Making scooters attractive for bike-riders also

It is not a secret that I dislike scooters. It is for me the antagonist when it comes to two-wheelers, because, well, scooters are eating into bike space a tad bit too much in recent times.

Scooters are, in my opinion, for people who are lazy to shift gears themselves. They are slow, relatively under-powered, and do not offer any driving thrills like bikes do. However, I do see the prospect of them as my wisdom precedes me.

The relative ease of getting in and out rather than throwing a leg over the seat means women prefer it, like they do with cycles that are designed the same way. The packaging means there is space for keeping a few things under the seat and, most importantly, they have super comfortable seats, which allow people to go in triples, by the way.

But as a petrol head, I seek a soul from a machine. It is not like only costly vehicles have the capacity to provide thrills. Cheap commuter bikes can be relatively fun at normal speeds and anybody who has tried 150cc bikes would know what I mean.

The reason for the soul to go missing in a scooter is because of the power unit. The small engine along with a CVT or a continuously variable transmission in plain English, means there is no power when you need it.

Initial acceleration is the plus-point of the CVT but the downside is that there is nothing else. Plus the engine groans easily, goes out of puff and returns pathetic mileage.

I have been thinking as to why manufacturers do not go the extra mile and put proper, sophisticated technology into scooters since they are selling in the bucket loads. The first thing I would change is the transmission. Many manufacturers seek the easy way out by plonking in a CVT in their machines. However, I think they must look into mating the engine with a dual clutch transmission (DCT) that will save more weight and result in better fuel efficiency.

What’s more, the DCT will also help manufacturers make the scooter genuinely sporty to ride rather than just pitch a normal scooter as one. This would make it a good marketing exercise which would then help bikes too. Who said bikes should not have automatics? I certainly like that prospect because with increasing traffic in Chennai, I live there by the way, elderly people who stopped riding bikes because of the sheer pain in shifting gears, would be happily back to throwing their leg over.

The next thing would be to reduce weight and imporve quality. I get it that vehicles like scooters are cheap city runabouts. But we do pay a lot of cash for them and certainly some flair would not go wrong. Giving soft touch plastics instead of knuckle busting ones would be welcome. Also, things like giving a removable torch, a socket to ‘fast’ charge one’s mobile, suede lining for the cubby space so that the things kept inside don’t rattle around like a spoon in an empty lunch box. There can also be a false floor to keep valuables. Surely, it can be created.

Now, I know that manufacturers and buyers would throw their hands up in the air shouting that all this would take costs up. But, really? I know for sure that one maker whose name starts with a ‘H’ and ends with an ‘A’ shifts about two lakh units of just one model of its scooter range. If that is the case, how would costs rise? It would, of course if the manufacturers want to keep their profit margins as high as possible.

For a long time, scooters have been plasticky and cheap and style-free modes of transport. But if we implement it in the way I have just said, it would not be dreary and if it becomes a quality proposition, even a thick-head like me, who loathes scooters, would buy it.

Look at it this way. Eating a salad that you know will be bitter but good for health is a pain. But when you wrap it in bread, it becomes the perfect breakfast. What do you say?

NT Bureau