Well, this is just brilliant. Motorcycle.com sets out to educate “the unwashed and ignorant savage square-state big-bike rider” on scooters. And it is HILARIOUS.

http://www.motorcycle.com/features/skidmarks-six-things-you-need-to-know-about-scooters.html

A lot of good humor has its roots in truth. I am particularly glad the author called out point #4: Scooter riders don’t wear enough protective gear.

“Why scooterists think God beams his benevolent gaze upon them because they’re riding a cute lil’ scoot is a mystery.”
– Guy who wrote that article

I don’t want to get all sanctimonious about ATGATT here. I’ve certainly ridden with less gear than I should. I’ve ridden without a helmet once or twice (okay, twice). My body is my own to take those risks with as I choose, as is yours. Please make sure you’re on the organ donor registry, that’s the only thing I’ll nag you about.

But these should be educated risks. Instead, the helmetless, armorless scooter rider seems to operate under one of two assumptions:

  • That scooters, being smaller than motorcycles and more likely to be used for short, in-town trips, somehow put us at less risk of crash and catastrophic injury, and/or
  • That all gear is motocross gear, heavily armored with logos plastered front, back and sides, or otherwise not in keeping with the scooter “look” or our personal style

On point number one, they couldn’t be more wrong. I heard often in MSF that we should “dress for the fall, not for the ride,” and to that I’d add another pearl of wisdom I picked up from ModernVespa:

The pavement doesn’t care what you’re riding.

Whether I’m on a 110cc Kymco or a 1000cc Honda, if a left-turner cuts me off when I’m going 30 mph and I go highside, the pavement and I are going to have a talk. And I am pretty certain that if pavement could laugh at my excuse – but I was on a scooter! – it would. When we are on the road, we are just as exposed as a motorcyclist is to the whims and failings of motorists. We are just as vulnerable to the potholes, oil slicks and other road hazards – maybe even moreso, because the pothole that the big dude in the tank top on a Sportster can just bump right over with his bigger tires might just take a bite out of your 10″ rims. Our skin will burn when scraped across the asphalt, sizzle when we fall and our pipes  land on our legs. Our skulls don’t magically turn to titanium when we ride a bike with a step-through frame instead of a central fuel tank. They will still smash like walnuts when they meet an unforgiving surface. Our spinal cords can still snap. Our unprotected hands can deglove as we catch ourselves in a skid and fall. Don’t look that up if you have a weak stomach – I worked in and around a trauma ICU and OR for seven years, trust me on this one.

Scooter riders, those are your risks. They are real. Take them or don’t take them, it’s your body and it’s up to you. (*cough* be an organ donor *cough*) But KNOW them. If you talk yourself into thinking you don’t need to gear up because you’re not at risk, you’re talking yourself out of seeing those risks and managing them. The times I rode without gear – short sleeves and whatnot – were riding pillion with riders who had ten, fifteen or twenty years of experience in handling their bikes and managing risks on the ride. They weren’t infalliable, and there’s always some idiot on the road who just might prove it. I understood that and made my choices. When I ride my own these days though, I’m aware of the massive increase in risk that I bear simply by being a new rider. So I always grab my helmet, long pants (generally kevlar-enhanced or similar), boots, gloves, and abrasion-resistant jacket with pads. Educated decisions, measured risks.

Which brings us to the gear itself.

I am one of the picky ones who is very keen on the aesthetics of my gear as well as the comfort. And while it wasn’t easy to find things I liked that met my requirements for safety, it wasn’t impossible – or even prohibitively expensive. A lot of manufacturers put effort into making gear that doesn’t look like gear, or at least doesn’t look like the wearer is about to stunt-jump his bike over Mack trucks. You can’t go wrong with Biltwell for helmets if you want a classic, minimalist look. Many of Corazzo‘s utilitarian designs look like street jackets – they even have a sleek trench for the ladies – and all come with CE armor and abrasion resistance. My Corazzo 5.0 is a little racer, a little retro, and a whole lot of safe and comfortable. Jeans were tricky because of fit issues, but in the hunt for pants I found GoGoGear’s kevlar leggings, which at $149 were the most pricey piece in my moto wardrobe besides the helmet, but still a lot less than many protective jeans options. Kevlar leggings! Basic black, goes with everything.

The point is, if you want gear that fits you right and vibes with your look, it’s out there. In all price points, in all styles. Hit eBay if your stomach churns when you see the dollar signs – I got a $200 jacket for $90 with the tags still on, $99 jeans brand new for $35. Don’t let fashion and comfort concerns trump your risk assessment.

And register as an organ donor anyway, no matter what you wear. I’ll stop now.