue that has to be considered because of its implications, is that of power. If you've never wondered what 50cc's actually are, measure it out. Most people are amazed that an engine of that cubic capacity has enough power to move anything, far less a scooter and even up to 2 riders as well! But to maximise that power, manufacturers have to consider what engine technology is the most appropriate. Internal combustion engines fall largely into two categories, 4- stroke and 2-stroke.
The vast majority of vehicles on the road today have 4-stroke engines. They are robust and reliable, quiet and relatively fuel efficient, but relatively complex. Indeed almost every modern scooter larger than 50cc has a four stroke engine. However compared to a 2-stroke engine, they don't generate as much power. And when you are constrained by engine size (as the legislation dictates), and you want to squeeze as much grunt into your machine as possible, then 2-stroke technology is the way to go. So the majority of 50cc scooters on the market today are 2-stroke powered. As are lawnmowers, whipper-snippers, and many outboard motors. There are a number of 4-stroke mopeds available, though the majority can best be described as "gutless".
So if they are more powerful, why don't all scooters have 2-stroke engines in them? Well firstly they are relatively inefficient. We have 500cc engined 4-stroke scooters which use less fuel than the majority of the 50cc scooters on the market. But they are ALL still a lot, lot better than every car on the road however, but would be much less so if they were in larger engine sizes. Secondly they are comparatively noisy. Sounds like a hair-dryer? That's because its a 50cc 2-stroke scooter.
Thirdly, the engines don't last as long. The general rule of thumb is that a 2-stroke scooter engine will last for about 20 - 30,000km assuming a normal servicing schedule (a quality 4-stroke should last at least twice this, if not more). This can be extended by more invasive maintenance (such as regularly changing the piston rings and rehoning the bore), but this would push up servicing costs significantly and so is rarely carried out. However given that 50cc scooters are normally used for short distances only, many riders might only clock up that kind of distance in 5 to 10 years of usage! But if you are considering buying second hand, don't forget this.
Finally, but most importantly, 2-stroke engines are much more fickle than 4-strokes. They can be hard to start, particularly if they aren't used regularly. Think lawnmower. Particularly if you are parking at the train station, at work, school or uni, and there isn't any other way of getting home. Reliability is vital. Nothing is more frustrating than getting on to your scooter after a long day at work, and being unable to get it going. So please, please, please go for a quality brand that you can rely on. The only brands that we will sell 50cc scooters of (new or second hand) are Vespa, Piaggio, PGO, Derbi, Aprilia, Yamaha, SYM, Kymco and TGB. If Honda made 2-strokes, we'd add that to the list too. And that is it. If its not on that list (and there are many brands out there we know of which I've purposefully excluded from the list) then proceed with extreme caution. If you want to double check, ask the scooter riding community on www.scootercommunity.com.au
So in summary, 4-stroke engines are better, but in small engined sizes where you need the additional power, 2-stroke is still the way to go. But our key message is this. If you are going to get a 50cc 2-stroke, then make sure that you get one with a good quality motor! It needs to be dependable, it needs to start when you turn the key. You don't want it playing up, when you are out in the traffic.
So what is a good quality motor? Well, we've been in this business long enough to know good from bad. And unfortunately there is plenty of bad out there. However, on the other side, there is plenty of good too! The hard part is knowing which is which. Low prices often indicate poor quality, however there are plenty of scooters around where higher price does not necessarily mean better quality! Check this link for more info about what you can get when you buy cheap!
Our suggestion is to 1) do your research and/or 2) stick to brands that are well established and have a reputation to maintain! Then when you are looking at scooters, make sure that you ask the salesperson to start them up. A good motor will start easily, then run smoothly when its warmed up. There should be some smoke in the exhaust (which shows that the 2-stroke oil is getting throughand is a good sign in a healthy 2-stroke engine), though not too much! In a poll conducted by Australias most popular scooter riders forums, Scootercommunity, 3 of our 50cc models featured in the top 4.
Currently we have 5 different 50cc models in our range, and we think that we've acheived the perfect mix. At the top of the range, we have the two Vespas - the LX50 and the S50. Essentially two flavours of the same scooter, for those that want the classic look, and aren't prepared to compromise on style. In our mid-price range, we have our newest scooter, the Piaggio Typhoon 50, which from its introduction in January 2012 is redefining the sports scooter market - its already our top seller, and when you see pics, you'll understand why! And don't forget our entry level scooter, the Piaggio Zip 50 2T. This is currently Australia's top selling 50cc scooter, as it doesn't compromise on quality, but the price won't break your budget.
