People laugh at me for the amount of gear I wear on my Vespa PX. It's a cute little thing, just a 150cc two-stroke single that weighs about what I weigh, and my gear is a mixed-up collection of what I could afford at any given time, so seeing me in a leather jacket and gloves and boots and all gets a chuckle out of people in cars around me, but I honestly just don't feel comfortable or enjoy riding as much when I wear less than my usual.
I had my one drop in March of '10, when I was trying to catch a light at a turn. There was gravel residue in the tire dips at the light, I went down in a scootery sort of way (i.e. very fast) from grabbing too much front brake slowing before the turn, and I pretty much ended up under my scooter for a bit of the slide (good, as it turns out, as I did less damage to the scoot). Burned straight through my jeans, but my boots, jacket, and gloves, all did their work. The jacket's an old-school "Brando" type, so there was no armor, which would have helped, and hitting the ground at about thirty is still a hell of a hit.
Scooters are in a weird middle ground. They were designed to be sort of anti-motorcycles for stylish Italian shoppers, and I love that about them. You don't get grimy, you don't get your balls baked by hot engine, and they're nimble as hell. They're still motorcycles
, though, in that they're a flavor of motorcycles, rather than some magical other thing. You hit the ground just as hard lowsiding at thirty on a scoot as you do on a bigger bike, and possibly harder, since you sit higher up. You take the same risks on the road with a scooter, face the same legions of idiot drivers, and have the same issues with weather, deer, gravel, etc.
I worked an event last month where I rode around Baltimore in a nun's outfit all day. Wore my helmet, boots, and gloves, because those protect the parts that are most easily busted, but otherwise was just a big rangy flappity bat in black, criss-crossing the city streets as an escort to a giant road race of kinetic sculptures
(that's me in those pictures). The ventilation was nice, loved the attention, but every turn, every bump, every sort of in-between moment made me think of skidding along the pavement in that get-up, and how it would hurt like hell. I think people love the breezy thing of being on a scoot basically nekkid, and there's a fun in that, but I think it also keeps scooters relegated to the "toy" category, when they're actually more utilitarian than conventional motorcycles.
Still, my gear is a pain in the ass, and I keep working at coming up with a sort of lighter-duty set (my Vanson mesh jacket with armor doesn't fold or store easily, just sort of turning in a big screen ball that's bigger than my helmet) for basic riding around town, that's tailored to that sort of riding, with my more clunky gear reserved for my 120 mile trips to my cabin in WV.
There will always be big boots, though. Back in my moped warrior days, twenty years ago, I once skidded into a fenced garden area in a too-quick approach, and I was just wearing canvas Vans. My foot dug into the ground, the shoe ripped open, and huge chunks of wood chip mulch went right under all five toenails on that foot. It was, suffice it to say, an unpleasant sensation.