Sorry, it Isn’t . . .

  • June 6, 2023

It’s important to be clear about what we’re talking about – whether it’s men and women or motorcycles and scooters.

The other day I read a review of an electric scooter that used the word motorcycle to describe it. This is akin to referring to a biological him as her in that it is misleading. And more than that.

It is an attempt at conflating the actual with the ersatz.

This is usually done purposefully, for the purposes of substitution. It is why the word vaccine was used (is still being used) to conflate drugs that do not immunize with those that do. The misleading word usage was done to trick people. To get them to accept the ersatz by conflating it, etymologically, with the actual.

This same trick is being used to get people to accept electric scooters – by calling them “motorcycles.” The idea being to get them to accept the elimination of motorcycles by getting them to think they aren’t being replaced by scooters.

It has been easy – so far – to get people to accept the replacement of the cars they have been driving with electric cars. In principle, at least. Because there is commonality. Electric cars and engined cars have four wheels and almost all of them have automatic transmissions, too.

They are appliances.

Engines have been homogenized; all are water cooled, most are turbocharged fours and few of the run-of-the-mill have any distinctive personality. They are mostly hidden under the same black plastic covers and the only thing that matters to the people who drive such cars is that they go – and that they are  quiet and reliable. They do not shift. They get in, push the “start” button – and off they go.

This is how scooters operate, too.

Some have engines. Some have motors (and batteries). None have gears to shift. One sits down, presses the “start” button – and off they go. There is nothing at all wrong with this, if that is what you want. Nor with the selling of it, to those who want it.

But it is a lie to call this a motorcycle. No matter how much it is made to look like one. Just as no matter how much a man is made to look like a woman, he will never be one.

The thing is impossible.

But it is possible to confuse people. It is the point of the thing – when the object is to replace one thing with a different thing.

The people pushing electric scooters know perfectly well that very few people who like motorcycles have any interest in making the transition. Motorcycle people like to shift for themselves, first of all.

Arguably, above all.

Attempts have been made in the past (as by Honda) to sell motorcycles that did not require the rider to shift for himself. These sold poorly and soon were no longer sold at all. It is both a matter of pride and part of the experience to be able to shift for oneself and to actually do it. The point of the ride being not just to get there, as in most cars. As in electric cars.

Almost anyone can ride a scooter – for the same reason that almost anyone can drive a typical car. Neither requires much skill, which is why it is not especially gratifying nor – dare it be said? – exclusionary.

There are precious few things left in this world that are not drearily open to everyone, without much effort. The dumbing down – in the name of “safety,” usually – being responsible for this. But motorcycles are nothing like this. They are forbidding things to those who do not know how to ride – and how to shift. They are like airplanes in this way – and there is a similar feeling of accomplishment for the rider as for the pilot, who has mastered a skill and knows what he is doing.

There is little to do on a scooter – other than push the start button and get going. Just the same as in a typical car, electric not. Almost anyone can do it. This takes away from the satisfaction of being able to do something more than push the “start” button and get going.

On a bike, shifting gears is about more than just shifting gears. On a bike, one uses the gears to control the bike; to shift power to the rear wheel, so as to shift traction to the rear – important to the stability and tenacity of the machine. One could do the same on an electric scooter, of course – but not in the same way. It is the difference between riding an escalator and scaling a cliff, yourself – with your own hands and feet.

On a scooter, there is much less for these to do.

The motorcycle’s rear brake lever (controlled by the rider’s right foot) is as relevant – on a scooter – an appendix. The left lever on a scooter being a mere affectation as there is no clutch. Nothing for your left foot to shift, either.

Just push the “start” button – and go.

Not (again) that there is anything wrong with that – as such. But – please – stop calling it a motorcycle.

Because it isn’t.

. . .

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