Prepare your moped for hibernation this winter!
The Honda Ruckus was introduced to the American market in 2002, and has really gained some traction since then. With this model, Honda sort of redefined the look and feel of scooter, moving away from the traditional Vespa-inspired, fairing clad baguette-getter to a more aggressively styled, dare I say "macho"-looking city shredder. This machine has struck a chord with riders in the greater Portsmouth area, and we see more and more on the road every year.
This year, we're excited to be offering new Honda Ruckus clone scooters.
Huh? A clone? Yes, this product is made by a third-party Chinese manufacturer to replicate the Honda Ruckus scooter. We find that they do so quite nicely, and it results in a product that is comparable to the Ruckus, but available at a fraction of the cost. We sell these scooters with confidence along with our tried and true warranty, and a free tune-up at 300 miles.
I wanted to come right out and explain some of the differences and similarities between our Ruckus clones and the genuine Honda product. They range from minor to major, and many of them actually pose advantages over the original Ruckus design.
For one, lets talk pricing: Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the Honda Ruckus is around $2649. This means you will be buying a new model for no less than $2649 - however dealerships are free to apply additional charges (freight charges, assembly charges, warranty, etc) so the "out the door price" is frequently in excess of $3000. Damn. I love the product, but that's some serious cake.
Enter the Ruckus clone. We order these units in as a dealer, assembled them, upgrade them, and test them thoroughly. We "stamp" them with our warranty, and sell them out the door at $1599. In fact, they're on early-bird special thru May 1st for $1499! So I had to get that out of the way, but that is one huge and obvious advantage the clones have over the Ruckie.
Now lets talk about the scooters themselves! Stylistically, the clones come very close to the original: a square-shaped battery box, dual headlights w/ protective grills and front rack, an open-frame design that ditches all the extra plastic to expose the tubular steel frame. Some cosmetic dissimilarities are that the clone tends to use chrome on a lot of accessories/peripherals (handlebars, controls, gauges), instead of black on the Ruckus. This is a matter of preference, honestly I love the color black, but chrome is a close second.
Functionality! These clones perform right alongside the genuine Ruckus: good acceleration, top speed around 35-40mph. This scooter uses the very common GY6 engine. The GY6 configuration was pioneered by Honda in the 1980s, and has been used on just about every scooter - Honda or otherwise - since then. Its a little different from what the genuine Ruckus uses today, but as far as performance and reliability goes, its right there with it. We do upgrade the batteries and carburetors when we assemble these units. From experience, we've found that the bikes run much better, and more consistently, with the install of our high-quality, upgraded components.
Oh, we can TOTALLY get parts for these engines, and any part on the bike. We get that question a lot, and the stigma of "you just can't get parts for those things" is simply false. Check out www.idcusa.net - this is our parts distributor, and they have all the parts. They're located in South Carolina, so shipping time is not too shabby.
Features! So the last little details would be in the features. There are some pretty modest features that the Ruckus clone incorporates, which are actually better then the genuine Ruckus. For one, the clones have a rear rack. I know that doesn't sound groundbreaking, but as far as practicality goes, its pretty clutch. Our scooters come with a pod-style cargo carrier, which we can install by request. You could also go old school and strap a milk crate to that sucker.
Probably more important than the rear rack, are the tires and brakes. Our Ruckus clones use a hydraulic disc brake up front, while the genuine Ruckus uses drum brakes front and rear. I wouldn't say the drum brakes are unsatisfactory... but this hydraulic disc will definitely stop you much better than drum brakes. Beyond that, these clones do lack the trademark nobby tires featured on the Ruckus. They are replaced with a 12" street tire, which in all honestly will perform better on the road, which is where I expect you'll be riding 90% of the time. Yes, if you care for the brief foray into a packed dirt trail, the Ruckus' hybrid tires would do better. You could always swap the street tires out for all-terrains if you wanted, but I think most would be happy with the stock tires - we'll think about replacements in a few thousand miles.
