by Stephen “Hell Cat” Heller
As I write this article, it is the six-year anniversary of my scooter accident. It is a pretty typical story. My girlfriend and I were riding to my house when a car made a left turn in front of us as we were entering the intersection. There wasn’t time to do anything but to yell, “you idiot,” before we hit his car.
I ended up with two broken knees and a broken wrist. Jodi broke her ankle and the big toe on her other foot. We were lucky because I am able to write this and talk about it. Jodi had my helmet on. I wasn’t wearing anything but sunglasses. I know that there wasn’t much I could do about hitting the car. A vintage scooter with drum brakes couldn’t stop fast enough; I doubt even disc brakes could have helped. But I do believe that riding gear could have lessened or even prevented some of our injuries.
I see motorcyclists that also own scooters that dress totally different when they are riding their scoot, no leather jacket or boots and no helmet. Scooters are as dangerous as motorcycles, maybe even more because riding on city streets there is more of a chance for a car to not see someone and pull out in front them. Tragically, the danger of scooters was on the evening news recently with the death of a 21-year-old male near the University of Minnesota campus.
Riding a scooter safely doesn’t mean that you have to be wearing orange and black leather. Companies are designing equipment specifically for scooterists. One notable company is Corazzo out of Portland and their main focus is fabric jackets, made out of abrasion-resistant high-denier Cordura®. It’s the same stuff that the Aerostich jackets are made of. The jacket has a European cut and comes in a rainbow of colors with contrasting stripes and reflective material. What sets them apart are their “scooter culture” jackets. Seeing many riders wearing bomber flight jackets at scooter rallies, they produced one with armor. I guess that I don’t wear a shop jacket enough at work, so I ride wearing a shop jacket made out of 500 denier Cordura® (thinner and less stiff than their other jackets) with armor on the shoulders and elbows.
As for helmets, a Davida “pudding bowl” helmet completes the look while riding a scooter, but doesn’t offer much protection. The best helmet is the one that you will wear. I recommend and use a full-face helmet every time I ride.
Corazzo also sells gloves, but, like helmets, I go for comfort over style. An ill-fitting glove bunches and causes more fatigue and discomfort for your hands. I recommend trying on several while holding on to something like your handlebars. I have gone through a ton of gloves that felt good in the store, but soon pitched because they were doing more harm than good.
Stiff boots and abrasion resistant pants round out the safety riding gear.
The basic and the experienced rider training courses will give you the best safety gear of all; the knowledge to avoid potentially dangerous situations and what to do to get out of it.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has put together a good pamphlet of scooter riding safety tips with super cool illustrations by scooterist Glenn Reid. It can be downloaded at www.msf-usa.org/downloads/Scooter_tips-screen.pdf There are a bunch of good tips about riding safely. Rider Academy has started to offer a basic riding class specifically for new scooterists. You ride your own scooter throughout the 2-day class. More info can be found at rideracademy.com
Ride Safe and Have Fun!