On Design : Form & Function

First published 8th October 2021

 Go on – imagine a motor scooter. What comes to mind? 
I’ll wager it looks like a classic Vespa or Lambretta.

Now – imagine a motorbike. What do you see?
It’s probably a racing bike, or a police BMW.

Go on – try thinking of a moped. Hard isn’t it?
If you’re of a certain age it might be a classic Puch, Tomos or Mobylette. If you’re a bit younger, you might be seeing a Yamaha FS1e (the infamous ‘Fizzy’).

With these images in mind, it’s not hard to see why the purveyors of electric two wheelers (not bicycles though) are having a hard time knowing what their machines should look like in order to both attract customers, and not to deter buyers either.
Most companies in this market have gone for the ‘classic scooter’ look – the wannabe Vespa – although I’ll make an honorable mention of Govecs for their rendition of the classic Schwalbe design! Some go for the motorcycle / moped vibe – but for an eMoped neither feels right to me. The scooter looks dishonest, and the motorbike seems pretentious.

I was first attracted to the Coopop Urban Scooter and the Keeway e-Zi as more honest, but radical, designs for a new form of urban mobility. Both are open framed (the Coopop more so) with the Honda Rukus / Zoomer perhaps being the nearest similar machine.
The NIU UQI series adhere to the same design approach – and it was the first reason that I considered it.

NIU are not innocents in this design game because they also have the N series which are much more like the classic scooter in conception.

Modern eMopeds only need to carry the rider and a battery, with a modicum of electronic control gear. Storage is a luxury to the designers (missing on the NUI UQI GT Pro – and the other designs I’ve considered) and is something I will have to work out how to deal with when I get my machine. Unlike motorbikes, scooters, and petrol mopeds the frame does not have to incorporate a motor, as this can be built into the rear wheel. The nature of this opens up a lot of new possibilities for designs that are convenient and safe.

Another area that’s been in my mind is clothing.

A motorbike helmet is a given. Wearing one is a legal requirement in the UK, and probably a sensible one too. As with wearing gloves, trousers and a jacket, a helmet will, if nothing else, protect your skin from serious abrasion if it meets tarmac at 28 mph. 
Motorbike helmets cannot be compared to bicycle helmets, which offer their wearers precious little protection when in collision with other vehicles, and perhaps induce rotation injuries. Motorbike helmets are designed with vehicle on vehicle collisions in mind.

As I said in an earlier post- motorbike helmet in lurid colours are very noticable to me as a car driver. I appreciate they are not fashionable, but I do wish they were more widely available. 
I like full face flip-front helmets – they are comfortable, and offer good all round protection at the cost of very little loss of visibility. The flip front – as a spectacle wearer – is convenient for putting on and removing the helmet.
(I’ve seen various things about riding with the front flipped up – whether it is legal or not. It’s something I have done, and will probably continue to do – but once speed picks up I always drop the front down – it’s just more comfortable).

Gloves. I always wear gloves designed for motorcycling -with reinforced areas on the back. I consider that if I come off, my hands will be one of the first areas to hit the black stuff, and I actually like using my hands – and gloves are a must for all rides. I don’t want to have the skin on the tarmac.

I am increasingly lazy about trousers and footwear for PTW riding. I know very well that my everyday trousers offer minimal protection against abrasion should I come off. I make a trade-off with the convenience of getting off my bike and waking to my final destination without getting undressed and carrying overtrousers with me, or wearing heavy ‘biker’ trousers.
For everyday local motorbike travel at lower speeds I’m unconvinced about the need for special footwear. Sandals and flip-flops on a PTW are daft.

It’s a similar thought process with my jacket. I have an excellent motorbike jacket which is warm in cold weather, and the internal lining can be removed for those rare sweltering days. I like wearing it, but will, on occasions, wear a sturdy smart zip-up work jacket which I guess would have some abrasion protection at 28 mph, but not much. Again, it’s a choice between convenience and the risk of sliding along the road.

Wet weather riding is a different kettle of fish. It’s important to stay dry to stay safe. The risks of coming off on a wet and greasy road are increased. I would always wear overtrousers (and I’ve got some great heavy duty ones) and my bike jacket. The issue comes with what to do with them at the destination – wear them wet, take them off and carry them, or what?

I cover hi-vis clothing in my monologue on safety – I’m unconvinced, but at 28mph it’s something I will be wearing, at least to start with.

I have seen ‘Scooter’ clothing advertised in the past – which seems to be an advertisers dream. I’m not sure how – without invoking the Mods of the 1960s – you can have specific ‘scooter clothing’. I’d like to see if there are any very heavy duty, but smart, denim trousers and jackets made for motorcycling, and suitable for an old bloke (at an affordable price of course!)

By the way kids – do not ever ride a powered bike in a tee shirt, shorts, flip-flops and a helmet. It’s not a good look having your skin ripped off (and it gets bloomin’ cold very quickly!)