The friendliest face of motorcycling

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“Hey look, it’s a grown man on a 50cc scooter!” Laugh all you want, but this grown man is getting 117mpg, parking anywhere he wants, carrying his laptop under the seat and cutting through traffic, all for $1,999. If transportation is your only goal, and you’re moving through a dense urban environment, you seriously can’t do better than the new Honda Metropolitan 50.

Photos: Alfonse Palaima

New vs Old

Over the previous Metro, this new model adds fuel-injection, combined brakes, cleans up the looks and drops the price by $50 while upping fuel economy by 3mpg. Small changes, but it’s a more refined machine in a market segment where rough-around-the-edges is more common.

Fuel-injection is really the big change. That’s responsible for the slight uptick in fuel economy, but owners will notice it more in the instantaneous engine warm up and incredibly smooth power delivery. Smoothness seems like an obvious trait for any 50cc four-stroke, but this new Metro takes it to a new level. Twisting the throttle is more akin to spreading butter than it is controlling a rate of tiny explosions.

Combined brakes are nice too. They’re drum front and rear and the mechanical front doesn’t have much power, but using the left hand’s rear lever brings you to a sharp, predictable, controllable stop by applying a little front too. Just watch the brake slides.

Is a 50 really viable on US roads?

Advantage: At just 179lbs (wet) you can literally pick the Metro up and carry it around quite easily. You can imagine how confidence inspiring this incredibly low weight would be to a beginner.

Disadvantage: Acceleration away from a stoplight is as slow as a Zero DS, but unlike the electric, the Metro runs out of steam at a governed 35mph (thank the variety of international frameworks the massively popular scooter needs to exist within). Being unable to beat cars away from the lights and being limited to a speed slower than than of literally all other traffic on any street at any time will prove massively intimidating to beginners.

It’s incredibly easy to negotiate very low speed obstacles on such a light bike.

I’ve actually warned non-riding friends off 50s (specifically the Ruckus) for that reason. A 125 or 150 will keep up with most fast cars in a drag race and can even hop on the freeway for short sprints. To get there within the Honda range though, you’d need to pony up an additional $1,500 though.

To answer the question: yes, a 50 is viable if you’re traveling within a limited geographic area and can avoid routes where cars regularly travel at 50mph+. Or if you’re an experience, confident rider that doesn’t mind operating a tiny, slow scooter around scary drivers.

Using it as a neighborhood vehicle, for local commutes or similar, it’s literally a perfect vehicle. 117mpg means your gas bill will be essentially nothing and dropping $1,999 on a new vehicle (or paying for it monthly for the price of a decent lunch), means it’s easy to keep one of these around for just those kind of journeys. It’d work great as a supplement to a car for when hunting for a parking spot could double journey times.

Will it make you look ridiculous?

Well, judging by these photos, maybe a little ridiculous. Still, I’d take a friendly laugh over a turned up nose any day. And a turned up nose is exactly what I got parking at the cafe this morning on very loud black on black on black Tuono V4. It’s fun and relaxing to subvert the whole biker stereotype thing.

How’s it ride?

Ergonomics are just uncramped enough that I was able to comfortable sit on it without the bars fouling my knees. I’m 6’ 2” and have a 34” inseam.

Suspension travel is extremely limited and the tiny 10-inch wheels are easily thrown of course by the smallest of obstacles, but stability is rock solid at top speed. The end result makes cutting through obstacles intuitively easy and cruising at WOT completely relaxing.

Will it wheelie?

If you put both feet down and push backwards with them as you open the throttle, it totally will. For about two feet.

Why not just get a Ruckus?

Yeah, the Ruckus has better styling, but it’s $500 more and uses the older, 114mpg, carb’d motor. The Metropolitan’s enclosed underseat storage space might be more immediately practical depending on your needs too.

Did you get bored riding it?

Not really. No it’s no exotic Italian literbike, but just cruising along, totally worry free has as much merit in an urban situation as flying along, worried about cars, cops and precise grip levels. Scooters are just a different experience. One that still gets you outside, out of traffic and into your very own world.

TL;DR
117mpg, $1,999, it’s a Honda.

  • dan

    I’m addicted to scoots (3) and motos (3) alike. Dont care what people think.

    • robotribe

      Word.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Photoshoot needed more scarf.

  • protomech

    Fuel injection is a big win for a $2000 bike.

    Shame about the top speed, though even without a governor it probably runs out of steam around 45-50 mph.

