One of the biggest debates around electric scooters today is whether solid or pneumatic (a.k.a. air-filled) tires provide you with a better ride and overall experience.
While there are ideal scenarios for both, the general choice between solid vs pneumatic tires for your scooter is pretty clear.
Electric scooter solid vs pneumatic tires
Pneumatic tires are usually a better choice than solid tires for electric scooters. Pneumatic tires provide more comfort, more stability, better suspension, better climbing, faster speeds, more traction, and better control. The only advantages of solid tires are not getting flat tires and less maintenance. Only choose solid tires if you live in a place with poor roads, where you may get a lot of flats.
If you are considering buying an electric scooter, the tire type will be one of the most important decisions you make. Read on to find out exactly what would be best for your situation and how to decide.
What are pneumatic tires for electric scooters?
Pneumatic, or air-filled tires, are usually made out of rubber and are filled with air.
The degree to which they are inflated plays an important role in how they will perform.
When the tire has higher air pressure (meaning it’s more inflated), it will be harder and will not change its shape so easily. This will result in lower levels of friction against the road. As a result, the scooter will be able to move faster and climb hills better.
However, lower friction will also mean that braking will take longer. The tires will be more slippery. That’s why I and many other electric scooter owners frequently deflate our tires a bit when riding in the winter and in wet periods.
Also, since the tires will be harder, shock absorption will be lower. Therefore, the rides can be bumpier and shakier.
Checking the air pressure of your tires will be a regular part of your maintenance routine.
Check the manual that came with your scooter for the recommended tire pressure and always stick to it as closely as possible. If you don’t have your manual handy, either Google for it, or examine the tire more closely. Oftentimes, the recommended pressure will be written on the tire itself.
Air pressure is measured in mass over area. Something like “kPa” (kilo-Pascals) or “PSI” (pounds per square inch) will be the measurement unit that expresses it, but sometimes a unit like Bars is used too (see the tire pressure converter if you need to convert between them).
Use a tire pressure gauge to measure it.
Pneumatic tires will have a valve that is used to inflate or deflate the tire. The valves are usually on the inner side of the tire.
There are two different types of air-filled tires:
- with an inner tube
- without an inner tube
Pneumatic inner tube tires
As the name suggests, this type of pneumatic tire contains a tube within it. It’s almost like a smaller tire lives within the original tire. If you take the inner tube out of the tire, it will look like a circular hose.
In pneumatic tires with an inner tube, the inner tube is the actual hero of the ride. It is the container for the air of the tire – the outer tire can often get punctured without any visible consequences.
If you get a flat tire on a tire with an inner tube, you will usually have to fix or replace the inner tube itself.
Flats are more common on tires with inner tubes. The reasons for it can be a puncture, an unsuited tire fitting, or friction between the inner and outer tire.
Inner tires go around the entire perimeter of the rim of the wheel, which results in a more rudimentary design and performance.
However, it also means that maintenance is easier. You don’t need special equipment to replace your tires besides a basic bike repair toolkit.
Tires with inner tubes are a more old-school solution, but they are still very common today, especially in electric scooters.
Pneumatic tubeless tires
While still pretty rare in electric scooters, tubeless tires are a more modern approach that is the norm for vehicles. Pretty much all cars and heavier vehicles today have tubeless tires.
In tubeless tires, the air is contained between the tire and the wheel itself. The tire is sealed to the wheel, forming a vacuum between the two.
That’s why getting a flat on a tubeless tire is a nightmare. Replacing it must be done with a specialized kit including a sealant, and it requires some amount of know-how. If you get a flat with a tubeless tire, you will likely have to go to a repair shop to get it fixed.
The inner tube is not present in tubeless tires, which means one less component that can go wrong. And in tires with inner tubes, the inner tube is the most common part that breaks down.
When a tubeless tire gets punctured, it slowly releases air and gets deflated. Unlike inner tube tires, it will never explode and lose all air instantly.
So, while tubeless tires require more attention in the case of a flat, and more maintenance in general, the instances when that happens will be less frequent.
