At a time when air pollution, high fuel prices, limited parking, and an abundance of traffic can well make a journey to the beach a dramatic trek rather than a romantic adventure there is a clear need to consider driving a traffic breaker. Fortunately coast clingers now have at their feet seven remarkable vehicles to ease the pain by using the latest in two-wheeled transportation.
No easy task, but The Car Family found two scooters, two motorcycles, and two electric bicycles that are all state of the art. Rounding out this formidable team is the new again Segway now equipped with beach tires and even a golf bag holder. The pricing for these seven ranges from about $2000 to over $35,000 with most of them priced around $5000.
The electric bicycles
There really isn’t a negative when it comes to electric bikes. They can climb hills, are easy to store, and have all the positives of typical bicycles except for the fact you can pedal when you want or just twist the throttle and let the motor take the sting out of hills and intersections as it pushes you up and over most every incline with very little assistance. Of these the Optibike is the most exclusive. The Colorado company only builds a couple a month, and can cost up to $8000 for the hottest model. And, we mean hot. The electric motor is sealed beneath the rider and supplies enough power to enable you to reach speeds in excess of 25 per hour. You can also cover 20 miles on level ground and more is possible if you pedal using the Optibike’s seven gears. You can ease your way through traffic knowing that this bike can go up to 20 mph. If you opt for the top of the line Optibike even faster speeds are possible. The hydraulic disc brakes, modern suspension, and design make it easy to ride. (For more information contact the Electric Cyclery at 949-715-2345.)
If the Optibike is too expensive the new eZee Forza costs just over $2000 and also uses an electric motor. Of course for less money you acquire less power, but you do get a lot of extras with the eZee such as lights and storage racks. Throw in reflective sidewalls, an upright seating position, and larger saddle and you have a beach cruiser, grocery getter, exercise enhancing all in one. It is an easier bike to ride than the Optibike, but isn’t nearly the fun for serious riders. The eZee is not as daring, but more practical. Either bike is terrific in traffic, you never had to worry about parking, and the batteries can be charged in just a few hours.
No less a person than racecar driver and designer Dan Gurney came up with the Alligator. You don’t sit on the Alligator, you literally sit in it with your behind only 18 inches from the pavement. For all the world it feels like you are on a recumbent bicycle except that this one is very fast. The rider and the engine are at the same level so handling is exceptional. The one cylinder engine produces 70 horsepower and only has to carry 320 pounds thanks to a carbon-fiber body and alloy wheels. Because of its low stance it requires a bit of dexterity to park until you learn to pull yourself up with the handlebars. Much easier maneuver than larger motorcycles and with the low center of gravity handling is superior. The big brakes make stopping very easy, but the true joy of the Alligator is being able trim any canyon with ease and still being able to snuggle it into the tightest PCH beach parking place. Should you feel the need for speed this Gurney creation reaches 60 mph in less than 4 seconds making it one of the fastest legal machines in the world. The $35,000 plus machine is also a limited edition. In other words this might be one of the few conveyances that is increasing in value. You can also wait for a two-cylinder version called the Yama-Gator that is lighter. If you want to get noticed, the Alligator draws more eyes than a crushed Ferrari on PCH and is very exclusive with just 35 or so currently in existence. For more information call 714-540-1771
At the other end of the motorcycle spectrum is the car like Honda Gold Wing. This is as close to a full sized car as you can get and comes with the same options most automobiles offer including an airbag and heated seats. The Gold Wing is the most comfortable way to drive PCH at any time. Costing $20,000 and weighing over 800 pounds the Honda’s 118 horsepower engine can be maneuvered though all manner of PCH hazards with effortlessness, parks in the tightest of spaces, and has plenty of storage space for refreshments. Owners need never feel deprived of gadgets just because they are on a motorcycle as this Honda has GPS with voice prompting that can work through headsets or speakers, a color monitor, heated seats and handle grips, and even a foot warming feature. Perfect for those cool night rides and foggy mornings the Gold Wing can smooth out the most stressful Malibu day or night.
Say scooters and what most people think of is the ubiquitous Vespa. Well, they are still around and much improved. The latest and the best is the Piaggio MP3 with its two small front wheels that make it much easier to turn than a convention scooter. It also has better traction in wet weather should that ever occur again in Southern California. The front wheels tilt together for a very smooth turning action. If you want to use it on the freeway buy the more expensive 2500 cc model which is upwards of $7000. For slightly less you get the abundantly adequate 125 cc version. It has an electro-hydraulic suspension which makes parking a snap you just lock it and the MP3 stays upright. So cool. You don’t even have to put your foot down when stopped at a red light. Three disc brakes, a good-sized storage unit, lots of options from heated leg warmers to GPS and Bluetooth make this the Mother of All scooters and a hoot to drive.
The first Vespa is now over 60 years old and is the Father of All scooters. Yes, it looks a bit long in the tooth looking, but the innards have been refreshed many times. Starting at just over $4000 and with fuel mileage in the 70-mpg range, the basic PX 150 has the traditional four-speed manual transmission, ample storage, including a spare tire. You can haul several bags of groceries using the scooters built in bag hooks and rear rack. It is quick off the line, considering that the 150 cc engine isn’t really meant for speeds about 60 mph. Easy to park, this Italian made bike is fun and frisky with just a touch of eccentricity. Can you say Malibu? (949) 631-5105
Considered legal for pedestrian purposes, the Segway claims it can even be taken into stores. Regardless, it is a snap to learn how to operate and with the P or X2 Series model can by driven right onto the beach where permitted. The larger tires make for a slower ride than the standard model, but provide a better base enabling you to carry everything from golf clubs to a picnic basket. Priced around $5000 and up, the electric Segway is capable of coping with some of the more significant inclines in Malibu with payloads up to 260 pounds including the operator. For a test drive contact the dealers in Santa Monica or Newport through www.segway.com
Family conference: Each of these forms of transportation offers viable alternatives to four wheeled vehicles and we enjoyed every one. We especially liked the electric bicycles and the Segway for their ease of operation and the fact they don’t have to be insured or licensed. The bottom line is that it is time to seriously look at going back to the future for that next trip to the seashore. For a list of all vehicle manufactures go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html