How to Decide which Scooter is Right for You
Is walking becoming too laborious and boring? Does a one-wheel look like a guaranteed emergency room visit? Does $4,000 seem like an absurd amount for something that still comes with a banana seat? If this sounds familiar, you may be looking into a different mode of transportation, a better one. You may be considering an electric scooter. In this article, we'll be answering the question, "what is the best electric scooter for adults?"
Before we even begin to delve into some of the options out there, to adequately answer this question, we all have to practice some self examination. Some of the questions we have to ask ourselves before we buy a scooter are below.
1.) What is my experience with scooters?
2.) What will I be using the scooter for? (example: commuting to work or having fun on the weekends)
3.) What are the most important features I want in a scooter?
4.) How fast do I want to go and how far will I want to travel?
5.) What is my budget?
Answering these 5 fundamental questions will go an immeasurable distance towards helping you find your ideal scooter that you'll be happy with for years to come. Far too often, myself included, riders will see the latest and greatest come out and will chomp at the bit to pre-order it without answering these questions first. I have seen riders literally run out and buy the biggest scooter on the market and come back to complain that it's too powerful. Making sure you know what you want in a scooter, what you're comfortable with spending, and what you're going to use it for is paramount. So, because of its importance in the process, let's take a deeper look into each question and based on the answers, some recommendations.
1. What is my experience with scooters?
For this question, there are 3 possible answers...
a.) Beginner - I've just begun researching them and have rented a ride-share scooter a time or two, but wouldn't consider myself a fully capable rider. I need help with information about brands/models that might fit my level.
b.) Intermediate- I've ridden enough to feel comfortable operating most scooters and have some idea what I like and don't like. I have a rough idea of what I want, but need more information about certain specs of the brands I'm interested in.
c.) Expert - I own a scooter currently or have ridden a substantial amount. I feel fully comfortable and capable under any circumstance. I know exactly what I want in a scooter and am ready to buy.
2.) What will I be using the scooter for?
Now that you've established your comfortability with an electric scooter, it's time to figure out what you'll be using your new scooter for. Are you a weekend warrior that'll be tearing up mountains or the daily commuter weaving through traffic? Depending on your answer, the recommended scooter for you could be vastly different.
For the commuter, many people find that something with mid to long range, light weight, easily foldable, and overall very responsive is what they're in the market for.
On the other hand, for the weekend warrior, something that's rugged, over the top powerful, has mid range, and extreme speed may be more their style.
Deciding the most likely usage before making your final scooter decision will prove to be the key step in your buying process.
3. What are the most important features I want in a scooter?
With so many brands, models, and variations it can be a daunting task putting together a list of must have features. Luckily, this is a good problem to have. If you've ever ridden a basic electric scooter then you know exactly what I mean. Today's manufacturers are doing everything they can to modify, upgrade, and boost performance in every way possible to make consumers happy. This has led to some amazing steps forward in the overall user friendliness, performance, and ride comfort of these high performance machines. So, to help pair down the list of available features, let's focus on 5 key areas.
One of the most important overall components of the scooter you'll be buying, but also the most easily overlooked. A lot of consumers simply look at side by side numbers and draw a logical conclusion that "bigger is better," but that's not always the case. The motor has to fit the purpose. For example, if you're a 170lb man in New York who will be using it to commute to work in the morning and lives in a 5th floor apartment, dual 2000W motors might sound fun, but the purpose doesn't fit the purchase. In this case, there are scooters out there with dual 800W motors that'll be 30 pounds lighter and more than capable of reaching speeds of 30+ MPH, while being incredibly portable and perfect for city use. So, while considering which purpose fits your purchase here are a couple of things about motors to keep in mind.
Single vs. Dual...or Both
Single Motor is great for low/moderate speed commuting and extend range rides. Dual Motors is optimal for shorter, more speed intense riding where hill climbing and added torque could be needed. The best option is to have the option of both. Some manufacturers allow the rider to choose in between single and dual motor modes, so both battery conservation and top speeds are possible.
Peak Power vs. Sustained Power
There is an incredibly important distinction to make between Peak Power and Sustained Power.
The Peak Power of the scooter refers to the maximum amount of power it can consume over a short period of time. While this metric has its place in the specs of each scooter, it is not a great unit of measurement because not all manufacturers measure it in the same way.
Sustained Power refers to the maximum amount of power the motor can consume over a prolonged period of time. Sustained Power, unlike Peak Power, is very universally measured and what's most often given when asked for the specs of a specific scooter motor.
The most important decision is the battery. There is no debate here. The bulk of the cost, the capability, the range, the weight, and the size are all determined by the battery. Again, like the motor, the purpose must fit the purchase. Range or Speed? Torque or Endurance? Let's break down the battery into 2 parts to find the best answer.
The Voltage of the battery will determine it torque and acceleration capability. This can range from 22V to 80V but most mid-range scooters fall into the 42V-72V range.
Amperage Hours (Ah)
The Amperage Hours will directly effect the overall distance the scooter can travel (range). The typical mid-range scooter will have an Ah in the 15-42Ah range.
Most high end scooter manufacturers will use reputable battery manufacturers like LG, Samsung, Panasonic. Battery manufacturers can often differ even within the same model, so to maximize the cycle count of your scooter's battery, pay close attention and stick with these manufacturers.
3. Tires Options
Solid or pneumatic (air filled) tires
Wide Wheels or Standard 2.5 inch, 3 inch, 4 inch width
Overall Tire Size 8inch-11inch
Street, Semi-Off-Road, or Off-Road
A spring suspension will help with the overall comfort of the ride by lessening the impact of bumps in the road during your ride via the spring traveling up and down.
