In Defense of a Honda Ruckus recently published an article about scooters and how motorcyclists are basically too quick to dismiss them.  While the article’s points of scooters being more powerful than the common 49cc, more fun to drive than one might expect, and a way to keep riding after suffering some injuries, the comment section was ablaze with derogatory comments about scooters.

The most interesting one, though, was from a guy who suggested that it’s wise to look into maintenance costs of a scooter since they’re sometimes expensive to keep running and scooter people aren’t likely to work on their own stuff.

I took issue with this generalization.  Perhaps I’m in the minority because I see an awful lot of people riding around on stock scooters, dirty and beat to hell, so perhaps he’s onto something.  Maybe the price of typical low-power scooters is low enough for the rider to value it less than, say, a $10,000 bike.  Maybe it’s looked at as a toy or just something to use and abuse before throwing away.

But mine isn’t.

Here’s a stock “before” pic and what it currently looks like(ish).  I still have a long way to go to get it where I want.

Actually, mine is something else entirely.  For one thing, it was expensive for a scooter.  But for another thing, I learned all sorts of mechanical stuff on my Ruckus.

I’ve always wanted to get into mechanical things, but was daunted by the traditional way of cars.  Cars are physically imposing, parts are heavy and numerous, and it just seems intimidating.

But a Ruckus is none of those things.  There are few parts, the bike itself is small, it’s only a little heavy, and it’s pretty affordable to work on it with tangible results.

I dove right in.  Within the first week I had parts ordered and began working on it.  It was little things at first: Lowering the seat, adding forward pegs, bar-end mirrors, etc.  With every small project, my confidence grew.  I became more of an active member on Ruckus Facebook pages (particularly my local one) and where folks are beyond helpful and were nothing but patient with me and my questions that I’m sure they’ve seen a billion times.

After a while, I felt like I was ready for the first serious modification: new handlebars.  If you do any research into the project, you’ll see it’s got quite a footprint on the web for being a bit of a pain.

When that was all done, I tackled the stretch which turned into a pretty serious project (and why wouldn’t it? There’s a crazy amount of changes being made with second and third-order effects).  Along the way, the carburetor needed to be re-jet and that was my introduction to the inner workings of the bike – the guts of it all beyond stuff I can bolt onto the bike.

It was scary to get into, but I learned so much – mostly from screwing up.  But with the support system of Ruckus aficionados, I was able to get through it and now I’m less intimidated by the prospect of not only re-jetting, but getting into just about anything.  I feel like I can do just about anything if I read the instructions and have an expert or two to help with any questions I have.

So maybe typical scooters can’t go very fast (mine tops out at 42 on a good day), and perhaps some scooter riders are abusing them until they die, but there are others like me who are learning on them and that’s pretty cool.

Additionally, a friend of mine recently came home from a lengthy trip and his 11-year-old son has been going on and on about getting a dirt bike.  The father isn’t against this by any means but he mentioned my Ruckus to the son and they fell down a YouTube hole of modified Rucks and came out the other side with a bunch of questions.

It sounded to me like the father was looking for a project to do with his son and, honestly, I couldn’t imagine a better one.  The Ruckus can be changed so drastically looks-wise for relatively little money and the mechanical stuff isn’t the hardest in the world.  It could be a pretty valuable learning process for both father and son and at the end of it, the Ruckus would be something fun to bomb around on.

As a kid, I would have loved to do something like this.

More Riders, Please!

I’ll be the first to admit that I am new to motorcycling and everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, perhaps my outlook might be valuable as an outsider.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to motorcycling in the US. There are falling sales and fewer riders. I’ve read multiple articles and posts about how to turn this around in the US and a lot of that work has been handed to organizations outside of our direct area of control. So what can we do as motorcyclists? How can we get people riding again?

Well, I think a good starting point is doing what made me want to get into riding.

I don’t mean that to sound self-absorbed, but consider this: I grew up seeing my dad ride his Harley occasionally. I have fond memories of riding on the back of it as a kid. In my teens – the formative years where things start to set – I was obsessed with the popular motorcycle shows on Discovery not for the drama, but for the awesome motorcycles.

And I still didn’t get into motorcycles until I was thirty-three! I had all the makings of an avid fan, from being brought up in a motorcycle-friendly home to loving whatever motorcycles I saw.

So where was the turning point and how can we replicate it with other riders?

A) Ride to work. All the time.

My dad rode his Harley if two things were occurring: 1) it was the weekend and 2) the weather was nice. When you grow up seeing that, you begin to wonder just how practical a vehicle is if you can’t ride it in the rain or cold.

But one day during a winter in San Antonio (cold but not snowy) a coworker came up the stairs in his winter riding suit. I remarked something like “you must be nuts,” and he patiently responded that if you have the proper gear and ride safely, you can ride whenever you want.

Suddenly motorcycles started to seem like a viable option.

I saw him ride to work almost every single day and it made an impression on me. I don’t think I’m the only one that would work on, either. If someone sees you ride to work almost every day, they can take their time finding out who you are, building a relationship, and asking about why you ride when it’s cold or wet outside and you can tell them all about how great riding is.

B) Be friendly.

Honda might have said you meet the nicest people on their bikes, but the rest of the media has a fascination with portraying bikers as very unsavory folks.

To combat this, just be as friendly and patient as you can. Everyone has questions and when you’re patient and friendly, people are more likely to ask the questions that will ease their mind about riding.

While you’re at it, feel free to lay out the logistical path to safe motorcycling. You can tell the prospective rider that they can, for a small fee and the cost of a helmet and some gloves, take the Basic RiderCourse to see if they like riding before even looking for a motorcycle of their own. You can be the voice of reason and caution when it comes to what kind of motorcycle to cut their teeth on. And you can definitely be the voice of safety when it comes to gear.

As a guy who loves checklists and milestones, having someone lay out the whole process from training to riding meant the world to me.

C) Follow Up

I’m not saying that you have to be best friends with new riders, but I can guarantee that a new rider would appreciate it if you rode around with them a time or two in order to get more comfortable with their bike and their skills. Go out to lunch or a ride along an easy route. Talk to them about what you notice and offer constructive criticism to get better. Be encouraging.

This will all help get a rider on a bike, safely riding, and establishing a love of the hobby and they can pay it forward with the next rider because you set such a good example.