Call it adventurous or reckless, but there are very few activities that I won’t try. Those that give me pause usually involve eating some kind of bug. So when I heard that I would be riding a moped/scooter around the island of Bermuda, I didn’t think twice about my safety.
And then I ran into a wall.
It all happened so fast. I was riding with a small group, and we had just gathered in a parking lot to talk about our next stop. As we were pulling out of the lot, a woman in the car to my right stopped and waved me on. Her kindness caused me to lift my hand off of the handle and wave back. That simple gesture prevented me from turning the moped to the left, and instead, I went, full speed, into the concrete wall in front of me.
I was OK, but the wall had some damage when I visited the scene of the accident the next day. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
I was shaken, but OK. And the fear in the eyes of everyone else in my group let me know just how close I came from really hurting myself. Had there been a car in the lane, things could have been much worse.
I write this not to scare you from renting a moped. In fact, I think everyone should try them out. For me, it was the best way to see the island of Bermuda, and I got a tour that I never would have gotten on foot.
With that said, driving a moped is very different than riding a bike, and you have to take certain precautions to make sure you stay safe.
1. Go slow
I named by moped Molly, just in case you were wondering. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
Take your time. It’s easy to get on the moped, rev the throttle, and zoom away. But the faster you go, the easier it is to lose control. Follow the speed limit posts and stay with the flow of traffic. Remember, the only thing that’s between you and the concrete are two small rubber wheels.
2. Ride in a group
If you’re not used to driving on the left side of the road, intersections and roundabouts can get very confusing when you’re navigating on a moped in a foreign country. Riding in a group allows you to have a second opinion. You can always make sure you’re in the correct lane and properly obeying road signs.
3. Turn the wheel the direction you’re going
When you come to a stop, it’s natural to just pull the throttle once the light turns green, but that can get you in trouble. If you plan on turning, take a moment to turn the wheel in the direction before you use the throttle. This way, the power will take you in the direction you’re going…not into a brick wall! (I speak from experience!)
4. Mark the throttle with a sticker or wear a bracelet on that hand
It sounds simple, but marking the throttle is a safety tip that can prevent a major headache. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
If you’re not familiar with driving a moped, you might not be comfortable with using your hands to control your speed. Putting a clear marker on the throttle will remind you where the gas is if muscle memory fails you. Wearing a watch or bracelet on that hand can also be a great visual cue to remind you where the throttle is — so you don’t rev it if you’re really looking for the brake.
5. Always wear a helmet
6. Don’t look behind you
Cars will pass you as your driving on your moped — they’re bigger and faster. But that is their issue, not yours. According to my guide, Larry, the majority of moped accidents happen when the driver looks behind them to see if a car is trying to pass. If you need to look behind you, use the rearview mirror. Otherwise, keep those eyes on the horizon.
If you need to look behind you, use the rear view mirror. Never turn around. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
7. Slightly lean into turns
Mopeds are quite sensitive, and even the smallest movement can send your bike speeding into an unwanted direction. Turning is the most difficult skill to master, and can create difficulties for beginners. Before you take to the open road, practice left and right turns in a safe area. Slightly leaning into the turn is usually enough to get you around the bend.
8. Lock your bag to the basket
If you’re traveling with a backpack or purse, be sure to lock it to your moped’s basket. If you simply place it in the basket, anyone can just swipe your bag and zoom off. If it’s locked down, it saves you the headache of being trapped in a foreign country without your money or credit cards.
9. Wear close-toed shoes
Every time you stop, your feet have to touch the ground. Wearing closed-toed shoes will protect your feet and offer greater stability.
Let Yahoo Travel inspire you every day. Hang out with us onFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.