A hydraulic suspension is an actuator is filled with oil. When a wheel goes over a bump in the road, the actuator expands as the liquid fills it with force. This force causes the actuator to push against the scooter causing it to spring away. Many of these systems will use a combination of oil based hydraulic and springs as a failsafe.
Hydraulic Disc Brakes are operated by oil filled (hydraulic) lines that control the activation of the brakes. When you squeeze the brake lever, it increases pressure until the caliper tightens on the disc rotor causing the scooter to slow or stop.
Mechanical Disc Brakes are operated similarly to the Hydraulic version except through the line is a cable which when pulled by the brake level, shortens and activates the caliper.
Pro: Overall braking power in all conditions
Con: Risk of rotor damage and cost of ownership
Drum Brakes are activated when pads inside of the wheel hub expand outward towards the braking surface of the hub itself. These brakes a fully enclosed causing them to be less maintenance.
Pro: Less likely to accumulate moisture or dirt
Con: As they heat up, they become less effective.
Electronic Brakes are operated by pressing a switch which shorts the motor terminals causing resistance to the turning of the motors. These brakes will often come in two forms, a traditional lever and a push button. It will feel slightly different than traditional brakes are the sensation is more like the motor slowing and less of something engaging to stop the scooter.
Pro: Low maintenance and no additional weight
Con: Failure prone and poor stopping power.
Regenerative Brakes are operated by a switch which when pressed couples the couples the motor and the charging system. The resistance created by the brake is then used to recharge the battery, thus extending the range. Although many manufacturers have regenerative braking as a feature that can be turned on and off on the LCD controls via the P-settings, there is little evidence that the range is extended to any degree worth mentioning. Conversely, some riders suggest that the regenerative braking feature has led to diminished battery life overall.
Pro: No added weight to scooter
Con: Poor stopping power
How Fast Do I Want To Go and How Far Will I Want To Travel?
Although the other questions are of critical importance, speed and range are second to none on the minds of 100% of consumers. When making your scooter assessment and ultimately your purchase, these two metrics are what will help you narrow your list down the quickest. A few crucial details are important to note when looking at this data on various sites.
First, The Industry standard for judging both speed and range is with a 170 pound rider. So based on your particular weight you'll have do some basic math to arrive at a logical expected speed/range. Additionally, if you are lower than 170 pounds (140 for example) you cannot expect an additional 20% increase from the max.
Second, the range and speed will both vary widely based on conditions like terrain, riding style, rider weight, ambient temperature, and various other factors. This is never more apparent than by the variance in site data you'll encounter during your purchase decision. Some sites will strictly adhere to the manufacturer data while others will do their own self testing. A great idea when you encounter this is to ask the community, check Facebook groups, or check message boards.
Now that you know those two things, you can start diving into the speed and range to find out what suits you.
Speed: When deciding scooters based on their max speed, this will circle back to your experience and capability on a scooter. If you've never stepped foot on a scooter, it wouldn't be recommended to get something that goes 60 mph, nor should you spend the money to have one with enough power to go that fast. Consider your purpose; if it's to go in the bike lane on the way to work and you know there will be other commuters around you, 25-35mph may be plenty. If you've already been accustomed to that scenario and now you'd like to keep up with speeds on the turnpike, something that goes 55+mph may be what you're looking for. Purpose and usage should drive what speed you're looking for plain and simple. Luckily for most of us, these high performance machines are more than capable for most riders at most speeds.
Range: Simply put, range is always the #1 question. Time and time again customers will say "I'm using it to get to and from work and it's about 20 miles round trip." This is fantastic and means that purpose is driving your purchase. You definitely do not want to be the rider that's doing the walk of shame with a dead scooter because their most common route taken didn't factor into their purchase. When thinking about range consider the normal route you intend to make with it and then add a one off situation on top of it. For example, with the customer above who has a 20 mile roundtrip, add another 10 miles roundtrip to visit their friend who lives 5 miles further from work. In this scenario, something that goes at least 30 miles is where they should start looking. Now that you've got an estimate of how many miles you need, it's time to pair that with a battery that can get you there. When talking range, its comes down to Amperage Hours (Ah). The more (Ah) the more range. Most commonly in the 60V category, you'll see a 20.8Ah, 25.6Ah, 28.8Ah, and 30Ah version for example. As the market evolves, external battery packs are becoming available which allows people to buy a lower Ah version of the scooter itself and add an additional battery, but that comes at a cost. If you have a finite budget and you'd like to maximize the range you'll be able to get, the more Ah the better.
What is my Budget?
The pricing on scooters can vary immensely and range from $599 all the way up to just south of $10K. Being that budget is an incredibly personal issue and what you spend is ultimately up to you, we will simply be going over how to maximize your dollars spent. Remember the work example above? The customer stated that they had a 20 mile round trip commute for work but would be in the market for a 30 mile scooter. With this being the case, overspending for something that goes off-road, gets a 75 mile range, or goes 55+ mph would be overspending for the sake of spending. In addition to your up front budget for the scooter, also keep in mind future accessories you may want like a cell phone holder, stem bag, and future maintenance costs like brake pads, tires, tubes, and other consumable items. Maximize every penny for performance and making sure you've got the total picture going in is key to ensuring your purchase decision is the right one.
Now that we've examined the crucial questions involved in finding you the absolute best scooter, hopefully you can get out there and have confidence knowing you've made the best choice for you. Considering purpose, evaluating your capability, and knowing exactly what you want and how much you want to spend will make finding your dream scooter that much more enjoyable and concise. Whatever you choose whether it's a slow and steady commuter or a face peeling speed machine, we know it'll be a blast and we welcome you to the scooter community.
Enjoy the Ride.