For you technical junkies, here's a listing of all the nitty gritty product specs, for your information:
So thats the jist! I hope that's explained it for ya, now you know what to expect. You can always purchase a Ruckus clone right through our website. Or, give us a call to set up a test ride, and we'd be happy to set you up. Happy riding Rucksters!
As far as New England winters go, this one hasn't been the worst for anybody - generally milder temperatures in the early season, with only a couple good dumps of snow so far means we may not be too far from some enjoyable early spring ridin time. Add a couple days with temps in the 50's, and I know we'll have a whole slew of eager scooter beavers just itching to get out for a ride. As you're layering up and preppin to get out on the road, here are some considerations specific to riding in Portsmouth, NH - including some particularly tricky moped-spots - that you might want to keep in mind.
The Bartlett Street Railroad Overpass
This little bend on Bartlett Street in Portsmouth's West End is deceptively tricky. For one, its located just off the corner of Islington and Bartlett, so you can expect moderate to heavy traffic most times of day. Beyond that, the railroad overpass presents some unique hazards. The railroad trestle provides shade over a pretty significant curve in the road. Add the drippage and melt coming from the banks and trestle, and you have a wet portion of road that gets very little sun. This means you can find ice here, when other parts of the road are dry, or just water. Before you bank into this turn, look ahead to check for water - there's a good chance its actually black ice. Tight turn + black ice = high probability of eating pavement. Finally, travel in either direction can stop short pretty quickly - the bend and overpass can make for a blind spot, so take it slow and make sure you've got plenty of space between you and the next car.
The Islington Street Corridor
Islington Street is a main vein of travel and commerce in Portsmouth's West End. Home to a variety of automotive service shops, auto parts stores, industrial supply houses, breweries, cafes, banks, and more, you can expect this street to be busy most times of the year. This time of year, the potholes are terrible! I bottomed the front forks out on this Maxi hitting a pretty good one - at the very least this can be jarring and distracting, at worst it bungs up your front end, you lose control, and pull a Superman over your bars. Best bet is to leave plenty of space between you and the next car, so you can see these potholes and avoid them far ahead of time. Beyond that there can be a good amount of construction on this street, which means lots of loose sand and gravel. Look at all that junk the trolley is kicking up! That'll get in your eyes which is uncomfortable at least, and a safety hazard no doubt.
Market Square and Downtown Portsmouth Proper
Ah, the beautiful downtown Portsmouth. Yes, this little city is build for mopeds and scooters for sure. Easy parking, narrow roads, lovely sights. Absolutely do not hesitate to go for a ride through town, but do know this can be just as dangerous as anywhere, despite slow moving traffic. Your biggest threat: human beings. Tourists and locals alike (ok mostly the tourists) will take their life into their hands (without even knowing it) by pushing the limits of their rights as pedestrians. Particularly, the folks who aren't familiar with the downtown layout will hop into a crosswalk with little notice. Worse, some pedestrians like to cross where there isnt a crosswalk at all! It only takes a split second for a pedestrian to pop out from between some parked cars and BAM they're in the middle of the road. What do to? Drive slow and stay constantly alert. These wackos will pull bipedal maneuvers you've never even heard of, so you've got to be ready to react accordingly. On a moped, with a wider stance from the pedals, I'll get up into the "jockey" position so I can see further ahead down the road, and make myself more visible.
Other than that, here are some general tips for riding in the late winter/early spring
- Gear up, layer up - it might feel warm on a 50* day in the sun, but once you get moving it may be colder than you expect. A good jacket, gloves, and eye protection are critical to keep your control hands operating nicely, and keeping your eyes tear-free.
- Look out for ice, snow, and water - with all the melting going on, there's going to be more slick-road hazards then in the summer. Stay alert and take turns slowly.
- Pre-ride- Start that scooter up and give it a few minutes to warm up. With cooler overnight temperatures, your engine oil will thicken up a bit so it may take that much longer to get the oil to proper viscosity to lubricate your engine effectively.
- Post-ride After your ride, keep a hose or spray-bottle handy to rinse the salt and grit and grime of your scooter - this stuff is caustic and not only does it look nasty, but it will corrode components on your bike, causing premature wear.
