Electric scooters are an excellent mode of transportation for traveling solo, but require practice. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain what gear you’ll need, scooter riding tips and tricks, and how to commute safely. We’ll also share how you can become part of the growing scooter community.
Getting Familiar with Your Scooter
Before venturing onto the road, get familiar with all of the components and functions of your electric scooter, so you can confidently ride, change modes, and fold it on the go. First, let’s go over the types of cockpit, brakes, tires, and folding styles.
The cockpit is the command center of your electric scooter, and includes the handlebars, throttle, brakes, display, and any other controls, like standalone eco/turbo mode and horn/light buttons.
- Handlebars Some commuter scooters have foldable handlebars, so you can make the scooter very compact when traveling. Foldable handlebars have screw-in or pull-on mechanisms. Some foldable handlebars shake or become loose while riding, but many have set screws to allow them to be tightened or adjusted. All your handlebar-mounted controls, including brake levers and throttle displays, are also held in place with screws. These can be rotated to suit your preference. Get familiar with your handlebars so you know how to adjust them if necessary.
- Throttle The throttle controls acceleration of the scooter, and is usually on the right side of the handlebars. There are three main types of throttles:
- Finger/Trigger throttle is the most common throttle style for electric scooters and is usually a component of the LCD display.
- Thumb throttle is the most comfortable for long-term use, in our opinion. Thumb throttles are usually located to the right side of the stem and may or may not be integrated with the display.
- Twist throttle is a rubberized control that encircles the right handlebar where you grip, usually near the stem. Rotate the control toward you to accelerate.
- The discontinued Boosted Rev had a signature throttle wheel, that you rotated inward to accelerate and outward to activate the regenerative brakes. We haven’t seen this unique throttle style return to the scooter market since Boosted.
- Display The display is the dashboard of your scooter, featuring controls for power, modes, security, and safety. Most electric scooters come with a display attached to the right handlebar or centered on the stem. Get familiar with how it works and what features are included, but don’t worry about becoming an expert. You’ll learn what settings work best for you as you practice riding.
- The most common are backlit LCD displays with a power button, mode button, and attached finger throttle. This style of display often includes a USB port on the back, which can provide low-voltage power for other electronics (like your cell phone). Oftentimes, LCD displays are coupled with plug-and-play cabling, which provides a connection port. If your display gets damaged, you can easily replace it with a new display.
- Some scooters feature a display built into the stem, and these are often LED as well. This style varies by brand, and cannot be replaced if damaged unless covered by warranty.
- Some scooters come with a mobile app to control features and provide readout details, like odometer, speedometer, zero-start, and cruise control.
- Controls The controls of electric scooters vary by style, as many have standalone buttons for eco and turbo modes or to activate the lights and electronic horn, while other scooters include a bell, display, and little else. Get familiar with which controls, like cruise control and P-settings, are accessible in the display, how to turn on your lights and sound your horn, how to use the app that comes with your scooter (if applicable), and functions of standalone buttons.
- Security Some scooters have key-start ignitions or locking features in their mobile apps. If the scooter is locked or a key is not used, you cannot turn on the scooter. Although these measures provide some security, we do not recommend leaving your scooter unattended because a thief could still carry it away.
Figure out what types of brakes you have and how to activate them before venturing out. Most scooters come with a mechanical brake and a regenerative or electronic brake. The most common configuration for commuter scooters is a hand lever-operated rear brake with a regenerative front brake.
Many scooters have both front and rear mechanical brakes, and hydraulic brakes are an easier-to-operate upgrade. Mechanical and hydraulic brakes have proven to be the most effective. Electronic brakes slow the motor internally and are pretty effective for making gradual speed adjustments. Some electronic and regenerative brakes are activated by pulling slightly on the brake lever. With regenerative, the slowing is far more gradual and less effective. Some scooters come with foot brakes, which don’t lend themselves to quick emergency braking or long-range comfort.
Learn more about electric scooter brakes.
Along with having suspension, the larger the tires, the more comfortable the ride. The two main types of tires are pneumatic (air-filled) and solid (airless). Air-filled tires provide more cushion as you ride, but can be punctured or go flat. Solid tires are far more durable, but less forgiving over cracks and bumps. Some scooters come with mixed tires, often an air-filled front tire and solid rear tire. Since flats happen most frequently on the rear tire, this makes it a little easier to maintain.
