Apr 4 2007

A Scooter Nerd’s Top 10

While zipping around town on this beautiful spring day, I noticed that nearly all of the cars were occupied by exactly one person. Why, I wondered, isn’t everyone roaring about on a motorscooter like me? A scooter gets great gas mileage, is a hoot to ride, and I haven’t died on mine even once.

Perhaps, I thought, they don’t know what gear will make the scooter a truly effective replacement for their cars. I’m a programmer, so I had to deal with problems like “How do I carry my 17″ laptop?” For nerds who are considering the move, here is how I roll:

  1. Piaggio BV250 This is the same scooter the NYC police ride. It gets 60 miles to the gallon and has a top speed of just over 80 mph. Because it has large 16″ wheels, the bike feels stable at those speeds. It also has an automotive power outlet, so you can charge your cellphone as you drive.
    I bought mine from a guy who had decided he wanted a Harley instead — he was clearly compensating for something.
  2. Givi E450 Top Case This case is big enough to hold a 17″ MacBook Pro. It will require a mounting kit that depends upon the scooter to which you are attaching it. While you are coding in the coffee shop, the case will hold your helmet. (There is room for a second helmet, but you should tell your significant other to get their own damn scooter.)
  3. MacCase Jacket While the 17″ laptop will go into the Givi case, a bulky laptop bag will not. Solution? A really simple bag.
  4. Cup Holder It works best to use your own tumbler with a closed lid. If you don’t have your own mug, to prevent from getting wet feet when the coffee sloshes I’ve done a couple things: close a piece of wax paper inside the lid (most shops have these for the danishes), or Starbucks has stickers that they use to label the bags of coffee beans. Ask for a sticker and put it over the hole in the lid. This works great, but don’t drink through the lid after you take the sticker off–some of the gummy stuff stays on the lid.
  5. Little thermometer/clock/compass Many scooters don’t have a clock, and few have thermometers or compasses. It is good to have an easy answer to questions like: “Am I late?”, “Why am I so cold?”, and “Where am I going?” Using velcro tape, you can stick it to your dash.
  6. Magnet The magnetic sensor in the road will often fail to notice your scooter, and you can sit a long time at a red light. If you mount a magnet on the underbelly of your ride and roll slowly across the sensor (you will notice the grooves in the pavement), it will feel your presence most of the time.
  7. Gloves These gloves have a squeegee on the thumb so that you can clear your face shield on misty mornings. They’re waterproof with Thinsulate lining
  8. 5.11 Tactical Pants My jeans tend to bunch up in the crotch on my scooter, and, in the timeless words of Morris Day, “Rollo likes his freedom.”? I’ve found two solutions: Go commando, or wear commando pants. These pants are durable and comfortable. And they have a dozen pockets.
  9. Armored Hoody Corazzo makes a breathable, waterproof jacket that looks really nice and has rubber armor around the elbows and shoulders. (The armor also makes a skinny guy like me look a little ripped. Sweet!)
  10. Steve Jobs T-shirt OK, this isn’t really about scooters, but I thought you might be wondering where I got the shirt.

The cowboy hat is part of my persona, but I really wear a helmet on the scooter because I don’t want to die. You, however, should not wear a helmet. See, if our species is ever going to evolve to withstand the brutal acceleration/deceleration that interstellar travel is going to require, we are going to have to start breeding out some of the delicateness. I think we should start by stress-testing your genes. Also, please stop wearing your seatbelt when you are in a car.

The last word in what to carry in your ride comes from Mr. Day:
“Morris, do you always keep lingerie in your glove compartment?”
“Well, none of my women wear gloves.”

Ride on.


  1. Stephan Cleaves

    Funny and informative. Thanks for sharing Aaron. I thought about a scooter last year as my wife and I share a car and she works at the local university. This leaves me stranded on weekdays other than Tuesday (when I take her to work and have the car for grocery shopping). For the most part this isn’t a problem since I work from home, but sometimes you just want to get out of the house. The snow falling outside right now illustrates the problem with scooter usage in New Hampshire. I’d be lucky to get 6 months a year out of it. Still I haven’t given up on the idea.

    Given the speeds your scooter is capable of did you have to pass a motorcycle driving test to use it?


  2. Administrator

    In Georgia, you do have to pass a motorcycle driving test to drive a scooter with an engine larger than 50cc. Don’t worry — it is an easy test made easier by the automatic transmission on the scooter.

  3. Phil Aaronson

    I took the liberty of adjusting your opening paragraph to suit my own thoughts …

    While zipping around town on this beautiful spring day, I noticed that nearly all of the cars were occupied by exactly one person. Why, I wondered, isn’t everyone riding about on a bicycle like me? A bike gets great mileage, is a hoot to ride, and I haven’t died on mine even once.

    There we go, much better. I can go pretty damn far on a big slice of pie, believe me.

  4. Jonathan Wight

    “My jeans tend to bunch up in the crotch” not what you expect to be reading in a Cocoa-geek’s blog…

  5. Gordon

    You’re quite tall, right? You find this Scooter is big enough for a tall guy? (Asking as another of above-average height.)

  6. Jeff

    Real men who are programmers and ride scooters would never be caught carrying a MacBook Pro around without a respectable laptop bag. Checkout http://www.beachtownbags.com for a good selection.

