When I first had this scooter idea, I imagined hopping on a scooter and going. I didn’t give any thought to what I’d be wearing. Well, if you asked I might have thought through the helmet part. Then I bought a scooter, and in between then & actually getting to pick it up, it occurred to me – What do you wear when riding a scooter? Is it as easy as I thought?
If any laws exist in your state, you are most likely required to wear a helmet with eye protection. No other gear is likely to be required, but in general, it is safest to wear motorcycle-specific gear including a helmet, jacket, gloves, pants, and boots.
Well, that certainly was NOT what I expected to hear as a new rider. I was seeing $$$ signs that I was not prepared for, and it had me wondering what I truly NEED to wear.
For Safety, Raiding Your Closet Isn’t Likely
You probably have an image of what you think you should wear. Is it a sundress riding through the Italian countryside on a Vespa? Or is it your blue jeans with your favorite jacket in the closet riding through town?
I get it. Throw on your jacket, pants, and shoes. Then go!
Now the question is, “Is this reasonable or safe?”
Sorry, but what you have in your closet is unlikely to be safe for scooter riding specifically unless you’ve ridden in the past. You may think it’s reasonable, but there is so much ‘stuff’ that flies around on the road that you don’t see when you’re driving a car.
Plus it’s like 20 degrees or so cooler when riding even on the slower side. Let me tell you…. frozen fingers are a real distraction.
Let’s talk about All the Gear All the Time (ATGATT) & then I’ll blend in some real talk.
What is ATGATT?
If you ask in your favorite Facebook groups, you’ll get someone chiming in quickly that you should wear all the gear referenced as ATGATT.
ATGATT means to wear All The Gear All the Time. This is a reference to the need to wear motorcycle-specific safety gear to protect every part of your body in the event of an accident. Full-face helmet, jacket, pants, gloves, and boots with impact and abrasion resistance on all gear components.
The thought is that if the worst-case scenario happens that you minimize the impact on your body.
For example, if you find yourself knocked off of your scooter, motorcycle-specific gear tends to be made of fabrics that will hold up a bit longer as you slide across the road. That sliding will tear up your clothing, but safety gear will buy you a bit more time before it disintegrates and the road reaches the skin.
You’ll also find that joints are covered and stabilized (like boots that cover the ankle) and pads over knees and elbows for a bit of cushion if they were to hit the ground.
Safety Gear for Scooter Riders
No matter how fashion-conscious you are, let’s place safety over fashion. Safety gear is important to save your skin (pun intended) and more if you find yourself in a crash. Gear isn’t foolproof, but it lessens the injuries you may experience.
Proper clothing for riding protects you in the worst-case scenarios, but it also protects you from road and weather conditions. Keep this in mind as we walk through the different pieces of gear.
A helmet is in my opinion the most important piece of gear that should be non-negotiable. This is because it protects the head from injury in case of an accident. An injury to the head can be fatal, but even a non-fatal head injury can be absolutely quality-of-life altering. You can read more about this in my ‘Are Scooters Safe?’ article, but according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, helmets prevent the likelihood of death by 37% and serious brain injury by a whopping 67%.
If you weren’t expecting to wear a helmet, I know that this can be a bit of a bummer, but there really are fixes to almost all complaints. It will never be as liberating as no helmet. I’m not in denial here, but I’ve had enough insects splat against my helmet to be thankful for mine enough to deal. Read more here on if helmets are even REQUIRED for scooters if you’d like to confirm this for your area.
The good news is that I’ve gotten enough questions from email subscribers to have a collection of material to help out.
- Complete Guide to Helmet
- How much you can expect to spend
- How to get the right size helmet <– You don’t want to mess this up!
Spoiler alert: full-face helmets are not necessarily more expensive than a 3/4 or half helmet!
As far as comfort, here are some articles for you:
I’m a huge fan of wearing a full-face helmet. This includes modular helmets that have a flip-up chin component. Read more about the pros and cons of modular helmets here.
By wearing a full-face helmet, you can skip the need for an additional piece of gear – eye protection. If you choose a 3/4 helmet and go for goggles, you still leave your chin, nose & such exposed. You’re not full-on ATGATT without the full-face coverage, but since there isn’t a consensus on what is the safest helmet in reality –
I’ll say that the safest helmet is the one you will actually wear (that still fits!).
No matter how trendy you want to look while riding, it is important to wear a jacket with armor.
Armored jackets should have impact pads in the elbows along with a back one. I find that most value jackets don’t come with a great back armor pad (if they have one at all), but they will generally have a pocket for you to add one if needed.
For the most protection, this piece of protective clothing should have a level of abrasion resistance to protect you in the sliding-across-the-road scenario.
I decided one day that it was too hot to wear all of my gear, so I did not wear a jacket. I learned that tiny sand flecks that you can’t even see actually sting your arms. Raindrops hitting your skin feels like hail dinging your forearms.
A jacket also protects you from day-to-day riding conditions.