- The biker wave - You're riding down Islington and see another motorbike coming towards you in the opposing lane. Your on a bike in February. He's on a bike in February. You're killin it. He's killin it. What better to commemorate this moment of awesomeness by extending the biker wave? Lowering your left hand, open to the oncoming rider, to the left lower side of your machine. As cool as this can be, extending a biker-only greeting to an exclusive group of motorized badasses, it can be distracting and potentially unsafe. As a rule, I tend to keep both my hands on the bars at all times, unless I'm signaling. This move, if made quickly or unexpectedly, an draw your hands away from your controls, leaving you unprepared for a sudden "Oh crap" moment. If a biker extends this greeting to you, and you wish not to diss them, try an overexaggerated head nod, perhaps in conjunction with a frowny-face nose-flared badass face (see below). Your gesture will be well received, while maintaining complete control over your ride. Hell yea.
Honda runs the game. End of story. Whether you're talking motorcycles, powersports, lawn equipment, or cars, Honda has established itself as the front-runner in reliability, performance, and quality throughout the industries. Since its humble beginnings in the late 1940s, Honda has become the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer, and a leader in manufacture of engines and automobiles worldwide. The success of this company is owed not only to the brilliant engineering and superior quality of its products, but also its understanding of the market and the impact this has on product design and advertising.
Take, for example, the Honda C70 Passport. This 70cc, 3 speed semi-automatic machine broke ground in the states in the early 60s. Honda exported these bikes on a huge scale worldwide, and accompanied the machines with the marketing campaign "You meet the nicest people on a Honda"
These friendly little machines appealed to a new demographic of potential motorcyclists. At the time, your stereotypical "biker" was thought of a crusty, macho-man in a black leather jacket, raising hell while riding from bar to bar on a Harley Davidson or Indian motorcycle. While that sounds like some kinda good time to me, the stigma associated with bikers kept potential young and casual riders away from purchasing a motorcycle. The Passport featured an easily operated semi-automatic transmission, a full leg shield to protect riders from debris, and a number of covers and fairings that hid just about every mechanical part or system from the rider. These novice-friendly features, along with an incredibly effective marketing campaign, and the best-in-industry reliability and performance, made the Passport an incredibly popular vehicle domestically and worldwide - ultimately becoming the best-selling motorcycle of all time. Honda produced its 60-millionth "Super Cub" in 2008.
Whats this got to do with the Ruckus? Well, Honda pulled a similar feat with the release of the Ruckus scooter in 2003 - a new addition to join the Metropolitan in Honda's modern 49cc scooter offerings. While their marketing approach may have been less pronounced, the design and styling of the Ruckus went a long way to grow the popularity of that machine. In the early 2000s, mopeds and scooters still carried, quite strongly, a stigma associated with being marginalized, diminutive, and even "girly". This leftover sentiment from the 80s and 90s is all too familiar to a modern scooterist - having insults and perhaps even frozen beverages hurled at them from passing traffic, just for scooting around on the road.
In the US, the Honda Ruckus entered the market and changed the way the public looked at scooters. The Ruckus looked like no other scooter before it - it lacked the fairings common on many scooters, giving it an edgy, more mechanical aesthetic. The scooter-sized tires feature knobby, deep tread that look more aggressive, and allow riders for short runs in rough terrain. The dual headlights and protective wire mesh go even further to solidify the "cool factor" of the Ruckus. All of these features made it so that anybody - frat bros, retired dads, high school kiddos, and the rest - not only felt comfortable having their friends see them on the scooter, but actually felt cool! In our little seacoast town of Portsmouth, NH, we've seen an incredible boost in the amount of Ruckuses on the road, and coming through the shop for service, and we have a feeling they'll be continuing with solid sales success for years to come.
