Thursday, June 14, 2007

More scooter stuff.

There's something I wanted to add about the connection between riding a scooter and a motorcycle. It seemed better to do it as another post rather than in the comments. In the meantime, I had a couple of other interesting experiences today which are relevant to the subject.

The reason I made a distinction between scooters and motorcycles in the first sentence is that there are physical differences between the two. Most critical is the smaller diameter of the wheels. I felt the need to bring this up as a clarification to what I wrote earlier. Riding a motorcycle well directly translates to riding a scooter. I really should have stressed that it's even more critical to have good skills on a scooter. Here's why I say that.

There's more moving mass that tends to make a larger motorcycle more forgiving. A lot of riders aren't as smooth as they should be. Things like larger wheels, more rake and trail, weight distribution, etc., absorb abrupt inputs. At least enough to sort of dampen the immediate effects. Scooters, by contrast, are set up differently for weight distribution, wheel diameter, and handlebar width, among others.

I guess what I'm trying to say in a seemingly long winded way is that not being smooth on a scooter can have more dire consequences than on a motorcycle. Before they're even aware that they screwed up a scooter rider could dump themselves on their heads. Being smooth reigns supreme on a scooter.

This knowledge comes from personal experience. Not that I've crashed a scooter. I've just spent a lot of time on them lately. Since there are more scooters being used in our classes I have been trying to spend more time getting familiar with them. Fortunately I have a great relationship with a certain motorcycle dealer manager. Comes from buying a number of bikes, I guess. He also happens to be an enthusiastic advocate of motorcycle safety training. These folks make a bunch of scooter sales. There's always some units available for me to go out and play with. I'm learning a lot about how they handle. The goal is to become more skilled at coaching scooter riders coming through the classes.

One of the big differences I'm finding is how I coach the presses in a swerve, for example. On a training bike I try to get the student to execute assertive presses. After all, it's a swerve and not an "S" turn. Using that same kind of press on a small scooter can make for wide eyes, let me tell you. Small presses make for big movements. On a different level road irregularities and things like gravel affect scooters more. There's other examples but you get the point.

It was while I was visiting my friend Lon that I saw a couple of scooter related things that made me shake my head. Sophie doesn't know it yet, but I'm exploring the options for replacing her. I'm leaning more and more towards wanting ABS. After watching the cop bikes on the airport runway I'm more convinced than ever how awesome a tool this is. I'll tell you about the cop training in a post pretty soon. On the other hand, I'd kind of like to see just how many miles Sophie will go. That's why I was at the shop and how I came upon the following people.

One was a guy who came in to look at the Schwinn / Kymco line. He wanted to look at a 49 cc scooter. I was joshing with him that he should go for at least 150 cc. I was told that the scooter was for his 15 year old daughter. The reason he wanted the smaller size was that he was under the impression that Oregon doesn't require a driver's license for that small size. The thought was that his daughter could sneak through back roads and neighborhoods on her way to summer school.

I reminded him that she still needed a driver's license but not an endorsement. I tried to get him to get her into a class. She could do it at 15 then get her endorsement when she gets her license. It was like talking to a wall. Another case of "just a toy".

The one that really got to me was when I saw I guy I know ride in on a Honda Reflex. He was wearing a novelty type helmet, ( believe it or not, through a technicality, some of these helmets can be DOT rated ) shorts, and flip flops. You'd think by looking at him that he was some ignorant playboy out for a ride. Far from it.

This guy is a forensic scientist specializing in vehicle accident reconstructions. Not too long ago he had been telling me how dangerous Jeep Wranglers are in crashes. If anyone had firsthand knowledge of what happens to riders without good gear it would be him. Yet here he is riding like that. I gave him heck but it was like water off a duck's back. It's amazing how people have such a capacity for self-rationalization.

You know what it all boils down to. Two wheeled riders are the same no matter what they ride. There's those who take responsibility and those who don't. We all need to keep doing what we can to influence attitudes. After that it's up to them, good or bad. What's that saying?

Something about having the courage to change what we can, accept what we can't, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Had a great ride today. I've got some pictures to share. There's also some great stories from the police motor training. Bees are figuring into my rides big time lately. Katie's almost out of the dark tunnel Stay tuned. It might not seem like it from my recent posts, but I'm actually still riding to work. Time to pay some attention to that aspect. That might even have been the reason I started this blog!