It is important to know what type of tires you have so you know what to expect from them. If you have pneumatic tires, you will need an air pump and pressure gauge or an air pump with built-in pressure gauge. You should periodically check the tire pressure and add air as needed. Your owner’s manual will list the correct pressure. It is important to keep tires inflated to the correct pressure to maximize their life, performance, and reduce your risk of flats.
Keep air-filled tires turning and burning with a little more ESG guidance.
Especially if you frequently take stairs or plan on stowing your scooter on other types of transportation, you should practice folding and unfolding. Some folding mechanisms are tricky to secure and/or require quite a bit of opposite force, so it’s good to know how to do this before you’re out in public (doing the dreaded scooter folding dance). Even if you’re not planning on folding it frequently, you should know how the mechanism works to avoid accidents if the stem releases or loosens while you’re riding.
Some folding mechanisms, such as the clamp-style found on the M365, can be adjusted via a screw to increase or reduce tension. If it feels too tight or too loose when clamping, check your owner’s manual for instructions. Other mechanisms, such as those found on the Titan / Unicool T8, have a pin that seats when unfolded. You may or not get an audible click when this pin is fully seated, but it is important to understand how it works and know how to check that it is in place — you definitely don’t want it to fold while you’re riding. Understanding how your scooter works and how to use and adjust it is important.
Planning Ahead for Your Commute
Avoid riding in poor conditions or running out of charge by planning ahead. Before you head out, consider the terrain, distance, and weather, as that will help you bring what you need and leave what you don’t.
Most electric scooters ride smoothly on well-paved urban roadways, and give riders a brain massage over craggy surfaces. When using navigation apps, we recommend using bike routes rather than busier routes intended for cars, which can feature more traffic, parked cars, stopping buses, and other hazards. Some bike routes have muddy or sandy paths, others are covered in rocks. Practice riding over different terrain, so you can better react to unexpected changes. If you have air-filled tires and know you’ll be rolling through nature, tire slime is a good thing to keep in your bag.
With any electric vehicle, range anxiety is a real thing. With electric kick scooters, you can still manually operate them if you drain the battery — subjecting yourself to something we like to call the scooter walk of shame. Avoid this by testing the range on your electric scooter as you practice, noticing how quickly the battery depletes. If your electric scooter has ESG certified stats, you can find our tested range and don’t have to rely on the manufacturer’s range. Keep in mind that range varies by how you use the scooter, including how heavy you are, what you carry, and how you’re traveling. If you’re in turbo mode, going full throttle, up hills, and nearing the scooter’s load limit, you’ll likely get less range.
Getting caught in the rain with your electric scooter could mean its demise, as electric scooters are mostly weather resistant not waterproof. Check weather forecasts ahead of riding, as poor weather often means you should take another mode of transportation. There are a number of things you should wear to stay safe and protected, which we’ll go over next.
Micromobility-specific GPS navigation apps can help you find your way and stay on a route that is more scooter-friendly. If you end up using one, you’ll want a phone holder.
Selecting + Wearing Safety Gear
Protecting your head from injury at any speed is important, and a helmet is one way to help prevent serious consequences. A bicycle helmet is fine for >20 mph in good weather and terrain, but a BMX helmet provides more protection. If you have poor riding conditions and go <20 miles per hour, a DOT motorcycle helmet, preferable full-face, is recommended.
Find a suitable helmet using the ESG helmet database.
Gloves + protective wear
We and most riders suggest wearing gloves, as it’s natural and common to break your fall with your hands. Gloves will also keep your hands protected from the sun and wind. For safety, you should always wear close-toed shoes when riding an electric scooter. Depending on the weather, you can wear lighter or heavier jackets, and sport knee and elbow pads when traveling at higher speeds — but the more you protect your skin with fabric, the less scabs you’ll be dealing with in an accident. If you’re riding leisurely, less protective gear is needed.
Your ability to see and be seen by others is key. Members of the riding community suggest riding with front and rear lights on at all times, and wearing reflective gear. When traveling at night or in poor conditions, we suggest a reflective vest, a bright high-mounted headlight, and a blinking helmet light. You should also consider protective eyewear if your helmet does not have a visor, as bright reflections can be blinding and bugs in the eyes happen.
