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Why is it safe to own a moped instead of a motorcycle?

Obviously people who ride them feel safer, since they rarely seem to wear safety gear, but my personal experience is very different. Bigger bikes are perceived to be more dangerous because they’re heavier, noisier and more powerful (all factors that actually reduce the danger, in my experience).

Smaller Wheels
Less stable than a motorcycle with full-sized wheels. I’m no physicist, but having ridden both, larger wheels ‘tip in’ far more controllably when cornering that the smaller wheels on a moped/scooter. I presume this is something to do with the gyroscopic forces involved and the weight of the machine.

Automatic Gearing
Anyone who has ridden both will tell you that manual = more control. Better engine braking.

Sitting Position
On a larger bike, you straddle it. You ride it with your whole body, making minor sub-conscious adjustments with your head, hands, arms, shoulders, trunk, arse, hips, legs and feet. This gives you absolute control, and prevents your mind from wandering. On a scooter, you sit on it like you would a bar stool, with your knees together, and nothing to hold you onto it. One small nudge and you’re off.

Lack of Acceleration
Mopeds make a lot of noise, which can give the rider a false sense of acceleration, which can lead to biting off more than one can chew. My sister’s former fiancé was an A&E nurse and had lots of stories to tell about moped riders who tried to overtake, but couldn’t quite get all the way past before they hit something coming the other way.

Style
Moped riders look ridiculous wearing full protective gear, so generally they don’t. Instead, they wear tracksuits or their work clothes. This is stupid regardless what kind of bike you ride.

There may be more arguments either way, but the point I’m getting at is that it’s wrong to assume that mopeds are ‘safe’ and that motorcycles are not. In my experience, regardless of what kind of bike you’re riding, there are some basic steps you can take to reduce the danger:

1. Wear protective gear (the more, the better)
2. Be as bright as possible (a white helmet works better for me than a hi-viz bib)
3. Be as loud as possible (12 years of commuting on several different bikes has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that loud pipes DO save lives)
4. Be as tall as possible (if you can see over everything, you can be seen over everything)
5. Assume that everyone else on the road is trying to kill you. Because they are.

That last point is critical, because it’s absolutely true. It’s down to threat perception. When it comes down to it, if a car driver has the option to (a) hit you or (b) risk damage to themselves by hitting anything else – they’ll pick you every time. They can’t help it. It’s subconscious. They have no more control over that instinct than they do over the will to breathe.

I’ve been riding for 12 years without incident, commuting every day through city centre traffic on everything from tiny 125cc learners to harley cruisers, sports bikes and supermotos.

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