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How I Learned to Ride A Scooter: 20 Tips For Beginners (Complete Guide!)

I learned how to ride a scooter last year during my travels in South America and Southeast Asia, where motorized scooters like Honda Scoopys and other mopeds are the most common method of transportation. Now I live in Bali and I drive a scooter every day, in all weather! 

A red Honda Scoopy Scooter parked in broad daylight. Scoopy scooters are classic models, perfect for if you're learning to ride a scooter.
A Honda “Scoopy” scooter – sometimes called a Scooty.

Is Learning To Ride A Scooter Easy? 

Yes and no. Learning to ride an automatic scooter, like a Scoopy, is about as easy as learning to ride a bicycle – It can be done in one day. The main difference between learning how to ride a scooter and a bicycle is a scooter can go much faster, making it more dangerous. Urban riding, whether you’re driving a scooter, bicycle, or even a car, is also a totally different beast. Riding your scooter in a busy area with traffic from cars, trucks, and other scooters is very tricky. 

This short video will show you the basics of riding a scooter, including how to turn on the engine, use hand signals, etc.

Riding A Scooter If You Do Not Know How To Drive A Car

In most places, you need at least an active driver’s license to drive scooters and mopeds, and in some countries, you even need a specialized motorcycle license for driving scooters above 50cc. If you have never driven a car before, it will likely take longer for you to get the hang of propelling a scooter because you need to obey the same traffic laws as cars do. 

My Top 20 Tips For Learning To Ride A Scooter 

Yamaha NMax – 155 cc
Honda Vario – 108 – 150 cc

1. Learn About The Different Types Of Scooters

“Scooter” is a non-descriptive phrase that kinda means anything from eBikes, mopeds, and cutesy Vespas, all the way to motorcycles that can reach high speeds. Scooters are usually classified by “CCs”. CC stands for “Cubic Centimeters”, which is the size of the scooter engine. The classifications are loose, but generally 50 ccs and under are “mopeds”, over 50ccs – 250ccs are “scooters”, and 250ccs + are motorcycles. CC engine classifications vary by country. As an example of CCs to engine power, my Honda Scoopy scooter that I’m currently driving is 109 CCs, and I rarely drive it faster than 40 KMPH (25 MPH). 

A scooter key in the ignition slot. You need to turn a key all the way to the right to start the scoopy scooter.
Make sure your keys are turned all the way to the right.
A hand clutching the brakes while igniting the engine on a red scoopy scooter to start it. Starting a scooter is one of the hardest things for people to get a hand of when they're learning how to drive a scooter.
You need to clutch your brakes and start the engine at the same time to start your scooter.

2. Know How To Turn On Your Scooter 

Turning on a scooter is much more complicated than turning on your car, you need to press the brake (located on your right handlebar) while pressing the ignition starter. 

Here’s The Process Of Turning On Your Scooter: 

  1. Sit down on your bike and lift the kickstand. This is very important, your engine won’t start if your kickstand is down. 
  2. Turn your key all the way to the right. 
  3. With your right hand, clutch your brake.
  4. Using your thumb on your right hand, press the ignition while still clutching the brakes. 
  5. Ease up on the brakes & with your right hand, use your palm to start the gas.  
  6. Ease up on the brakes, now you’re driving! 

This movement to turn on your scooter is kinda complex, but you get the hang of it very fast! 👉 Note! For some scooters, you need to hold both front brakes (right & left side), and also sometimes use your palm to start the gas a bit while the engine is starting. 

The exhaust pipe on a scoopy scooter covered by a black plastic protection. Riders burn themselves on a scooter's exhaust pipe when they are learning how to drive a scooter.
Exhaust pipe burns are most common if you’re riding Pillion (passenger) on a scooter.

3. Watch Out For Exhaust Pipe Burns 

Most new scooters will have a plastic cover over the exhaust pipe, but even with this safety measure, people get burned while riding frequently. The exhaust pipe gets extremely hot while you’re driving, and getting burned is more common when you’re pillion-driving (riding as a passenger). I met a girl on the island of Siargao who was riding Pillion on her partner’s scooter and was burned so badly by the exhaust pipe she needed burn treatment -> so watch out! 