Why so much talk about a scooter that we don't even carry? I guess we're just huge fans of Honda motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters. You can take it from me - if you've got the budget, there is no better option for your modern scooterist than a Honda machine. Port City Mopeds does carry a wide variety of new and use scooters - from used Honda Ruckuses and Metropolitans, to restored Tomos Sprint mopeds, to no-name brand Chinese scooters. We love em all and they all have their place in today's moped/scooter market. Check out our stock at www.portcitypeds.com/shop
New Tomos mopeds have been all but exctinct in the USA in the 2010s. Tomos, a Slovenian moped manufacturer, had been producing its industry standard moped line at its original facility in Koper, Slovenia, since the 1950s until 2013. In 2013 Tomos USA, the American importer of Tomos mopeds, informed its dealers that Tomos Slovenia would be moving its production facility to Turkey - only months later to announce it had reversed this move and would be moving production back to Slovenia! The decision to change production facilities - likely an effort to reduce production costs to remain competitive with cheaper Chinese scooters - was a controversial and potentially fatal blow to the US's supply of Tomos mopeds. The "hiccup" in production during this transitional phase likely caused Tomos Slovenia to halt exports to the US - a relatively small market compared to Europe and Asia - until it had a chance to regroup and return to full production. In the meantime, American dealers and consumers have been anxiously waiting for the return of their favored moped brand.
Port City Mopeds - Portsmouth, New Hampshire's dealer for Tomos USA - is pleased to announce it will be working to release a limited edition production run of modern Tomos mopeds in the Spring of 2016. Port City Mopeds, a dedicated repair and service center for vintage and contemporary mopeds, is making efforts to work with the Tomos mopeds to have input on styling, standard equipment, and pricing. The latest plans have had a focus on compatibility with aftermarket and performance parts, along with powdercoated components with vibrant color options.
Port City Mopeds anticipates the production run will consist of less than 10 mopeds, and plans to have them available for sale by Spring 2016. Pricing is expected to be "on par" with MSRP rates of the latest 2013 imports. Keep an eye on the Moped Times, and Port City Mopeds' sales page for more information on this exciting release.
It's mid-March, the snow is (slowly) starting to melt, and in Portsmouth, NH, us New Englanders are being graced with the occasional sunny day where it's marginally warm enough to ride. Heck ya! Needless to say, the warm(ish) weather is being felt by everyone... motorist or not. Moped riding extremists are starting to tear their rides out of the snowbanks to "enjoy" the balmy 40°F temps, the casual riders are starting to think about a spring tune-up, and the would-be scooterists are starting to say, "Hmm... I'd really like to buy a scooter for this summer." Very reasonable behavior on all counts, if you ask me.
We here at Port City Mopeds are starting to feel the buzz too! The phone calls are starting to ring in, we're getting our own rides back up to spec, and we're starting to plan the spring and summer seasons. Clicking around on the internet, trying to stock up on parts inventory, I came across some content at www.MotorScooterShopper.com that is pretty relevant for this time of year: people are thinking about buying scooters, and the go-to resource for many will be a quick Google search, which will certainly turn the prospective buyer onto a slew of imported Chinese options that can be drop-shipped to their doorstep. Many buyers will be turned on by the fact that, in many cases, a brand new Chinese scooter can be had for $800 or so... "What could possibly go wrong?! It's brand new, shiney, and red!" Well, there is more to it than that, and MotorScooterShopper.com does a good job explaining some things to consider when buying a Chinese scooter.
Now, I'm always a fan of websites that look like they got built in the mid-90s. I also respect that, despite being in the age of always-bite-sized digital content, websites like Motor Scooter Shopper will still feature thorough, thoughtful content that is almost guaranteed TL;DR for most readers, but is laid out and made available to anyone trying to do their due dillegence researching a purchase. This informative content includes tips on what to expect in a Chinese scooter, how to make the "best" decision possible buying one online, and some discussions on some stigmas associated with Chinese scoots, and whether or not those associations are warranted. If you are thinking of buying a Chinese scooter, give their website a solid read. If not, I'm going to summarize some of their, and our, key points here.
