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Scooters part 4: You gotta carry that load

As gas nears $3 per gallon, more look to motor scooters for fuel savings. But what if you need to carry packages or grocery bags? MSNBC's Denise Ono reports.
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Commuting on a scooter is pretty straightforward, but what if you have to shop?

Runs to the grocery store require some concessions. Certain things, like a 24-pack of toilet paper, are impossible to carry, but a six-pack will fit just fine in the rear trunk. If you have a family to feed, the four bags of groceries you would likely be able to fit on a scooter won't be enough. Picking up dry-cleaning also can be problematic. And those weekend trips to Costco or lumber yard are out of the question.

But for some people, a scooter does just fine.

Unlike motorcycles, many scooters have built-in storage space under the seat. They also have rear racks, bag hooks and options for more carrying capacity.

“My wife now does all her shopping on her (scooter)," said Desjardin. "Our car sits in the garage for days, unless we need to haul something big, or travel (an hour away) to San Francisco.”

“With a trunk mounted on the rack and a messenger bag slung over my shoulder, I can accomplish most any errand,” said Rich Chapel of Worchester, Mass.

Storage capacity is just one important consideration when deciding on the proper bike, and there are many models and options on the market.

Many choices, but buyer beware
Just a few years ago, there was a limited variety of scooters. But recently, established brands and those new to the American market have been introducing new models at a record rate. Scooters now have engines that range in size from 50cc to 650cc.

Not all scooters are created equal, however. In the past few years, many inexpensive bikes of questionable origin have been showing up on Internet auctions and in auto parts stores around the country. Most of these scooters are not legal for street operation.

“We have a decent number of people coming in asking for service on these scooters,” said Baker.  But, he warned, “we will not work on any scooter that we can't get parts for.”

More than practicality
People who are considering buying a scooter most likely are thinking first of their pocketbook. But like longtime riders, they may become attached to their scooters for other reasons.

“I used to listen to voice mail on the way on my cell phone, or listen to the radio, but there's something refreshing about the wind in your face and total focus on the task at hand until I cruise into the company parking lot,” Desjardin said.

“Scootering is the transportation equivalent of the bow tie," said Patrick Masterson, a rider from Virginia Beach, Va. "It's not generally well understood — and people’s first reaction will either be a huge thumbs up or utter disdain. But in the end, I'd scooter if gasoline cost a dollar.”

And like the bow tie, a scooter becomes an extension of the rider's personality. Strangers on the street constantly strike up conversations, and other riders feel an instant kinship. Talk to almost any scooter rider, myself included, and you'll find someone who sees the bikes as more than simply a way to get from point A to point B. They're a way of life.