Being able to hear your environment along with your navigation instructions can be a challenge. Some riders memorize their route ahead of time, others mount their phone or a Bluetooth speaker onto the handlebars, some wear one earbud, while others opt for a Bluetooth-enabled helmet. We do not recommend any type of obstruction to your hearing, but if you do plan to listen to something while riding you should keep the volume low enough that you can also hear others around you.
Doing a Pre-Flight Check
Before each trip on your electric scooter, check each box:
- Do you know your route?
- Is your scooter adequately charged?
- Do you need to pack a charger, multitool, tire slime, or air pump?
- Is your scooter fully upright and secured, with all bolts in place?
- How do the tires and brakes look?
- Are the lights on your scooter (and helmet) working?
- Is your horn or bell working?
- Are you dressed for safety (helmet/gloves) and the weather?
- How are you feeling?
Performing a pre-flight check every time you ride an electric scooter is a solid way to ensure you’ll travel safely with everything you need to reach your destination. Proper maintenance and your mental state are equally important to riding your electric scooter safely.
Practicing on Your Scooter
It’s important to practice riding your scooter so you can get familiar with how it feels and know what to expect while riding.
Riding for the first time
Get familiar with how to ride your electric scooter by practicing in a private area before braving public roadways.
- Disable zero-start and cruise control functions (if applicable). Some scooters peel out off the start line while other, kick-to-start scooters need your help. Kick-to-start scooters have to be manually pushed to a low speed before you can engage the motor, while zero-start scooters zip as soon as you pull on the trigger. Many kick-to-start scooters have zero-start as a feature that you can enable, but when you’re first getting used to riding a scooter a slower launch can be preferable. If cruise control is enabled, it will automatically turn on after you’ve held your pace for 5-7 seconds, and if you weren’t expecting it can be jarring. Check your user manual for instructions.
- Find a flat, well-paved practice area, like a vacant parking lot. Turn on your scooter and place your weaker leg near the stem on the deck. Start pushing with your stronger leg, then step onto the deck and engage the throttle. Always keep both hands on the handlebars but use minimal pressure (forward/backward) to achieve light riding.
- Practice accelerating and braking by pulling on the throttle and brake lever at different depths, so you can get a feel for how much pressure you’ll need to go full speed or make a quick stop. Getting used to accelerating and braking is the first challenge. Make sure you know how to use the different types of brakes, including how to engage regenerative or electronic braking if not its own control.
- Practice turning in both directions, leaning with the scooter, and sitting back and down when braking. Along with practicing the controls, practicing how your body responds will help build riding confidence.
- Try rough terrain, like going over some rough asphalt, along breaks in the pavement, and over other small obstructions to practice handling bad terrain. Wet leaves and loose gravel are hazards to avoid, but learning how it feels to encounter them can help you evade injury. If you expect to tackle curbs on your commute, practice on your scooter as some can easily clear curbs while others can’t.
Scooter riding tips
Once you’ve ridden your scooter and feel more confident, consider implementing these expert riding tips from the electric scooter community:
- Keep a light stance We suggest keeping a light riding stance, meaning you’re not pulling hard against the handlebars or keeping your legs stiff, but allowing your elbows and knees to bend softly, creating a natural suspension with your body. This will allow you to absorb some bumps and avoid sore limbs from rigid riding.
- Goofy vs. regular stance The ESG team prefers a goofy stance (right foot forward), as it allows us to keep our balance, and our back to opening car doors and other obstructions (we drive on the right). It also puts our stronger, starting leg on the ground at takeoff and at the ready for emergencies. Regular (left foot forward) is also a comfortable stance and is likely preferable in countries where oncoming vehicles travel on the left side of the road. We’re not sure how comfortable or safe it is to ride with your feet side by side on the deck, but some prefer that stance.
- Know how to respond to emergencies Practice emergency braking and avoiding an obstruction in your path. Someone could back out of a driveway or open their car door parked on the curb and not see you coming. Practice braking, turning, and bailing off the scooter should something or someone get in the way.
- Braking posture and pressure To brake as quickly as possible, squeeze down on the brake lever as hard as you can without locking up the wheels. If you lock up the tires and slide, you won’t be able to slow down as quickly. If you shift your body’s weight over the rear wheel it allows you to brake harder without locking up the wheels or sending you over the handlebars.
