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mopeds vs scooters

The History & Differences Between Scooters and Mopeds

What are the differences between scooters and mopeds?

Many people use the term “scooter” and “moped” interchangeably, but the two are not the same. What’ are the differences between scooters and mopeds? How did they both come to be? Which one is better? Do the differences really matter?

King of the HillWhat is a moped?

A moped is a motorized bicycle. It has an engine like a motorcycle, but can be propelled forward by a combination of either peddling and/or an engine.

At the dawn of the 20th century the bicycle was immensely popular. Viva la Industrial Revolution, baby! Rural agricultural life was changing: Millions flocked to the city. Back then a million was still a lot of people, because no one knew what was happening in China yet!

We had bicycles, sure, but we wanted to go faster, and we wanted to be lazy, and we really didn’t like hills. So after a few beers one person said “wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to peddle to ride?”. The replies came in. It was a unanimous “Yep”, and before long humanity mounted a steam powered motor into a bicycle, and the rest is history.

Today mopeds are considered peddle-assisted motorcycles, or LSMs (Low Speed Motorcycles). The top speeds of mopeds are roughly 30 mph or 50 km/hr, which makes them good for just about nothing by North American standards, but perfect for everything everywhere else in the world.

What is a scooter?

A scooter is a motorcycle with a step through design. A scooter has no pedals and is more akin to a motorcycle than it is to a moped. Unlike a traditional motorcycle, a scooter’s frame is shaped to allow riders to step-through the vehicle, rather than swing a leg over. A scooter’s frame is more like a womens’ bicycle step-through frame, compared to a mens’ bicycle frame.

steve-oThe scooter also dates back to the early 20th century. Scooters tend to be more focused on ease of use than on performance, hence the step-through design and small displacement size they typically have. Scooters in the past have traditionally been geared but not anymore. The general trend of scooter simplicity of the last few decades has seen the switch to Automatic Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) becoming the norm. Acceleration is as easy as twisting the throttle and there is no shifting required. Today’s scooters are essentially automatic transmission motorcycles with a step through design.

Scooters aren’t always a slouch though. That’s one of the differences between scooters and mopeds. Some scooters feature more advanced performance technology than their motorcycle counterparts. For example, a KYMCO Xciting 500Ri features fuel injection, braided brake lines, and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Technology that typically wasn’t found on many 500cc motorcycles of it’s time. Many scooters are comfortable on the highway, while some even exceed 200 km/hr.

Scooter vs moped – which one is better?

You won’t find the same level of technology and performance on a moped as you can get on a scooter. If you’re into speed and technology, the scooter wins.

Some riders prefer the reliability of being able to pedal should they need to, in which case the moped could be right for you.

Do the differences between scooters and mopeds really matter?

The differences between scooters and mopeds only matter as far as letting others understand that you know what you’re talking about. If you misname one or the other to another rider who knows better, he or she might think you ignorant of these things. If that matters to you, you should make sure you get it right. If you can’t be bothered, don’t sweat it.

As a final note, here’s a Moped (left) and a Scooter (right):

mopeds vs scooters

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.

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