Pros of pneumatic tires
The advantages of pneumatic tires are numerous:
- better shock absorption and more comfortable rides
- better traction
- control over air pressure enables you to adjust your rides
- better for off-road
The following few paragraphs will explain why pneumatic tires are the default, and are often the superior choice.
Pneumatic tires provide better shock absorption
The air in the tire has a suspension effect. When going over uneven terrain, you will not feel the shock as much. This is one of the biggest and most important advantages of air-filled tires, and it is what makes the occasional flat worth the effort.
Pneumatic tires have better traction
When you ride your scooter, the pressure from your weight deforms the tire and flattens it. That way, more of its surface touches the road, providing better traction. This is important for braking and overall control over your electric scooter, making your scooter less susceptible to slipping.
You can increase this effect even more if you deflate your tires a bit.
Pneumatic tires give you more control over your rides
This is one of the most often overlooked advantages of air-filled tires. Being able to easily inflate or deflate your tires as you need provides you with an interesting range of possibilities.
Inflating your tires more will result in gaining some speed, improving the climbing abilities of your scooter, and making it more efficient in its power use in general. This will also result in longer battery life and longer range as well.
Deflating your tires will take away some of those advantages. In return, it will provide you with more comfortable rides with less vibration, better control, easier steering, and most importantly, no slipping and sliding when going over wet or icy terrain.
While it is not recommended to ride your scooter during the winter, if you absolutely must, make this crucial adjustment. Many parts of the world have rain for over half the year, and people living there will benefit a lot from this feature as well.
In effect, it’s like having several different levels of tires, choosing each one when it suits you best.
Pneumatic tires are better for off-road
I don’t remember hearing of an off-road scooter with solid tires. All of the famous and tried-and-tested off-roaders come with pneumatic tires.
The reasons for that are simple – solid tires are too slippery and have very little traction to be used in rough terrain, and they provide almost no suspension on their own. That’s why air-filled tires are the norm for off-road scooters.
Cons of pneumatic tires
Naturally, it can’t be all good news. Pneumatic tires have very few but very important disadvantages you need to be aware of when deciding on your scooter:
- you can get a flat
- they require attention and maintenance
Unfortunately, flat tires are a reality that can happen at any time.
The good news is, as time goes by and electric scooters become more and more commonplace, everything about them improves, including their tires. Going over customer testimonials for many scooters, you can easily notice that complaints about flats are less common as time goes by.
But still, they do happen.
I’ve had it happen to me once. I wouldn’t describe it as a disaster, but it was a nuisance that caused me some headaches and disrupted my plans.
If you do get a flat, you will likely be able to fix it yourself. If you have tubeless tires (not very common), or if you don’t want to roll up your sleeves, you will have to take your scooter to a repair shop.
Pneumatic tire maintenance
This sounds scarier than it is in practice, but it’s still something you have to constantly keep in mind.
Check the air pressure in your tires with a gauge at least once a month at the very minimum. If you want to be extra diligent, do it once a week. It only takes a minute, and you can make it a part of your usual checklist of things you need to do before riding.
If you are in a hurry, an old-school kick in the tire can suffice. You just need to make sure the tires are not getting deflated, and you’re good to go.
What are solid tires for electric scooters?
As the name suggests, solid tires are entirely made out of solid materials and they don’t have air inside of them. Commonly, they’re made out of either rubber or silicone, but lately, we’re seeing other emerging materials as well.
Scooters with solid tires don’t suffer from flats. That’s their biggest selling point, and probably the only big advantage they have.
They also require almost no care at all. No need to worry about tire pressure with them. They too can get worn out over time, but unless you are replacing them, you don’t need to worry about maintenance too much (except for foam-filled solid tires, as we will see below).
Since the tires are very hard, the tradeoff will be less stable, shakier, more vibrating rides.
I’ve only tried riding an electric scooter with solid tires once. Everything other than the flattest of roads made the scooter shake quite a lot.
Because of that, it is common for scooters with solid tires to come with suspension. Without it, the rides would be almost unimaginable.
