No doubt you’ll be clobbered by the white stuff this Christmas weekend and beyond, and no doubt some of you are going to get where you’re going on your scooter. So here are some handy tips to help you stay upright, in case you’re that kind of insane.
(Photo by Stefano Montesi – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Corbis via Getty Images,
Some of these tips may seem obvious, and they are, but the key to motoring safety is drilling, drilling, drilling until safe and conscious behavior becomes automatic, like putting on a seatbelt or signaling before you turn. Here goes:
*Take it seriously, because it is.
You already know that two-wheeled riding of anything exposes you to the chance of injury and death. In the snow, obviously, that chance increases. Many accidents happen because of overconfidence, riding above your ability and failing to understand the seriousness of the endeavor in general. Center yourself, check your machine is in good working order, and just take it more seriously than you would when it’s warm.
*Slow and steady wins the race
One of the funnest things about scooters is their ability to rocket you forward at green lights, ahead of traffic. In snow, that’s all off. Ease into the throttle at green lights, horns and tailgaters be damned – they aren’t the ones exposed to the elements. A curve you might take at 25 MPH when it’s warm and dry should be taken at 15 or 10 MPH.
Keep the throttle slow and steady, ease into the brakes, and leave wherever you’re coming from with enough time so you can take it nice and easy from here to there. A 10-minute journey when it’s dry out can turn into a 30-minute one in the snow. Plan accordingly.
(Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
AFP via Getty Images
*Be in good shape because you may have to push.
There will be times when you find yourself stuck in snow and unable to accelerate your way out, so you’ll need to have the strength to push or pull yourself free. You either have to be a naturally strong, hardy person, or someone who gyms daily, to extricate yourself, depending on your scooter’s weight.
For instance, if you like to park on sidewalks where it’s permissible, there is usually a certain amount of snow piled up next to them that you have to go over. Skip that and go down to the end of the street where the ramps for wheelchairs are and access that way. Don’t throw attitude to oblivious pedestrians who don’t care about you and what you’re trying to do – they have the right of way. You may even find someone stops to help you push if they see you. Also, remember that it’s easier to push forward than to pull backwards.
*Always yield to traffic that wants to go faster.
When your road is full of snow and you’re plugging along at your slower speed, invariably there will be traffic behind you that wants to proceed normally, so get to the right move out of their way before they honk or do something dangerous and rude . You have every right to the lane, of course, but there is “who is right and who is on their way to the hospital.”
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
*Maintain distance from…everyone.
Snow means your stopping ability is compromised, so never mind trying to read the bumper sticker of the car in front of you – keep back, Jack. Try for two car lengths of distance between yourself and whoever/whatever’s in front of you.
*Consider the temperature as well as how much snow there is
It’s possible for snow to fall when the temperature is above 32 degrees, and the ice may not be as ubiquitous on the roads, especially if the salt has been spread. At 20 or 10 degrees, there will definitely be ice, so take extra care.
Keep the handlebars as straight as you can, and if you have to make a sharp turn over an icy surface, slow down before you get to it and when you make the turn, stay off both the brakes and the accelerator and let the unit’s natural momentum carry you through smoothly and safely. So, what’s the forecast? Is it going to get even colder or are things going to warm up for your return ride? Plan and dress and drive accordingly.
*Plan your route beforehand
Road conditions in cities, where the majority of scooter riding occurs, can change from block to block. In my town, for instance, there are some roads that get a plow right away, and other streets that don’t get plowed for days or sometimes weeks. Get used to knowing which streets are safer than others in winter weather, and use the well-beaten path where possible.
A tough commute ahead
flickr Editorial/Getty Images
*Wear a helmet, for Pete’s sake.
No one leaves their abode thinking “I have to get milk, withdraw money at the bank, and crash.” That’s why they call them “accidents.”
Get in the habit of wearing a DOT-approved helmet. Think of your helmet as a condom for your head – it feels much better without it, but all it takes is one mistake and your life can change forever. In this case, that means skull fractures, concussions and other injuries that can be minimized or even completely avoided if you wear a helmet.
If you don’t want to spring for a brand-new helmet, you can get one used. Lots of people buy them and never wear them for one reason or another. Just make sure it hasn’t been in a crash, after which it must be discarded. Go forth on CraigsList, eBay and garage sales. But wear the darned thing.
Focus, focus, focus
Ok, here’s a brag, and I’ll knock gas tank after posting, but I’ve been riding motorcycles and scooters for 18 years now, and have never gone down. Why?
Not because of helmets, safety equipment, ABS brakes or rabbit’s feet. It’s because the most important aspect of getting on a two-wheeled machine is awareness. It’s keeping your eyes open and getting in the habit of anticipating danger and taking direct evasive action. See the car up ahead coming opposite your way? It’s very possible the driver won’t signal and make a left turn in front of you, which is where the majority of fatal scooter and bike crashes happen. No need to scream, or elect yourself king of the world, screaming corrections at the open-mouthed, oblivious mob.
Assume other drivers are drunk, stoned, angry or spaced out, and plan accordingly. Be that Buddha behind the handlebars. Breathe deeply, take your time, be super-aware, and scootering will be the fun and rewarding endeavor it’s meant to be, even in winter, and your friends and family and Mom will thank you.
*Consider not riding at all
You don’t HAVE to ride a scooter in the snow, you know. That’s one 100% certain way to avoid a crash. If you’re new to riding or a klutz or you like to throw back egg nog or a hot toddy in winter, leave the machine home and get there by other means.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and, as always, ride safe, folks.