Opinion: NPR Misses the Mark on Scooter Recommendations

Each spring we see a fresh collection of ham-fisted “more people are buying scooters” stories, especially around Memorial Day when gas prices start to spike. These pieces are nearly all interchangeable, produced by the local TV news crew or as filler on the local news website. A good example is this story from NPR.org. Producer Bill Chappell pretty closely follows the local news formula of not diving too deep. Although instead of just talking about gas prices and scooters in general, he goes so far as to pen recommendations. This is where I take issue. These recommendations don’t appear to be based on any objective measure or experience. Instead, Chappell seems to have simply asked his local scooter shop and polled people informally on message boards. The result is far less a guide to what scooter to buy than it is a record of what’s owned by the people who responded to him. Of course people are going to recommend their choices. It doesn’t make them bad choices, but I want more.

The article is a mishmash of recommendations in both the article itself and the accompanying slide show. Many of these scooters aren’t even in production anymore. For example, he recommends the Honda Big Ruckus, a bike that was out of production even when this piece was originally published, and remains extremely hard to find on the secondary market. Yet it’s recommended because someone he talked to liked theirs. Thing is, it’s not like there’s a shortage of equally good Honda 250-class scooters that could be recommended. Elite 250 and Helix 250s are plentiful, reliable and inexpensive. In fact, the Big Ruckus is essentially a naked Helix Reflex, which is also much easier to find. This is what happens when one simply lurks message boards for a few hours and asks people what they ride. This does not for good recommendations make.

The slide show then goes on to recommend the Honda DN-1, which is not even a scooter at all. It’s a rather large motorcycle that happens to have an automatic transmission. Like the Big Ruckus, it’s also no longer in production and Honda only sold a few of them, so good luck finding a used one. The article mentions the Suzuki Burgman 400, and it seems like the Burgman 650 would be the better large bike to talk about here. At least it’s still a scooter. Today, choices abound. Here are four large-displacement scooters talked about just yesterday, in a video we shared.

Now that said, there are some good recommendations in the mix, but the whole article is so hit and miss that it’s really frustrating. For example, the Buddy 125, Roughhouse 50 and Burgman 400 get mentioned and are great scooters. Mr. Chappell also managed to at least receive some good advise on engine size from some of the actual scooter riders and dealers he spoke with:

“I wouldn’t go any smaller than 150ccs” for that kind of driving, Biechler said. And many 250cc models can reach 75mph, making them a good choice for highways.

In hilly terrain, the extra oomph is a necessity. De la Mora said that in San Francisco, “many shops don’t even bother to sell 50cc bikes. While a few of our members have 50cc scooters, most prefer 150cc or above for navigating the hills.”

In general, sharing what others have recommend can be a good thing, however without any apparent knowledge base, Mr. Chappell is just at the mercy of whomever he speaks to. For me, that’s the rub. This is a fine story about a cross section of choices made by scooter owners, it just shouldn’t go on to make recommendations. The reason this bothers me is that people look at vehicle reviews and recommendations hoping for insight and especially context. This article is more or less “I talked to a bunch of random people and this is what they told me.” There’s no context and no unifying expertise. Unfortunately, this article is still getting passed around today. I expect better from NPR.

Source: NPR.org

[Correction: the NPR story referenced here is older than originally thought. However it’s still getting shared around the web, so it’s still worth talking about how the information included in it all seems to be second hand and that many of these are poor recommendations in our opinion.]

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