If you are looking for a fun and affordable way to get to your destination, you may be thinking about buying a scooter. If that is the case, you are in for a real adventure. After all, scooters are both unbelievably cool and often easier to ride than their big brothers. Still, before you invest in a new machine, you may want to know who invented the scooter. You also may want to know a few other things about the history of the motorcycle scooter.
A Humble Beginning
You may be asking yourself, why were scooters invented?
In the aftermath of World War II, much of Europe was in ruins. While it was theoretically possible for drivers to get their hands on an automobile, cars were scarce. Even worse, highways, roads and bridges were often in bad shape. The scooter provided the solution. Cheap to make and simple to ride, scooters quickly became popular on European roadways. It was not long before the scooter phenomenon would take the rest of the world by storm.
The modern motorcycle scooter is firmly planted in humble beginnings. The best scooter models today trace their roots to an Italian company called Piaggio. Piaggio’s designers spent the decades between World War I and World War II developing a military-style scooter. The prototype, the Piaggio MP5, was a small motorcycle that supported the work of parachutists. While the MP5 did not make it far from the drawing room, it changed the way riders sat on their machines. That is, the MP5 featured an up-right sitting position that resulted in decreased rider fatigue.
Using the schematics of the prototype MP5, Piaggio quickly began to work on the Vespa. The second-generation effort would soon become interchangeable with the overarching term, scooter. In 1946, Piaggio’s executives ordered production of approximately 2,000 Vespas. It was with that initial order that the worldwide love affair with small motorcycles began.
If you have been in the motorcycle community for a while, you likely know that riders either love or hate scooters. Still, scooters today have wide-spread popularity. That was not always the case, though. At first, reaction to the initial batch of Vespas was decidedly mixed. Thankfully, Piaggio’s leaders did not let pocketed pessimism for the machine derail their objectives.
The answer to who invented the scooter is simple. For good reason, Piaggio gets most of the credit. The company surely deserves praise for making the scooter mainstream, though. While Piaggio limited its first run of Vespas to around 2,000 units, company executives quickly upscaled production. By the end of the 1940s, the company was making nearly 20,000 Vespas every year. In 1950, Piaggio found a German licensee to expand production. By the middle of the decade, more than 170,000 Vespas left factories bound for consumers in Europe.
To ensure the Vespa would continue to gain popularity around the globe, Piaggio’s leaders establish service centers in Europe, Asia and the Americas. This approach ensured scooter owners could get the parts they needed to properly maintain their machines. By 1953, more than 10,000 service points existed around the globe.
The service strategy paid off for both scooter manufacturers and owners. With wide-spread popularity came a certain sense of fashion. That is, individuals worldwide wanted to tap into the lifestyle that came with owning a scooter. In 1956, there were more than a million Vespas on roadways around the planet. By 1960, scooter clubs counted members in the tens of thousands.
The Emergence of New Scooters
Even though Vespas dominated the scooter market for decades, the popularity of scooters encouraged motorcycle manufactures and others to jump into the game. The Cushman Scooter company began production of a three-wheeled scooter that had an expansive storage box between its front wheels. While the Cushman scooter’s popularity was at its highest with the military, it found a place with riders who wanted extra utility.
The demand for larger, touring-style scooters quickly grew. With the invention of the maxi-scooter, riders got a bigger machine that was often more comfortable to ride. Even better, scooter fanatics quickly began to take advantage of larger engines that delivered a more powerful performance.
In 1986, Honda introduced its CN250 Helix, Fusion and Spazio scooters. Suzuki and Yamaha also released their own version of the maxi-scooter, creating machines with up to 839cc engines. As touring scooters became widely available, riders fell in love with the comfort and performance of new machines. Whether a rider wanted a small commuter or a larger machine for long-haul trips, the latter half of the 20th century saw manufacturers keep up with customer demands.
Gone are the days when scooters occupied only a small place in the riding community. Nowadays, mopeds and scooters allow riders to achieve virtually all riding goals. For scooters, the future is full of possibilities. In coming years, riders are likely to see increased automation of essential systems. They are also apt to take advantage of modern technologies that improve safety, enhance comfort and add to the thrill of the ride.
How popular are scooters? Anyone who pays attention to the history, design and performance of these machines knows they are here to stay. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine scooter manufacturers forgetting the past. While scooters were born in the post-war era, they have a unique place in popular culture and motorcycle lore. Those who look carefully at the latest models of motorcycle scooters are sure to see nods to the past. That is, modern scooters tend to have timeless fairings mixed with innovative designs.
As you can see, it does not matter much who invented the scooter. Put simply, your motorcycle scooter is a special piece of equipment with a long history of excellence. If you are fortunate enough to ride a scooter, you want to keep it in tip-top shape. While there are a variety of ways to take good care of your machine, investing in the best scooter tires, OEM parts, aftermarket accessories and riding gear is a good place to start.