#19: The Fastest 50cc Scooter
January 10, 2010
Today’s question for Dr. Buzz and his panel of experts comes from Charlie M. in Florida:
I am interested in purchasing a 50 cc scooter. In Florida I will not need to get a license. I plan on using it within a five-mile radius. I would like to know the fastest stock (new or used) 50cc scooter. (I’d prefer some storage space if possible, but that’s not a priority.)
Dr. Buzz: That’s actually a really good question, nothing really springs to mind as “the fastest 50cc scooter,” and I have a good idea why, but first, let’s go to the panel and throw out some ideas (and we’d love to hear readers’ suggestions in the comments). My guess, without looking at any specs, would be an Aprila SR50, just because it costs twice as much as any other 50cc (aside from remarkably pokey metal-bodiedVespa 50s), but now that I look, it’s not particularly fast.
Havelock VanDerHook No, the SR50 isn’t all that fast. The fastest unrestricted 50cc scooter is probably the Derbi GP1 or older liquid cooled Kymco Super 9 with the rear disc brake.
Matmet Frietjes The Kymco People 50 is pretty fast too.
Havelock VanDerHook Some are a bit faster, some aren’t. It’s hard to tell which ones are ok. Their speedometers are really optimistic, too (“Piaggio Optimistic”) so you can’t trust anyone’s untested opinion. For sure, most current models are dogs. They’re very dumbed-down for emissions, so it takes replacement parts to get back to speed.
Dr. Buzz: Right, which solves the mystery of why we’re hard pressed to name any standout 50cc scooters: They’re all pretty slow, and engineered purposefully to be nearly equally slow. Manufactuers must comply with an ever-more-restrictive global collection of limitations on speed, horsepower and emissions, meaning most 50cc bike manufactuers restrict their bikes to produce a fraction of the power of which they’re capable. And as technology improves, they’re still getting slower. So you may want to track down a fin-de-millenium model, before everyone started underengineering so much. Sadly, there’s a lot more to it than that, some models have been criminally slow since they were introduced.
In most cases, derestricting your 50 changes the game. Derestriction is generally illegal, but a subtle, inexpensive, and reliable way to get more power out of many 50cc bikes. I’m famously an honest, law-abiding guy, but even I have my limits of doogoodery, and if I ever found myself stuck with a 50cc scooter, I’d derestrict it in the parking lot of the scooter shop before I rode it home. (These skills are also handy at go-kart tracks in Wisconsin Dells)
You specify you want to stay stock, but it’s always worth noting that there are many stages of modification, of varying levels of expense, complexity, reliability, and legality. Even if you have no interest in a flashy, screaming bike, there are things you could do–for not much money–that will give you an modest but undetectable (to the authorities) boost. That said, whatever the 50cc speed limit is in your area, you’ll want to be careful to stay under it under normal circumstances. The Denver scheme (snapping the “2” off your “250” badge) never ends well.
Havelock VanDerHook Also, just to be clear, you do need a driver’s license in Florida. Just not a special motorcycle or scooter endorsement (so says your DMV). So despite what the guy at the bar told you, a 50cc scooter won’t solve your DUI problems.
Dr. Buzz Why must you assume all 2strokebuzz readers are drunks?
Havelock VanDerHook Are they not?
Dr. Buzz OK, fair enough, but I’d like to think most of them have the common sense to not ride or drive drunk. And that brings me to the last point:
Whatever the law in your area, professional training, a motorcycle endorsement, a helmet and safe riding gear is still important, even if it’s not mandatory. Insurance is mandatory everywhere*. And don’t forget you’re not any safer on a 50cc than any other bike, in fact you’re less safe. The minivan bearing down on you in the rain doesn’t care about your paperwork, it’s your responsibility to become a safe and skilled rider!
Do you have a question for our so-called experts? Email Dr. Buzz! Your confidentiality is guaranteed.
Note: Dr. Buzz is an unlicensed, mostly-fictional doctor. Take his advice, and that of his team of experts, with a grain of salt.
*OK, just about everywhere, see comments, but like training and safety gear, it’s always a good idea.