moped

Why Honda nailed it, yet again, with the Ruckus

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.portsmouthmopeds.com/shop

Tomos Comeback?

The Tomos Sprint - favored for its classic moped styling - was Tomos USA's base model and standard offering until imports ceased in 2013

The Tomos Sprint - favored for its classic moped styling - was Tomos USA's base model and standard offering until imports ceased in 2013

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.

The Tomos Standard XL 25 is part of Tomos Slovenia's diverse product line, and still available for sale in Europe

The Tomos Standard XL 25 is part of Tomos Slovenia's diverse product line, and still available for sale in Europe


Chinese Scooters and Mopeds - Some Interesting Reading!

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!