The first month after buying my first electric scooter was an interesting experience for me. Even though you figure out how to ride after about 3 minutes, there are still many advanced techniques that you only learn after months of frequent use, sometimes even years.
While I’m not sure you can become an “expert” scooter rider since the process is very simple, I do know there are a few tricks and hacks I wish someone revealed to me sooner. It would have been a lot better than discovering them all by myself, a process that had some downsides for both me and my scooter.
Most useful electric scooter riding tips
- do a quick check before every ride
- make wearing the helmet a part of your habit
- keep your back straight and your posture natural
- use the skateboard stance – front foot points forward and diagonal, back foot points to the side
- steer with feet, and entire body
- bend your knees a little
- learn to “bunnyhop,” or make yourself “light” during bumps
- lean forward during acceleration and climbing
- lean back during braking and going downhill
- hold the handlebars with a firm grip, but don’t squeeze too tight
- keep at least one finger on the brake lever and be ready to brake
- stay focused (scooter rides can easily make you zone out)
- when riding in wet weather or slippery surfaces, slow down and make yourself “heavier”
- ride defensively and never ride too fast
- always respect the law
Let’s go over each one of them in more detail, so that you have a full understanding of when, and exactly how to apply them efficiently.
Do a quick check before every ride
Simply check if:
- your battery is full enough for where you want to go
- your brakes work
- your tires are inflated
- your light is working
That’s a very simple routine of just 4 steps, done in about 20 seconds, and it can prevent both accidents and you getting a ticket.
Always wear a helmet, and as much protective gear as you can
Personally, I’ve never fallen from my scooter, and I’ve never really had an accident.
However, I have two friends that have had a total of three accidents.
One of them had a collision with a bicycle once, and fell because of a pothole the second time. His first accident was not that serious and he didn’t have any injuries, but the second time he hit his head on a big concrete flowerpot on the sidewalk. His helmet took most of the blow, and had a crack in it. In his own words: “If I didn’t wear a helmet, I would have had a concussion at least!”.
My other friend was riding without any safety gear. In an attempt to avoid a pedestrian crossing the bike lane, he lost balance and fell off the scooter. While he didn’t hit his head, he did get a pretty nasty scrape on his elbow, and almost dislocated it. He was in pain for a week. Wearing knee and elbow pads would have prevented that.
Always wear a helmet, that is non-negotiable! Wear as much other protective gear as you can.
Keep your back straight, your posture natural, relax your body as much as you can
This is especially important if you struggle with back pain, like me and many other people working in front of computers do.
I’ve noticed that if I ride longer than 30 minutes, often my back can flare up. Over time, I realized I tend to slouch over, and become really tensed in my shoulders and neck (and sometimes even make this weird angry face while I ride for some reason).
One issue that’s hard to avoid here is that the riding stance is not exactly natural, and doesn’t encourage great posture. The proper riding stance for best balance requires your body to be constantly twisted at the hips a bit, and as anyone with spine problems will tell you, that’s not exactly good news for your back.
So help your body as much as you can and keep a natural posture. Stand up straight from the waist above, and be as relaxed as you can without sacrificing control over your scooter. Try to stay in the middle of the scooter deck, not too far away from the handlebar, but not too close neither.
You can try tensing your abdominal muscles when hitting a bump, so that you don’t feel the impact as much, but other than that, staying relaxed will tire you less and give you a better ride.
Front foot points forward and diagonal, back foot points to the side (aka skateboard stance)
If you’re right-handed, your right foot will be on the front, pointing to the front and maybe slightly to the left. Your left foot will be on the back, pointing either completely to the left or a bit diagonally to the left. This is also known as the “skateboard” or the “surfboard” stance, and it’s the optimal way to control your scooter with minimal effort.
The distance between your feet will depend on the length of the deck, but it will usually be around shoulder-width.
If you are left-handed, well… you will be swimming against the current here, but I guess you’re already used to that, living in a world made for right-handed people. Still, you may be in luck, as some models do come ready-made for left-handed people, with the throttle on the left and the brakes on the right. Obviously, the feet description above applies in reverse for you, but you probably already knew that as well.
Steer with your feet (and your entire body)
While the main job of steering belongs to the handlebar, you should include your feet as an additional way to change directions easily.
Simply use your feet to transfer some of your weight and move your center of gravity in the direction you want to turn. In fact, don’t just stop at the feet – gently and slowly move your entire body along with your feet. This will do wonders for your balance and make turning much more intuitive and basically embedded in your body.
Bend your knees slightly
This is one of the most advanced electric scooter riding tips out there.
While you want to keep your back straight, you shouldn’t lock your knees and keep your legs straight. That will be very unnatural and make riding very difficult.
Bending your legs at the knees slightly not only makes the rides more comfortable, but it also does a great job of acting as an additional suspension system when you cross over bumps or holes.
Speaking of bumps…
Make yourself “light” during bumps (aka bunnyhop)
Another advanced technique that took me months to figure out by myself, but is actually really simple. It’s probably my most favorite riding tip.
This technique is used for crossing bumps, potholes, cracks in the road, or anything that will disturb the steadiness of your ride.
It involves bending your knees even further, and reducing the pressure your feet and your whole body put on the deck of the scooter. It’s literally like trying to make your body lighter during the bump. Your body elevates, sort of doing like a very light hop during the crossing of the bump (hence the name “bunnyhopping”). That way, while crossing a bump, your scooter only has to support its own weight, and not be burdened by your weight in addition.
