Moving from a Scooter to a Motorcycle

There’s no denying scooters are great fun, but move to a motorcycle and there can be a whole different set of advantages. Our simple guide to help you move from small wheels and automatic CVT gear to big wheels and motorcycle power.

The first thing you’ll notice when you get on a motorcycle after riding a scooter is simply how different it is to get on. There’s no stepping through; you have to swing your leg up and over. This can influence the style of motorcycle you can ride. Big trail, off-road, adventure and enduro motorcycles may look cool and be able to have take me anywhere attitude, but if you don’t have long legs you’ll struggle to get on one – and even if you can get on, you’ll not feel comfortable if you can’t get a least one foot flat on the ground.

Luckily, many motorcycle manufacturers offer lowering kits and lowered seats which can help shorter riders gain access to a wider range of machines and not just off-road styled motorcycles. Another point to consider is that motorcycles frequently have narrower seats than scooters, which in turn makes it easier to get feet flat on the ground as your legs aren’t spread as wide.
Where you put your feet when riding will depend on the style of the motorcycle you choose to ride. While many scooters offer a feet-forward position, only cruiser-style motorcycles allow this. Roadsters and touring motorcycles will move your feet back to put you in a more upright position; a sportsbike will bring your feet back and up into a position not too dissimilar that of a horse racing jockey, or a youngster riding a scooter with his feet on the pillion’s footpegs.

Try sitting on a few different models at your local dealer and you’ll soon get an idea of which position you’ll be most comfortable with. Just bear in mind that on a sportsbike when you’re stationary you’ll be taking a lot of weight on your wrists, but once you get moving, especially at speed, the wind blast to your upper body will lessen the load through your shoulders, arms and wrists.

Once you’ve got yourself sat on a motorcycle and your hands are on the handlebar, the only familiar controls are the front brake and the accelerator. On a scooter, the left handlebar lever is for the rear brake – on a motorcycle that swaps its role to become the clutch lever. So what about the rear brake? Well on a motorcycle that’s now under your right foot – and on the other side of the motorcycle you’ve got a gear lever, which, just to confuse you even further, normally has a ‘one-down’ and then ‘four-’ or ‘five-up’ shift pattern. Push the lever down to engage first and then get your toes underneath and push it back up, going through neutral to get second, third, etc. Oh and you have to do that while co-ordinating pulling-in and releasing the clutch lever and balancing the engine speed via the throttle.

Unlike automatic scooters, you generally don’t need to pull the brake lever in to star the motorcycle, so there’s one less thing to think about. The only other considerations you’ll have when starting a motorcycle are if it’s an older machine, it could well have a choke lever and a petcock. Older machines didn’t have fuel gauges and instead had a petcock that goes through ‘off,’ ‘on’ and ‘reserve’. The process goes something like: get on the motorcycle, turn petcock on, ride around, when motorcycle starts spluttering you’re running low on fuel, so you flick the petcock to reserve and start looking for a petrol station.

If the motorcycle’s got a choke or quick-idle lever this needs to be in the ‘on’ position when you start the motorcycle, in order to get extra fuel to the engine. Once the engine note settles down to a steady ‘thrum’, push the lever back and go on your way.

One of the most obvious differences you’ll notice when you sit on a motorcycle for the first time after riding a scooter is the weight and how the motorcycle carries it. Unless you’ve been riding a large capacity scooter, the motorcycle you’re on will almost certainly be heavier – a lot heavier. However, it’s not something to worry about too much as once you get moving it becomes a lot less noticeable. There is a proviso here though. When riding slowly you’ll notice the weight difference.

What becomes apparent when slow riding is that the motorcycle’s center of gravity will be higher than the average scooter. Motorcyclists then go and exaggerate the problem by putting luggage on the motorcycle. Whereas with most scooters you can put a reasonable sized bag in the space under the seat or place a larger bag behind the legshields on the floor of the scooter, this simply isn’t an option on a motorcycle. This is the reason you’ll often see motorcycles with large hard cases mounted behind the pillion seat. While it may be a secure way of carrying all manner of things, it can take some getting used to having a lot of weight so high up.

You’ll also need to take into account how it can potentially effect the motorcycle’s steering. Put a really heavy load there and it can begin to lighten the front of the motorcycle, a situation that will be exaggerated even more if you carry a pillion. Fear not though, there is a simple solution. Motorcycle manufacturers are aware of what riders get up to and most machines have easily adjusted rear suspension; either a ring on the shock(s), or a remote that allows the user to preload the suspension, effectively increasing the force needed to move the shock, which helps return the motorcycle to its regular geometry when fully loaded.

The other factor that changes the weight distribution of a motorcycle compared to a scooter is the petrol. You can’t fail to have noticed that on motorcycles the fuel tank is right in front of you, between your legs. A motorcycle with a full fuel tank handles differently to one that’s running low on fuel – like riding with varying loads of luggage it’s something you’ll need to get used to, especially as petrol will slosh around in the fuel tank and this can impact on the way the motorcycle behaves too.

One final consideration about the motorcycle’s weight is how it behaves when you stop. Whereas a scooter carries a lot of its weight either centrally or towards the rear, a motorcycle has most of its weight in front of the rider – which means when you brake hard, the front suspension begins to dive, un-weighting the rear wheel. The effects of this are that the front tire deforms and increases its contact patch for greater braking power and at the same time the rear brake becomes less effective as the wheel un-weights and starts to lift away from the ground slightly.

Too much rear brake while pulling hard on the front brake and the rear wheel will quickly lock-up and start to skid. Also unlike many scooters, motorcycles do not have linked brakes.

Much of what I’m going to talk about handling differences between scooters and motorcycles are important if you’re going to safely move from a scooter to a motorcycle.

The most visually obvious difference between the two types of machines is the size of the wheels, closely followed by how the overall weight is being carried. Let’s start with the wheel size and what that means. Large wheels exert a higher gyroscopic force. In simple terms this means a geat force is needed to initiate a change of direction. In reality, this simply means that most motorcycles turn into corners a bit slower than scooters. Where this is most noticeable is when riding slowly, typically around town, where you’ll find filtering through dense traffic less easy – not impossible, but noticeable.

On the other hand there’s a benefit to the use of larger wheels and that’s what happens when you ride over rough surfaces. Whereas small scooter wheels are at risk of dropping into potholes nd the potential danger that entails, the large diameter motorcycle wheels will simply roll over smaller potholes. That ability to roll over obstacles is why off-road motorcycles have either 19 o 21 inch front wheels compared to the standard size of 17 inch on road-focused machines.

If you’ve rear through this and decided that you want to make the move from an scooter to a motorcycle, the final factor to consider is one of cost. There’s no getting away from the fact that a motorcycle will cost you more than a scooter – not just to buy, but to run too. Don’t let that put you off though; the speed and acceleration of a motorcycle can become addictive, but if you de decide to make the change, get some training. All those differences you’ve read about can be easily dealt with if you simply invest in additional riding training...Tag: Scooter Motorcycle Handling Maxi-Scooter Traffic CVT Automatic Gear
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