Scooter Comparisons

Why scootRS? Good question. Let's think about the options for a moment, shall we?

West: Restored

There are a few good shops in the West where you can get an excellent standard restoration done, or high-end tuning. The problem is that it often takes ages, is very expensive, and not many options are offered.

However, most scooters in Western shops were not restored there. They usually resell scooters bought in bulk from Asia from wholesalers doing them as cheaply as possible. Many are from India, not original collectible Italian models (and some new Indian parts are great, but many are poor quality we would never use). Needless to say, outsourcing the important assembly doesn't give you Western standards.

I bought a NEW [Indian] GP 200 engine [....] Upon dis-assembling the motor, I found that the piston had scuff marks and the cylinder bore had one groove I could catch my nail on [....] [T]ook the chaincase cover off and found a small blob of dirt/rust which leads me to believe they assemble these motors on a dirt floor!!!

Other scooters being resold were recently forced off the road by the Italian government, and merely repainted and cleaned up, not fully-restored. Many Italian scooters have been ridden to death over the years and need a full frame-up restoration, not just rubber trim and clutch plates.

I got a great deal on my scootRS Vespa, only 850 trouble-free kms so far, but it's all good. Three Italian Vespa mechanics @ the local Vespa dealer gave it the once over yesterday and found NOTHING suspect. Replaced only the oil fill plug gasket. “Very nice Vespa” was the verdict.

Our business was built from the ground up with the goal of offering a better option: Italian scooters fully-restored from top-to-bottom with all-new motor parts for reliability, customized exactly as you want, affordably priced, and restored relatively quickly (but not in days like wholesalers do, sorry). Get the scooter of your dreams, without the worries.

West: Unrestored

The best unrestored scooters are so-called “barn bikes”: scooters that have been in the US/Canada/UK since new, and barely ridden. With a bit of work to get them going, or as a restoration project, they can be great, so if you find a bargain go for it!

There are few places selling imported Italian Vespas and Lambrettas these days, but you really need to check them very closely, top to bottom. Most were sold en masse as part of an Italian government program to get them off the roads, and are seriously worn out. One person reported finding cement in his; it appeared to have been a cement hauler for a construction company, not the best background to have.

In any case, most people want something rebuilt and re-painted. And as one email we received reads:

Your prices, even with shipping and Customs, just about kills what some folks are asking for scoots that don't even run, let alone have a half-decent paint job.

Note: If you can find a painter willing to do a “half-decent paint job” on a scooter, it often costs around $1000.

Asia: Restored

RE: Asian scoots
Posted by surferbruce on Sep-17-03, 10:26 PM (EDT):

>> Anybody here bought an Asian scoot, and if so, what was your experience?

This has been discussed a lot here and the consensus seems to be unless it's a complete rebuild from scootRS don't do it.

Since we started ScootRS and the whole direct-from-Asia idea many years ago, others have followed suit and come and gone, because it looks easy: while they're popular, rapidly pump out cheap scooters to flip for a profit in the West. Unfortunately, it's not easy if done well and for the long term.

Why not? Three reasons:

  1. Welded, modified, and worn-out parts need to be replaced.
    Scooters in Asia have been ridden daily over the years and need all critical motor parts replaced in order to be safe and reliable on Western roads, not just a few cheap parts and a paintjob. These critical parts, however, are expensive and generally unavailable in Asia, so so-called “original” parts are severely bodged to keep the scooters going for a little while longer: short-term welds, changes to hide noise, changes to fit incorrect seals, etc. Some photos from our scrap metal pile:

    bodged parts bodged parts bodged parts bodged parts bodged parts
    bodged parts bodged parts bodged parts bodged parts bodged parts

    Compare with ScootRS:

    We use all-new motor parts including the gears, layshaft, crankshaft, flywheel, sprockets, cylinder, etc. Having done this business longer than anyone in Asia, we can tell you that it is necessary or we wouldn't bother. If comparing elsewhere, ask specifically about the critical parts. The difference in price is huge. A new engine alone will cost you over $1000 later!

  2. Doing the assembly well is difficult and time consuming.
    Local mechanics with years of experience only have experience doing it badly wrong. No measurements are taken, and all the missing pieces are worked around or other pieces made to fit. And when they pump out scooters daily for eBay or resellers overseas you end up with scooters that will look nice at a glance and run, but unreliably, even dangerously so, and are unrepairable in a Western shop due to endless bodges and cheap shortcuts throughout. Sad, but true.

    Compare with ScootRS:

    We only do a small number of scooters per year. We import hundreds of small and large parts unavailable locally then take time to assemble things properly. For example, we spend days preparing the case alone, and weld and retap all bolt sizes correctly for you instead of leaving them random-sized as they typically are.