I prefer to buy a jacket that can handle a variety of riding conditions, so liners that can be zipped in & out for warmth or rain is a must for me. Even when it’s hot, you’ll likely find me in my jacket with an abrasion-rated mesh to let some air in. It’s still hot when at a light, but I find myself OK as long as I have the wind blowing on me!
Good gloves to protect your hands and wrists are another protective layer to include in the ATGATT setup. When you fall, it is natural to try to stick out your hands first. This is a bad idea, but it is tough to train yourself not to do this. That’s where the gloves come in.
Good riding gloves will have knuckle armor along with pads on the palm of your hand area. Some even have wrist guards to help stabilize your wrists a bit.
Again, riding gloves protect you in your rides that end just as you expect – arriving at your destination safely. I’ve ridden when it was so cold that I couldn’t use my hands to manage the brakes. Warmer gloves help with that.
Plus, if you’re absolutely uncomfortable, you’re more worried about your hands than you are at the upcoming intersection. You don’t need the distraction.
Flying debris on the road? I don’t want it to hit me at all, but I certainly don’t want random metal bits on the road hitting an exposed hand. Your hands are literally what is helping you keep the scooter upright, after all!
Save up & buy a variety of gloves. Warm weather for better breathability, cold weather & some waterproof helps (even if you just need to add liners to layer for extra protection from weather).
What About the Feet?
Closed-toe shoes are required. The dude wearing flip-flops is just asking for trouble I’d prefer not to deal with personally.
Boots that have a sturdy bottom with grip and ankle protection are key here for the ATGATT setup. You’re likely to try to put your feet down (even if you shouldn’t), so proper shoes for riding is just plain smart.
I say boots, but think of the sturdy kind. Keep the heels to a minimum despite how cute they may be.
Keeping your feet comfortable is just a good idea to keep you from being miserable and distracted, too. Wool socks, waterproof liners to slide over boots, and more are available to keep the misery down.
My husband recently took a turn too tight on his AK550. The outside of his workboot was hanging off of the platform. That steel-toe boot hit the ground. He didn’t even realize it at first that he broke his ankle. He looked down as he came out of the turn & saw that it was turned in an awkward position.
Despite a broken ankle from his foot hitting the pavement on a fun, tight turn – that was his only injury. Yes, he still broke his ankle, but crappy shoes would have had him all kinds of skinned-up, bruised, and maybe additional breaks in his foot. I can’t help but think that if he had the extra pain from more foot damage that the accident could have ended much differently.
Motorcycle Specific Pants, Too
This was the last piece of gear I bought when I was working up to the full ATGATT protection layers. I didn’t even know motorcycle pants existed. I thought standard jeans or maybe some leather chaps were a thing courtesy of movies from the 80s.
Motorcycle-specific pants protect you through impact-resistant pads and abrasion-resistant fabric.
Riding Without Gear
Remember that gear serves 2 purposes – Protection in an accident AND from day-to-day riding conditions. When looking around online, you’ll find 2 camps of people. ATGATT & YOLO (You Only Live Once).
I kid, I kid! Kinda.
I will never advise you to go against your local laws, and I will actually encourage you to adopt the ATGATT philosophy.
That said, I see way more riders without gear than with. Whether it is for comfort, cost, or choice, it’s all your decision how you keep yourself safe.
Even if you’re riding a 50cc scooter (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a moped), you should wear gear. Even cyclists that are trying to reduce the amount of weight for speed, prioritize wearing a helmet at their speeds. So your 30-45 mile per hour (mph) rides still warrant some gear.
I literally don’t even ride around the block a half mile without a helmet and gloves. So if you find yourself needing to buy gear in stages, the helmet, then gloves would be my go-tos along with whatever boots you have in your closet. Then upgrade those boots, the jacket & then pants.
If you decide to not wear some parts of the ATGATT gear, here are some clothing considerations to keep in mind.
It must be comfortable.
Your outfit must be comfortable because a comfortable outfit equals a comfortable ride. The outfit should not be too tight or too loose, as this can make you lose focus while riding. Focus = safer
Your clothing must also work for the riding conditions. Hot, cold, wet, whatever. Account for the wind that you’ll be riding into.
Your clothing must fit well.
Baggy clothes flap in the wind. That’s annoying to ride in, and it can end up riding up. Have you seen the speed demon with part of his butt crack flying by? That’s what I picture here.
Plus, I have felt the need to keep pulling my shirt down when I ended up in this situation. Distracted much?
The super cute, long gown I’ve seen in a Facebook group can be fun, but it can NOT touch the ground! I’m imagining the best-case scenario here is that you end up with a ripped dress.
So you want clothing that isn’t uncomfortably tight, but super large – skip that, too!
While wearing ATGATT may or may not be your thing, wearing some level of protection is bigger than just talking about accidents. As motorcycle riding has grown, the options for us scooter riders has grown, too.
More options mean that you can find gear that is decently comfortable and looks good. I wear budget gear. I am a 40+ mom that lives in the suburbs. I recently had a teen tell me as I took off my helmet that I looked ‘legit’. There is hope for all of us then.