Book review: Proficient Scootering
When it comes to the subject of riding motorcycles and scooters, there’s an awful lot of bullshit out there.
The persistent meme that the slightest touch on the front brake lever will send you sailing over the headset, for one. The solemn pronouncement that one should never, ever ride under any conditions other than dry 50/60/70°F (choose one) sunshine (and never, EVER AT NIGHT!).
That such poppycock (and other memes I won’t mention) appears in books that are widely considered very credible sources of information makes my head hurt.
Happily, not all books on this subject induce migraines. Alan Hearnshaw’s Proficient Scootering is one of those happy exceptions.
Mr. Hearnshaw is a British expat living in Dahlonega, Ga. He also publishes the Scoot Safely website and underwent many years of advanced motorcycle training while still in the U.K., a place where getting a motorcycle license requires much more than merely riding around a painted square at walking pace without putting your feet down (I’m looking at you, Washington state).
In a nutshell, Proficient Scootering is a thorough guide to riding safely and (more importantly) comfortably. And it’s a book riders of all skill levels can learn from.
Mr. Hearnshaw’s main points are awareness, visibility and anticipation. While there are a few mnemonic acronyms, most points are illustrated with numerous, easily-understood diagrams and photographs.
The book not only contains advice for the new rider shopping for a first scooter, it covers such advanced topics as group riding (including the Marker System, a group riding technique I wish more groups would adopt) and, yes, riding in weather that is less than perfect.
Best of all, Mr. Hearnshaw makes his points without resorting to the scare tactics of many other books, including one (which shall remain nameless) in which it seemed most of its anecdotes ended with the decapitation of the rider who failed to follow the author’s advice.
Sadly, a lack of success in the marketplace won’t result from any fundamental failing of the book or its premise, but rather from the majority of Americans’ effed-up ideas about education, and even more effed-up ideas about owning and riding 2-wheeled motor vehicles.
In over a decade of riding scooters and countless spontaneous conversations with passers-by, I can remember exactly one person who didn’t make a gas face when I said take a Basic Rider Course before you buy a bike. Someone observed, “Motorcycling is not, of itself, inherently dangerous. It is, however, extremely unforgiving of inattention, ignorance, incompetence, or stupidity.” In other words, it’s a skill. One which can be acquired, and enhanced through experience, training and study.
That also applies to riding scooters. Proficient Scootering is worth your time and effort.