  3. Poor scooter supply.
    Many models can no longer be found or only in the worst possible condition. For example, many fake VBBs are coming out of local shops now for sale overseas by resellers. They are actually remade VBC/VLB with copy parts.

    Compare with ScootRS:

    We've been in the country stocking up on scooters for over a decade and already have a large warehouse-full to choose from when you order. We have stopped buying scooters because the supply is so poor now.

To fully understand the issue before gambling with your money and your neck, read the following articles from the two most respected scooter magazines in the world:

Winter 2000, Scoot! Quarterly

Southeast Asia abounds with scooters, and every time I heard the buzz-buzz go by, my ears perked, and I had to look. I couldn't believe how many beautiful restored scooters I saw. I had found my El Dorado, and all I could think of was “How the hell do I get my hands on one of these? ” Truth be told, anyone can buy a scooter from Southeast Asia. All that is required is a source, a little green (or green, blue, and red if you live in Canada), and some patience.

Frivolous as I was, had I the money I would have bought hundreds of scooters before I returned. I soon found out I would have been sorry. Kathryn and I toured shops and spoke with many riders. We spoke with locals and with visiting Westerners. I examined many restored scooters. I looked over the myriad reproduction parts that were available in both Thailand and Vietnam. Many times I was impressed, sometimes I was disappointed, but I was always fascinated. [....]

I must say, at times I was dumbfounded with some of the careless workmanship. Engines were split and rebuilt on the sidewalk. Old dirt stayed in the engine and some new dirt got in there too. Engines were modified to work, not rebuilt to original specs. Worn-out parts were patched to work and put back in. Though the finished products were pretty on the outside, they were something akin to really pretty commodes - nice to look at, but you don't want to get into with what's inside. [...] Because the mechanics in Vietnam have not been blessed with an influx of available parts, many of them have fixed their scooters to run in the most ingenious ways. But indeed, they were fixed to run, not fixed correctly. This is how most scooters are still fixed in Vietnam; it's how their mechanics know how to do it. When these scooters are shipped to North America, they tend take a nose dive once they are driven at anything above 40 mph. Add that to the fact that they are severely “bodged”, and most mechanics won't touch them with a ten-foot wrench. [....]

As with Ebay, and any web-based company, you are always taking a risk buying something that you cannot see in person, touch, feel and get into. Nothing compares to “kicking the tires.” Many people have bought scooters from Southeast Asia and been horrified with the results. If some of the scooters I saw were indeed on their way to North America, then I am horrified as well. In contrast to all of this is scootRS. [....]

Other Westerners have scooter export businesses. They go about and buy scooters from local shops, some of the other shops I visited, and sell them in other countries including Japan and the United States. Obviously, they can offer little in quality assurance. [The owner] on the other hand oversees every part of the scootRS restoration process and they have had to retrain mechanics to do it the proper way. From what I saw, they were doing quite well. [....]

I can't make the broad recommendation that everyone buy a scooter from Southeast Asia. It certainly isn't for everyone. I can recommend that you do research if you are interested. I can tell you there are many great classic bikes to be had there. I can say that scootRS is an excellent company run by one hell of a friendly Canadian who I wouldn't hesitate to do business with.

Vietnam Veteran
May 2002, Edition 192, Scootering Magazine

Back in issue 153 (October '98) Andy did a feature on a supposedly restored Lambretta from Vietnam that had arrived at a shop in London for a bit of work. Under what was externally a fairly decent looking scooter lay some absolutely evil bodgery, with things like gearbox shims that had been fabricated from old beer cans simply to get the thing to run. The Lambretta was basically a death trap in the state it was sold, and formed part of a consignment that arrived in Britain at around that period. As you can imagine scooters from Vietnam suddenly got a reputation amongst knowledgeable scooterists to match that of Jack the Ripper.

What the article didn't change was the fact that there are some desirable models of vintage scooter out in the Far East such as genuine Lambretta SX200s. The only problem was how to get them back to the west in a saleable roadworthy condition after they have spent upwards of 30 years in the many hands of the Vietnamese bodge fairies. This is something that has been trying to tackle from his business based in Saigon. In theory it would be possible to simply export rare machines to the West and have them restored here, but given the amount of parts that would no doubt be required to perform a full restoration, you are still looking at a very expensive scooter at the end of it. [ScootRS] instead makes use of the cheaper labour available in Vietnam to rectify the problems of years of misuse, and to restore the scooters locally.[....]

scootRS offer a series of mechanical upgrades at extra cost to the restoration, which most buyers sensibly plump for. On John's machine, this means a new Indian (genuine SIL) GP gearbox, crankshaft and electronic ignition system on top of the standard engine rebuild. scootRS source their parts all over the world, and it seems like much of what they use in the engines comes from India, and is no worse for that. The standard engine spec includes a reconditioned engine case and all new parts including a Stage 4 barrel. [....]

