Since we've been having these warm winter days, I'm really looking forward to getting to ride more regularly this spring. Rally season begins this month (typically for me, it starts with the WKRP scooter rally in Cincinnati thrown by the Ten Year Lates SC) and there's a lot to do to get ready. It's oil-change time, tow vehicle check-up time, and emotional preparation time.
Yes, yes... that's right—I said emotional preparation. What most motorcycle riders really don't understand is the level of abuse that we have to endure as scooterists. Just the amount of pointing and laughing from people in cars is enough to make you want to knock off a few side mirrors as you ride by. To make matters worse, try hanging out mainly with motorcyclists. Now, I love to ride around with people that have all different types of bikes, but I don't know if my motorcycle buddies are aware of the mistreatment I receive for riding a scooter.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen testosterone-filled guys come up to my husband and say, "That's a badass bike, man. What year is it? How fast will it go?" It's getting to the point where I just roll my eyes and turn my back on these people, not because they're interested in his motorcycle (a vintage Yamaha RD350), but because I know exactly what's coming next. When they turn towards my bike, first I get the snicker, then comes the "That's a funny little moped you've got there." Sometimes they go ahead and laugh outright. I stand there, like a poindexter, pushing up my glasses and start to feel a bit defensive. Occasionally I take the opportunity to remind them that since my bike doesn't have pedals, it's not a moped. If I'm feeling particularly sassy, I'll also say, "It's a Lambretta scooter that will go about 75 mph and it's not only 10 years older than his bike but it's also infinitely cooler, to people with any sort of taste."
Okay, so I fudge the numbers a little. And whether it's cooler or not is up for debate. (Of course, you can guess onto which side of that argument I fall.) And I sound a bit rude. I don't mean to be, but it seems that people don't think twice about being insulting towards scooterists. Cars have practically fallen all over themselves to get in front of me in tight traffic, often coming really close as they try to squeeze in between me and the car ahead, only to be easily passed by me once traffic flows normally. Do these people expect that my top speed is 25 mph? No idea! I might not have quite as much get up and go as my friends with motorcycles. (Okay, they leave me in the dust a bit on take off.) Working through that slight feeling of embarrassment as the kid in the car next to me points and his mom laughs is just something you get used to. It's all a part of the frickin' territory.
In addition to always having to be as cautious as everyone else out there on two wheels, on top of the abuse we get from all those cagers—as if that wasn't enough—I often end up taking a bit of it from some motorcyclists as well. It's far beyond us not getting "the wave" from other riders. No, believe it or not, some motorcycle riders consider us a bit of a joke as well. One day, a guy pulled up beside me and revved his engine like he wanted to race, then did two wheelies and sped off at about 90 mph. I'm left there, thinking to myself, "Seriously, did that just happen?"
Well, why do you keep riding a scooter then? Is it worth it? Despite all the negative press we get, scooters really are super fun, much more fun that you would imagine! It's somewhat difficult to put into words, but it's a pure, breezy, carefree ride. There's something deep down in your soul that gives you a love for scootering. There are quite a few motorcyclists who realize how great scooters are; many veteran bikers often recognize the unique vintage styling of Lambrettas and Vespas. I sometimes hear really great stories from older people who stop me at the gas station and tell me about the scooters they used to ride back in the 1960s.
So, we scooterists do have to be willing to absorb a bit more abuse than your average motorcycle rider, but to keep riding a scooter in the face of it all takes a certain attitude. The next time you start laughing at some guy riding one of those sissy Stella scooters down the street, think twice... he might actually be quite a bit more of a badass than you'd expect.
Melanie DiClaudio is a mad scientist working at UT, who has been actively involved in the regional scooter scene for about two years but has had a love of scootering since first spotting a Vespa at age 16.