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Motorcycles, Mopeds, Scooters: What’s the difference?

Posted on 24 March 2017

Two-wheeled machines are typically categorised into three different types. Many of these terms are used interchangeably, which really doesn't help differentiate them for a new biker.

Here’s the differences between the main three that will hopefully help you tell them apart both on and off the road.

Motorcycles
First of all, 'motorcycle' is essentially an umbrella term. All scooters and mopeds are motorcycles, but not all motorcycles are scooters and mopeds. Are you confused yet? Keep on reading to gain some clarity.

A motorcycle is simply any two-wheeled motor vehicle, regardless of design, regardless of engine size. This covers cruisers, roadsters, super sports, off-roaders and tourers.
 
Mopeds and scooters are different enough in their own ways, and are usually kept separate from other motorcycles by name.

Mopeds
Historically speaking, 'moped' is a combination of the words 'motor' and ‘pedal’. The earliest mopeds were motorbikes that also had bicycle pedals and were usually used for emergencies.
 
These days, powered electric push-bikes are a more common sight on the road, and some of them even look a lot like old pedalled motorcycles though they are not classified as mopeds.
 
Now, a moped is legally defined as any low-powered motorcycle with an engine capacity no greater than 50cc, and a max speed of 28mph. They can legally be ridden on the road with L-plates once you have passed CBT training, rather than needing a full motorcycle license.

Scooters
Despite the fact that you will almost never see a non-scooter moped on the road anymore, they have a very distinct definition. While moped has gone from being a stylistic term to a technical one, what makes a scooter a scooter remains in the design.
 
Opinions differ as to what exactly defines a scooter. Some say it's an automatic 'twist and go', whereas others say they are any motorcycle with a step-through frame – which means that you can step into them rather than having to climb aboard and swing a leg over – and a platform for the rider to place their feet.
 
A scooter with an engine capacity of 50ccs or less is legally classified as a moped, whereas a scooter with a higher engine capacity isn't. You can find scooters that will go all the way up to 900cc, but if it's got a platform for your feet then it's still technically a scooter.

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