Tuesday, March 13, 2007

When Owning a Chinese Scooter isn't so Bad

Let me preface this by saying I have nothing against Chinese scooters if they're brands like TN'G or Schwinn. Actually both are the same scooters with different badges but that's another story. TN'G has been making scooters for decades overseas and has entered the US market with a fairly decent support line. Unfortunately unless the trend of sales remains strong they too may fade away. I hope they stick around because from what I've seen locally dealer support is pretty darn good for this particular Chinese company.

What companies like TN'G offer is an inexpensive scooter which fits a small niche of people just getting their feet wet. Unfortunately there are many [used car] lots selling Chinese brands I've never heard of, even in this college town of St. Cloud. These lesser known companies have gained a sales network of people willing to make a quick buck and it bodes poorly for those of us who are scooterists first and foremost. When a no name brand comes along for a season or two of spiking gas prices the money is made on the sale. Once sales decrease the no name scooter brands fade away, leaving buyers with machines needing only slight maintenance from sitting quietly through a winter, without anyone to turn to. People who would have been avid scooterists are left with regrets and a sour taste against the sport in general.

But what if you're a new scooterist? What if you've never ridden a motorized two wheeler before?

You might be one of the millions who plunked down anywhere from an unbelievable 700 dollars to under two grand for the better models. The bikes have done what you asked. You're learning to ride and you're have a blast in the breeze and sunshine.

The day of truth arrives. The day you discover if you're a rider or someone just testing the waters.

You have your first spill. It could be a slide, or something as simple as what my dad did just two days ago. He started the bike for the first time after a long winter without riding. He managed a simple newbie mistake and the bike rolled away from him. He tried to grab it but by standing on the wrong side and not keeping a hand on the brake the little 50cc "scooted" away from him and went over on its side. Damage was a cracked upper legshield along with a turn signal bracket snapped off. In the accident he tripped and fell but no injuries. Just a little pride and a (thankfully) gentle reminder that these things need to be taken seriously. I don't think he even suffered a bruise that's how light this little tip over was.

My dad has no intention of giving up. He loves to ride. As I mentioned in an earlier post he now has the new Genuine Buddy. He wisely intended to run in the older TN'G to get himself back in the groove before getting on the new scooter. After his little mishap he checked the 50cc out as well as he could and even took it for a little spin. Seems there's nothing wrong with the bike other than a chipped plastic legshield and a snapped turn signal bracket.

To me the TN'G runs exactly as I remember it last season. But it suffered a little cosmetic... individuality. My dad made some fairly common new rider mistakes. He assumed a few things and now knows not to. But I have to tell you he's thankful it happened on the little 50cc rather than his brand new Genuine Buddy 125. Mechanically the TN'G is no worse for the wear. Neither is my dad.

I can't imagine how upset he would have been with himself had it happened on his cherished ruby red Buddy. I'm just glad the little low speed scooter was the bike to remind him to always think about every detail of what he's intending to do when it involves two wheels. He's set in his ways and there's no changing his patterns from the son to father perspective. Sometimes he just does things his way and learns on the uptake. I wish it didn't have to be this way but its his choice. In that respect an inexpensive Chinese scooter was the better of the two he owns upon which the lesson was to be learned.

The Roadbum


CodyandMichelle said...

Hey Harv,
We had a Chinese scoot(our first two wheeler) for 3 weeks. Then we tried a Vespa, it was all over for the other scoot. There really is no comparison IMHO. Michelle wouldn't even ride the other scoot after a couple of times. They just feel cheap. Vespa owners for the most part are a different, but loyal breed. Plastic bikes are for those who want cheap transportation and don't mind owning a throw away bike. Vespas are for those of us who love the history, the metal, dependability, and of course ,the always important ride!
WASPs for life!

American Scooterist Blog said...

Cody, personally I totally agree. But sometimes we have to let others live with their own decisions. My dad is a little guy. The Genuine Buddy fits him well and my LX150 is past his limit. The TN'G fit a need and all he wanted to spend at the time. Not something I can change. Frankly I think the price and qwuality of the Chinese imports (overall) will do more to hurt the prospective scooterist market than anything so I agree with you.

Harv aka The Roadbum

CodyandMichelle said...

Harv, from what I've heard and seen of the Buddy, it is a nice looking and reliable scoot(for Plastic) As long as your Dad is happy, that's what matters most! As many members as we have on MV, I'm sure you realize that Vespa owners are but a small niche of the scooter market. We are as outnumbered by Chinese scoots as we are by Chinese. Which makes us unique and somewhat obsessive about our rides!
I'm not quite sure I agree(gasp!) with you about "hurting the prospective scooterist market" In what way(s) do you feel that? I think it'll only serve to seperate further wanna be scoots from real scoots. And i don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. Again, you are either a Vespa enthusiast or just another quasi scooterist.One lives to ride, the other , usually because of social economical reasons has to ride(a scoot)
Thats just my 2 cents and thats probably just what my opinion matters to the masses.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Its in the way way low price of the sub par Chinese scooters often dumped on our ports give a deflated value of what a scooter, any scooter ought to cost. People have a wrong sense or don't want to pay for quality because they see a price gap that is large enough to influence their spending habits. If all they saw was good quality stuff out there, they'd more likely buy those instead and be long time scooterists after a season or two. Its what happens to the majority of people who purchase quality over price. They're still into whatever they bought because not only does the product last, but the service and support is there too. It hurts the market because people who buy cheap junk like to talk about what a great deal they got. Almost to the point of bragging from what I hear time to time. But once the thing they bought so cheap breaks down, its not that they made an error in judgement, oh no. Its every single model of that product that's garbage. Negativity spreads like the flu leaving people considering scooters wondering if its worth the hassle. Good people back away from the sport because of rumors about low quality products.
Honestly I don't like the misconstrued concept of wannabe's etc. Loyalty is fine for you and me as far as it goes, but we should obligate ourselves to letting those we run into ride whatever they choose and keep our mouths shut about their choices. They have the right to make them just as we do. Brands might allude to what or through how much use people put on product brand X but owning brand X doesn't automatically put people in a certain category. To me the biggest wannabes of all look the part so perfectly its only when involvement in the activity proves them to be all show instead of go that most people will see the difference. In other words, wannabes buy a condescending attitude towards other brands when they buy The Brand they think is so special. Is it because, like HD and Supersized SUV's it makes them feel superior to who they really are?