-Chinese scooters are very cheap, and it is for a reason: Simply put, if you are expecting superior quality and a ride that you could very well own for the rest of your life, we strongly suggest you buy a trusted name brand product like Honda, Tomos, Yamaha, Vespa, Piaggio, etc... You can be guaranteed those units will be "perfect" from day 1, and will be backed up with a substantial warranty in the event of failure. The initial purchase price of a Chinese scooter ($600-$1500 for a brand new unit) is very attractive, as the units are brand new, look pristine, and do give a "How bad can it possibly be?" feeling. But they're cheap for a reason... stuff WILL happen, problems WILL arise, and the scooter will probably not last forever. Don't expect a flawless relationship with your Chinese scooter. However, if you can maintain the scoot for yourself, or have a shop that will maintain it for you and some amount of a maintenance budget, most minor "hiccups" can be resolved quickly and easily, allowing you to get years of enjoyment and use out of a Chinese scoot.
-If its not a name brand (Honda, Yamaha, Vespa, etc), the particular brand name is all that important: Most Chinese scooters are "knockoffs" of designs pioneered and developed by the big-hitters at Honda and Vespa. Their designs, tried and true, will be replicated in China (or elsewhere), using inferior quality products, materials, and production techniques, to make a "clone" scooter that is just not quite the same as the real deal. These products are "rebadged" to give them some personality. Brands like Motofino put an "Italian" feel on the scoot, harkening thoughts of Vespa/Piaggio, but check the serial number/ID tag - the scoot was made in China despite the romantic sounding name. Other brands, like Red Streak, Tao Tao, Big Chief, etc... are largely the same scooter with slightly different plastic fairings and styling. Yes, some brands will be slightly higher quality than others, but the differences are marginal... if you're in the market for a knockoff in the first place, don't get too hung up on WHICH knockoff to buy.
-Chinese scooters can be viable modes of transportation for a reasonable lifetime: some of the stigmas associated with Chinese scoots are that 1. Nobody will work on them; 2. You cannot get parts for them; 3. There is no warranty or support.
These can be true in places, but around here, some can be debunked. 1. Scooters and mopeds are abundant enough these days that many motorbike shops WILL work on them. Port City Mopeds, of course, will service just about anything, modern, antique, Chinese, euro, moped, scooter, whatever. So don't use that excuse if you live near Port City Mopeds; 2. Scooters have been in the states long enough that businesses and industry has been developed specifically around sourcing these components! Port City Mopeds has pretty great access to most parts for most Chinese scooters. The bonus is that, since most of these scooters are pretty much the same, there is a LOT of parts interchangeability, which can make finding parts even easier! 3. Finally, most brands do offer some form of warranty, albeit limited. If you keep a close eye on your machine and take advantage of warranty you do have in place, the company will most likely support you. Port City Mopeds offers their own warranty on new and used mopeds, so you don't even have to worry about dealing with the company who made the scooter - just your friends at PCP.
-It largely comes down to how the scooter is assembled, operated, and maintained: We do get a lot of Chinese scooters in for repair for some pretty bad, even catastrophic mechanical failures. Many times it's not even worth repairing the scooter. But, to be objective, you cannot chalk these failures off soley to the fact that the scooter was made in China. Many scooters are delivered directly to the end-user, which means they assemble it with what little tools they have in their garage or driveway. This means that, right off the bat, your scooter was not assembled by professionals and, as diminutive and "simple", as a scooter can be, there's a good chance you didn't do something right (sorry to be blunt!). Next, the scoot gets put on the road. There is a break-in period on ANY vehicle that is brand new, and should be respected according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you ride it like you stole it from day 1 and expect great performance, that's just not a very fair standard! Finally, maintenance is key! You really can't blame a scooter for failing when the first time you have it serviced is at 3,000 miles... again, just not fair! Not only does the routine maintenance (air filters, oil changes, spark plugs, etc.), need to happen, but bringing a scooter in regularly will also ensure that a professional will be putting a close eye on your scooter on a regular basis. Stuff you may miss (exhaust shaking loose, cables stretching too much, handlebars/front forks getting a little sloppy, low tire pressure) will be picked up on and remedied BEFORE it becomes a problem. If these problems, although minor, are left unchecked, they will become big, potentially chronic problems, very quickly.
