Here in Minnesota, we don’t have any scooters. Nope. None. According to the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles, we have mopeds and we have motorcycles. Mopeds? Like those bicycle-looking things from the 1970s gas crisis? Well, yes, I suppose, but mostly scooter-looking things that are licensed as a moped. In Minnesota, that means less than 50cc displacement, two horsepower and a maximum speed of 30 MPH on a level road. Meet those three requirements and your scooter can have a license plate that says “Moped” on it. What good is that? First and foremost, it opens up a whole new world of parking possibilities. On the main campus of the University of Minnesota, students (and faculty and employees) can get a parking permit on their moped-legal scooter that allows free parking in designated areas on campus. In the downtown areas, moped-legal scooter parking in bike racks is often permitted at no cost. With current monthly parking in the $200 – $250 range, a moped can be a big deal financially.
The second element that some people look for is in the licensing area. In Minnesota, anyone with a valid driver’s license can operate a moped. No “motorcycle” endorsement required. I don’t consider this a big deal because it is incredibly easy to get a motorcycle endorsement in Minnesota. Read the book, take a multiple-choice test, and you’ve got a permit. With your permit in hand, take a class. Upon successful completion of the class, you can get your full motorcycle endorsement. You can also ride around with your permit until you feel your skills and confidence will allow you to pass the road test at the DMV. Take the class. Trust me. You’ll learn a lot and the process is easier than the DMV road test process.
The “Moped” rules in your state may very well be different from those here in Minnesota.
Assuming you have the need or desire for a moped-legal scooter, you may find yourself looking at the Lance Soho 50. Lance scooters are marketed in the USA by LancePowersports.com which is run by the same people who import and distribute SYM in the USA, AlliancePowersports.com . That’s a natural connection, because the Lance scooters are manufactured by SYM. That’s a good thing because SYM is a top tier Taiwanese company, right up there in quality with companies like Kymco and PGO (makers of the Genuine Buddy).
It’s off to visit Marty at GoMoto in Minneapolis and pick up a new Lance Soho 50.
Speedometer Reading/Speed/Fuel Economy
Speedometer accuracy…. on a moped? With a top speed of 30 MPH, what’s the point? Yes, that’s 30 MPH maximum when restricted. Marty at GoMoto was kind enough to de-restrict the Soho so I could see what the real capabilities of the scooter would be. I mounted up a GPS unit and got to testing. As is fairly typical on most scooters, the Lance Soho was about 10% optimistic. At an indicated 20 MPH the GPS-verified actual speed was 18 MPH. At an indicated 30 MPH the actual speed was 27 MPH. The odometer was only about 3% optimistic registering 11.3 miles on my 11.0 mile GPS test. Top speed was 40 MPH. That’s on a new, not-yet-broken-in motor AND with a 100 kg (220 pounds, but kilograms sound so much… lighter….) pilot.
Fuel economy was very good at 90 MPG. No, not the over-100 MPG that is advertised, but these were 90 real miles on real roads. The Soho 50 utilizes the same high quality SYM engine as the wonderful Mio scooter, with a longer CVT case to accommodate the much bigger wheel on the Soho. I would expect fuel economy to improve a bit after break in, but I wouldn’t expect much more than the 34 MPH top speed that I saw.
The Lance Soho 50 is a value priced scooter with the focus on functionality, reliability and longevity. There’s not a lot of features there, but what is there appears to be of good quality. The first thing I noticed was the lack of a headlight switch. Scooters in the USA have to have their headlights on all the time – not supposed to be an “off” switch, but the Soho has no switch at all, so no high beam and low beam selection. I’ve seen this before on some other newer 50cc scooters and I guess it’s as good a place as any to save a couple of bucks. Does one really need high beam on a moped-legal scooter? The Soho 50 is powered by a 49cc four-stroke air-cooled ceramic coated carbureted engine and gets power to the 16 inch rear wheel automatically through a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).
Aside from the aforementioned lack of a headlight switch, the control layout is typical of a modern scooter – rear brake, turn signals and horn by the left hand with the front brake, engine stop switch and starter button by the right hand. The dash is basic and offers a large, round analog speedometer biased to miles. Kilometers are printed smaller on the inner part of the display. The odometer (miles) is integrated into the speedometer. A round fuel gauge is to the right. Left and right turn signal indicators are on either side and single check engine light is located in middle upper part of the dash. That’s it. No clock or trip meter or tachometer or seat open indicator or…. you get the idea. Simple and basic.
For storage the Soho provides a luggage hook and glove box on the inner legshield, underseat storage, and a small rear rack. The glove box is made up of two compartments and is lockable. The seat is released by turning the key in the multi-function switch anti-clockwise. With the seat lifted, you’ll find the fuel filler cap and room for a half helmet or maybe a smaller three-quarter. My XXL full face would not fit under the seat.
The Soho 50 has a seat large enough to accommodate two people, though the two people would have to be pretty light-weight to be adequately propelled by the tiny engine. There are fold out passenger foot pegs as well. The electric starter worked just fine, but in case it doesn’t (dead battery for example) there’s a kick starter. I there’s anything easier to kick start than a 50cc four-stroke I don’t know what it is. I swear, after it was warmed up, the Soho 50 kick starter would get things running just be looking at it hard. OK, I might be stretching things just a tiny bit, but I’m used to starting vintage British motorcycles with a kicker. Not a task for the timid.
