I love thinking back to how I viewed scooters before I actually learned about them. I assumed they were just really slow motorcycles. Throw on a minuscule helmet similar to how you do on a bicycle, and you’re off! Boy, was I unaware!
When riding a scooter, the protective gear you wear should include eye and face protection, over-the-ankle boots with a low heel, full-fingered gloves, protective jacket, and protective pants, in addition to, any gear needed to safely handle the weather conditions of the ride.
Eye and Face Protection
If you need a full run-down on helmets, I have a guide you can look into here. However, this conversation is more about your helmet in relation to the eye and face protection.
A full-face helmet will cover all of your head and face, but if you are wearing any other style, you need to add in some eye and face protection.
When riding, there is a risk that an insect or stone could pop up and hit your face. Imagine this in your eye, and you can see the danger this risk poses.
Many helmets have the ability to add a face shield. This article is being written in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so you may have seen a face shield or two out and about. This is similar but it affixes to your helmet. It is usually clear, and it should be designed for motorcycle use (think impact-resistant and prepared for wind). There are also tinted options, but remember a tinted option would only be for daytime use. You’d have to switch out for nighttime protection.
Goggles are also an option, but I do not see these on the road often. It feels very vintage. With goggles, your eyes are protected, but all other areas of your face are exposed.
Other Less Protective Options
Glasses or even sunglasses might dampen the flow of an insect, but they will not protect you from the wind or dust getting into your eye. The same can be said with a windscreen. It shields you from some wind and therefore, debris but not all.
The most important part to highlight here is that you should be wearing over-the-ankle shoes or boots as it is a commonly overlooked component for scooterists. This really comes into play during an accident as the extra protection minimizes your injuries to the foot and ankle.
Your footwear should also have a low heel and have a good sole on the bottom. This gives you the best grip on the ground when straddling the scooter, and it gives your feet a good grip when riding. You don’t run the risk of your foot sliding off like you would on a manual shifted motorcycle, but on a scooter, you may find you need to lift off of the seat when you encounter an obstacle in the road. A good grip is critical to pop up off the seat in time. This is covered in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider’s Course that I recommend. Don’t let this scare you. just be aware and wear the right shoes.
Beyond the helmet, I actually feel that I get the most bang for my safety buck from a good set of gloves. Your hands take the brunt of the weather-related exposure, so gloves help deal with the heat and cold on top of the sun and the wind.
At a minimum, gloves let you grip your handlebars better. It’s kind of like the footwear in that a good grip, gives you better control.
Gloves also provide a protective layer in the event of a fall. You can also opt for a pair with the built-in protective armor to give you an additional layer of protection, particularly at the knuckles.
Make sure that the gloves you choose do not restrict your ability to use the controls on the scooter. Well-fitted is key here.
As your hands take the brunt of the weather conditions, make sure to account for this in your ride. There are summer options with perforated leather to let some wind in, and there are insulated versions to keep your hands warmer when cooler.
Jacket & Pants
I know it is tempting to ride off without these items. I used to only put my full gear on depending on the route I was taking. If I could my speed below, x amount then I’d forego the gear. Then, I went through a construction zone. Those tiny dust particles HURT!
When looking for pants and jackets, you’ll want to look for leather or motorcycle-specific fabrics. For example, my favorite jacket has a mesh liner that is made with some kevlar material to prevent it from ripping apart if I find myself in an accident. The special material allows me to get airflow when it is warm out but provides me good abrasion and impact resistance.
Be sure that the jacket and pants fit you well. Neither should restrict movement. On the flip side, if they are too large, they are not going to stay in place the way they should in the case of an accident. It’s a balance!
Know that a pair of blue jeans will not protect you in a crash. They will shred, so if you want the jeans look, grab a pair of motorcycle jeans.
I have a guide on riding in cold weather and hot weather to help here, but you want to make sure that you aren’t going to suffer from heatstroke or hypothermia. The wind and moisture really do a number on a scooterist over the course of a ride.
Quick hot recommendations: Still wear your gear! Steer clear of cotton, and aim to wear fabrics that add some moisture-wicking feature. Open up all the vents that your gear has, and always be sure that you are hydrated.
Quick cold recommendations: Layer up! You want to be sure you are wearing moisture-wicking fabric for your base layers even when it is cold because if you get wet, staying warm is just plain not going to happen. Similarly, shoot for outer layers that have some form of water resistance on top of wind resistance to keep the cold out. By wearing layers, you will be able to strip some off if you find yourself too warm or when you arrive at your destination.
How Are You? Your Attitude Matters.
For real, how are you? Are you distracted? Are you upset? Angry? Tired? Emotions are intense, and they can be a distraction from the road if you let them. Giving your ride the attention it deserves serves as part of your safety plan beyond the helmet.
You can consider this a practice in mindfulness to make sure you are mentally alert and ready to ride. Feel the emotion, acknowledge it, take a few deep breaths, and then you can get to scooting. Find the enjoyment in the ride to keep that focus.
I swear by one key thing to stay safe. I think this one thing is even more important than wearing a helmet. Ok, that’s debatable. However, if you do this ONE thing, you won’t need the protection from a helmet.
When thinking through your safety gear plan, make sure you think about how it looks from the perspective of a car driver. One of the biggest problems scooterists face on the road is simply being overlooked by drivers (and even more so by those distracted drivers). I like to go for white or colorful items, and I have been known to add reflective decals to add some visibility when on the road.
Heck, decorate your scooter for the holidays if you feel like it. If someone is pointing at how cute your scooter is, you aren’t as likely to be run over by them. Plus it makes scootering even more fun!
If you’re in the market for gear, check out the ‘Scooter Stuff I Love‘ page on recommendations for specific gear. I want you safe and enjoying your scooter!