Got wheels? Will race! Perhaps that is what goes through a typical scooter racer’s mind when he’s making it scream and tear through a course. Scooters were essentially conceived to be commuter machines, and if one observes its basic design structure, it isn’t something that finds a racing course as its natural habitat.
Yet, human spirit and our will to put things out of their comfort zones is clearly evident when you observe a scooter racer fighting with its flighty front end, trying to make it do things it isn’t supposed to, all for the sake of finding an answer to a very important question – what if?
In India, the boundaries of a scooter’s capabilities are pushed further by making it step off the blacktop and make it go as fast as it can on dirt tracks in several events. That doesn’t mean your everyday scooter can withstand that kind of abuse too. Although the basic structure is retained, an everyday scooter does go through a few transformations before it can enter even popular competitive events the Gulf Monsoon Scooter Rally, the INRC, and the Dakshin Dare. What are those changes? Let’s take a look.
Take a race-spec TVS Racing Scooter for example, with which the team won the Indian National Rally Championship in 2015 and 2016 in the scooter category. The machine has maintained a success rate of more than 90% in scooter events and has won 13 out of the total 14 events organized in the year 2015 and 2016.
It is powered by a 4 stroke, air-cooled, single cylinder 150cc engine which produces 18 bhp, making it nearly twice as powerful compared to a road going Wego or a Jupiter. This race prepped scooter uses disc brakes for both the front and rear wheels and weighs about 90 kg. Its continuously variable transmission system is tuned to meet the higher speed and acceleration requirements, while the centre of gravity is lowered to help with manoeuvrability.
Even with all those modifications, though, a scooter still remains a tricky machine to master and ride fast off the road. Unlike a motorcycle, the scope to improve suspension travel on a scooter is limited. Moreover, wheels are smaller and at the rear, in particular, the spring, the motor, the braking system, the transmission, and the tyre have to survive extreme torture while working in robust harmony inside a cramped space.
When a rider puts a scooter through its paces since the engine is placed right under him, slightly towards the rear, achieving ideal placement is tricky. Because, you see, in the case of a motorcycle which achieves ideal balance due to the architecture it follows, the engine transfers power to a rear wheel which is further away from the source and free from additional weight. But when a scooter goes sideways, while counter-steering by giving it gas, the rider must also overcome the additional load which sits on the rear wheel as it digs through the surface with limited vertical suspension.
While tackling the rough on a scooter, more than the body, the rider has to depend on his arms and legs to balance the machine and keep it pointed in the right direction, since weight distribution is biased towards the rear. While scrubbing speed, since there is no bodywork in front of the torso to arrest forward movement, all that stress is translated towards the rider’s arms which are piloting a rather bulky handlebar compared to a motorcycle. Needless to say, with its tiny wheels bolted on to a suspension system that offers little travel, it’s amazing how these machines still make it fly over bumps and manage to keep it going once it lands back.
So the next time you see a scooter flying through a rally stage, understand that the rider has to dig deeper within his skill sets than most others to make that humble commuter fly. Should you wish to indulge in some fun with your gearless machine, events like the Gulf Monsoon Scooter Rally is a good place to begin