  • Gene

    Restricted to 35mph?! I’d consider that too dangerous. People around here don’t go that slow even in residential areas. There’s lots of times in Orlando traffic I’ve had to get out of danger right-the-hell-now.

    • noone1569

      Exactly. I was just thinking about where I would ride one of these as opposed to taking the car or the XB. . No where. In order to get to any store around me, I would have to traverse roads that have speed limits of 40mph.

  • Gene

    And “able to comfortable sit” should be “able to comfortably sit”, surely?

  • coredump

    Yes! Please do more on scooters. I’m hoping to use scooters as a gateway drug to get my girl into riding. You gonna do a review on that BV 350 grant was on during the Zero DS video?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Probably. We love scooters, but worry that the readership isn’t there for content on them.

      • coredump

        Yeah, you have a point there.

      • l2and

        Readership is certainly there. Love looking for another scooter!

      • NewOldSchool

        One of my guilty pleasures is Craigslisting around for old Honda CH80′s (Elite) which can be found CLEAN for $500 or so.

        For me owning one of them for a quick hop to the local market would be like owning a sports car, but keeping the old Toyota pickup from high school as the beater runabout and parts chaser.

      • Campisi

        Look at the pits at your local racing event of any considerable size. Old Honda Sprees are cruise control for cool.

      • jp182

        Wes, I think you have your answer. Scooters would be a good way to appease your audience and break things up here.

      • matt

        Into it. More scooters.
        Also – girls on scooters. Everyone wins.

      • noone1569

        I’ll read about anything regarding life on two wheels.

      • Paulie 4k

        Just adding my two cents that I’d be up for more scooter content. I currently own two motorcycles and three scooters.

      • Tim ketteridge

        I think the readership is here. You would love the old 4T Bajaj/4T Stella scooters, get one to ride, it’s a fun urban machine, you can shift.

        • Campisi

          Careful now, I’ve been warned that those things are pretty damn agricultural, even compared with original Vespas.

      • Martin Cron

        Just another voice in the “more scooter content is welcome here” crowd.

        In my heart, I’m a Ducati guy, but I decided to roll with a Vespa 200 as my first bike so I would get somewhat safer practice under my belt until I got bored. Not bored yet.

      • Gregory

        Hell ya, scooter readership is here. I’m actually considering a Kymco Xciting 300i instead of a Honda CB 400 SS… both for about USD $3’000 used… and all because of that whole _practicality_ thing.

        -g
        Seoul, Korea

    • coredump

      Also see if you can make friends with the MotoIQ guys and borrow their Aprilia SR50. For a 50cc scooter it has USD forks, dual disks, etc… After some tinkering they got it to power wheelie.

      http://www.motoiq.com/projects/powersports/project_aprilia_sr50.aspx

    • Scott-jay

      “more on scooters”?
      Maybe not more, but don’t reduce scooter content.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    Not me, but…
    Knee down on a Ruckus.

    Kinda bad ass, nonetheless.

  • http://twitter.com/BuddyJesus Peter

    What happens when you de-restrict the Metro? Will it hit 45? And, do you know if you can use variators and clutch parts off the carbed model on this one?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The fuel injection raises questions, but I’m betting the scooter forums have already figured them out.

    • Mykola

      Is the restriction still in the form of an easily removed smaller-ID plate between the intake manifold and cylinder head like the old metro? There’s a simple gain in performance for $0.

    • Corey

      I was kind of surprised to see that as our ruckus hits a GPS indicated 43mph (I’ve got a 1.6 mile straight level road by my home I’ve used to test on).

  • FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

    I took my CA DMV test on an ’06 Met. Easy mode.
    I don’t know if I could own one, but it’s a blast to bomb around with in a parking lot or cul-de-sac.

    Wes, are you sure it’s not cramped for you? I’m 5’10″ and I didn’t feel like there was much knee room.

  • Chris

    all you need is a polini variator and you’ll hit close to 50, add some yamaha jog clutch springs & it will accelerate a hair harder. the met’s are fun, and the fuel injection setup has been used for years in europe & asia on the mets & ruckii. I’ve owned my Ruckus since 07, and still love it. Mine has a motor swap of course.

    I’d love to see features on scoots of any variety. I love bikes in general be it a scoot or a liter bike, either way its got 2 wheels & a seat.

  • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub Sean MacDonald (the other Sean)

    “To get there within the Honda range though, you’d need to pony up an additional $1,500 though.”

    new honda elite’s (110 cc) are all over for $2500, only $500 more for double the power and that the ability to hit that 55mph mark.

