June 23, 2015
In the second instalment of this series, I’ve deliberated over and served up my top 3 picks for best scooters of the 90’s. A core requirement is that a scooter must have been either introduced or substantially overhauled in the USA or Canadian markets during this decade. Simply keeping an 80’s machine on sale into the 90’s is not enough to qualify.
The 90’s were a darker time in North American scooter history. This sales had dived after record sales in the 80’s and new models were sparse. It’s a strong parallel to today, where scooter sales have yet to recover to anything approaching the pre-recession levels. Thankfully sales today are 50% of what they were pre-recession, while sales in the 90’s fell to only 20% of the 80’s peak.
As a result of slow sales, scooter lineups in the 90’s were mostly comprised of machines left over from the 80’s boom. Late 80’s machines like Honda’s Elite 80 and Elite SR, and Yamaha’s Riva 125 were mainstays. In fact, Honda didn’t introduce a single new scooter model to the USA throughout the 90’s after introducing 18 in the 80’s. The extent of their attention to their scooter lineup in the 90’s was resuming sales of the Helix in 1992, introducing the Dio to Canada, and revising their Elite SR with a new motor for ’94. Yamaha didn’t do much better, introducing only the CY50 generation of the Jog in 1992.
Another Japanese maker, Suzuki, had yet to offer scooters in North America in the 80’s, but surprised everyone in 1990 when they released their first scooter, the Hyper aka AE50, to the Canadian market. It wasn’t offered in the USA, but it qualifies for consideration here as it was both new and sold in either Canada or the USA.
By the late 90’s it was clear that the Italian brands (Vespa, Aprilia, Piaggio) were planning a return to North America, but only Aprilia managed to get their scooters in showrooms in the 90’s when they rolled out a limited release of their SR50 and Scarabeo 50 models in 1999.
1999 - 2003 Aprila SR50
The SR50 was easily the most significant new scooter launched in the 90’s. When it was launched for 1999 it became the first 50cc scooter sold in North America to offer liquid cooling, fuel injection, a rear disc brake and 13” rims. In doing so, it brought many features normally reserved for bigger motorcycles to 50cc riders.
The SR50 was also easily the most “sporty” scooter offered date, drawing direct inspiration from Aprilia’s sportbikes. It took the semi-sporty concept of scooters like Honda’s Elite SR and Yamaha’s Jog to an entire new level with advanced technology, impressive power, aggressive styling and class leading digital instrumentation.
With all that technology, the MSRP was high ($2699 in 1999) which limited it to a smaller niche as an enthusiasts machine. Sales were never high, but was a fantastic scooter and remains appealing today on the used market.
1992 - 2001 Honda Dio (Canada only)
The Dio is likely Honda’s best selling scooter globally but it has only appeared once in the North American market. Honda introduced the Dio to Canada for 1992 where it remained on sale for 10 years while American’s were offered the similar but watered down Elite SR.
The Dio has long represented Honda’s best effort at making a practical and sporty 50cc. It’s a highly refined, supremely reliable and notoriously easy machine to squeeze more power out of. Only the base model was offered in Canada, but that’s just as well as it leaves the joy of bolting on cheap and readily available suspension bits, rims and go-fast parts to the owner.
Honda eventually shoehorned the Dio’s 5.6 horsepower motor (AF16E) into the Elite SR for 1994, but the result wasn’t quite as elegant since that scooter still used the previous generation of exhaust, carb and intake. Elite SR owners can brag about their glovebox, but the Dio has superior telescoping front forks and most of the design is a decade newer.
The lasting greatness of the Dio is apparent on any forum for 80’s or 90’s Honda scooters, where the common response to anyone asking about souping up their scooter is to “get a Dio motor” and mod from there. Whether you get a proper Dio or just a ’94+ Elite SR, you’re benefitting from the finest 2-stroke 50cc design Honda’s come up with to date. Yamaha’s CY50 Jog was a tough competitor, but the Dio was the best small 2-stroke of the era.
1999 - 2006 Aprilia Scarabeo 50
The Scarabeo 50 is a noteworthy machine that makes this list not because it was great, but because it was the first big wheeled scooter offered in North America. Aprilia took a gamble introducing the 50cc Scarabeo into North America hoping buyers would be practical like they are in Europe. They weren’t, but Aprilia still sold enough to keep it in the lineup.
The ‘Beo was the best 90’s machine for the practical scooterist. In that sense it was the opposite of the SR50 which catered to the pure enthusiast. It’s large wheels worked well on rough roads and with glove box storage and an optional top case it was easy to live with. A 4-stroke motor would have been even more practical, but no one offered 4-stroke 50’s in the 90’s.
September 11, 2013
DOWNLOAD HONDA’S SCOOTER LINEUP CIRCA 1996
While the 90’s don’t seem that long ago, somehow it’s been 17 years since Honda released their 1996 lineup. While the 80’s are considered to be the glory years of Honda’s scooters, the mid 90’s actually featured some darn nice artwork in their scooter brochures.
1996 was one such high point artistically for Honda, with profiles of their various machines weaved together with an elaborate - and likely funnier with time - detective story. Two 80’s stars (Helix, Elite 80) as well as a 90’s newcomer (Elite 50 SR/S) are presented here in fine form. This brochure is certainly worth checking out for any scooter enthusiasts, so download the Honda Scooter Lineup 1996 PDF.
Also head to the Downloads page for a look at the rest of the brochure scans from Honda, Yamaha and others stretching back to the early 80’s.
October 20, 2011
HIGH QUALITY HONDA AND YAMAHA BROCHURE SCANS
After much delay, high quality scans of many scooter brochures from Honda and Yamaha are now online (to replace the camera taken low-quality PDFs that were online). All of these new PDFs and more are on the Downloads page.
In addition, a few more old Honda (3) and Yamaha (2) brochures have been purchased recently and those will be scanned in soon (Update: Honda USA 2001 and 2008 now added. 2001 is very neat). These old brochures are pretty neat and hard to get. If anyone has any they’d like to share, please Contact MotorScooterGuide.
The brochures that have been re-done are:
Honda USA - 1985, 1989 Accessories, 1993, 2001, 2008
Honda Canada - 1984
Honda UK - 1984 Mopeds and Commuters
Honda Japan - 2003 Zoomer
Honda Australia - NH80 Brochure
Yamaha USA - 1996, 1998, 1998 Alternate Version
Yamaha Canada - 2008, 2009
Check out the Downloads page to see all the brochures and manuals available for download.