The Lance Soho 50 fired right up, but needed a minute or two before it would idle smoothly. It’s just a little cold-blooded as it ran smoothly after the initial burbles. I noticed the same thing on subsequent cold mornings – allowing a minute or two for warm up is a good idea. Another “running” note – this a carbureted scooter so it will be much happier burning Non-Oxygenated fuel (E0). The ergonomics of the Soho 50 were very good up to a point, and I’d say that point is about 32 inches. If your inseam is much longer than that, you’ll likely be a bit cramped on the Soho. I found the Soho very comfortable as did everyone who tried it aside from the longer-legged. Even they didn’t complain much, just wished for some more leg/foot room.
Taking off from GoMoto, I was immediately reminded that this is moped-legal, small-engine machine. I’m a heavy person and acceleration was barely adequate to keep up with traffic on surface roads. It probably didn’t help that I had ridden a 750cc Moto Guzzi motorcycle over to GoMoto. Getting off that and onto a 50cc scooter only amplifies the lack of performance of the small scooter. That’s OK, this isn’t a machine to buy for performance. It’s for cheap urban transportation with a BIG parking advantage (in Minnesota). Acceleration on the Mio scooter (which has the same engine) was better, but I suspect that the much smaller wheels on the Mio had something to do with that, along with the fact that the Mio was more broken in. The Soho 50 is also a four-stroke which means it’s not going to have the acceleration of some other moped-legal scooters equipped with two-stroke engines. The thing is, two-strokes are becoming harder and harder to find in new scooters. As of this writing, Kymco has dropped them completely, Lance only offers four-strokes and even SYM only offers one two-stroke model, the Jet 50. Part of my regular test routes include some hills and one of them is both long and steep. On this road, going up the hill, the Soho held 25MPH by the top of the hill. That’s with 100kg load and maybe just a touch of headwind. On the flipside, I saw 45 MPH going down the same hill. OK, there’s a whole paragraph about something that shouldn’t matter to you if you’re looking for a moped-legal scooter. If you want to go 45 MPH uphill, get a 100cc – 150cc scooter.
Handling was VERY good on the Soho 50. There single rear shock did a fine job even over rough roads. The 16 inch wheels really shine when it comes to smooth riding. Ten inchers may be quicker to take a turn, but they can’t compare to the stability and comfort of big wheels. Nothing rattled and nothing bottomed out which leads me to believe that the Soho quality is high in both components and assembly. Braking was more than up to the job with a strong and responsive disc up front and a drum in back that didn’t show any signs of fading even after repeated use. When I REALLY hit the rear brake, I could lock it up, but I don’t think this would occur under normal use.
In a couple of days of commuting the Soho 50 worked flawlessly and once I got used to the performance limitations I had no issues with traffic. As long as I stuck to routes posted 30 MPH or even 35 MPH without any steep hills to climb, the cars behind me suffered no great delays. There’s a nice color-matched topcase available from Lance that would make a great commuting addition to the Soho.
Fit & Finish
SYM builds a very nice machine. Even in the “discount” line of Lance, the level of quality is higher than one might expect. I have recently taken to utilizing a body panel gap gauge to check fit on scooters. When the fit is tight and uniform, there’s very little to no fluctuations on the gauge. When the gauge moves a lot, the gap is not uniform. The only place I had much movement was between the dash panel and headset cover and it wasn’t a lot. That means good quality panels and a good fit. The switches, latches and other easily visible components appear robust. While riding, nothing rattled. The true indicator will be time, but I’d expect the Lance Soho 50 to hold up well. I’d place it just a notch below the no-longer-available-in North-America Kymco People 50 and several notches above the mainland Chinese generic models out there.
Lance Soho 50 vs. The Competition
If you’re out looking for a NEW moped-legal 16 inch wheel scooter, the Lance Soho 50 is your only real choice. The Soho is similar in many ways to the outstanding Kymco People 50 2T, but that scooter is no longer offered in the USA. That being said, you may well find a good used People 50 out there because a LOT of them were sold over the years. The Aprilia SportCity 50 was dropped from the USA line-up after 2013. It was initially a fast two-stroke and then went four-stroke. Not many were sold here, but I included it in the chart because it’s similar in layout to the Soho.
The Kymco People ‘S’ 50 is another no-longer-available big-wheeled moped-legal scooter that utilized a four-stroke 49cc powerplant. Not NEARLY as many of those were sold in the USA as the two-stroke People 50, so I didn’t include it on the chart. It was also much more expensive at $2,449.
I liked the Lance Soho 50 for what it is – a four-stroke moped-legal big-wheel scooter. The component and build quality are good and it offers a smoother and more stable ride than it’s smaller-wheel brethren. It is frustrating that there are no current new-scooter alternatives to consider, but the Soho 50 impressed me enough to make that less of a worry. Kudos to Lance and SYM for keeping a big-wheeled moped/scooter in our marketplace.
One again, a BIG “Thank You” to Marty at GoMoto for facilitating this review.