    …i might have been doing some research for what’s her face last week after riding on James’s.

  • Pete

    “At just 179lbs (wet) you can literally pick the Metro up and carry it around quite easily.”

    Ha! You’re not fooling us Wes. The day you easily pick up and carry that 179lb scooter, is the day you ride it on the MOON. Or maybe underwater.

  • robotribe

    Dear Mr. Honda,

    Bring me a 250cc fuel-injected modern Honda Super Cub w/17″ wheels for under $4k and I’ll hand you my hard-earned money.

    Sincerely,
    Robo

    p.s. no, that Taiwanese clone doesn’t count

    • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

      Robotribe

      look up Honda SH300. Known as the “Scoopi” in Spain, it and the SH family have happily supplied southern Europeans with cheap, large wheel urban tools for 30 years. They may look shiny and perhaps even fragile, but I *assure* you, they are tough as nails. If the Scoopi can take the daily grind of abusive owners bouncing through Rome and Barcelona’s narrow, pot-holed and taxi littered streets, then anywhere in the US is a pushover.

      Under $4k.

      • robotribe

        I’m familiar with the SH300. Not bad for a modern-style scoot, but I want the timeless/retro-look of the Super Cub; two-tone and all.

  • Ed

    Scooters are awesome. I started on a Super Cub. A couple of the doctors I work with commute in on Genuine Buddy 125s. And then there’s this guy who rode his SuperCub clone from California to the Alaska. http://symplifylife.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Dalton-Highway.jpg

  • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

    Wes, how’d you do in the slow-speed contest?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I was fastest.

  • HammSammich

    My first “streetbike” was an old Honda Spree that I rode in High School – what a dog. But I completely agree that if you can get your own ego out of the way, scooters offer fantastic, practical mobility in urban areas.

    I’m seeing them catch on around my area, too, with loads of new riders on scoots that would never consider a “real” bike.

    Unfortunately, perhaps owing to their approachability, scooters seem to lure riders into a false sense of safety. I don’t think I’ve seen a single scooter being operated by someone with a full face helmet. Most often it’s a guy in shorts and flip-flops or a woman in a dress and open-toed sandals. I just don’t get it. Little Scooters might not get you into a 70mph high-side, but the results of an impact by an F-150 while waiting at a light can be just as devastating…

    • Corey

      Our Ruckus is actually my girlfriend’s, and I do love riding it vs. my Tuono in urban areas. Before she even was allowed to ride it, we had a helmet, armored jacket, and gloves for her. We did get a Rockhard (Think that’s the brand) 3/4 helmet with a bubble visor, but now I’m thinking it’s time we get her a full face.

    • BigRooster

      I agree, but to play devil’s advocate….

      Would you suggest urban bicycle commuters meet the same level of protection? Many travel nearly as fast as a scooter when in congested areas and just a close to traffic, yet most riders only wear shorts, t-shirts and a half helmet. Would’nt they also be more protected with a full face and armor?

      • HammSammich

        You raise a good point.

        Let’s start by noting that all of the gear we (motorcyclists and bicyclists) wear represents a compromise between safety on the one hand, and comfort, mobility, affordabity, and numerous other factors, on the other.

        As you note, bicyclists and scooter riders are exposed to most of the same dangers. However, because bicyclists are far more constrained by mobility and weight issues, their point of compromise will necessarily favor lightweight, less-protective gear. Since a scooter is motorized, most of the weight and mobility constraints imposed on bicycles simply don’t apply.

        Ultimately, people are going to wear what they want to wear when they ride, and I’m okay with that (even though I personally think @ssless chaps and a puddin’ bowl are stupid).

        The more I think about the issue the more I am concerned that because many people who are hitting the streets on Scooters for the first time are not a part of the motorcycle community (in any of it’s many forms) they simply don’t have the information they need about riding gear in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to wear it.

      • Martin Cron

        I’ve done both scooter and bicycle riding in traffic and I feel 100 times safer on the scooter. I can keep up with traffic, have better mirrors, and have much better safety gear (even a 3/4 helmet is better than the best bike helmet)

        So many people are surprised to see me carry a kid on the back, even though they don’t bat an eyelash at kids in bicycle trailers. Odd.

  • dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

    Too slow for Melbourne. My gf got a 110 Beewee, and it feels like my minimum on road limit for power.

