As you can probably tell from my recent posts, two-wheeled transport has been my “thing” for the last couple of years. I got back on a bike for the first time in a while about three years ago in one of my many short-lived attempts to get fit, and then a new job in the centre of Bristol made two-wheeled commuting the only sensible solution. Driving a car through the centre of Bristol is a form of purgatory, and an expensive one at that.
I am a huge advocate of the bicycle as a mode of transport. Too many people overlook it. And although there are many brilliant things about cycling to work, there is one thing that I have never been able to conquer.
Over the course of nearly two years, I tried almost every imaginable combination of clothing and speed, and never succeeded in arriving at my desk “fresh”. Riding fast was always a bad idea. Riding slowly in cycling clothes didn’t really work because the changing rooms in my office (which would be the envy of many) are so humid that you start sweating every time you use them, even if you take a cool shower. Riding slowly in work clothes was the best option for me, but there was always a spritz of sweat to deal with, and my work trousers wore out pretty quickly.
The summer of 2016 was warm by British standards, and I got fed up of the sweat. So I tried something else:
Yes, a scooter. This is a Sym Symply 50. I took a punt on it because I have an older driving licence which means I can ride it without having to take the CBT (Compulsory Basic Training), and I didn’t have to commit too much up front to see if a scooter worked out for me.
And it DID work out!
After one ride into work I wondered why it had taken me so long to consider a powered two-wheeler. You can’t be quite as cheeky as you can on a pushbike, but there is nothing to beat filtering past the queues of cars and arriving at your destination cool and fresh.
The Sym is pretty good. It’s not fast – the rules limit it to 45km/h (28mph), and with 15+ stone of me on top, it will only reach the limiter downhill, and will barely reach 20mph uphill. But it is easy to ride, lightweight and manoeuvrable. Which is 95% of what you need around town.
But the other 5% mattered. I wanted more power because I like to be able to keep up with the traffic. And I also wanted enough storage space for my helmet and waterproofs under the seat (the Sym would not accept my extra-large open-face helmet).
So, I took the CBT, and went shopping. I have probably looked at every big-brand scooter on the market. And I ended up going for what is almost certainly the most expensive and arguably the best 125cc scooter there is. The Honda Forza:
This one is just under a year old. I was pretty happy with the price I paid. It is a totally different proposition to the Sym.
First thing you notice is the size. Although it is not as big as some of the “maxi” scooters on the market, it is a clear step up in size from the Sym. This does make it less manoeuvrable, but it also gives you a lot more wind protection, a lot more storage space, and a lot more road presence.
Next thing you notice is the finish. It’s like a car. The way the display lights up and self-tests the dials when you turn the ignition key makes you realise you are sitting on something special.
And then there is the power. Just a squeeze of the throttle sends you straight to 30mph. I haven’t had the need to open her up on a major road, but the reviews suggest 75mph is possible – which is impressive for any 125, let alone a scooter. And the twist-and-go nature of a scooter makes that performance so easy to access around town – who wants to spend their commute feathering the clutch?
I also happen to think it looks great. Just the right blend of futurism with style. An unashamedly contemporary scooter. The LED lights are the finishing touch that really set it off. All I need to do now is take the full test and get those ugly “L” plates off!
My theory is that this will be all the scooter I ever need. Considering the cost of it, I hope I’m proved right…