Honda Metropolitan in Boston

The Honda Metropolitan is a 49cc gas-powered scooter. Because of its small size and vehicle classification, it is a very convenient mode of transportation in Boston, where the streets are crowded and parking is expensive.

I did some research on the Honda Met to help out a new owner, and wanted to post a compendium of all the information I found (a lot in some areas, not so much in others). I’m not the expert, the members of urbanscootin.com are, so massive props to them! Some of these are specific to Boston/Massachusetts area, but others, such as technical information, apply to most Honda Metropolitans.

Reviews

Some links to reviews:

Metropolitan I or II?

Honda Metropolitan II’s were discontinued in 2005. A stock, unmodified Met II will reach a maximum of 25 MPH. This is only useful to absolutely meet the new moped/limited use vehicle law (see two sections down). Unless it’s an incredible deal for Boston (i.e., $1085, the KBB value, like new), just go for a regular Honda Metropolitan. If you’re experienced with performance tuning you can try to remove the restrictor plate yourself.

Misc. Information

I don’t think people often mention that with a full tank of gas (the tank is only 1.32 gallons), this thing weighs 176 pounds. While this is one of the lighter scooters out there, it is still heavy for most people. Also, there are only two places to lift it: the handlebars and the bar on the rear. If you think a full jug of milk is heavy, you might not be able to lift the scooter off of the kickstand, much less lift it up from a curb. This is light enough for one strong thief to pick up and put in a truck, though. See the securing section for how to avoid that.

Also, there is almost no storage space on the scooter. You can get a basket and a rear trunk, but that doesn’t help much. The seat compartment can only hold a helmet and chain, most backpacks probably won’t fit.

Buying a Honda Metropolitan

Before buying, you should read this article: Buying a 50 CC Scooter in Massachusetts. This will help you decide whether or not you need a scooter and make you a little more aware of what’s involved.

Another factor to consider is that there may be a significant change coming to the Honda Metropolitan in the form of Fuel Injectors for the 2010 or 2011 models; a patent was recently filed for integrating the injector into the scooter (source). So you may want to wait and get a brand new even more fuel efficient scooter.

Since 2002, not much has changed in terms of the look and specifications. The major difference between models is the carburetor, which has gone from 15 to 16 to 18mm. The seat height has been adjusted slightly as well, less than an inch over the last 7 years. You can compare models here: New Vehicle Compare at the PowerSports Network, but you won’t find much.

Finally, color does matter. These little scooters are full of personality, and you might not want the hibiscus or checker pattern. They’re easy to paint, and you can remove the cover and buy replacements, but for most models, here is a listing of the colors you are limited to based on the year the vehicle was released: An Overview of Metropolitan Colors 2002 – present.

Buying from an Official Honda Dealer

While you can get a Vespa (Herb Chambers on Brighton Ave.) or Buddy (Scooters Go Green) within the city limits, there is no place in the city of Boston to buy a Honda Metropolitan. Luckily, the major dealerships in the nearby towns (e.g. Parkway Cycle, GBM) deliver for free (at least, they did when I called). They are also all official dealers so there is not much of a difference who you talk to. Check the Honda Powersports site to find the dealer nearest you.

If you choose to work with a dealer, they should assist you in handling most things such as finding insurance and registering the vehicle. If you are going through official channels, your vehicle may be registered as a Limited Use vehicle (read about the law later).

Buying Online/through Craigslist

If you’re buying from someone online, save a copy of the ad they post. Because the Honda Metropolitan is such a small vehicle, there may be some stolen scooters on sale. Avoid these. I wouldn’t buy from anyone who didn’t provide a phone number, and if they take cash only, find out why they won’t take a check with a bill of sale. A check leaves a paper trace of the sale and is beneficial for BOTH parties.

Whatever the case, make sure the seller has the original documentation for the bike. This includes the original bill of sale from a dealership, any hand-drafted bills of sales in between, the original registration. If available, the owner and service manuals are nice to have, and if the seller has a helmet, lock, and cover, see if they can provide you with it as part of the sale.

For your bill of sale, this site has a pretty standard one: Free Motorcycle Bill of Sale. Just change motorcycle to Honda Metropolitan. The site also provides a pre-purchase inspection checklist that applies to scooters: Motorcycle Bill of Sale (inspection checklist).

The odometer on a Honda Metropolitan only goes up to 9999 and then rolls over, so the only way to tell if a scooter has 100 miles or 10100 miles is to inspect it thoroughly!

That Stupid Law

All of this information can also be found here: Laws in MA, the registration form (you’ll eventually get to it), and in the urbanscootin.com forums (register if you are going to enter the MA scooter world).

A law was passed in 2009 that creates a new category for scooters in between a motorcycle and a moped. The in-between vehicles are considered “Limited Use” motorized bicycles, and are not allowed to have top speeds above 30 MPH among other conditions. For the Honda Metropolitan, this is the only condition under which it fails.

