Why do Backpackers in Britain shy away from Mopeds?

backpackers and mopeds

The moped gets a hard time in the UK, mainly because travellers aren’t really sure what they are. Is a moped the same as a scooter? Is it like a bicycle with added power? Is it a car that’s been cut in half?

Well, obviously it’s not the last one, but seeing travellers on a moped is a fairly uncommon sight.

The question is: why?

The moped is really useful, zippy vehicle to get around on – especially on the UK’s tight, twisty roads. What has it done to deserve such a small following? Here, we shall examine the reasons why the UK’s travellers and international gap year dabblers have shied away from these friendly-looking vehicles.

Feeling under the weather

For starters, backpackers don’t like getting organised. Moped insurance is always thoroughly boring to organise, as well as all the extra kit needed. No more leaving the hostel in your pyjamas and going to the supermarket in slippers – you have to shell out on a helmet, and protective gear to ensure you don’t lose half of your skin if you come off your bike.

In winter, riders complain of being too cold, and in summer they roast in their thick jackets and trousers. Put simply, people arrive at their destinations half-frozen or sweaty. They cannot win.

Brits like their home comforts – namely, this means being warm and safe, and staying out of the rain. It rains a fair amount in the UK, and people don’t tend to like being stuck standing up at a traffic jam with water pouring down their necks. They would rather be in their cars, with the heater cranked up, wolfing down a family packet of crisps and listening to some kind of rocking playlist.

Unfortunate road associations

It’s also fair to say that most UK travellers have had more than their fair share of hairy experiences with bad drivers (and moped riders) when they’ve been abroad, and a car feels somewhat safer than a vehicle that doesn’t protect them that well from prangs.

Mopeds are also known as the vehicle of choice for chavs. For confused foreigners, these are young British people who wear tracksuits and don’t read novels. If you travel to a really unlucky part of the country, these heathens may be the kind to ride up and down your road on their mopeds for absolutely no reason at all. The sound of a moped engine revving is, for many people, the bane of their life. Little wonder they don’t want to own one for themselves.

A vehicle for teenagers or travellers?

Another reason travellers rarely use the convenient vehicle that is the moped is that the cool, European allure of the moped fades once you cross the English Channel. If you arrive at a school reunion or a family gathering on a moped, people will laugh. ‘Ah ha ha,’ they will go. ‘Ah, ha ha. Ha.’

Because, you see, the moped is perceived as the sixth-former of all vehicles. It’s a bit like telling your parents you’ve met The One, and turning up with a 16-year-old youth who doesn’t have any manners, and shakes when he is asked what he’d like to drink with dinner.

The general consensus is: adults don’t drive mopeds, because they look ridiculous.

Finally, most people will assume that if you’re scooting around on a moped, you can’t drive. ‘That poor dear,’ they will think. ‘I bet they wish they had a car. What a shame they never learned to drive a car.’

Even worse, you may find that your friends suddenly start rushing to the window in a state of anticipation when you buzz down the road. It will break your heart when you realise they think that you’re the pizza delivery man. You will feel decidedly moribund.

About the author

Vicky Anscombe is a blogger, editor and travel enthusiast. By day she is a pioneering digital scribbler, but at night she fanaticises about hitting the open road. Vicky has travelled around south-east Asia and North America, and her favourite countries are Malaysia and the United States. A lover of summer and music, she is unsurprisingly also a freelance writer for Festival Mag.

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My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

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