When deciding on the best scooter for you, size is a major consideration. Just like our fair-haired heroine, you want a scooter that’s not too big and not too small, but juuust riiiiight.
How big should your scooter be? Well, how big are you? While riders and scooters do not necessarily need to be matched proportionately, you do have to be both comfortable and safe while riding.
Let’s talk about why seat height is important, how size affects visibility, and essential factors to consider when deciding how big or small your dream scooter should be.
Comfort and Safety While Riding
One of the most important criteria when deciding on scooter size is rider height. When sitting on your scooter, you should be able to put at least one foot flat on the ground. This enables you to balance the scooter safely when you come to a stop.
The length of your leg, height of the scooter, and thickness of the scooter seat will determine whether or not this happens easily. Ideally, you don’t want to be forced to balance your scooter on one tiptoe – or slide off the seat to reach the ground each time you come to a red light.
Of course, the opposite end of the height spectrum applies as well. I simply adore the Genuine Buddy scooter. I’ve been craving a pink one with a white seat and matching trunk for years. I finally got to sit on one, and my heart sank.
At six feet tall with a 36” inseam, my knees were buried in the handlebars – and that was after sliding way back on the seat! I was physically unable to ride it because of my height.
One of my fellow scooterists, affectionately known as “Tiny,” is very small. She rides a Venice scooter, which allows her to comfortably reach the ground while riding. She also has a vintage small-frame Vespa Primavera scooter (in bubblegum pink… ahhhh…) that fits her perfectly.
Visibility on the Road
To some degree, scooter size also affects visibility on the road – your ability to see and be seen. Smaller scooters are closer to the ground so they’re potentially less visible. This can be easily remedied, however, by increasing your visibility with color, illumination and reflection.
Giving Yourself a Few More Inches
Lots of folks have custom seats made to give them a few more inches of ground access. Seats can be “cut down” to remove a couple of inches of height. The cover is removed and the foam padding inside trimmed so it’s thinner. Then the cover is put back on.
When I got my Genuine Stella scooter, the previous owner was a foot shorter than me and had the seat cut down to ride more comfortably. I didn’t realize this until I sat on my friend’s Stella, and noticed not only the extra height, but the cushiness of the seat!
After sitting on that Stella’s stock seat, my custom seat felt like riding on a two-by-four wood plank. Since I don’t need the extra height, I’ve been planning to install a cushier seat that’s kinder to my behind.
Scooter Size and Passengers
One additional point to keep in mind when considering scooter size is whether or not you’ll be carrying passengers in the future. If you’re new to scooting, I don’t recommend carrying passengers for a while. I’d give it at least a year of steady scooting before adding another person to the mix.
Passengers add a whole new dimension to riding, adding distraction and changing your scooter’s maneuverability and handling. There are too many variables to worry about when you’re new to the road, so you should feel very confident on two wheels before carrying someone else along for the ride.
But if you think you might want to be able to carry friends in the future, choose a scooter that can accommodate two people. You will need extra length to comfortably share your seat, and the right amount of engine power to handle the additional weight.
Scooters that have enough power to handle riding two-up usually have seats to accommodate both people, as well as fold-out passenger footrests. Some scooters also have “buddy seats.” Some vintage Vespas and the new “revival” Vespa LXV and GTV models have two separate seats – one for the rider and one for the passenger.
Give it the “Sit Test”
When choosing your scooter, give it the “sit test” to be sure you can reach the ground comfortably. With the engine off, try backing it up and pushing it around. Put it up on its center stand and take it back down.
You’ll get better at maneuvering with practice, but your first impression gives you a good idea if you’ve found the right size scooter for you.
Super advice, as always, Kristen. So many people make the mistake of buying a scooter or motorcycle that doesn’t fit them well. Whether for looks or a particular performance parameter, if you’re uncomfortable on the bike, it won’t matter how good looking it is or how good the brakes are.
I’d like to add one thing to the stellar advice you’ve already given. Once you’ve done your “sit test” to make sure you can reach the ground comfortably and don’t have your knees stuck in the handlebars, I highly recommend doing a super sit test! Put the scooter up on its center stand and park your arse on it for a good 15-20 minutes in a real riding position. Are your feet too high? Too low? Is there too much pressure on your tail bone? Is the seat still comfortable?
I ran into this issue on the Genuine Blur I bought in 2008. Although a simply brilliant scooter, it turned out to be really uncomfortable for me to ride after about 30 minutes. I could touch the ground just fine, and the seat was padded very nicely. The trouble was that as tall as I am, my feet were too high relative to my butt. So all my weight rested on my tailbone. It doesn’t matter cushy the seat is when you’re riding like that.
That’s a super idea, Nathaniel! All the joy is sapped from riding when you’re uncomfortable. I’d suggest heading down to the dealership, buying the most recent issue of Scoot magazine, and having a seat on your potential scooter for half an hour! 🙂
I may have to reconsider the Big Ruckus or at least give it a thorough sitting on, since the riding position is similar to the Blur.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Big Ruckus, if you can find one. At some point I want to do a tuner project — just ruin a perfectly good scooter by over-modding or even swapping the engine and just make a little monster out of it. Can’t decide if I want to go with a little Ruckus, or a Sachs MadAss.
During a ride last year, we met three guys in the parking lot of Dairy Queen who were riding these tricked out tiny scooters – a little Ruckus and two Metropolitans, if I remember correctly. They were kitted and had pipes and were all loud and the best part was one of the fellows was at least 300 pounds, and he was riding this tiny scooter. They said it was their favorite hobby – taking this little 50cc scooters and tuning the heck out of them. Sounds like a fun project!