So, you’re 16 and you want your first motorcycle, or maybe you’re an experienced car driver looking for a small runaround without the need to take a full bike test. If that’s the case, a 50cc bike could be for you. Often called mopeds (owing to the fact that historically they were fitted with bicycle style pedals) you can ride one on a provisional licence and L-plates (after you’ve passed the CBT) from the age of 16. Or, if you passed the car driving test before 2001, the chances are that you’ll have the ‘AM’ entitlement on your licence and you’ll be able to hop on a ‘ped without any compulsory training (although we’d recommend that this is something you should look at).
But the number of fifties out there is bewildering so, to try and make sense of it all, here are 10 scooters, plus a pair of geared bikes, that come in at a variety of price points…
Direct Bikes DB50QT-11 Sport – £699 (plus delivery charges)
Looking for a cheap runaround and want to buy new? There’s not much cheaper on the British market than the offerings from Direct Bikes. The company imports a range of scooters from China and sells direct to the customer, with delivery charges ranging from £85 to £235 on top of the £699 sticker price.
Although there are no dealers, Direct Bikes has over 200 ‘approved service centres’ to look after the scoots. Big sales have seen the brand top the UK sales charts a few times over the years, with a number of takeaway outlets running fleets of them.
It’s a risky choice, as they tend to get very mixed reviews, but if you can put up with the aged design and don’t mind a bit of old fashioned DIY maintenance, it might just be your cheapest way onto two wheels. Maybe…
Lexmoto Valencia 50 – £949
Lexmoto is another brand that’s importing a range of bikes from China but, unlike Direct Bikes, their model is to sell through a growing dealer network that’s offering service and good spares back up. It’s a strategy that’s paying off, with the Devon based company shipping more than 10,000 bikes in 2016, making them the biggest selling 125cc brand in the UK.
At £649 the aging Lexmoto Scout is cheaper than even the Direct Bikes offering but if the budget stretches to it, Lexmoto’s mid-range offerings deliver a big jump up in quality. There are plenty to choose from but this, the Valencia, offers distinctively swoopy retro styling, decent comfort and a smooth four-stroke engine – all for less than a grand.
Peugeot Speedfight 4 – from £2099
Did you know that French car giant Peugeot started out making bicycles, and then motorcycles?
While the various divisions separated many years ago, and the powered two wheeler brand comes under the control of Indian giants Mahindra, Peugeot continues to make a range of chic runarounds that are hugely popular around Europe.
Prices start at £1449 for the entry level Kisbee, but the Speedfight is the French brand’s two-wheeled icon. The original Speedfight was launched over 20 years ago, with peppy 50cc and 100cc two-stroke engines, sports styling and fantastic agility.
Now on the fourth generation, the Speedfight comes in 49cc and 125cc versions. Still a two-stroke, the smaller versions interestingly come in air or liquid cooled variants. The liquid cooled version should be smoother, but as they’re all restricted under the same rules, it’s hard to justify the £250 premium.
Scomadi Turismo Leggera 50 – £2195
Scomadi has become one of the most talked about scooter brands in recent years. They are a Lancashire based company that was born from scooter specialists PM Tuning, and they b
uild a range of Italian style scoots that have really hit the spot with the scooterati. Underneath the Lambretta styling lies a simple air-cooled four-stroke engine sourced from China, b
ut the company has already gained a good reputation for its range, which also includes 125 and 180cc versions of the TL.
Honda NSC50 Vision – £1999
The Honda Vision is a thoroughly modern fuel-injected four-stroke. At £1999, it’s certainly not the cheapest scooter here and neither is it the most highly specced. As the saying goes though, you get what you pay for. It’s not the most adventurous in its styling or colour options, but as an appliance to get you around town it’s the risk free choice.
That Honda badge represents legendary reliability, top notch build quality and a network of professional and highly trained dealers in almost every town and city. Its also equipped with Honda’s linked braking system, for more assured stopping power. They make a 110cc version too, for riders 17 and over.
