Ecuador’s Viable Option
I began riding two-wheeled things with motors while in my pre-teen years. I received whatever license or endorsement was required by law as soon as I could legally do so. Over the years, I’ve maintained the legal ability to ride a motorcycle for as long as I have been driving, flying or riding anything. I’ve probably owned 6-8 motorcycles over the years; not nearly as many motorcycles as airplanes. All my bikes were made in Japan; Hondas, Suzukis and Yamahas. They were all great bikes! I never felt the need to spend what it would take to own a Harley and to be candid, I never got the whole Harley mystic. (I seek no war with my Harley buddies. It just didn’t work for me)
Another thing I never owned was a motor scooter…until last year. Everywhere we have been in Ecuador, we see many, many motorcycles and motor scooters and hybrids I’ve not seen in the states. Two wheeled things are very, very common here and often serve as the primary source of family transportation. It is not uncommon to see 3-4 people on one motorcycle/motor scooter.
We bought our car after living in Ecuador for about 3 months or so. We bought a very used car…a 30-year-old 4-wheel-drive rig. We weren’t sure what we would do about transportation when we arrived and spent the first few months riding buses, taking taxis and renting cars and drivers for longer trips. It seemed we were unwilling to sacrifice the convenience of driving ourselves when and where we wanted to go. Public transportation was not always convenient and only traveled the beaten path. We were limited. We don’t like feeling limited.
Another couple of months passed and Diane and I had another discussion. She did not want to take on the driving of a temperamental, stick-shift vehicle with no power steering in a new environment where traffic laws were merely suggestions and reckless driving seemed to be the norm. I could not blame her! We considered other options and settled on the purchase of a motor scooter. The motor scooter would be Diane’s primary transportation for local stuff.
The Chinese nearly have a complete lock on the motorcycle/motor scooter market in Ecuador. Chinese bikes are cheap by any standard; a new one can be had for less than $1000. Parts are readily available and motorcycle shops offering repairs are everywhere. That should be a clue!!
Although the price was about twice as much as a Chinese bike, we finally settled on a new Suzuki 125cc motor scooter with fully automatic transmission. No shifting of any kind. Just sit down, press the starter button and scoot away. The reliability of the Suzuki brand from Japan greatly surpasses any of the Chinese bikes and if the Babe was gonna’ be out and about on her own, whatever she was driving needed to be damned reliable!
Diane LOVES her scooter and rides it regularly into Bahia or to Canoa. She tells me she feels much safer riding her scooter than trying to drive the car. We had a small “trunk” installed on the back and combined with the built-in storage under the seat, it is perfect for small errands and shopping trips. Sometimes, I ride it too. Today was one of those times.
It was mid-afternoon and I needed to take a pair of Diane’s tennis shoes to be re-soled. Yeah…they do that here for about $15. (These are expensive Nikes and the leather tops look like new but she wears out the soles playing hard tennis several times per week). I could have taken the car, of course, but I was only moving one human body and one pair of tennis shoes. I didn’t need a multi-passenger, 4 cylinder, 1600cc engine and all those gears pulling all that weight around. Not efficient! A one cylinder 125cc engine that sips gas at about 65-70 mpg, goes way faster than local speed limits permit, maneuvers easily and parks anywhere would do a much better job.
What doesn’t the scooter have? Some would say it lacks sex appeal. I say that’s crap! Sex appeal is only what the marketers and advertisers tell us is sexy and trendy. You know what I think is sexy? Sexy is a cute little yellow Suzuki scooter that will run for several weeks on a $2 tank of gas, hauls two people with ease and carries a weeks-worth of fruits and veggies in the trunk.
Some will certainly say motorcycles and scooters are not safe. In the high-speed traffic environments in and around most cities in the United States, one could convincingly make that argument. Here, when speeds are low and every intersection is treated with respect, it’s different. No one expects anyone else to follow any traffic laws or rules here so we are all prepared for anything at any time from anyone.
A motor scooter or motor cycle can easily bridge the gap between public transportation and car ownership. In Ecuador, scooters and motorcycles are absolutely viable and should be considered as an option.