There are three main types of solid tires:
- fully solid
Fully solid tires
The most common type of solid tire is a simple fully solid tire made out of rubber or silicone. It is the most low-tech type of tire from this entire list, and that’s the reason why it’s usually the cheapest option.
It is also the hardest tire out of all of the tires, resulting in the least stable rides of all. In addition, fully solid tires tend to get worn out the fastest because of their sturdy design.
Foam-filled tires are an interesting compromise. They somewhat mitigate the main downside of solid tires, which is the shaking and instability.
Foam-filled tires, as the name suggests, are filled with a special type of foam that gets cushy, almost soft even, after injected. That will make a ride more comfortable. The foam fills the tire completely.
The downside of foam-filled tires is that they will also require some maintenance. It mostly means refilling them with foam every once in a while. The foam chemical will be an additional expense.
Another clever approach for reducing the shakiness of solid tires.
Honeycomb tires are basically like Swiss cheese. They are usually made out of rubber or silicone as well, but they contain air pockets in them. This provides a greater level of shock absorption.
Their biggest drawback is that honeycomb tires will often be more expensive. Also, they are still somewhat new technology that is not often found in scooters.
Solid tires pros
Solid tires will come with a few strategic advantages, which make them a very good choice in a limited number of scenarios. Their advantages are:
- no flats
- cheaper (usually)
- less maintenance
Solid tires don’t suffer from flats
The biggest, most important advantage that solid tires have is that it is impossible for them to get punctured and go flat.
Flats in pneumatic tires, for the most part, are not really that common. When they do happen, they are not much more than a minor annoyance.
Some users seem to get them more often than others though. It’s fair to assume that some roads will be much worse for pneumatic tires. In both of those cases, the lack of flats will play a crucial role and solid tires will be a better choice.
Solid tires can be cheaper
This goes mostly for fully solid tires. They are the simplest technology of all the tire types, and also the easiest to manufacture.
You will need to refill foam-filled tires with foam. That will be a recurring expense. Honeycomb tires have no additional expenses, but they are more expensive from the start.
Solid tires require less maintenance
We might even say that solid tires require no maintenance (with the exception of foam-filled tires). As long as the wheel is fine and everything is properly adjusted, there’s not much you need to maintain. The only thing you need to be mindful of is damage from wear and tear.
Solid tires cons
The advantages of solid tires come at a steep price in my opinion. They have a few cons that make them a dealbreaker for many:
- bumpier rides
- more slippery
- can wear off faster
Solid tires result in less stable rides
The biggest drawback that comes from the increased hardness of solid tires is that they will always have unstable, vibrating, shaky rides.
With air-filled tires, the shock gets absorbed by the wheel for the most part. You don’t get that benefit with solid tires. That’s why oftentimes these scooters must have additional shock absorbers installed as well.
Solid tires are more slippery
Solid tires have little grip, and less of their surface touches the road. That’s why they will always be more slippery than air-filled tires.
It’s not advisable to ride any scooter in the rain or in the winter, but if your scooter has air-filled tires, at least you will have some sort of a shot at getting there in one piece. With solid tires, you will really be pushing your luck.
Solid tires can wear off faster
This was rather unexpected for me. I’ve seen a lot of comments online from scooter owners that say they’ve had to completely replace their solid tires after six months or less.
The rubber simply evaporates after a while, leaving the tire thinner, more damaged, and less reliable. There is a good chance that you will have to replace a solid tire a lot faster than a pneumatic one (unless you get a flat with the pneumatic one of course).
Can I use both pneumatic and solid tires?
Much of the time, you will be stuck with the type of tires that the scooter came with originally.
Some scooters will not give you a hard time if you try to switch the tire type. There are a number of users that have opted out for this on various scooter models.
And some scooters will come with both solid and pneumatic tires, usually not being hard to switch by yourself at all! Pretty great, right?
But those are the exceptions to the rule.
If you set your mind to it, you can do all types of changes to your scooter. The point is, in most scooter models, this will not be worth it. It will result in either drastically reduced comfort, performance, or even safety.
