Finding a spot for a small bike in a big world

Question: How do scooters under 50 cc fit into the world? About two years ago, I was about to purchase a Honda Ruckus for local trips under five miles, but I couldn't get a clear answer from the Honda dealer on how it should be licensed and where I could ride it. Further, campus cops couldn't decide if it had to be parked with motorcycles or bicycles. Are mopeds handled differently than scooters? What about those skateboard things with two-stroke motors?-- Peter LaBarba, Long Beach

Answer: I think there's a lot of confusion about how to treat motor vehicles under 250 cc, just generally. Mopeds are different from scooters. The distinctions are the pedals, horsepower, speed and displacement -- i.e., a moped has pedals, is less than 2 horsepower, reaches no more than 30 mph and is under 50 cc, so it's a "motorized bicycle," which is a 406(a) classification according to the California Vehicle Code.

The Honda Ruckus is 50 cc and a scooter, which is considered a "motor-driven cycle," per California Vehicle Code 405. (That other bike you described would be considered a "motorized scooter," as defined by CVC 407.5.)

To operate the 50-cc Ruckus, you need an M1 driver's license. You also need to register it with the Department of Motor Vehicles, and you have to carry insurance on the bike. I don't believe you could ride it in the bicycle lane, because it doesn't have pedals. You definitely cannot ride it on a sidewalk.

For parking, you should be able to do so anywhere a motorcycle can park because it's a form of motorcycle -- in a regular car space, in motorcycle parking. As for parking it with the bicycles, that probably isn't legal, but you might be able to get away with it depending on where it is. If you're at a college, you may want to check campus policies about that because bicycle parking is going to be a lot easier to find than other parking on a campus and colleges may provide for that.ƒzStopping backfire

Q: I own a 2005 Kawasaki Vulcan 750. Why does it backfire at various times during a ride? What can I do to stop this?-- Ricky Williams, San Antonio

A: Sounds like you might have a dirty carburetor. The jets may be clogged, stopping the fuel from getting through and causing it to backfire. The best thing to do is take your bike to whatever mechanic you use and have it cleaned. ƒzMoving up from a scooter

Q: I've ridden scooters, but I'm considering stepping up to a motorcycle. As a woman, not wanting to be butch on a crotch rocket, where should I start? Which cycles can you recommend for the newbie who wants to retain some sexy, feminine image while she rides?-- Julie Armstrong, Marina del Rey

A: In my experience, any woman who rides who doesn't look overtly hetero is going to have at least a few people guessing that she's gay. Part of that has to do with the fact that we're straddling a big machine, which to some people seems masculine rather than empowering. And if you're a woman who comes across as masculine, then people are going to think you play for the home team.

As for what cycles to avoid, I'd say any bike that looks too large for your body type is going to make you look more macho. It has less to do with the style of the motorcycle -- cruiser, sportbike, tourer, etc. -- than how you fit the bike. Because you've identified yourself as a newbie with some scooter experience, you could probably make the jump to a motorcycle on a Buell Blast, which is a smallish 500 cc with a low, 27.5-inch seat and upright seating position, like the scooters you're used to.

Another thought: How you dress is also a big part of how you're perceived. It's very difficult to look feminine on a bike because your hair gets smooshed, your makeup gets smeared and you have to wear a bunch of heavy gear. Unfortunately, sexy protective gear is not an easy thing to find. ƒzWhat's next for BMW?

Q: After reading your review on the BMW F800S and doing some Googling, I've learned that the F650GS will be discontinued next year. Do you have any idea what BMW is going to replace the 650 with? Will there be an F800GS? -- Robert H. Bruce, San Jose, Costa Rica

A: You're correct. 2007 is the last year of the F650GS. What's replacing it is that line of new G650s -- the supermoto street bike, the cross-country dual sport and the enduro models. I haven't heard anything about an F800GS, and my guess is that BMW wouldn't be doing that just because of these three other 650s.

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