les scooters a Paris
Paris Scooter Scene
I had been touring the Dordogne and had seen scooters wherever we went, but I
was still amazed by their number and variety when I reached Paris. Scooters were
literally everywhere, in numbers far surpassing motorcycles and definitely beginning to rival cars. What would look like a scooter club outing or rally to us is simply the flow of everyday traffic in this city of crowded streets and scarce parking.
Since I was last in Paris three years ago, the scooter scene has clearly expanded.
And changed. Bigger, modern bikes have largely replaced the small vintage scooters
that used to be seen—and heard—at every corner. You still see some dandy vintage
two-strokes, but they are in the minority, outnumbered by swarms of sleek modern
In a word, it’s all about choice
And the choice is dizzying. Not only are there more marques to choose from, but
there are more models from makers familiar in the US. I saw several Honda models
I had not even heard of. And BMW’s C-1, the enclosed scooter that off ers increased
protection from the elements; these are no longer being made, but I did see a number
of “knock-off s” designed along the same lines. Piaggio’s MP3 is omni-present in sizes
ranging from 125 to 250 to 400 and 500cc (this last marketed in Europe as the Gilera
Fuoco). Burgmans and Majestys can be had in 125cc sizes, as well as the 400 and 650
sizes we see in the US. Gilera scooters from Piaggio are available in sizes from 50cc to
200cc. Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Piaggio/Vespa have dealerships in the City of Light (and the X9 is probably the most frequently seen scooter), as does Peugeot, which offers scooters in a range of styles and sizes. One that caught my eye again and again was the Satelis, which comes in 125, 250, 400 and 500cc versions. It’s stylish, supercharged and equipped with ABS brakes. Talking with a woman at Academy Scooter, I
discovered that it’s distributed in Canada, but apparently there are no plans to make it
available in the US.
While the most popular size for an urban scoot is clearly 125cc, these scooters are
larger in overall size than we are accustomed to, with some of them nearly as large as
my Burgman 400. Maxi-scooters, though still in the minority, seem to be becoming
more popular, and I spotted big Burgmans (even 650s), Majestys, and S’Wings—not to
mention Piaggio’s 850cc Gilera GP800. Now, that’s a super scooter!
Prices vary just as they do here, but in general, scooters seemed to be more expensive, ranging from about 1690€ (for a 50cc) to 8990€ (for a 500cc)—that’s about $2700 to $14,384. I saw some low-end Chinese scooters at 999€, but that’s still almost $1600, and I didn’t see that many cheap scooters on the streets.
The one scooter I did not see in Paris was the Genuine Buddy. At least we have one
bike they don’t.
Sights on the street…
As I was enjoying dinner one evening in an outdoor café, I could hardly believe my eyes when a scooter zoomed by, completely covered in what appeared to be lush,green, growing grass—too fast to get a photo, alas. Pooches tucked between the rider’s legs on the floorboards are a fairly frequent sight. Scooters laden with long loaves of French bread, as well as bags of produce and fruit from the street markets dangling from the
handlebars, are a common sight on market days.
In typical French style, Parisian scooterists accessorize their rides. Most common are extra large windshields, some of which are so tall they curve above and over the rider’s head. Many riders opt for what they call tabliers, or canvas aprons that attach to the scooter and cover the rider’s lap and legs, offering protection from cold, wind
and rain, or to the riders themselves, like our scooterskirts. This is not so much a matter of fashion as it is of protection, as Paris scooters often substitute for a car,
and scooterists ride rain and shine. Which may help to explain the proliferation of MP3s. As I watched the scooters streaming by in persistent rain (on cobblestones, yet!),
I was thinking that the MP3 riders must be grateful for the extra traction and stability the three wheels provide. Almost every scooter has a topcase, which may hold a
briefcase and laptop as well as the day’s groceries.
Touring scooter shops
In talking with a few riders and salespeople in the scooter shops, it’s clear that scooters in Paris are not so much a social lifestyle as serious transportation. I asked
about scooter clubs and was told that there were clubs in the banlieues (suburbs), but not in the city itself. In general, equipment and apparel are sold separately from scooters, and there are whole stores full of jackets and gear and accessories, with other stores full of helmets— again, way more choice than is available here. One really
nice man at Vintage Motors (yes, the title is in English!) on Boulevard Richard Lenoir told me that, despite the choice there is in Europe, he imports “leathers” from Vanson in the US.
I discovered a marvelous shop called SDéese, on Rue Amelot near the Bastille, devoted entirely to gear and apparel for women and children. The owner said she had
opened the shop five years ago, when she couldn’t find comfortable, stylish gear for herself. Naturally, I couldn’t leave without buying some summer gloves, which somehow
are more fun since they come from Paris (plus chic, as the shop owner said). One thing I noticed: salespeople in Paris tend to be reserved, polite, but not overly friendly
or talkative. This changed as soon as someone realized I ride a scooter, and we were soon chatting like old friends.
Parking is where you find it
In Paris, scooters park everywhere and anywhere, although less often on the streets among cars than congregated in groups at the open corners formed at street intersections, which become parking lots for scooters,
motorcycles and bicycles. Parking on the sidewalks is common, especially in more residential areas. Sometimes you don’t even need to park. One morning, setting out
from my hotel to the Metro station, I saw a good-sized scooter run up on the sidewalk, stopping parallel to an ATM, where he proceeded to transact his business without every turning his motor off , taking a quick look around when he was done and zooming back into the street.
If you’ve got the nerve—I didn’t—to join Parisian scooterists on the streets, you can rent a scooter in Paris. You can arrange it in advance online through Auto Europe, who rents a Yahama Majesty 125 for $90 a day, or
on the spot at Free Scoot, 144 Blvd Voltaire in the 11th, who rents 50cc and 125cc scooters with helmet, gloves and lock included. Allez, scooters!