50cc of screaming Chinese powahhhh

Illustration for article titled 50cc of screaming Chinese ipowahhhh/i

Now that my commute has shrunk from 20 miles to 2, I’m finding that the gas mileage on the trusty Mazda5 6MT kinda sucks, to be completely honest. On the last tank I got the EPA rated 21 MPG city. The tank before that, when it was 100+ degrees outside and I was running the A/C almost constantly I got a record low of 16 MPG - ouch. I knew this vehicle wasn’t the most efficient thing around, but that figure startled me. Enjoying zipping it up to redline on occasion certainly didn’t help, but getting the maximum performance out of a modestly powered vehicle is fun, especially with a motor that likes to sing. However, I think I need to find a cheaper way to get around without buying a Prius.


A friend of mine has a spare TaoTao 50 scooter sitting around. He bought it a year or two ago, but it ran like crap since day one and so he replaced it with a used 2003 Honda Elite 80, a much better scooter in every conceivable way. The TaoTao was just sitting around in his basement, unwanted, and he was about to sell it for scrap with less than 1,000 miles on it. A local shop said it was a problem with the cylinder head and offered to replace it for $200. He took the beast over there, and during their investigation discovered that the timing was off and that the valves were waaaay out of adjustment. With some basic maintenance and adjustments this thing runs as well as, well, as well as you’d expect a cheap Chinese scooter to run.

I rode it around for a few miles this evening, up and down hills and through various neighborhoods. It’s no speed demon, but at least it now performs like it’s supposed to, getting up to its top speed of 35 MPH, eventually. I think I could easily get used to riding this thing to work and back, even if it will extend the duration of that commute a tad. I figure that 60-80 MPG will help make up for the lack of performance, and it should also keep me from buying a bunch of crap I don’t need over at the local Goodwill outlet center that’s just around the corner from the office.


From what I’ve read, there are some kits to enlarge the engine from 50cc up to a massive 80cc. Having ridden my friend’s Elite, I can see that the extra 30cc makes a nice difference. For now I’ll learn to live with the existing amount of power. I just need the thing to be reliable first and foremost, with performance a distant second at best.

I can probably get this thing for about $250, which seems like an OK amount to spend on something that I may or may not keep over the long term. At the very least I should be able to break even if I decide not to keep it. Anything I should be aware of when owning one of these turds?

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