  • DavidMG

    In Vancouver we have a very similar Honda Jazz. I even have a client who rides it around some of the steeper areas of the city. It’s very comical as he’s short and very, very round.

    No license required under 50cc… Which actually scares me a bit. I see a lot of guys riding on the shoulder with these things instead of owning the lane like on a bigger motorcycle.

  • Campisi

    “I’ve actually warned non-riding friends off 50s (specifically the Ruckus) for that reason.”

    Depends on where you live. I’ve managed to convert three friends to motorcycling over the years specifically by recommending 50cc scooters to them. Remember, they’re not replacing a car in Montana; they’re replacing a ten-speed in downtown Seattle. Thirty five miles per hour without pedaling is going to plaid for them, and since then all three have moved on and up to other motorcycles.

  • Toby

    I wish I knew the exact combination of legal and bureaucratic BS that keeps the bigger, cheaper Honda scoots off the market in the US. Here in Thailand you can buy a Wave 110 (clutchless manual, the modern Cub: http://bit.ly/JK74Gv) for ~$1200, or a fully auto Click or Scoopy 110 for ~$1500 (http://bit.ly/KvpBfC).

    Both are fuel injected and durable as hell (they take a beating here).

    My wife’s Scoopy gets 108mpg and tops out just under 65mph. And I do steal it occasionally – it’s awesome for exploring rice paddy rural Asia on!

    • Corey

      They aren’t as cheap, but Aprilia makes a really nice line of 125cc and bigger scooters that are really affordable (i.e. not vespa prices). Even an SR50 is a quick little beast.

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    TL;DR… guilty of that one :P

  • RWerksman

    As far as scoots go, I prefer this:

    http://www.peirspeed.com/madass125.htm

    55MPH, 85MPG, 2 Year Warranty. Granted, its built in China, but it’s designed in Germany and folks seem to be pretty friggin happy with them. Oh, and it doesn’t *look* like a scooter.

    I had a 2007 Ruckus. I never rode it. To many hills around where I am, and I couldn’t stand going up them at under 20. :(

    • Roman

      These look like so much fun, was looking pretty seriously into getting one last year before going in a different direction.

    • Joe

      My buddy Peter has one of those. They are tons of fun and super maneuverable. He can out-handle me on my Bonnie like it’s no big deal; around city traffic at least haha

    • Penguin

      Why aren’t those things built as good as they look? – I had one for a very short while and, how can I put this, they are built to a price. Mine liked to leak fuel out of the frame which actually wasn’t that bad but I have heard of brakes locking on, head bearings jamming (!) and swing arms cracking. It’s a brilliant idea just very badly realised, if Honda built one I would buy 10!

      • andy miller

        I’ve had mine for the last two years, and have had absolutely zero trouble from it. You can ‘hear about’ those same issues on any bike if you read enough forums. I live in the warehouse district of New Orleans, and can tell your there’s no better way to get around the city. I slip through spaces during Mardi Gras that ‘normal’ scooters just won’t fit, park anywhere I please, and average over 80 mpg. I wouldn’t trade mine for anything else I’ve seen.

  • Mr.Paynter

    Ah man, I love scooters!
    So very cool!

    They remind me of surf-trips to Bali! Cruising Asia on a scoot is where it’s at!
    So much fun for so little cash!

  • DAVID

    I have a Metropolitan, and it sold me on the value of a scooter, but I would go at least 125cc so i could maintain 45mph. the good part in NV is that the Metro doesn’t need a plate or insurance. i suppose the no insurance deal is because you are 99.99% more likely to get run over than to hurt someone else.

  • Corey

    Probably not my last comment on the matter, but the scariest thing about the 49cc Honda scooters isn’t really the speed, but the suspension and brakes. They really could use some uprated bits. How in the world Honda was able to put brakes that are terrible on a vehicle that is sub 45mph is beyond me.

  • Jon B.

    I want a scooter bad. Something about little and stupid is so perfect and fun in a city environment.

    The mets with 150cc GY6 swaps look rad.

    • Sean Smith

      Get a little XR with a plate and add street rubber. That way, you can jump with confidence and wheelie over curbs.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    I dunno about 50cc four stroke. If I was going for a 50cc it would have to be 2-stroke. I couldn’t stand to be slower off the line than cars.

    Only scooter I have ever ridden is a Peugeot 50cc Blaster (2T). Apparently the fastest 50cc scooter – I’d believe it, beats cars off the lights unless they really put their foot down.