Miles and smiles,



gary said...

I'm really glad you are addressing the scooter side of things here, Dan. I think more of the dedicated scooter blogs should take a cue from you.

As you say, Bad Things happen on a scooter a tick faster than they do on your everyday motorcycle. I've been caught out a couple of times even before I could get a foot down, and on dry pavement, that's not always the correct response.

Oh, but that quickness really does translate into nimble handling, and an ability to make moves in traffic that would baffle and confound the typical motorcyclist.

That is how they hook you.

But, as you say, smoothness is rewarded. You can't be a 'jerk' for very long, on a scooter...

Ride well,

David said...

Another observation - other drivers (cagers) on the road do not seem to view Scooters in the same light as motorcycles.

I ride a Vespa GTS - the 250cc has more than enough balls to keep ahead of all but supercars in city traffic, but many cagers still see the "toy" that they don't want to sit behind.

In my opinion, the proliferation of 50cc models on the streets that have a hard time keeping up with traffic cause increased irritation in the already angry cagers, who translate that opinion onto all scooters.

acmepost said...

Your observation that it takes just a little push to get a scooter to start turning is right on. It will depend on the scooter, too. A Chinese scoot has a different wheel base than a Vespa and handles diffrently.

A 150 cc Vespa motorscooter travels just fine on 55mph limited access roads. Bad things can happen really fast at that speed on a scooter!

It almost seems like the amount of gear is inversely proportional to engine size. I see sportbikes on the road, with riders in T-shirts and shorts. Me on my little scooter? Full face helmet, riding jacket, gloves, boots. I'll sheepishly apologize for my modest scooter, but won't apologize for the gear.

The scooter's rideability gives you more confidence travelling in urban traffic. My work commute on 35-45 mph roads is easier on a scoot than it would be even on a small motorcycle.

Lucky said...

I've stopped giving advice to people for exactly the reasons you listed here: No one listens unless they want to hear what you're saying. Even when you're an expert. A paid expert, in your case.

Lately, I've given advice, and if the advisee protests too much ("yeah, but it's just a scooter"), I tell them that I've said what I needed to say and everything else is up to them.

Otherwise, I get too wrapped up in their bad decisions. ;)

On to other topics, scooters definitely handle differently than motorcycles, which can ALSO make things exciting for those moving from scooter to motorcycle.

Before I got my VX800, I rode a friend's scooter to work for two months or so (I was loaning him my car because he'd hurt his back). When I got onto the VX, it took me a few miles to get used to how much more work a bike is to ride. I made some of the widest turns known to motorcycling...

Bryce Lee said...

Don't let Sophie read your blog!

Good to hear your wife is progressing well.

irondad said...

Can't help it. Training riders is so ingrained into my being that it takes over sometimes. People probably wish I wouldn't share so much!
Leave it to you to find the mischief possible on a scooter, Bro'.

Perceptive comment. I see the same thing with bicycles. Our state just passed a law that stiffens penalties for not giving bicycle riders enough room. Most drivers are selfish and stupid. Deadly combination.

Do you think the size of the bike makes riders think they have more protection? Interesting to think about. I'm starting to like scooters more and more for how practical they can really be. Not to mention fun!

What's weird is that some people pay me for professional instruction and still close their minds. Makes me think they're not paying to learn, they're paying to go through the motions to get the endorsement. What a shame.

Did you ever see the Suzuki Katana commercial where the bike shows up at the guy's office and begs to go play? I caught Sophie peeking in the window and had to pull the shade.


Steve Williams said...

Great post Dan.

I run into people all the time who consider their scooters safe and exempt from any concern for protective gear. They see them more akin to a bicycle even though they ride at 50MPH in the midst of traffic.

My own pretty consistent use of gear is the subject of chuckles since I am only riding a scooter. In the winter it makes sense, but why would I give up my comfort in summer for something not necessary.

I am going to post something about this topic and link to your two excellent entries. Scooter owners need some facts.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Joe said...

I saw a link to your two scooter posts and I've linked both to my own blog. I'm with you 100% and as a scooter rider and one who has ridden for 30 years, they're "real" to me. People who don't respect what they're riding end up very surprised one day. Hurt or dead is no way to end a ride.