Yamaha Aerox R – £2349
One of the few two-strokes still on sale today, the Aerox has been around since 1997, meaning that there are also plenty of second hand ones around if you’re on a budget. The design might be two decades old, but it’s still one of the sportiest around. Yamaha claimed that the design was inspired by its sports bikes of the time (it was launched before the famous R-series had been heard of) and there have been a few race replica colour schemes over the years. That liquid-cooled two-stroke engine is one of the most responsive around, while the 13” wheels give it the agility of a motorised roller skate. On the downside, £2349 is a lot of money for a moped.
Vespa Primavera 50 – £3199
You want authentic? When it comes to scooters, you don’t get any more authentic than the Vespa, an Italian style icon that’s still achingly cool.
A bit like the modern day Mini, the Primavera takes the classic Vespa shape and gives it a more contemporary feel. Like the originals, it’s got a two-stroke engine, although the design is as modern as strokers get.
That motor is lively and the little 11” wheels make this an agile handler around the city streets. Overall, there’s not much to dislike about the modern Vespa, except the £3199 price tag. Ouch.
Mash Roadstar 50 – £1599
Mash is a French brand of classically styled roadsters up to 400cc. The bikes are manufacturer in China but combine retro British styling with traditional mechanicals.
The Roadstar features a basic air-cooled single cylinder four-stroke engine, a four-speed manual gearbox and comes with both an electric and kickstarter.
It’s got big 18” wheels that give it some big bike presence and, although it’s pretty basic, the modern wavy disc brake should at least ensure modern stopping standards. At £1599 (plus on the road charges) it’s cheaper than most scooters too.
Rieju RS3 50 – £2899
There’s not much choice if a sporty, geared, 50 is what you want. As has been the case for many years, the superbike-styled Aprilia RS50 is the holy grail of sixteeners, but at £3799 you’re going to have to have to do a triple shift on the paper round to even think about a deposit.
Thankfully there is another option. Spanish company Rieju makes a range of sporty 50s and 125s, and the RS3 50 delivers plenty of race track styling – and a bit of the technology – for £2899.
The engine is a peppy Yamaha two-stroke unit with a six-speed manual gearbox. The chassis features full-sized 17” wheels, disc brakes and 35mm upside down forks, made by racing specialists Showa. It’s got big bike looks and a full fairing for added kudos, although an unfaired version called the NKD, is also available.
Aprilia SX50 – £3399
If a larger steed is more of your thing there are a limited number of choices available. Italian company Aprilia, which is owned by Piaggio, has always been the moped of choice for the connoisseur and although they are expensive, they are always packed full of big bike technology and features.
If the aforementioned RS50 race replica isn’t your thing, the tall supermoto style SX50 brings plenty of presence with it. It’s one of the few two-stroke motorcycles you can still buy, giving it a real racing sound (and smell) while the styling is pretty much a mirror image of the RXV450 competition bikes.
At £3399 it’s cheaper than the RS50 but still the most expensive bike in our selection. Better start saving then…
Piaggio Zip – £1600
The Piaggio group is one of the biggest motorcycle manufacturers in the world, building bike under brands as diverse as Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Vespa. Piaggio is the entry level brand, producing the scooters that keep Italy moving. The Zip is the cheapest genuine Italian scooter you can buy. There’s not a lot to it really, but the responsive two-stroke motor and minimal weight ensure that the Zip lives up to its name as it darts through the city traffic.
WK Wasp 50 TTR – £1049
WK Bikes is another of those new generation of companies that are importing Chinese made two wheelers, bringing them into the marketplace with the sort of quality checks and support that western riders have come to expect.
Their range starts at £699 but this sports moped is one of the cheapest of it’s kind on the market. Provided you are ok with the garish yellow colourscheme, there’s little to grumble about with the WK Wasp. The two-stroke engine is perky and cheap to run and it’s got more than a little look of the previous generation Peugeot Speedfight about it. That’s certainly no bad thing.
There’s also loads of spec for the price, including a comprehensive dash, sports wheels and tyres, and wavy disc brakes. It’s well worth a look.