(If any of you are MC riders, I'd love your input and opinions on any of this)
So, this week-end, I’ve spent a lot of time riding around on a motorcycle (Honda XR, to be exact, which is a 125cc, road-legal, 5-speed trail bike). This morning I handed it in and stepped straight back onto my scooter (Gilera Runner VX Special – twist and go continuous variable transmission (CVT), 125cc). The difference between the two bikes are so vast that it’s almost unbelievable that they both share some traits (2 wheels and a 125cc engine)...
Gears – Scooter is better
One of the main reasons why I wanted to learn how to ride ‘proper’ bikes, is that I want to learn the extra skill involved with changing gears etc. To be honest, I don’t really see the advantage of having a set of gears on a motorbike – CVT is a far superior technology. I realise that it isn’t great for especially powerful engines, but for anything up to 250cc or so, I don’t really see the need. Unless... See 'noise' below...
Comfort – Tie
A bit of a mixed evaluation on this one. The engine on the motorbike causes a LOT of vibrations, which means that the seat and steering wheel is constantly shuddering. I’ve ridden my scooter for 3 hours without getting rider’s fatigue, but after 3 hours on the MC, I was exhausted, largely because of the vibrations.
Having said that, though, the bigger wheels and vastly superior suspension system on the MC (it’s an off-road bike at heart, after all), means that it’s a much better match to London pot-holed streets. If I’m leaning over in a turn and hit a pothole on my scooter, I can pretty much guarantee a hairy moment. On the MC, the suspension just laps up the bumps, and you carry on with a smile.
... And don’t even get me started on cobblestones.
Noise - Tie
This is an interesting one as well. I have to admit that the MC is quite a noisy beast (It’s a 4-stroke carburettor engine), and the scooter is a technological masterpiece in comparison – it’s much, MUCH quieter, and has practically no vibration coming from the engine at all.
All of this sounds good, right? Surely, quiet is better? Well, to be honest, I’m wearing a motorcycle helmet and ear plugs anyway, so the noise doesn’t make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. In fact, motorcycle drivers – especially in rush hour traffic – have the advantage of being able to make people aware of their presence without using the horn, simply by declutching and giving some gas. The revving engine makes a loud, very easily recognisable sound (“I’m a motorcycle, I’m over here, don’t hit me, please”). In everyday traffic, you often see motorcyclists use their engines to draw attention to themselves, and it works really well. So the noise is more annoying, but if it may end up saving your skin...
Weight – MC is better / Tie
The point of gravity of the scooter is extremely low, but it’s also much heavier than the motorcycle. The MC, I could fling into tight corners, and keep it under tight control even when doing extremely small figure-eights and circles. Part of this is that the steering lock of the MC is much further from the centre than that of the scooter, but when stepping back on the scooter after having ridden the MC, I couldn’t help but dislike how un-manoeverable it is.
Having said that, though, most people don’t ride motorcycles with 125cc – I loved the XR, but I wouldn’t buy one myself – so the weight saving of riding an MC would probably be counteracted by choosing one with a bigger engine, which will almost certainly mean it’s heavier than the scooter again.
Handling – MC is better
Quite simply, the bigger wheels and huuuge suspension travel on the trail bike make it vastly superior than the scooter – it goes over speed bumps as if they weren’t there, it laps up potholes as if they were butter, and can even take on the occasional kerb if necessary. (Ride into a kerb with the scooter, and you’ll do damage to the scooter and probably fly off. Do the same with the MC, and it’ll complain, but you’ll probably end up being safe)
Filtering in tight traffic – Scooter is better
Going between two narrow rows of cars, there’s no competition whatsoever – riding slowly on a scooter is much easier than on a motorbike (although I’ve obviously ridden my scooter for nearly 10 months, while I have only ridden an MC for a few days in total), and learning to ride slowly is also significantly easier when there’s no clutch to worry about. The fact that it’s impossible to stall a scooter (unless there’s something physically wrong with the engine, or you’re out of fuel or something)
Fuel consumption – Scooter is better / Tie
The scooter has a fuel-injected 4-stroke, and is an altogether better put together engine than the carb-engined Honda. Having said that though, I don’t think the fuel efficiency is all that different – especially considering that the scooter is heavier. Besides, if I were to buy one, I’d probably go for a fuel-injected V-twin, which would help a lot with the vibrations (discussed above) and the fuel consumption relative to engine size.
Overall - I don't know...
Honestly, I don't know which one is the best. They're both mighty fine machines, but with difficult capabilities. I like the high-tech looks and the technologically advantages of the scooter, but I prefer the handling and feeling of safety of the MC.
Any thoughts and advice from the E2 gang would be greatly appreciated!