Tires connect your electric scooter with the ground. They are an important part of safety, durability, and ride quality. This guide covers the ins and outs of electric scooter tires. You’ll learn the advantages and disadvantages of pneumatic tires (air-filled) and solid (airless) tires.
What are the different types of electric scooter tires?
There are two commonly used types of electric scooter tires:
Pneumatic tires are better performing (more efficient, better cushioning, better traction) than solid tires. For this reason, we always recommend them. Preventing flat tires isn’t hard either.
Solid tires are zero maintenance because they don’t get flats.
Both types of tires will wear out and solid tires won’t necessarily last longer than pneumatic ones.
Pneumatic (air-filled) tires
What are pneumatic tires?
Pneumatic tires, also called air-filled, are tires that use air pressure to maintain their structure. They have a valve stem that protrudes either from the side or into the center of the wheel. The valve stem is the connection that you use to fill or empty air from the tire and also check the tire air pressure. Most tires you see on other vehicles — cars, bicycles, motorcycles — are pneumatic. Pneumatic tires come in two flavors: inner tube and tubeless.
Tubeless tires are common on automobiles, consists of only the tire that forms an air-tight seal around the tire rim. The tire rim houses the valve stem. Tubeless tires tend to be more heavy duty, puncture resistant, and higher performance. However, if you do get a flat or need to change the tire, it can be a real pain. On some electric scooters you will actually have to take the whole wheel to a tire shop and have them use their tire removal machine to get it off.
Inner tube tires
Inner tube tires are common on bicycles and electric scooters, they have a heavy outer tire “shell” which has the treads and a surface that contacts the road. Inside the tire is a separate tube that holds the air and has the valve that is used for filling. If the tire is punctured, only the inner tube needs to be patched or replaced.
What are the benefits of pneumatic tires?
Pneumatic tires have three major benefits compared to solid tires:
- Lower rolling friction
- Better ride cushioning
- Better traction
Lower rolling coefficient of friction means that these tires lose less energy as they roll along the ground. This means you will get better mileage and higher top speed with pneumatic tires.
Better ride cushioning is afforded by the air pressure in the tire. Pneumatic tires are much better able to absorb bumps in the road than solid ones. On some scooters, they are the only form of suspension.
Pneumatic tires have a better static coefficient of friction which means they are less likely to slip as they roll along the ground. They will allow you to stop more quickly without sliding. Additionally, they provide better traction, even in wet conditions.
What are the disadvantages of pneumatic tires on an electric scooter?
There are two disadvantages to pneumatic tires:
- Susceptible to flat tires
- Tire pressure maintenance
However, you can reduce your chances of getting a flat with a few simples tips.
What are solid (airless) tires?
Solid tires use a rubber or solid polyurethane foam filling material to provide structural integrity, rather than air pressure. They are completely immune to punctures and will never go flat like a pneumatic tire. This is their major (and only) benefit. In every other way, solid tires are inferior to pneumatic tires.
Solid tires go by a few different names and forms of construction: honeycomb and filled. Honeycomb solid tires have a rubber internal honeycomb structure designed to provide structural integrity and keep the tire weight down. Filled tires contain a rubber, foam, or other solid flexible polymer filling. As far as we can tell, there aren’t any major differences between structured or filled solid tires, but we haven’t extensively tested them against each other.
Are solid tires more durable than pneumatic tires?
Solid tires are not necessarily more durable than pneumatic tires. It is true that they will never go flat from being punctured. However, they are often made of hard plastics that will wear down more quickly due to their higher rolling friction.
One thing to note is that solid tires can be much more difficult (and sometimes nearly impossible) to change. For example, the Segway Ninebot ES2 electric scooters are notorious for having a solid front tire that is impossible to change, requiring the entire wheel (and motor) to be changed out. Keep this in mind when exploring electric scooter options that have solid tires.