Motor scooters may be a familiar site whizzing through Italian cobblestone streets, but for members of the local Hop Head Scooter Club, they are a way to zoom down the roads of Howard County.
Founded in February by county resident Brett Rhodes, the Hop Head Scooter Club is now the largest vintage scooter club in the area, with more than 70 members who meet monthly to ride together to local breweries.
Iconic for their sleek, colorful designs and their ability to zig zag through traffic, à la Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday,” motor scooters have a dedicated following throughout the U.S., made up of clubs like the Hop Heads.
Clubs will often meet up at scooter rallies across the United States, when hundreds will gather to camp, eat, drink and ride together. While the scooter scene in Europe is considerably larger with rallies attracting thousands of attendees, the craze is catching on in the United States.
Vintage scooters have their own unique following; riders will often buy scooters from one another after meeting through social media, Craigslist or at rallies, Hop Head member Michael Beck said. Scooters typically cost between $1,200 and $1,500, according to Beck.
Scooter stores selling vintage models still exist in some areas, with the closest being Motor Classics in Washington, D.C., but most stores now cater to selling modern styles, Beck said.
Rhodes, who said he first started riding scooters while living in the United Kingdom in 1994, decided to form the club after getting involved in Baltimore’s scooter scene.
“I came over here and I just missed it. There was a club in Baltimore that was okay, not as rally going as I would like,” Rhodes said. “I was talking to people there who were from Howard County, and asked if they’d be interested in starting a club here. And it gets bigger and bigger every week.”
Comprised of both long-time scooter veterans and rookies, Hop Heads provides a welcoming, fun atmosphere for enthusiasts to work on their scooters and share knowledge, said member Jill Caple. Caple said she has been riding for years, but became more involved in the local scene in recent months thanks to Rhodes.
“Brett’s enthusiasm about the whole scene has gotten [me] really excited again,” she said.
Often thought of as a male-dominated hobby, Caple is one of the club’s only female members, but she said the environment has been welcoming and encouraging to her and other women.
“It’s definitely a ‘guy’ thing. And normally the women that do get involved are “gear heads” [and are] more into the mechanical side of things and the engines,” she said. “Most of the women that get into it are pretty hard core and pretty badass women. So we stick together.”
One of the major aspects of the club is sharing resources and knowledge about how to maintain and fix the scooters, many of which are decades old; Caple’s scooter is from 1969. Ellicott City resident Jen Lyon said this sharing of expertise is what has made joining the club such a positive experience.
Lyon said she’s only been riding for a little over a year, but thanks to the helpful community of the club, she’s been able to learn a great deal about working on scooters. She discovered the club through Facebook, and said the other members guided her and encourage her to purchase a classic scooter.
“What made me feel so tender towards these guys is that they invited me to their garages to work with them,” Lyon said.
Not only does the group meet locally, but members also attend several rallies a year together. Several club members organize rallies in the region, including Beck, who has led the effort behind Baltimore’s scooter rally for the past two years.
The “Escape to Baltimore” rally attracted more than 100 people from across the region to the Hampden neighborhood in July, and included two organized rides through the area. Beck said awards were given for a variety of feats, including longest ride to attend the rally and best bike.
Since joining the Hop Head club, Beck said he’s enjoyed “having a group of like-minded people who just want to ride to a rally and have fun.”
Beck said he appreciates the other major component of the club — the brews. The club has visited every local brewery in the county, according to Rhodes.
The social environment combined with the unique thrill of riding a scooter, which can go up to 70 miles per hour, is what Caple said has kept her a dedicated rider for years.
“They’re just a lot of fun to ride. It’s a blast, you’re going really fast on an extremely small motor vehicle on extremely small tires,” she said. “The number two [best] thing would definitely be the people, getting together with other people who are scooterists. We’ve got such a wide range of people that are in the group, it’s a really cool social thing.”