Insurance

Scooter insurance supposedly costs around $100 according to some people on the urbanscootin.com forums. I couldn’t find insurance for less than $400 (Progressive and Metlife), and my company insurance provider (Progressive) does not have Scooter coverage in MA (yet, but it does in other states) so it would fall under Motorcycle insurance. Insurance is not a bad idea if you live in, say, Roxbury, where your scooter will probably get stolen. Only a properly registered scooter can be insured, so you have to register as a Limited Use vehicle if you are getting insurance.

Parking

Luckily the parking requirement is not currently enforced in Boston (source), but if a police officer felt like it, they could. Don’t park anywhere stupid (e.g. fire hydrant, driveway, exits, middle of the sidewalk).

Recommended Registration

If you are one to obey laws to the letter, plan to get insurance for the $2000 vehicle, or you have a Honda Metropolitan in good condition and plan on riding it really fast (above 25 MPH), register as a LU vehicle and get insured.

Otherwise, know that I am not advising you to disobey the law, but you should be aware of these points:

  • A used Honda Metropolitan may not be able to reach the manufacturer advertised top speed of 42 MPH. Some of them can barely go 30 MPH due to wear, and the Metropolitan II is intentionally restricted to 25 MPH.
  • If you have a cover, the model number is not visible without lifitng it.
  • Traffic/police officers don’t carry a chart with scooter top speeds and model numbers.

As long as you don’t ride above 25 MPH and get clocked or park somewhere that an officer would check on your vehicle, you could get away with registering as a moped.

Registering a Scooter

I didn’t do this, so I don’t know any details other than you just bring a completed RMV1 and some cash to the DMV, and you get a sticker (for moped registrations). There is a DMV near the Boylston (Green line)/China Town (Orange line) stop:

630 Washington Street Boston, MA 02111-1615

Accessories

Now that you’ve purchased, (insured,) and registered your vehicle, you need some accessories before you can ride it:

  • DOT approved helmet – safety first. Price varies, maybe $40.
  • A U-lock – this is to lock the bike to a chain to a pole. Get a good one, 13/14 mm diameter should fit most chains. A good lock also comes with an anti-theft policy which can act as secondary insurance for your scooter. You need to fill out the form and have the broken lock to claim the theft. Kryptonite no longer uses the old style locks that can be picked with a Bic pen, but make sure you get a really good one. Roughly $100.
  • A strong chain – A lock is only as good as the chain. 5 feet is JUST enough to go around the back wheel and a street sign. Some locks and chains come as sets. The OnGuard chains are reputable. $50 – $150.
  • A durable cover – This should not only protect from rain, but should be heavy enough or have a cord that prevents the wind from blowing it off. Boston is windy. Also, a heavy/banded cover may discourage officers from trying to find a model number. Be careful with cheap covers, they may melt on a hot day and in contact with the hot parts of the scooter. Roughly $40.
  • A batter maintainer/float charger – The Deltran Battery Tender Jr. is the recommended brand by urbanscootin.com. It is the same price as any other brand, but has an ampere rating that is similar to the Honda Metropolitan’s stock Yuasa battery. In other words, it’s the best. Get it for the winter/times when you won’t ride it at least twice a week. No more than $30. Here is the one you should get: Battery Tender 021-0123 Battery Tender Junior 12V Battery Charger. Read more about batteries in the maintenance section.
  • The Honda Metropolitan Service manual – is optional, but if you got a scooter that may not be in perfect condition or you want to take care of the scooter yourself, you’ll want this. You can order it from Helm Incorporated, do a search for the model (CHF50) to get the manuals you want. $20 – $60 depending on which ones you order.

Didn’t expect the extra costs, huh? That’s like $400 on top of the scooter.

Maintenance

If you ride the scooter often (twice a week for at least five miles a time), use a battery maintainer in the off-season, and change the oil every 1000 miles or year, change the spark plug every 1500 miles, your scooter will be in top shape.

Securing your Honda Metropolitan

The rear frame post is the most secure place to run the chain, but it is difficult to get to. The next best place to run the chain is through the rear tire itself. The platform of the scooter is another option if your chain is long enough. A picture can be found in this thread on urbanscootin.com: Chain/Cable Locks for Scooters..

Use the kickstand lock found under the seat when you put it down to prevent someone from just running away with your scooter.

Grip-Locks are a relatively new thing, and I’m not sure if they’re available in the US, but you can try here: GRIP-LOCK if you feel you need the extra security.

Fueling

The carburetor mixes impure gasoline for you, and is designed to work with regular gas. The owner’s manual recommends that you use only regular, 87 octane, gasoline. You should follow this recommendation, unless a professional recommends otherwise (in which case the reason would most likely be something called “knocking,” which is when the fuel spontaneously ignites and damages the engine). The gas cap is locked as a safety measure to a) prevent people from putting sugar and other things in your gas tank, and b) prevent people from stealing your single gallon of gas in these desperate, desperate times.

