Scooter Safety and You
With the price of a gallon of gas approaching the entire Gross National Product of a third-world country, scooters and mopeds have become more than a great way to get around town, they’re a boon to the ecology.
They may be small, and they aren’t the fastest thing on the road, but scooters and mopeds still take skill to ride safely and effectively. Since they inhabit the entry-level strata of the two-wheeled market and are relatively easy to operate, many people never take the time to learn the finer skills of using them on the road.
Don’t make that mistake.
Here are a few tips for the safe operation of your moped or scooter:
Protect Your Brain
You may not like the idea of a helmet and you might find the very idea of wearing a helmet while riding your scooter or moped is, well, ridiculous, but you might rethink that stance after an SUV plows into you at 35 mph. Should the worst-case scenario occur, you’ll be glad your helmet was there to prevent and embarrassing and messy spill of your brain matter on the pavement.
Helmets can provide more than simply protection; a good helmet can reduce road and wind noise and keep your hearing intact. Helmets also reduce the chance of road debris and large, juicy bugs ending up plastered to your face. Once you’ve had a rock ricochet off your forehead or felt the impact of a Junebug at 40 mph, you’ll surely agree with this advice.
Higher Center of Gravity
The higher center of gravity and the position of your feet on your moped or scooter makes the handling characteristics of your machine a dicier proposition that riders of motorcycles face. At speed, the smaller size and lower profile of moped and scooter tires provide riders a smaller “contact patch” on the road and introduce some inherent instability, so be prepared for those factors. The lighter weight of your machine might give you cause for confidence, but the turning radius and shorter wheelbase of scooters and mopeds make them a dodgy proposition when it comes to handling at speed.
Eyes Are Useful
Eye protection. Use it. You might not be cranking it on and reaching 80 mph on your scooter, but rocks, glass, and miscellaneous road debris traveling at speed can do horrific damage to your eyeballs.
The simplest way to protect your vision is with a helmet with a face shield. You should be wearing a helmet anyway, why not just go all the way and take the full-face plunge. Failing that, or if you have style objections to the full-face helmet, a good pair of impact-resistant sunglasses can work wonders .
Wear Bright Colors or Reflective Clothing
Motorcyclists and scooter riders are already at a visual disadvantage; you just don’t cut a big profile when compared to that of an automobile. Scooters further complicate the matter by virtue of being smaller and quieter. Clothing will help you stand out from the roadway background. The more you stand out, the better chance you have of not getting run over by a distracted driver. I’ve seen some riders wearing brightly-colored vests lately, and this has the virtue of your being able to remove one and stow it on the bike when you reach your destination.
Other clothing choices? Keep in mind you’re riding out in the elements and there’s always a chance you’ll have to lay it down to avoid more serious injury. Wearing clothing to help reduce road rash, such as long pants and a jacket, while not the most comfortable option on warm days, will prevent you from having to spend a week picking gravel out of various parts of your anatomy and cursing the day you rode in shorts. Sliding across the pavement at 10 mph is a lot like sliding down a playground-sized cheese grater. Not fun.
Staying on the Right Side of John Law
It’s always a good idea to check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles to determine what tests you might need to pass before hopping on your moped. Take the time to ask them about the location of training courses that can help get you on your way safely if you’re a novice rider.
Mopeds and scooters may be known for their ease of use, and part of that reputation comes from the fact that they generally feature automatic transmissions to simplify operation, but keep in mind that they’re also constrained by certain laws tied to the size of their engines. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the engine, the less regulation attached to the machine.
Scooters are a great means of transportation and they be an inexpensive and stylish alternative. Making sure you’re up to date with your riding skills will keep you safe and you’ll help everyone out by keeping those motorcycle insurance premium costs down.