Scooters are a great way to get to know new places, especially smallish islands, like the Thai ones. They’re usually cheap to rent, they’re nimble in city traffic and they are not much more difficult to ride than a common bike.
The most dangerous thing about scooters is that people lack respect for them. They feel like toys, and it’s easy to believe that they are. A few general guide lines can save your skin – literally.
- Always get a feeling for the available traction with your rear brake (that’s the left brake lever) first. Gravel in a steep hill will make you wash out if you use your front brake. If you’re used to street bikes, re-learn your reflexes to this braking technique. Your wheels are too small to be of help even if you manage to get a scooter with knobbies.
- Don’t support your body weight on your arms when riding no matter how steep the downward slope is. Always use your legs for support. This helps keeping the mechanical link between your body and the scooter – or any kind of bike – as low as possible, thereby lowering the apparent center of mass and making the system more stable. I’m pretty sure most spills are caused by the rider panicking and tensing up. Being relaxed in your upper body, including your arms, is a pretty cheap way of staying safe.
- Your arms are strong enough to catch you if you fall from a standing position. That’s not much more than 5 km/h. Do you dare to try it standing on a chair? Don’t. It won’t work. That’s about 15 km/h. On a 125 cc scooter, you’ll be doing 40-60 km/h in no time flat. Wear a helmet and sun glasses.
- Unless you’re well pigmented, your arms, feet and neck will burn. Use a good sun lotion.