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Published May 21 2013

As gas prices increase, local scooter owners tout vehicle benefits

FARGO – It’s no secret that the cost of gas took off like a rocket last week, leading to prices of more than $4 per gallon around the Fargo-Moorhead area, some of the highest in the nation.

And while most drivers are suffering the wrath of the gas pumps, owners of one less-common vehicle – the scooter – don’t seem to mind quite as much.

That’s because scooters are extremely gas-efficient, and get close to 100 miles per gallon, according to Blake Ashmore, a salesman at Wheels Inc. in Fargo.

“The fuel expenses just cut down so much,” Ashmore says.

Mark Tufte, a Fargo optometrist who owns several scooters with his wife, Deb, echoes that sentiment.

“They really get great gas mileage,” he says.

“When you get 102 miles to the gallon, you can’t complain,” adds Deb Tufte.

But along with the obvious attraction of good gas mileage, the Tuftes say scooters have another big appeal: They’re just a lot of fun.

“It’s enjoyable. It’s relaxing,” Mark Tufte says. “They’re so small and maneuverable.”

Tufte owns a motorcycle as well, but he says that riding a scooter has a different feel to it.

“It’s fun to ride a motorcycle too, but scooters are fun in a different way,” he says.

One of the main differences between a scooter and a motorcycle is that scooters have automatic transmissions compared to the manual transmission of a motorcycle.

Additionally, scooter owners aren’t necessarily required to have a motorcycle license, which is only necessary for any scooter 50cc and above.

The Tuftes’ scooters are 49cc, which have a maximum speed of about 40 miles per hour.

The fact that scooter owners don’t need to get the motorcycle license is another definite appeal, Mark Tufte says.

“You don’t have to take the time to get that license,” he says. “It’s not as intimidating to go pass a driver’s test.”

That leads to a feeling of inclusion, that anyone can drive a scooter.

“Everyone feels part of that scooter culture, which I think is more appealing,” he adds. That’s how it was for Deb Tufte, who says that she was “always the rider, never the driver” with her husband’s motorcycle.

And though she enjoyed riding around on the back of her husband’s motorcycle, she says she enjoys that they’re now able to drive around on their scooters together.

“I enjoy riding with him (on his motorcycle), but when we’re going around town, we’ll take the scooters rather than the bike,” she says.

Increase in popularity

The Tuftes’ experience with scooters is pretty typical of scooter owners around the F-M area, according to Jill Arneson, a manager at U Motors in Fargo and also an avid scooter rider.

“People start buying scooters for gas, and then they get hooked,” she says. “It’s an addiction.”

Arneson organizes an annual scooter ride to raise funds for breast cancer research called, playfully, Scooters for Hooters.

The number of riders participating in Scooters for Hooters has increased each year, Arneson says, with around 100 participating last year.

This year’s Scooters for Hooters, the event’s fourth, is set for July 21. Registration costs $25.

Just as riders in the event have increased over the last few years, so too have purchases of scooters at U Motors and Wheels, Inc, Ashmore and Arneson say.

Depending on the model, scooters at both locations can cost anywhere from slightly below $2,000 to more expensive models priced at close to $10,000.

“We’re seeing huge increases in scooter sales,” Ashmore says. “They’re more and more popular every year.”

Scooter customers at Wheels, Inc. range from high school-aged kids all the way up to 70-year-olds, Ashmore says.

“They’re not just intended for one social class,” he adds.

Arneson says that scooter purchases at U Motors pick up on the weekends and during warmer weather, but that she’ll also see an uptick in purchases around the holidays when people buy scooters as gifts.

Despite the recent increase in scooter sales, Tufte says he and his wife are surprised that they don’t see more scooters around town, or that there aren’t more organized rides or activities aside from Scooters for Hooters.

“There’s more and more of them all the time, but I’m surprised we don’t see even more,” he says.

“There isn’t a scooter club around here, but we’d love to get one,” Deb says.

But as long as gas prices stay high, Arneson, singing the praises of her own scooter, expects the F-M scooter crowd to continue to increase.

“They’re super simple. Anyone can do it,” she says. “I constantly have a smile on my face when I’m riding. It’s simple. It’s comfortable.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535