Then there are the rest of us. We are not motorcycle guys. We are cool guys, no doubt. Some of us have even managed to attract hot wives and reproduce. But for whatever reason, we never got into motorcycles. So we drive cars. We’re car guys. This article is for the car guys.
Almost every car guy has had this thought, whether he admits it or not. He is stopped in traffic on his way to work, trapped like Peter at the beginning of Office Space. Old ladies with walkers are passing him left and right. There is nothing on the radio except bad news. Nothing to do but stare at the bumper ahead.
Out of nowhere a scooter blows by like it’s the Roadrunner and you’re, well, not even Wile E. Coyote, because he moves. You’re like a discarded Acme rocket box by the side of the road.
And at that moment, the question crosses your mind.
Should I buy a scooter?
Then the pro-con list happens.
Pro: I could pass all of this traffic on a scooter
Con: Yeah, but I would be on a scooter
Pro: Don’t those things get like 70 miles per gallon?
Con: Can those things even go on the freeway?
Pro: I’d be out in the sun with the wind on my body
Con: What will hot men‘ class=’linkify’ target=’_blank’>women in Jeeps think?
Pro: I bet it would be fun to ride
Con: If I get hit by another vehicle I’m toast
Pro: A lot of oversexed European men ride scooters
Con: A lot of oversexed European men ride scooters
Traffic moves and you get to work and you forget about it.
Not me. I’ve had these thoughts too many times to discount them. I live in Los Angeles, which means I sit in traffic. A lot. And I think about scooters. A lot. I think about bypassing traffic and saving gas and living the dream of enjoying my commute to work.
Unlike your average car guy, I am a men’s lifestyle website editor, which means I have access to cars and motorcycles and even scooters. So I contacted Vespa. I asked the company to lend me a scooter for a week. After its reps got to know me well enough to conclude that I was not going to use whatever they lent me to reenact scenes from Jackass, they agreed.
“What is the piece about?” one of the company’s reps asked me.
I told them: Can you ride a scooter and still be a man?
I picked up a blue GTS 300 from Vespa of Sherman Oaks in Los Angeles. Vespa technical service representative Sean Needham gave me the lowdown on the bike. The GTS 300 is a bigger, faster scooter than most. Its single cylinder (278 CCs) four-stroke valve engine can get over 80 mph – a number I would later confirm. It gets 65-70 miles per gallon, weighs 326 pounds dry and costs $6,000. As scooters go, it’s a bad-ass.
To drive a scooter in California, you need a motorcycle license. I have mine.
Needham showed me how to start, ride and park the bike. Minutes later I was on my own, driving through Studio City to the Cahuenga Pass, then on through Hollywood to the Miracle Mile, where the Made Man office is located. As I would later tell someone, “It’s easy to ride. Once you’re moving, the bike WANTS to stay upright.”
I spent a week on that Vespa. I commuted to work. I rode it to the store on an adult beverage run. (Sober.) I showed my fiancee how to drive it. (Sorry, Vespa. I’m guessing that was against the rules. But you probably just added a customer. She loved it.) I took it on the freeway.
Over the course of one week I learned several things I think will interest any man who has ever thought about purchasing a scooter. For instance, at no point did a hot woman in a Jeep roll her eyes at me.
What I learned…
Scooters are more fun to drive than cars
I looked forward to my commute to and from the office. I enjoyed zipping by all of the suckers in their cars. I had the sun on my arms and it felt great. When I went back to commuting by car, I was bored.
Scooters invite you into your surroundings
You can smell all of the local restaurants on a scooter. You notice individual people on the street. You become, as Robert Pirsig pointed out in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a part of your environment.
It’s relatively easy to avoid danger on a scooter
I fully expected Los Angeles’ notoriously awful drivers to run me off the road. That didn’t happen. Not that some of them–and one disobedient dog–didn’t try. On my final commute to work, the following happened to me, providing all of the drama I would experience on the bike.
1.) A beagle ran out into traffic right in front of me. I knew no cars were behind me, so I stopped quickly while the owner ran into the street and collected his dog.
2.) One block later a car swerved into my lane a few feet ahead of me. I swerved out of the way quickly. (Maybe the beagle got loose again?) Being on a bike, with no radio and phone, leaves your focus solely on traffic. I had plenty of time to react.
3.) An SUV busted an unexpected U-turn and cut me off. I slowed down without incident. The crazy part? The beagle was driving! (No, it wasn’t. Beagles rarely make illegal U-turns.)
Scooters get great gas mileage
When I refilled the gas tank at the end of the week, it cost $4.81. I’ll type that again. I spend $4.81 on gas for the week.
Scooters can go faster than you think
On my way to return the scooter to Vespa of Sherman Oaks, I hopped on the freeway. This was my graduation ceremony. I pushed the GTS 300 to 80 mph in order to keep up with traffic. I wouldn’t drive all the way down to San Diego this way, but for a few miles it was easy.
OK, so that’s what riding a scooter is like, but this does not answer the question. Can you ride a scooter and still be a man?
It all depends on your definition of manhood, and where you fall on this says a lot about you. If you think a man is his appearance, his image, then no, you can’t ride a scooter and still be a man. Men on scooters look like dorks. There is no way around it. (OK, Angelina Jolie with her hands on your hips might be the one way around it.)
If your definition of manhood is not tied to your image, and is not related to caring what other people think about you, then it’s a different story. For these men, being a man means doing what makes you happy and forget everyone else.
Can you ride a scooter and still be a man?
How could you not?