In Defense of a Honda Ruckus

Motorcycle.com 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.

IMG_5556.JPG
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 TotalRuckus.com 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.

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