What I Did On My Summer Vacation – 2008 Part Quatre

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Scooters In Paris … Vespas are a rare site – Maxis. high speed, high HP – that sounds like more than a 250cc – Apart from bad weather and the whole crush-space thing, they make a whole lot of sense –

As you would imagine, scooters are a widely used for of transportation in France. You see them in the countryside, and in small towns and around colleges, but where they are most plentiful is in larger, urban areas. As just a rough guess, I would say that about 10 to 15 percent of the vehicles on the roads of Paris are scooters of one sort or another.

Being small and maneuverable, they work well in the city\’s heavy traffic and hard-to-find parking spots, and since gas is the equivalent of $9.80 a gallon, using something that gets 70 miles per gallon seems like a smart move.

The first thing that I noticed on the scooter front as the lack of Vespa. The brand that pretty much defined what a scooter was is noticeably absent from the streets of Paris. In the whole time I was there, I saw only two Vespas. One seemed to be new-ish and fairly well maintained, and the other looked to be from the 60s and about ready to burst into flames, just sitting silently at the curb.

Although Parisians are nightmarishly fashion conscious, they\’re not that over the top. A new Vespa, here in the states, goes for around seven thousand dollars, God knows what it goes for in Europe. That\’s a lot of bread to be dropping on a scooter (Hell, for that price I bet you could find two 1st-gen Miatas in decent shape).

For considerably less than that, you can get a more modern scoot of the Japanese variety. Has all the benefits of a Vespa (minus the style) for probably 1200 Euros or some such. These make up the bulk of the scooter population, but coming in close second is what is referred to as a Maxi scooter.

Maxi scooters were first designed by Honda, with its ground breaking Helix model. It had a bunch of novel features (a wheelbase longer than a Harley\’s offering a smooth ride, a trunk, etc.) but its two most notable ones were size and power. Dwarfing the available scooters of the day, Honda\’s Helix was about the size and weight of a small motorcycle, and it featured a Huge (for a scooter) 250cc engine.

Since then, the Helix has been used as a jumping off point for making even bigger maxi scooters. You see the current Honda maxis all over Paris, but you also see maxis from other companies as well, such as Yamaha and Piagio and Peugeot. Yes, that would be the same Peugeot that makes cars.

All maxis seem to have the same distinguishing characteristics: Big, plastic, high tech dashes, seating for two (but only rarely used that way), quieter than you\’d expect, and also, much faster than you\’d expect.

I\’m not sure what the biggest ones are using for mills, but they sure as Hell sound a lot bigger than the 250cc\’s that Maxis have around here. Perhaps things are different in Europe, perhaps Honda and Yamaha and Peugeot are putting in 300s and 350s, because the big ones sound like it, and they certainly are accelerating like they have at least motorcycle levels of grunt. Curiously though, I never saw anything but two full sized motorcycles on the French version of freeways, so I can only assume they are used in town or on the back roads.

So I could see how using a big scooter cold be a reasonable answer. They\’re cheaper then the auto equivalent in every way – cost of entry, maintenance, running costs, etc. – so why, if you had budget and space limitations, would you not think about running one of these?

I mean, apart from bad weather and the whole crush-space thing, they make a whole lot of sense –

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