2010 Honda SH150i vs. Ninja 250R

Gabe Ets-Hokin | January 17, 2011
Lane-sharing or just riding in stop-and-go traffic is easier with the scooter with its automatic transmission and quick  light steering.
Lane-sharing or just riding in stop-and-go traffic is easier with the scooter with its CVT transmission and quick steering.

You can read Moto-USA’s reviews of both of the Honda SH150i and Ninja 250R, so you’ll know they are both good machines. What makes one better than another? I asked scooterists and motorcyclists to debate the merits of their rides on the Bay Area Rider’s Forum to see what they had to say, and although I got a lot of unprintable material from some of the folks, as well as a huge range of opinions, several themes kept surfacing.

First, there’s the convenience factor. Scooters have a free and easy character that motorcycles can’t really match. Just hop aboard, twist the throttle and go. Nothing is easier to ride, save a golf cart or bumper car, and even that’s debatable. The SH150i fulfills that promise for sure. The faultless fuel-injection means almost no warm-up time and the smooth CVT transmission means you just zip away down the street. It may as well be electric – there is almost no noise, and for a Single, it’s as smooth as warm flan. When you get to where you’re going, pop it up on the centerstand (that’s easy to do, once you learn the trick), use the helmet hook to lock the helmet, put your jacket and gloves under the seat and you’re suddenly just another pedestrian. The bag hook on the scooter lets you carry groceries, and you can even put bulky loads down by your feet, at least for short trips. If that’s not enough storage, you can bolt a locking trunk on and it won’t ruin the looks too much; hey, it’s a scooter. Do that to a sleek sportbike and you look like Junkman Harry.

The Kawi isn’t that different convenience-wise. Aside from the minute or two it needs to warm up, it’s almost as easy and fun to ride around city streets. The seat is low enough for most adult Homo sapiens to comfortably get both feet down, the clutch has a very light pull and smooth engagement, the gearbox has a short, light throw and finding neutral couldn’t be easier. The seating position is almost perfectly neurtral, with no body part – wrists, tailbone or feet – bearing too much weight. There are helmet hooks for two helmets, but you’ll have to carry your jacket with you. Still, it is a motorcycle, and it just lacks that carefree scootery feel. Plus, you have to carry all your cargo in some kind of backpack or motorcycle luggage – do-able, but inconvenient.

The Hondas underseat stowage is limited  but still very useful.
The Honda’s underseat stowage is limited, but still very useful for commuting and errand runs.

So call me unscientific, but I’m going to have to give the nod to the SH in the ease-of-use department…after all, if you have to ride crosstown 25 blocks in a city like San Francisco, you’ll work the clutch and gearshifter something like 60 times on a Ninja 250, depending on how many stop signs and lights you hit, and it’s the same commuting in stop-n-go traffic, especially if you’re not blessed enough to live in a place civilized enough to allow lane-sharing. If you’re young, it’s no big deal, but if you’ve spent 20 years riding the angry Carpal Tunnel Spirits will make trouble for you, requiring two hours Percocet-and-bottom-shelf-scotch therapy. Actually, that sounds pretty good, too. Maybe I’ll keep the Ninja.

When it comes to fun, scooter and motorcycle people both have good arguments. Around town, for the reasons I mentioned above, you can’t beat a scooter, especially one like the SH. It’s in that sweet spot—at 300 pounds and with an ultra-low center of gravity it feels as light as a beach cruiser around town, and the motor is more than zesty enough to beat just about anything to 20 mph from a standing start. If you don’t think a scooter is fun, you haven’t ridden one in the right environment, or maybe you just have a hard time having fun. Loosen up.

Gabe Ets-Hokin

Contributing Editor | Articles | Gabe likes to ride scooters, true, but he also spent nine years of his life as a club-level roadracer and has been a professional motorcycle tester and journalist for over a decade. His favorite part of helicopter rides is the morphine.