The joints in your legs, together with the muscles in your legs and your entire body, further act as a suspension system, but they only absorb a fraction of the impact you would absorb with your feet firmly planted on the deck.
That makes a huge difference in ride quality, but also prolonging the life on your scooter in general.
All in all, a very cool and useful trick, start practicing it on your rides and you will notice much smoother rides.
Lean forward during acceleration and climbing
When accelerating or climbing, your scooter expends the most energy and the systems are under the most pressure.
If you lean forward a bit, you will make its job a lot easier as you will transfer your center of gravity to where the scooter is headed. This way you save your battery and every other scooter system.
Lean back during braking and going downhill
The proper braking technique for electric scooters involves leaning back a bit. The reason for this is two-fold:
- transferring your center of gravity to the back will help your scooter brake more easily
- the brakes are often at the front, and leaning back prevents the rear wheel from going airborne and the scooter from tipping over entirely
The same principles apply to riding downhill. You will probably (I hope) not accelerate when going downhill, and you will likely brake a bit. Leaning back slows you down, and also prevents tipping over, which is much easier when going downhill.
Have a firm but not too strong grip of the handlebars, and never let it go
You will find that during your first few rides as a beginner, you will tend to squeeze the handlebars so tight that they almost melt in your hands. That’s a common precautionary measure, even a reflex I would say, since you fear falling quite a lot. I even remember my arms hurting and having cramps after my first few rides from holding the handlebars so tight.
But as you gain more experience, you will feel more confident and realize that you don’t actually need to use that much force. You can’t really ride with a very loose grip as that makes you lose too much control, but you will learn how to lighten up a bit.
Never let go of the handle while riding, that is a big mistake that will result in you on the floor.
Keep at least one finger on the brake lever
Strange things happen when riding an electric scooter.
Elderly people jump out in front of you out of nowhere.
Bicycles decide it’s a great idea to cut you off.
Dogs stop dead on your track and curiously start to stare at you.
Large objects appear on your way.
An accident can happen really quick.
After a few almost-accidents, I started riding with one or two fingers on the brake lever. That greatly reduces my response time when I need to act fast, yet it doesn’t reduce my ability to steer the scooter by much (which is what happens if you put all of your fingers on the brake for example).
The possible tradeoff is that it would be harder to do a full brake, which requires putting all of your fingers on the brake and then pressing. However, I rarely need to do this since I don’t really ride that fast in the city. So for me, it’s a clear win.
If you frequently need to brake hard, don’t use this tip. Simply hold your handlebar for maximum control, and only grab the brake lever with all your fingers when the time comes.
Stay focused, scooter rides can easily make you zone out
This sounds simple, but it’s actually aimed more at experienced riders.
Electric scooter rides can be such a joy, that we often forget we are participating in traffic, where serious or even fatal accidents can happen in the blink of an eye.
Newbies are too afraid of falling, making a mistake, or embarrassing themselves, so they will probably ride with 100% of their attention.
But more experienced riders may get so relaxed over time, and forget that they are going with speeds that are not harmless.
This has happened many times to me. I just enjoy the ride so much that I completely get in the zone and stop worrying about the world around me. Luckily, I’ve managed to react in time so far, but I’ve had a few close ones already.
Electric scooter rides are extremely fun and relaxing, but never allow that to cause you to lose focus. The consequences can be serious.
If you ride in wet weather or slippery surfaces, slow down and make yourself “heavier”
First of all, riding during rain, snow, or other wet conditions is strongly discouraged, both by most scooter owners and scooter manufacturers. Even if you have a waterproof scooter that is immune to water damage, the risk of slipping, falling, and hurting yourself is too big.
Still, I’ve lost count of the number of times where I’ve simply had no better alternative than ride in the rain. Sometimes you simply have to do it.
When riding in the rain or the snow, or on wet, muddy, or slippery surfaces, slow down! The faster you go, the more you increase your chances of falling.
Also, remember how we described making yourself “lighter” when going over bumps? Well, do the opposite when riding on slippery surfaces.
Apply a bit of extra pressure with your feet and your entire body on the scooter’s deck. Bend your knees a bit more, and let your body push down on the scooter. That will lower your scooter’s center of gravity and give it more stability.
Ride defensively and never ride too fast
Look, I get it. You have waited for your scooter to arrive for days, or maybe even weeks, and you’ve been thinking about it for months maybe. As soon as you unpack it, you will want to hit the pedal to the metal and see what your baby can do.
And I guess it’s ok to test-drive it a bit (in safe conditions!) and maybe even ride with maximum speed. I sure have, and I know the thrill of that is hard to reason against.
Still, in the real world, in every-day scenarios, I advise resisting the temptation much of the time. If you ride in traffic especially, avoid riding faster than 30 kmh / 18 mph, speeds higher than that are already dangerous for yourself and others.
Respect the law
In the second month after I bought my scooter, I rode in the car lane and I had such a great time that I forgot to stop on a red light. The result, of course, was a policeman stopping me, and I got a ticket.
I fought the law, and the law wonEnglish punk rock band The Clash, and myself
Respect your local traffic laws when riding your scooter. This usually means:
- make sure your scooter is working properly, in many countries you can get a ticket for a malfunctioning scooter
- ride in lanes designated for electric scooters, or at least for bikes
- don’t ride under the influence of drugs or alcohol, both for legal and for safety reasons
- respect the speed limit for electric scooters or other rideables
- park your scooter only where it’s allowed to park it
- always ride with your lights on, especially during night rides
- add a rear-view mirror to your scooter if it doesn’t have one (you can find a dirt-cheap one on AliExpress)