What is most important about these scooters is that despite a price difference of over $2000, the least expensive shares the same engine as the most expensive - the HiPer engine from Piaggio. Given that Piaggio/Vespa have been making scooters with 2-stroke engines for over 60 years, its not surprising that they are pretty damned good at it. And these are no exception. If you are buying a 50cc scooter, we strongly suggest that you include at least one of these in your shortlist.
And yes, there are cheaper scooters on the market. But do consider what they'll be worth a year or so after you've bought them. Quality machines retain a higher value, so the cost of ownership can actually be a lot lower overall, particularly if you aren't having to deal with the breakdowns, battery and globe replacements, and the other common problems associated with the lower quality end of the market. Additionally, a lot of cheaper brands are very easy to steal. And I mean VERY easy to steal. If you don't want that surprise, stick to a machine with a quality steering lock, and one where you can't get your hand up under the front panel to access the starter wiring!
Of course the other thing that people often want to know about is performance. Now there is a limit to what we can publicly publish about this subject, but it should be fairly obvious that well known performance part companies like Malossi and Leo Vince produce performance parts for Piaggio engines, but are less likely to make them for less well known brands. And that makes a big difference when it comes to what you are trying to achieve. Another thing to remember is that what a scooter looks like is no indication of how it goes! The Malossi team race Zip 50s in Europe!
That's right. Before you buy a scooter, we encourage you to try it out. Don't just take a salesmans word for it, you need to test them out to see which one works best for you. If you don't feel confident that you'll be able to, we'd encourage you to get a lesson - not only will this help you work out whether you want to buy a scooter in the first place, but it will provide you with the key skills in helping you determine the right one to match your needs, but also your desires. A lesson costs just $70-75, but could save you a fortune as it might just be that scootering is not for you. But we doubt it. If you want details of instructors, please contact us - and we'd be happy to let you use our demo's for this purpose.
We always have 4 or 5 of our 50cc scooters set up as demos for our customers to properly test - and by that I don't mean just a quick buzz up and down the car park, but actually out on the road for as long as you need to help make up your mind. Again, please contact us to discuss your needs. We want you to make the right decision, and we want you to make a good decision.
Increasingly important is the matter of scooter security. Unfortunately over the last few years there has been a large influx of scooters built in (and for) countries with low crime rates (often due to excessive punishment for wrongdoers). Essentially these scooters are very easy to steal. Very easy. And because of this, scooter theft has unfortunately increased dramatically. If you want to see just how shockingly easy it is to start some of the lower quality scooters without needing a key, watch this. The steering locks can be broken with a few sharp twists of the handlebars, then disconnect or cut the ignition leads, and the scooter can be kick-started and ridden away virtually undamaged. And the people that steal scooters are very aware of what is easy to nick and what isn't. It is far more difficult, if not impossible, to break the steering lock of the better quality machines - the handlebars turn, but the wheel stays locked - and you simply can't get your hand up underneath the front panel to get to the wiring. The only thing worse than an unreliable scooter, is one that has disappeared.
So when you are out looking at different models, look the dealer or the salesperson in the eye and ask them about how secure their scooters are and see what they say. Don't become another statistic.
As part of our ongoing work to minimise the theft of our customers scooters, we are now providing a GripLock free of charge with every new scooter sold (and at half price to existing purchasers). These handy little locks clamp onto your throttle and front brake lever, and not only stop someone using your scooter without your permission, they are a very obvious deterrent to stop someone even trying. We have exclusive rights to this product in Perth, and are happy to provide free to purchasers of new scooters for additional peace of mind.
Ok. For a growing number of people, a 50cc scooter is there introduction to life on the road. And we think that's great! Unlike a car, there aren't lots of distractions on a scooter, and as a vulnerable road user, you'll quickly develop the skills to be an experienced rider, which will pay dividends when you move onto a bigger scooter, motorbike or even a car.
You can start the process from the age of 15 and a half, although given our experience that it will take about 6-8 weeks to acquire the necessary skills to get the license (assuming one lesson a week), there's not much point in starting till about 2 months before your birthday. We'd also suggest that you put off buying your scooter until you actually pass your test (or at least get a few lessons under your belt) because legally, you can't ride it without being suitably escorted - and the temptation to take it out for a quick fang with your mates might be the quickest way of losing your license for 12 months before you've even got it!
At Ace we have a scheme whereby placing a $500 deposit allows you to use our scooters for your lessons and test. If you've got someone who can escort you (and this changes all the time, but check the Licensing website for details), you can borrow a scooter (or two - you might need someone to accompany you!) to get some practice on between lessons. As you improve your skills, you can determine which scooter best meets your needs, so that when it comes to your test date, we've got your scooter ready for you. You've already paid the deposit, so you just pay the difference, stick on your P plates and off you go. In the past few months we've had customers picking up their brand new scooters having passed their tests on their 16 birthdays! That's the way to do it!!