I've had a Harley for a long time. That bike carried us on our honeymoon to Sturgis in '96. I saw all the people with the bikes in trucks, trailer, and even motorhomes carrying what should have been on the road, on the back of something else. The rally is now about the show. It used to be about the ride. There was more in that solidarity than just sharing the commonality of owning the same brand as everyone else. That was then. Things are different today. For one thing there's no point in that kind of solidarity because not one current scooter I know of is made in the States. No American factory loses jobs because I bought a Vespa instead of an Aprilia. Maybe if I bought a Honda? They make some of their bikes in the States, don't they?

I like Vespa for my own reasons but I really do not care what anyone else thinks of my decisions.

To me first and foremost is the ride. Every chance I get.


CodyandMichelle said...

I was until recently, president of an all type scooters SC. The only involvement was from the few Vespa owners. I had it with the apathy of the other members and ended the group.
For reasons like that I guess I've become somewhat of a Vespa snob. I am very new to two wheelers, but due to the comradery I see on sites like MV, and the afore mentioned SC, I have, I guess, become prejudice towards plastic scoots.
I, again, don't totally agree with you on that people buying a scoot because it's cheap and then don't get into riding because of it's a peice of crap, mentality. Whenever I buy or get into something , I most always look for quality. The Chinese scoot was the exception. But i quickly remedied that!
Of course i totally agree with you when you say first and foremost it's the ride, but again I'm guilty of my ego getting the best of me, you said on my blog your a minimalist, I'm just the opposite, as much as I love the ride, I also like to be noticed, thus, all the bling. You're a more humble guy than me Harv. It's one of the many reasons I respect you! My ego get's the best of me sometimes, also, Michelle say's I'm too opinionated( kind of obvious) I'll let it go at that.
You're totally cool Harv, this is probably one of the few times I'm not on the same channel as you, but it's more like you're on ESPN and I'm on ESPN2, not so far off.
Peace brother!

American Scooterist Blog said...

Cody I gotta tell you that you holding your ground and leaving room for differing opinions makes me respect you greatly.
I'm like you. I recognized early on that you either buy quality or you end up buying the same thing twice. My dad, well, he's never thought that way. Its bitten him so many times I can't recall them all. In this case its not so much that he wouldn't like to have a Vespa, even a vintage model, but his arthritis and height preclude him from owning just about anything in the brand without major modifications. The TN'G was comfortable for him and it fit a need. Namely his cheapness haha. When he finally realized he should be on something a little bigger I started the hunt as for him as usual. To give you an example, he wanted to start bicycling. Bought himself the cheapest crap I'd ever seen offered in this day and age as a new product. I told him it was a mistake and he was going to regret it. Only a day and a half later he's in my driveway with the "bicycle" (I have a hard time even calling it that) and was asking me to take him to find something of quality. He'd given in. It may have been that day, it may have been a day or two later but I finally convinced him he would only enjoy riding a quality bike therefore it was worth every penny to buy the best he could afford which fit him. The smile on his face as he rides his Bianchi Milano is as much proof as I need. In the two years he's owned that bike this now near 71 year old man puts anywhere from five to twelve miles on per day.

The next scooter which actually fit him comfortably turned out to be the Genuine Buddy. Although its plastic its got real features and its well made. I'm surprised at the attention to detail because I see this thing in my garage every day, parked between the GL and the LX. Sure its plastic but Vespas are halfway there too. Its got real shocks and they work by god, they really do. Dual piston caliper front brake is not soemthing the LX has either. Or the phone jack, the loud clacking turn signals (whatta godsend those are now when I look in the rearviews), the four way flashers, LED tail light, and perfectly functioning gas guage. If Genuine ever decided to turn the Buddy into a two model line, as in this small frame and create the same model as a large frame, it would pull a LOT of sales. Remarkable how well this machine is thought out.
I love the Vespa for what it is. I always will. In general though I think its the people who choose to ride scooters who interest me the most. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I tend to assume all scooterists have come to the same conclusion I have, that while they're called modern scooters, they are truly the most thought out well designed motorcycles the industry has ever produced. At least I like to think people see it that way...


Bryce said...

I disagree with Cody about non-Vespa scooters being only quasi-scooterists. In my own scooter club, the few members with vintage Vespas are hardly involved at all. There are only two automatic Vespas that show up to ride or organize events. The rest of the club is comprised of Stellas and Bajajs (and one PX150) making roughly 40-50% of the club, with plastic, automatic scooters making up the rest of our active members.

I like the new Vespas, they are very well made and very nice, but I don't buy into the hype. They aren't the only legit scooters, and the new ones have very little in common with the old ones other than the badge.