As final proof of the pudding, John was good enough to let me have a quick spin on his scooter.... [T]he engine rode fine and the gears worked perfectly. [....]

Please don't confuse us with our location. As you can tell from the above two articles, that's not what we're about.

When deciding where to spend your money, keep the following in mind:

RE: Buying Scooters from Asia
VeeBeeCee Wed Jan-24-07 08:16 PM:

A couple of you have asked for an update...

I've parked the Vespa until the roads here thaw out a bit, but I put 1655 Km on it from August to December without any problems. It's broken-in nicely, easily hits 100KPH on a flat road and if I was braver, maybe more. I HAVE seen a couple some real sh$#t Asian restos in person, so I know what you guys warn people about but I still think ScootRS is an exception to the norm.

buying from Vietnam
Thu May 25, 2006 4:34 pm

Bought my TV from scootRS back in January and apart from one small clutch cable problem all has been fine. A lot of local scooterists have given the bike the once over and there has been nothing but praise for the bike. Yes, I am sure you can buy some tat from Vietnam but I dont think ScootRS can be put into that category.

TSS: Re: Re: Scootrs Scooters?
Sent: Monday, January 17, 2005 11:58 PM

If I may add my two pence: Every article I've read that talks about scooters from the Asia area talk about the bodges and scary work that comes from that area, but each article singles out - by name - ScootRS as a remarkable exception.

STELLA! Re: fender crest
From: "Thomas Fife", Date: Thu Aug 14, 2003 12:31 am

I have seen one of the scooters that scootRS restored, and found the quality of the work to be as good as that of a decent American restoration. All of their parts seemed to me to be of good quality, mostly stainless steel trim items, though I am certainly no expert.

I do know that there are other SE Asian restorers that deal in garbage that looks good on the outside, with junk on the inside. From everything I have been able to determine, scootRS has a good reputation.

Re: Asian scooters and scootRS
Posted by John on Friday, February 22, 2002 at 9:59AM:

[...] I know it's difficult to swallow but we've all been over this issue many many times. scootRS doesn't have a good reputation because of a pretty website. None of the critics wanted anything to do with his bikes but as they made their way over here and were reliable and well made he slowly got a shining reputation. He earned the respect we give him.[...]

In Reply to: so you fink yer a mod len
Posted by Scooter Lou on April 16, 2001 at 09:20:46:

Do Not, Repeat DO NOT buy a scooter from SE Asia unless it is from scootRS. 99% of all Thai/Vietnam bikes are complete pieces of ____ and death traps. More than a few of us scooterists have been given the high hard one by these fraudulent operators.

Re: Vietnamese Restorations
by: mat on June 02, 2000 at 07:41:46

From what ive seen on here with regard to the vietnam scooter thing if its not from scootRS then don't buy it, someone else may know more but be damn sure that the thing is sweeter than sweet, get the body work checked out thoroughly, get a light on it-bondo will show up if not done perfectly as very slight high and low spots.

Re: Re: Re: basic lambretta questions
by: Another Jay on February 04, 2000 at 11:34:21

Whoa, hold on there. There has been TONS of discussion about this subject already. Prevailing opinion is that scootRS (the crew that restored this particular scooter), delivers a quality product and a competitive price, and any other scooters coming from the same country are of questionable workmanship and generally poor quality. There is a distinction to be made here, that the people that have bought scoots from scootRS have been happy. People who didn't are unhappy. Check out their website also, where he talks about the differences between his products and other Vietnamese shops.

Just wanted to clear the air, as sweeping generalizations can kill an honest guy's reputation quicker than a farmer drills holes in an Allstate.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is a TV175?
by: glenn on April 29, 2000 at 10:50:02

I've had the privilege of seeing scoots both from scootRS and one of those other Vietnam bikes. Geez, what a difference. The former was a real beauty, and the guy had picked it up for a good price and was quite happy with it, but the other Viet bike was a total bodge job that had been ridden for about 50 miles before the motor blew apart. Buyer beware......Don't be fooled by a half decent paint job.

Please Note:

» We are foreign-owned, producing fully-restored scooters, and focussed entirely on export markets and Western standards. Our scooters win awards and have been positively reviewed in the world's major scootering magazines. We have never resold scooters from local shops, and we have absolutely nothing to do with the local market because the standards here are too low.

» We also manufacture hundreds of parts, some of the most innovative scooter parts around, and supply shops around the world. We thus have the ability to approach technical questions properly.

Any questions about these issues, just ask.

Asia: Unrestored

As you can tell by the section above, it's not worth it. We do have one cheaper option when ordering where we skip the motor restoration entirely so you can use your own motor.

Any other questions, simply ask.