Opening the gas cap can be tricky if you’ve never seen it done and don’t have the manual. The gas cap is underneath a plastic cover where the floor board meets the seat. Lift the cover using the tab, and you’ll see the metal cap. You need your key to open the gas cap. Put the key in and turn it to the right to unlock the cap. The entire metal cap can then be unscrewed by turning it to the left. It is not attached to the vehicle like a car gas cap, so don’t lose it. When you’re done putting in gas (and a shot of Sea Foam to clean the carburetor if you need it), screw the gas cap back on and lock it. Close the plastic cover, and you’re all set.

Oil Changes

Regular maintenance includes changing the oil every 1000 miles or year, whichever comes more often. Many of the posts on urbanscootin.com agree to use a synthetic oil (but the effect is not much different from non-synthetic), such as Amsoil Synthetic 10w40 or Castrol Syntec 10w40. Just make sure it’s 10w40 and NON energy conserving. Oil should cost around $9.00. Here are some guides:

Kickstarting

If your battery is getting old (4 years or so, if you maintained it well), consider replacing it. Until then, you may have to kickstart your scooter. The Honda Metropolitan has a kickstarter next to the kickstand. To use it, put the scooter on the kickstand and turn it on. Then flip the kickstarter peg out and push it down half way. There is a midway point that gives some resistance, once you ease the kickstarter past that, give it a smooth push (should not get stuck or jerk) all the way to the end. It takes about the same energy as pulling the rip cord on a lawn mower. Don’t literally kick it or stomp on it. Just a strong, fluid push from the midpoint to the end is all it takes.

Battery

All Honda Metropolitans use a Yuasa AGM (which implies that it is sealed) lead-acid battery, part number YTZ7S. The battery is 12 volts, 0.6 amps (600 mA). More technical specifications can be found here: Yuasa Battery, Inc. YTZ7S. This battery should last for about 5 years with active riding and a Battery Tender during the off-season.

Battery Maintenance

The Honda Metropolitan battery is a 0.6 A battery. Because of this, it requires at least 0.6 amps to charge. An ampere is a measure of current, meaning that higher ampere chargers will charge your batter faster. This is not exactly good, because it also kills the battery faster. You wouldn’t use a $2 phone charger from Chinatown on your new $300 iPhone would you?

Some rules:

  • Don’t get a trickle charger. If you accidentally leave it on too long, it will start to over charge and kill your battery.
  • Don’t charge from a car if the car is on. This will just plain kill your battery.
The Deltran Battery Tender Jr

This is a float charger that delivers a current of 0.75 amps. This rating is safe for the Honda Metropolitan battery. This battery maintainer is the Battery Tender, and is recommended for use. You connect the positive clip or ring to the positive connector of your scooter’s battery, the negative clip to a metal surface like the engine (the Honda Metropolitan is negatively grounded, like most things), and then plug the Battery Tender into an outlet (never plug it in to the outlet first, it has to check the battery to determine how much to charge).

Many people like to leave the wires connected and just disconnect the charger. Leaving a wire attached is referred to as pigtailing.

Troubleshooting

Most issues revolve around starting the Honda Met. Here’s what you should be checking:

Battery issues

If your scooter dies/stalls after starting, check your battery. You can use a multimeter if you know how, or just take the battery out to an auto shop. They supposedly check it for free. With batteries, you get what you pay for, and Yuasa is a good brand. If your battery cannot hold a charge, you should replace it with an aftermarket battery of the same type. Yuasa’s aftermarket brand is Motocross and goes for about $84 at Battery Stuff. If you decide to go with another brand, make sure it is an AGM battery (or at least “sealed,” if not AGM, which will not last as long, chemically, without a battery maintainer) and pre-filled/activated/charged YTZ7S.

Here’s how to change the battery: How to Change a Battery on a Honda Metropolitan

You can learn a lot about lead-acid batteries on the Battery Tender website: Introduction To Lead Acid Batteries

Spark Plug

If it wasn’t the battery, it could be that the spark plug is dirty. You can take it out with a socket wrench. If the head is black, you can replace it. If it’s brown you can spray some special cleaner on it. Replacement just involves getting a new spark plug (bring the old one to a car shop) and putting it in. Here’s some reference material:

Carburetor

Try draining the carburetor. Then run seafoam through your gas tank (with some clean gas) and let it run. This will clean out your carburetor. If it still doesn’t start, you may have to jet (remove and clean) your carburetor (or have a professional do it for a fee). Here’s how to drain the carb: How to Drain Carb?

Here’s how to jet: Jetting the Carburator

All Else

The air filter works in a tight system with the spark plug and carburetor. I’d check that next: Replacing the Air Filter

The fuel pump is another obvious thing to check: Fuel Pump Replacement, you might even want to check it before the battery.

If your scooter is old, it might be overheating so the coolant needs to be replaced. Here’s some resources:

For anything else, unless you’re a greasemonkey, find someone to do it for you.

Conclusion

The Honda Metropolitan has been around for almost a decade now, with almost no change in technology, so much of the information about it is pretty solid. If you have any questions I recommend going to my primary source, http://www.urbanscootin.com/. If you have any corrections or suggestions for this article, post a comment and let me know.