I don't mean to write this as an article encouraging anyone to go out and buy a Chinese scooter - certainly not! If you want perfect, reliable performance, your first option should always be a new unit from a trusted name brand. Next, we would suggest a used machine, like one of our refurbished vintage mopeds... these are hands down way cooler in the first place. If your budget is really forcing you to investigate Chinese scooters as an option, just take some time to do some research, and have a little "you" time: reflect on what you are getting into, what you can expect, how you can be prepared, and if its the right decision to make. Port City Mopeds will always be here to support you, and is happy to advise when it's time to make that decision!
Mopeds and scooters have been in the news lately around Portsmouth, NH - specifically the downtown area. The moped and scooter population has been booming over the past few years - I remember back in 2007, if you were riding a scooter in Portsmouth, and saw another scooterist, you'd pull over and high five because there were so few other scooterists on the road:
"Woah! You have one of these things too!? Isn't it awesome?? Yea, I know!"
Flash forward to 2014, and scooters/mopeds have been on a steady increase in the Seacoast area - everyone knows someone who owns a Honda Ruckus to get to the beach and back, or a Puch Maxi to commute to and from work. They are a fun, practical, and economical means of transportation, and the masses are starting to catch on. I generally consider this to be a good thing. However, the abundance of mopeds in the downtown area is starting to take its toll. As a rule of thumb (look up the actual regulations), mopeds and scooters are allowed to park in essentially the same fashion as a bicycle - they can be parked at bike racks, on sidewalks, behind dumpsters, etc., so long as they are not in designated "NO PARKING" areas, and they do not hinder the passage of vehicular or pedestrian traffic. Pretty sweet policy if you ask me. That's why I think its important that all scooterists and mopedders are considerate when parking downtown.
In a town that is already plagued by car parking issues, the amount of scooters parked on sidewalks, and other areas, is starting to have its effect. In Scooter Surge: Increased Ridership Raises Parking Concerns in the Portsmouth Herald, the co-owner of Poco's restaraunt complains that scooters are parking in a designated "NO PARKING" area in front of his dumpsters. I found the "jist" of his quotes pretty fair - he is even a supporter of mopeds/scooters downtown - his only concern is that if his kitchen guys can't throw away the trash because the dumpster is blocked by scooters, he has a problem. Pretty fair!
In this more recent article, titled Scooters on Sidewalks a New Portsmouth Problem, a local taxi cab operator complains that his taxi stand is blocked by scooters on the sidewalks - making it difficult for his fares to board his cab... they'd either need to manuever through a row of scooters, or walk into the street. Certainly less than ideal from a cab operator's perspective.
I am happy to see that these "problems" are mostly localized to very specific areas downtown, and can and have been mitigated on a situational basis instead of blanket policy change. The latter of the two articles implies that the situation at Pocos has been mostly resolved by the issuing of new signage to delineate the dumpster area as a "NO PARKING" area. That's great! Now I think that if we are all considerate and concious when parking our scooters downtown, we can help maintain a solid flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and the "Laissez-faire" parking policy that we have all come to know and love. So next time you park your scoot, just do a quick 360 and check for the obvious, and not so obvious, ways that you could be impeding someone else's progress. OK!
Thanks for checking out the first posting of "The Moped Times"! This is a new feature we've decided to add to discuss all things moped and scooter in the greater Portsmouth, NH area - check in frequently for posts regarding new mopeds for sale, moped-related current events, shop happenings, cool builds, unique parts, repair tips and techniques, and general geeky reading.
Here's the first new news! We just got a basic sign printed at Black Sheep Design in Portsmouth - super convenient, as they are our neighbors at our Portsmouth location. Didn't know we had a Portsmouth location? That's because our HQ has been at PC'P Durham since roughly 2008. This spring, we moved a branch of the operation to Portsmouth - collaborating with the Port City Makerspace, we are able to squeeze in some shop space and are now fully outfitted for sales, service, repairs, and rentals in our hometown! Heck yea! Juggling two shops can be a little tricky, but we're handling it. We'll fly our new sign in front of whichever shop we're working at for the day. Call ahead if you need to track us down!
Thanks for reading, folks! See you on the next one.