Whether you think of them as a smaller motorcycle or a powerful bicycle alternative, scooters are beloved for one thing: fun. Touted as a starter ride, commuting vehicle, or backup transportation, scooters have more going for them than just kicks. High fuel efficiency, lower insurance cost and easier parking are among the other benefits.
Steve Sortisio, owner of Erie County Scooters, said that with rising popularity changing the demographics, men and women ranging from 18 to 85 are taking to scooters. He carries scooters by Bintelli and Sym, which can range from $999 to $5,000.
New scooter models are automatic, and generally designed with a motorcycle aesthetic or more nostalgic look.
Vintage machines, like classic Vespas and Lambrettas, are all manual — there’s nothing automatic about them, and that suits their riders just fine. That set thrives on a “fix-it-yourself” ethos. Some restore them to look perfect or modify them to go faster; some pride themselves on maintaining “stock” scooters, that is, as they came off the factory floor.
Mark Legeza of Buffalo, 33, has been scooting since he was 17; at first for transportation, and now, as a hobby. Going vintage, he said, used to be cheaper. “You could buy and get a scooter up and running for around $600,” he said. “Now an old scooter could be $2,000, not even running.”
Vintage riders frequently form clubs, and then organize and attend rallies, where they gather in the thousands to steep themselves in scooter culture for a weekend.
Leslie Andrews of Buffalo also started out as a teen, and has come back to scooting in her 40s. “My passion is more than the experience of riding. Part of the joy is being able to fix a 50-plus-year-old scooter,” said Andrews, who has four scooters (in addition to her husband’s three). “Mine have their original paint. I’ve jazzed up my ’61 Lambretta with a collage of cats, and my Vespa has stripes and skulls on it.”
“I could be having the worst day,” said Andrews. “But I’ll go for a small ride and come back smiling, ear to ear.”