Well, it looks like I've stirred things up a bit here. I'm okay with that. Katie tells me with a big wink that I need to learn to come out of my shell and quit being so shy. These last couple of posts have wandered a bit. Which means some folks have reached their own conclusions without waiting for mine. So be it. However, let's wrap this up and get to the point.
You see scooters tucked in everywhere like this one at Lloyd Center Mall in Portland. I use malls as a type of field office. This scooter is frequently there and I have to presume it's being used as a work commuter. In the last couple of posts I outlined how we're seeing a new kind of rider. One who views riding a scooter as purely a function of economics and nothing else. They look at things in a different way than most of us. The riders don't want to be considered motorcyclists and don't see themselves as riding any kind of motorcycle. As some have stated in the comments, the scooter is looked on as one step up from a bicycle.
Another contributing factor to this situation is how the scooters are presented by those who sell them. I'm not going to hit that very deeply here. Dru Satori has done an excellent job of covering this on his blog. You can see the post here. Dru has also left a comment on the second part of this series which adds a little bit more to it. Click here if you wish and scroll down.
Gear and training are two areas where the difference really makes itself evident. The new kind of rider doesn't feel a need for either one. Again, I'm not going to go too far down either of these roads. I want to wrap this up and move on to something else. However, I am going to make one little detour here.
I've been disparaged on the Scootdawg forum. There's another thread here. Among other things I've been called thin skinned and smug. I love it. One of my greatest fears is being considered a mild mannered guy that nobody ever notices. You call me Mr. Milquetoast and my fist will be down your throat. Go ahead and say what's on your mind. I'm thrilled to have done something to make you feel that way. I have to say that I really appreciate that folks on the forums are at least man enough to take credit for their remarks. There haven't any cowardly bite and run attacks. Either there or here.
So, to prove how thin skinned I really am, I'm offering this chance to flame me once more.
These economically minded scooter riders don't see a need for gear. That's not their domain alone. The difference is that the first group don't see themselves as motorcycle riders so there's no need for motorcycle gear. The others see themselves as motorcycle riders, at least, who choose not to use adequate motorcycle gear. It's the same outcome either way, interestingly.
Why is gear such a hot button for riders? Let me be plain about this. No beating about the bush. Anything on two wheels can crash. Road surfaces, hard objects, and the laws of physics rip human bodies apart. I don't think anybody can truly deny the truth in that statement. Then why so much resistance to gear that goes a long ways in protecting said frail human body? It's a discussion for another time but the forces that cause a rider to shun proper gear must be pretty damn strong given the actual facts.
Okay, the last area where I'm really seeing the difference is in the attitude about getting proper training. Again, there's motorcycle riders who don't believe in training. The scooter people I'm talking about don't even remotely connect their transport with any sort of need for "Motorcycle Safety Classes". They're not riding a motorcycle, after all. It's just a scooter.
Time for a quick recap. I'm talking about a group of people who ride scooters merely to save money on fuel. They don't see themselves as fitting in with a group like in the picture above. They see themselves on a glorified bicycle and their attitude about gear and training reflects that stance. So where do we go from here?
The fact remains that these people need adequate gear and proper training. Period.
See, personally, I don't really care how people see themselves. Not that I don't get offended. I'd like to share fellowship with other riders if they're willing. Yes, I think it's stupid that people on sport bikes will wave to me when I'm riding Elvira because she looks more like a sport bike, yet ignore me when I'm riding Sophie who looks more like a touring bike. I've also been known to get my knickers in a knot when I'm seen but snubbed by Harley riders. I know, you can't lump everyone together and I don't. I appreciate that there's a lot of Harley riders that consider themselves real people and not just posers. I'm just saying that the greatest percentage of riders who've dissed me have been on Harleys. That's all. The feelings only last a bit and then life goes on. To each their own. Seriously, it's no skin off my nose, if you know what I mean.
Professionally, however, it's a different story. I have to put aside any personal feelings and do my job as a trainer. Believe, me, we get riders with all kinds of attitudes. Some make it extremely difficult to feel any warm fuzzies for them. Doesn't matter. They deserve my best once they're in training. And that's the key. Getting them to take training. Whether or not people admit it or are even aware of it, anyone on two wheels needs professional training.
Our instructors have a double expectation when training scooter riders. On the one hand, the trainers need to be familiar with the way scooters work and handle. Riding instruction needs to be tailored accordingly. On the second front, the trainers are tasked with not making a distinction in the classroom. Mental skills and strategies are equally vital no matter what a person's riding. Each student needs to come away from training with the greatest understanding of these skills as is possible.
Remember this guy? He's a very personable young man. The reason he's riding the Ruckus, though? It's 49cc and doesn't require an endorsement. He's pretty plain about that. A lot of people take our classes in order to get endorsed. No endorsement required translates to no training required. At least to their way of thinking. If the scooter's large enough to require an endorsement, they're looking for the "easiest" way to do that. So here's the 64 million dollar question and the whole point of this discussion.
How do we get people who ride purely for economical reasons and don't see themselves as any kind of motorcylist to come take the training they need whether they know they need it or not?
Believe me, our training program has looked at this issue long and hard.
Stacy asked in the first part of the series if we've considered "scooter only" training. Yes, we have. It may happen down the road but it's not in the cards in the near future. It's a long story but our main thrust is motorcycle training and that's taking up most of our resources right now. We have, however, applied for funding to add a few scooters to the biggest sites which will be available for student use. We're hoping that being able to ride a scooter for training will encourage them to come see us. Students are also allowed and encouraged to bring in their own scooters for training classes as long as they meet the size requirements.
Some commenters here have mentioned the intimidation factor. That holds true no matter what a student is going to ride later. We've been encouraging instructors to avoid soliciting the student's previous riding experience. Brand new riders are intimidated by so-called experienced riders whether the brand new rider is going to be scooter mounted or big cruiser mounted. Besides, which, a lot of riders have been doing it wrong for years so that doesn't really put them too far ahead anyway.
We've got a person on staff who's working hard on public awareness campaigns. That effort is aimed to kindle a recognition of the importance of training. Time will tell how much affect it actually has.
The thing that will end up making the biggest difference is the personal touch. Riders are going to rub shoulders with other riders. Face to face encounters still have the greatest influence.
So I'm looking for two things here. One is suggestions to us on how we can encourage these riders to come into training. Maybe there's some aspect we haven't thought of.
Secondly, I'm going to challenge everyone to do what they can in their own personal encounters.
To those who said less than kind things about me, I'm going to ask a couple of direct questions.
Do you care about helping other riders be successful? If so, are you willing to step up to the plate and do something positive? Seems like forums would be a good place to touch base and see how you all can be effective in offering such help. I offer these questions with the utmost kindness and respect behind them. Seriously.
That's it. It was a long way 'round but, hey, it's my blog. It's been a fun trip but I got where I wanted to go. Will it be the end of this road? You all will decide that, I'm sure. Right now it's pouring rain outside and Elvira needs washed. There's got to be possibilities there. See ya!
Miles and smiles,