4. Know The Difference Between Your Left & Right Hand Brake 

Your scooter will have two hand brakes, one on the left and right handlebar sides. The left-hand brake frequently controls the back tire, and is the less powerful of the two, while the right-hand brake controls the front tire and most of your braking power. It’s important to never slam the brakes, as this can cause a skid! When I crashed my bike in Bali, it did so because I clutched my front-hand brake too hard, coming down from too high of speeds, which caused my tire to slip out. You want to ease into a brake, always, rather than attempt a sudden stop. 

Two people sit on a Honda Vario scooter facing away from the camera while parked on a bridge over a body of water. Two people riding on one scooter is called Riding Pillion, and it's unadvisable if you're just learning to ride a scooter.
Riding with two people on a scooter is called “Riding Pillion”.

5. Don’t Start Out Riding A Scooter With More Than One Person 

You can drive most scooters with a Pellion (passenger), but if you’re just starting out I wouldn’t advise it. It’s much harder to balance on your scooter with two people!

6. Learn How To Ride In Remote Locations Before Venturing Onto The Street

It’s better to do your first few sessions on your scooter in a large empty parking lot, and then later in an uncrowded (not urban) area while you’re getting the hang of street driving. 

7. ALWAYS Wear Your Helmet! 

This goes without saying but you need to wear a full-coverage helmet if you’re going to be riding scooters and mopes. Get into the habit of putting it on every time you put your key in the ignition, especially if you’re going to be driving your scooter on streets with other bikers and cars. Also, if you’re just learning you might want to consider wearing elbow and knee pads as well as a helmet. When I first started riding scooters I actually was pinned under my scooter going uphill and suffered a very nasty gash down my arm which elbow pads would have protected me from. 

Blogger Katie Caf wearing a helmet smiling next to a red scoopy scooter while learning to ride her scooter.

8. Know Not All Helmets Are Made The Same

For driving a scooter you will want a full-coverage helmet that has a plastic shield over the eyes and pads your entire head. Scooters and mopeds occupy a space between bicycles and motorcycles, and I frequently see scooter drivers with bicycle helmets driving around. I’ve even gotten scooter rentals before that have given me bicycle helmets! For driving a scooter, you will want to err on the side of caution and get a motorcycle helmet. 

Blogger Katie Caf smiling at the camera posing while riding a Honda Vario scooter in Indonesia. She is wearing a long-sleeve white shirt and long green pants. It's best to be as covered up as possible while learning to drive your scooter.
It’s best to be as covered up as possible while learning to drive your scooter!

9. Always Wear AGATT – All Gear All The Time 

It’s important to be fully protected while driving your scooter. The common saying for this is “AGATT” – or “All Gear All The Time”. This means full pants, a long-sleeve shirt, closed-toed shoes, and a helmet. The first time I crashed my scooter I suffered from Road Rash all over my left leg, ending where my jean shorts started. If I had been wearing pants, I would have had very few (if any) injuries from that accident. The easiest way to do this is to keep your gear, like a motorcycle jacket and possibly closed-toed shoes, in your scooter well so you’ll always have it. 

A photo showing where the lights, turnsignal, and horn are located on a scoopy scooter. Knowing where everything is located is an  important part of driving a scooter.
Your turn signal switch is usually located next to the horn and lights on the left side handlebar.

10. Know Where Your Turn Signal Is

Your turn signal is a switch on the left side of your scooter, next to your lights. You can flick it right or left depending on which signal you wish to turn on, and after you’ve made your turn you can press the switch like a button to stop your turn signal from blinking. 

A red Scoopy scooter photo taken from the driver's perspective with a street and a row of palm trees behind it.

11. Know How To Accelerate 

You can accelerate your scooter by turning your palm on the gas handle on the right side towards yourself. The more you turn it, the more gasoline is dumped into the engine. If you’re driving a higher-powered scooter, 150 CC or above, it will pick up and accelerate very quickly, so please be careful when accelerating on your scooter! 

12. Learn How To Turn

You turn a scooter the same way as a bicycle, by gently turning the handlebars left and right. If you already know how to ride a bicycle, this motion will come naturally to you!

a couple riding together on a single black scooter driving up a hill. It's not a good idea to ride on a scooter with a partner when you're learning how to drive a scooter, as it's more difficult than driving solo.
On steep hills, a scooter usually isn’t strong enough to carry two passengers and one has to get out and walk.