- Ride defensively As with driving a car, you should not assume others see you coming, or expect you on the road. Drive consciously and cautiously, scanning the way ahead. We suggest covering your brakes or keeping your braking hand at the ready, especially when approaching intersections. You should also take curves slowly. Avoid getting hurt yourself and hurting others by paying attention to what’s around you.
Securing + Storing Your Scooter
Sometimes you may need to bring your scooter indoors, like if you live or work in a multilevel building or plan to take your scooter on public transportation. You may also need to store your scooter for a trip in the trunk or long-term in a storage unit. Here are some tips for securing and storing your scooter.
Whenever possible, we suggest storing your scooter indoors where it is not subjected to the weather or thievery. If possible, wheel it inside and keep it somewhere that’s convenient for charging where the floor won’t get damaged by dirty wheels. If you’re taking it with you to work and have limited places for storage, it might be a good idea to check with your manager beforehand. Some scooters, like the UScooters Booster Sport, fit inside very compact spaces, so find out where you’ll be storing and get permission if needed.
If you must leave your electric scooter outside, you should use a bike lock or U-lock to secure it to a bike rack or other cemented pole. Make sure it is not exposed to the rain or very humid/damp weather to avoid damage to the electrical components.
Taking in public spaces
Most scooter riders have mentioned that they’re generally allowed to bring electric scooters into public spaces, like grocery stores, big box stores, and shopping malls, but that no riding should be done indoors especially in public spaces. Some riders fold their scooters and put them in shopping carts, while others wheel their scooter alongside. If anyone asks you not to bring your scooter into public spaces, it’s probably best to respect their request for the benefit of the entire riding community.
Taking on public transit
Some forms of public transportation are going to be more scooter friendly than others. Many bus lines allow you to bring your scooter on board, but only if it’s off and folded. Subways are slightly more scooter friendly than buses, as you generally do not need to climb steps to get onboard. If you plan to bring an electric scooter on public transit, look for rules related to electric scooters ahead of time, travel outside of peak rush hour, and respect others around you by walking your scooter until you are outside of the station.
The convenience of bringing it on public transit can also depend on where and when you’ll be starting and stopping your trip. Take for example BART, the only subway system in the San Francisco Bay Area. With escalators and elevators at most stations to get from the platform to the street, lots of seating and bike-friendly cars, scooters are generally a good last-mile option. However, if you’re traveling on BART when there’s lots of other people and you can’t find a seat, folding and/or holding your scooter can become uncomfortable.
If you have to put your scooter in long-term storage, we recommend storing it charged to 30-50%, and re-charging periodically as needed. Store in a dry environment that isn’t subject to extremes of temperature. Here’s more information on maintaining battery life.
Practicing Scooter Etiquette
Local scooter laws
Laws regarding electric scooters vary greatly. Some cities allow scooters on public streets up to a certain speed, while others only allow riding on private roads. As personal electric vehicles like scooters become more common, regulations around them will become standardized. Find out what is allowed in your region and behave responsibly. Be courteous to motor vehicles and stop at all lights and stop signs. As a new form of transportation, legislators have their eyes on electric scooters and how we ride them, safely or not. The better behavior we practice, the faster we can help move scooters into mainstream, everyday use.
Practice considerate rider etiquette, announcing yourself when passing, reducing your speed around pedestrians, especially children and older adults, and maintaining defensive riding tactics. Always keep ample space between yourself and objects in your path, like parked cars and garbage bins, and slowly approach unseen corners with caution. Do not ride on pedestrian sidewalks, inside buildings or through outdoor shopping centers, as it’s inconsiderate and will bring unwanted attention to your fellow road warriors.
Joining the Scooter Community
Electric scooters have allowed many riders the freedom to explore and enjoy their city, and riders in the community have built groups so you can find adventure together. Check out if there’s a group to join near you with our group ride finder. To learn more about scooters and ask riders for their advice, become a member of our very active Facebook group. If you want to stay on the pulse of current trends in the scooter industry, check out our weekly Liveshow.
To learn about buying an electric scooter see our buying guide.
For more technical information see our technical guides.
Check out our current ESG Editor’s pick of the best electric scooters on the market!