- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2008

Without question, both the motorcycle and scooter markets represent a rapidly growing hotbed of activity, and given today’s fuel prices, sales of the two-wheelers are soaring. Scooters are generally less expensive than most motorcycles, and they’re also generally more fuel-efficient.

Chinese manufacturers have long been expert at producing “knock-off” products for considerably less money than the genuine article and scooters abound in China, coming in virtually every size and shape. The problem with much of China’s motor vehicle output is that the quality is often lacking, and thereby, the reliability and dependability of such products can be disappointingly short-lived.

Leon Li, formerly a highly successful American real estate sales agent, had a two-wheeled adventure traversing much of China. The scooter to his surprise, proved to be dependable, dispelling the idea that most low cost Chinese scooters were little more than junk by U.S. standards.

In a truly entrepreneurial spirit, he imported 20 scooters, which were resold here in the U.S. for a profit. The venture worked so well, that the decision was made to purchase a shipping container filled with scooters. Again, they sold out in short order, and again at a profit.

Li, together with partner Daniel Pak, determined to develop their own line of scooters in California - still imported from China, but manufactured to their specifications with online facility managers in place to ensure quality control and to oversee the implementation of their required improvements and enhancements. The line of scooters is called Flyscooters.

I tested a Flyscooter La Vie model. The base price was set at $2,200 with the final total amounting to $2,700, after adding a few upgrades and dealer prep.

Power for the La Vie is provided by a 151 cc GYC air-cooled, four stroke, carbureted single cylinder motor that develops 8.4 horsepower and 5.0 lb.-ft. of torque. The transmission is a Continuously Variable Transmission with a dry, centrifugal-type internal clutch. The final drive consists of a shaft into the rear wheel rim, based off of a clutch and variator to a series of gears.

The suspension consists of dual hydraulic shock absorbers up front, and a pre-loaded adjustable hydraulic shock absorber in the rear. Brakes are power-assisted hydraulic single discs front and rear and the tires are Taiwanese tubeless 120/70x12 front and rear mounted on 3-spoke aluminum alloy wheels fore and aft.

There was locking underseat storage, a locking tour pack capable of storing a full face helmet, pop-out passenger foot pegs, both a side and a center stand, a locking front end and a locking forward compartment.

The La Vie Flyscooter looks and feels much like a classic early Vespa, except that the body panels are made from scratch and ding resistant ABS material rather than fiberglass or metal. There are also lots of attractive chrome trim accents that aid in dressing up the scooter’s overall appearance.

Since there’s no clutch lever to worry about, the left-hand lever controls the rear brake, while the right-hand lever actuates the front brake. One can actually engage the rear brake as if it were a clutch, releasing it after rolling on the throttle.

The La Vie is exceptionally well balanced with a 54.8-inch wheelbase and 75.1-inch overall length. It tips the scales at a mere 242 pounds (dry). The fuel capacity is 1.3 gallons, which still provides decent range. The seat height is a fairly tall 33 inches, so those with really short inseams need not apply. I’m told that the seats for replacement models are lower and contoured at the leading edge for not only more comfort, but for easier touchdown for the vertically challenged. It is freeway legal, with a top speed of 55 mph, but it the La Vie is really much more comfortable “scooting” around in an urban environment.

I had but two nits to pick with the La Vie - the floorboard is a tad on the short side for taller riders, but in its defense, this is an issue that may be overcome by sliding back onto the passenger portion of the dual seat. Riding two up of course precludes that solution, and for that matter, shortens the board distance to an even greater degree.

Not necessarily an issue, but deploying the sidestand does not kill the engine, which is the norm, and starting the motor cannot be accomplished until applying one of the brakes.

The tested Flyscooter was fun to ride and represented an outstanding value at less than half the cost of a new Vespa. With nearly 3,000 miles on the odometer, there seemed to be no reliability problems except an often-persnickety ignition switch cylinder.

Being able to cover 150 miles or so on a full tank at $6.00 tends to give one a nice warm feeling.

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