13. Be Wary Going UP Hills 

That’s right – I said UP hills! The first time I truly wiped out on my scooter I wasn’t even moving. I was driving up a steep hill and I stopped for one second to right my sunglasses – the steep incline caused my scooter to come unbalanced and topple over on top of me. These scooters can weigh like 200 pounds +, so even though I wasn’t even moving I suffered a nasty gash on my arm from the weight of the scooter digging me into the asphalt. Falling while driving uphill is much more common than you would think! Be very careful because steep angles make it harder to balance on your scooter. 

14. Adjust Your Mirrors, Just Like If You Were Driving A Car! 

Your side mirrors are just as important on scooters as they are when you’re driving a car. Make sure to adjust your side mirrors before starting your engine every time so you can see when people are behind you or trying to pass!

Gravel and other debris in the road which would make it easy to slip while riding a scooter. Slipping on gravel and sand is a risk when learning how to ride a scooter.
Debris on the road like this makes it easier to slip.

15. Watch Out For Gravel and sand On The Road! 

Gravel and sand in the road make it very slippery for your scooter. If you see any dirt in the road, be wary & cautious. 

16. Make Sure You’re Driving Your Scooter Legally 

It’s important to know if you have the right license to drive your scooter. In many countries, this goes by CCs – for example, some countries/states say that you can use your general driver’s license for scooters of 50 CCs or below, and anything above needs a special license. Other countries require you to register your scooter above a certain CC, like you would a car.  Make sure to look into the requirements for your country/state so you’re driving your scooter legally.

A woman in a red jacket and beige hat rides a scooter through a rice field in bali.
Lots of tourists ride scooters when they visit Bali (Photo by Andreea Journey on Unsplash)

17. Get An International Driver’s Permit If You Plan On Driving Scooters Abroad

Many countries I’ve traveled in, like Bali and Thailand, where driving scooters are popular with foreign tourists also require an International Driver’s Permit in addition to an active driver’s license. If you plan on driving scooters during your travels abroad, you can apply for an International Driver’s Permit before you leave your home country. It’s usually an easy online process and costs around $50, and you should be able to do it all online. 

18. Make Sure You’re Properly Insured

I use Safety Wing Travel Insurance while driving scooters abroad, and I recommend it to anyone looking to drive scooters while traveling. If you’re not traveling, you can depend on your home insurance to cover you – but do know insurance is infamous for being voided in cases of people driving scooters illegally. Usually, this is because they’re either not driving their scooter with the correct license, they’re not wearing a helmet, or they’re driving under the influence. 

A Scoopy Scooter's Kick Start Lever, photographed from above. The kick start lever is used when the engine is dead to restart it by putting all your weight on it with one foot and kicking down while revving the engine.
Know that your kickstart lever is located on the left side of your scooter, next to your kickstand. It folds out when you need to use it to start the engine, and it’s not always easy to use if you haven’t done it before!

19. Learn How To Kick-Start Your Engine 

This is a tricky one for new scooter drivers! If your engine dies, you will need to kick-start it using the lever located on the left side of your scooter. This isn’t a problem that comes up often, in the past year I’ve maybe had to do this 4-5 times, but you need to learn how to start your engine with the kick-start lever so you don’t get stranded in a remote location if your scooter won’t start! I felt ridiculously awkward the first few times I had to kick-start my engine, but eventually, I got the hang of it. 

A girl in a green and white dress poses for the camera with bandages all over her leg and arm from getting in a crash while learning to ride her scooter.
The damage from my first scooter crash in Bali.

20. Be Wary Of Over-Confidence

The first time I truly crashed my scooter, which I wrote about in my post on driving a scooter in Bali, was when I felt like I knew what I was doing, and I started driving more recklessly because of it. Be careful! Even if you feel like you know what you’re doing, there’s almost no reason to ever speed or “gun it” (accelerate all the way), while driving your scooter. 


  1. Fred west says:

    That was utterly boring to read lol Please make your writing entertaining in future

    1. Katie Caf says:

      I’m sorry Fred, I will give this a re-read and an edit! Hopefully some of the tips were still helpful? haha

      1. I’ll be riding in Paramaribo, Suriname for the first time to and from work for the next couple months. I’m also hoping to visit Taiwan sometime soon. This article along with a few other videos I’ve watched have been quite helpful. Thank you posting, Katie. Stay safe and keep up the good work.

        1. Katie Caf says:

          Hello Ryan, thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 I hope you stay safe out there! Happy travels

    2. Explained step by step for beginners how to start with bike or scooty…

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