  7. Administrator

    At 6’5″, I am tall. I find the scooter very comfortable.

  8. Bruce Johnson

    What is your daily commute in miles?

    • Kanuth

      I love the blue!This is the coolest thing I have ever seen. LOL Honestly! I used to have an old scoohl scooter and this makes it look “old” for sure. LOL

  9. Administrator

    My daily commute? From my house to my palatial office on the 15th floor of Big Nerd Ranch Plaza, Tower 2? About 5 miles, but I work from home many days.

  10. Jose Vazquez

    I like the fact that the store that sells the compass, also has an option for Texas Hold’em Poker.
    What about the corazzo hoddie ad. Do they suggest decorating you scooter with a pink afghan to compensate for all the added manliness that their jackets induce?
    Thanks for the post, it has been the funniest, informative and thought provoking I’ve seen in a while

  11. Wayne

    Great article! I commute 60 miles per day on my R1200RT and I often have the same thought as I pass mile after mile of full-sized SUV with lone driver aboard. My wife rides a Piaggio X9 and I have done my commute on it a couple of times. It’s great for around town (San Francisco), but I feel more comfortable on my bike at CA freeway speeds.

    Here is another (potentially safer) solution for the bunching-jeans problem: http://www.gussetclothing.com . I have several pairs of these and they work great even for longer touring rides.


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  13. Dana Kashubeck

    I love this — such a fabulous idea! What do you do when it snows? Can I fit my toddlers in the top case? The one-year-old is quite small and I’m sure I could have her hold my MacBook Pro. I’m just not so sure about the two-year-old.

    Even if I can’t get them in there, I can start toughening up the kids by not putting them in those bulky car seats. Those things are such a pain! It will be nice to just throw the kids in the care somewhere and go. Plus, there will be more room in the back seat for groceries, etc. And I’ll be doing my part for the future of the human race.

  14. Martin Scholtyssek

    Hi Aaron!
    Just read your article on the Piaggio Scooter. Great. Just reading was great fun. Nevertheless, I won’t sell my Aprilia Tuono. I got a backpack, that is even great enough for my 15″ PowerBook (MacBook Pro soon maybe). Hope to meet you in SF for the WWDC this year.
    Best Wishes
    Martin (Stefanies Boyfriend)

  15. Noah Gift

    This reminds me a lot of a song by Jay-Z. In the case though it would be “Big Nerding”.

  16. ScooterDude

    Hi, Just for the record, the traffic light sensors buried in the road are not really magnetic per se, they’re more like an upside-down metal detector and most scooters just don’t have enough mass to trigger them because the folks who install and maintain them have them set to only detect the mass of an automobile so they don’t get triggered accidentally. Or, in other words, it’s an urban myth that adding a magnet to the bottom of your scooter will trigger them. In actual fact, it won’t really do much unless the magnet is so big it increases your scooter’s “mass.” A really big Harley or Gold Wing will probably trigger them, as might an older all-metal Vespa, but most of today’s scooters are invisible to them.

  17. Rev Randy Sausage

    This is a great article! Did you have any issues installing the top case?

    I am looking to buy the E450 and have a BV 250 I’m going to stick it on.

    How long did it take to install it and where did you buy it?

  18. Hamish

    I ride a pushbike 16km (around 10 miles) to work in Melbourne. I have a Vaude backpack and its fits my MacBook 13″ no problems (I “upgraded” from a 15″ PowerBook which I sold to my sister).

    But its just above freezing most mornings at present… so I have some long pants from http://www.probikekit.com

  19. FFFish

    At 80kmh, you’re going to really, *really* regret not wearinig crash gear. Your jeans, t, and any ordinary jacket (including dress leather) will shred down to your skin within the first six feet of sliding (and you likely will be sliding). And the utter lack of shock absorption in your clothing is going to result in massively damaged “pointy” bits (elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles).

    If you’re not going to wear full-on gear, you might as well leave off the helmet, because you’re simply not going to want to live through the pain and suffering.

  20. Steve

    Thanks for sharing that Aaron! I too wonder why more people don’t ride scooters. Even though it wet and cold in Canberra, Australia right now, I ride every single day. Coming up on 10 months and nearly 10,000km on my Piaggio X9 Evolution 250cc, black ( what else? ;-) ) I love my scooter to bits. I’ve even done a few weekend touring trips. I’m about to fit a Top Case. I am lashing out on the genuine Piaggio article. It is expensive. But it looks so damned good I just had to do it! It’ll come in handy for the big touring ride I’m doing next week. 600+km each way.

    The only downside of scooter riding is car drivers often just don’t see us. I was rear-ended a few weeks ago. I was sent skyward while my poor X9 was rudely knocked to the ground. Luckily I received just bruises (those kevlar armored jackets REALLY WORK! ) and the X9 was only slightly broken.

    But as you say, I’m still alive, so it’s all good! I look forward to each and every ride on my fantastic machine. Fun, economical and good for the environment. A little more dangerous, yea, but the feeling of total freedom is overwhelming.

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  22. James Trammell

    Maybe we can coax Morris out of retirement to write “The Scoot.”

    “My name’s not Grace!”

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  25. Gas Scooter Guy

    good observation…it’s true most people drive solo, so why don’t more people buy scooters! Imagine how much we could reduce pollution if everyone drove one.

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