Technically, all that it takes for you to switch your tire type is that the tire fits your wheel perfectly.
However, there are many hidden factors in play, that may result in unexpected consequences. This is mainly because the scooter was not designed and built to be ridden with a different type of tire.
Nothing is stopping you from experimenting. If you are curious, by all means, go ahead.
My advice: don’t try and force a different type of tire, unless the scooter was meant to support it.
Can I use a mix of one solid tire and one pneumatic tire?
It is possible for an electric scooter to have one solid and one pneumatic tire, and a few models today use this combination.
The mix will hedge your bets and basically spread out both the risks and the benefits more evenly. One typical scenario when this combination might make sense is if you notice that you keep getting a flat on one specific tire, in which case you may want to install a solid tire there, and keep the other one pneumatic.
Scooters that come with a mix of solid and pneumatic tires are usually models that may be a bit front-heavy, and the front tire has to endure more stress and would get punctured easier, so the manufacturers have decided to use a solid tire and reduce the risk of a flat at the expense of some comfort.
Which tires are more common?
The more common type of tires is pneumatic ones, by a large margin. Pneumatic tires are simply better suited for most everyday scenarios. That’s why they are the default.
It is possible, however, that further advancements in tire technology, honeycomb or foam-filled tires, in particular, change the game and position themselves as the new normal, if they manage to provide ride comfort comparable to the one that pneumatic tires provide.
What does the size of the tires mean?
It’s not just the type of tire that is important, it’s the size of it as well. While not as important as the type, tire size is still a very important factor that determines several features of the scooter.
Tires vary across two dimensions – diameter and width.
Bigger tires, meaning tires with a bigger diameter, will typically be found in the more powerful scooters. They provide greater torque necessary for greater speeds.
They do, however, consume more power, and require more effort from the brakes.
Wider tires will give you better balance and control. We can often see wider tires in off-road scooters too, as they provide more traction.
They will drive up the price though. They are more expensive, and the larger surfaces make it easier for debris to be caught and possibly cause a puncture.
In most cases, the width and the diameter of the tire will be proportional. However, there are a few notable exceptions, most notably the Mercane Widewheel Pro, where the tires are disproportionately wider, which results in better traction and balance. While most scooter tires will be around 2.25-2.5 inches wide for a diameter of 8.5 inches, the tires of the Mercane Widewheel Dual are 3.9 inches in width with an 8.5-inch diameter.
When to get an electric scooter with pneumatic tires?
There are many environments and scenarios where pneumatic tires will make much more sense. In fact, there are only a handful of cases where I would recommend getting an electric scooter with solid tires. The scenarios for replacing your existing pneumatic tires with solid ones are even less frequent.
The simplest way to look at it is, always go with pneumatic tires, unless you definitely need solid ones. Pneumatic tires make more sense in about 90% of cases. If you are an everyday commuter or hobbyist, you will almost certainly want to get a scooter with pneumatic tires.
When to get an electric scooter with solid tires?
There is only one scenario in which solid tires make more sense than pneumatic ones. That’s when the roads and the road conditions where you ride are so bad, that you would constantly get flats with pneumatic tires.
This is the only real advantage of solid tires.
You should consider a scooter with solid tires only if you live in a city or environment with:
- poor road infrastructure, with lots of potholes, bumbs, and uneven roads
- lots of garbage and debris
- broken glass or other hard or sharp pieces of waste
Best electric scooters with pneumatic tires
Well, this is essentially the same question as “what are the best electric scooters?”, since most scooters come with pneumatic tires.
I will publish an article about this after I’ve done some more research.
Best electric scooters with solid tires
There are only a handful of electric scooters with solid tires out there, and even fewer of them would fall into the category of very good scooters.
One of the most iconic electric scooters of all time, which is also a very good scooter, comes with solid tires. That’s the Ninebot ES2 (read the full review here).
Other great scooters with solid tires include:
Also, see the guide on the best solid tire electric scooters for a more detailed look.