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Electric Scooter Tires: A Technical Guide for Beginners

Paul Strobel
Paul Strobel
November 26, 2020
electric scooter tire
Table of Contents

Introduction

Your electric scooter is only as good as the tires it has. This often-overlooked detail of your scooter can make your riding experience a nightmare or a dream. In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about tires. What they are, what they do, the different types – when you’re done, you’ll be the resident expert in electric scooter tires. More importantly, your scooter will have the perfect tires for you.

Let’s start by talking about what they do.

Importance of Tires

Everybody understands the concept of tires, but very few people understand the true importance of them. Your tires aren’t just responsible for taking you from point A to point B, they’re responsible for every rock you drive over in between, every obstacle you encounter, and how comfortable your ride is.

If you put square tires on your electric scooter, you start to understand the importance of tires.

Tires provide the smoothest possible option to help you glide along the road, sidewalk, and trail. Tires can also help determine how many miles you get out of a charge of your battery. They’ll decide how fast your scooter can go, and how well you can take a corner. Tires even play a major role in how fast you can stop your scooter, and how quickly you can accelerate.

Everything rides on your tires – quite literally. If you look at it from a physics perspective, improving your tires will improve almost every aspect of riding your electric scooter.

The Hidden Benefit of the Right Tires

Picking the right tires will give you the best results. Tires are designed for certain people, so they match certain lifestyles. For example, if you like to take your electric scooter off-road or on bumpy paths, the wrong tires will leave your body aching.

If you want to jump on your scooter and go, no matter what, the wrong set of tires will leave you stranded.

The simple fact is that the right tires on your electric scooter are just as important as picking the right electric scooter in the beginning. Sadly, some manufacturers don’t think about the tire selection when they put together their bill of materials, so it’s up to the consumer to grab the right tire. The good news for you is that tires are often easy to change over.

Changing your tires can honestly make your electric scooter feel radically different. Let’s find out why that’s the case and learn more about the different types of tires.

Types of Tires

To get started, you should know that there are three different types of tires that you can find on electric scooters. You might find a pneumatic, solid, or honeycomb tire.

Each of these tires has its own benefits and disadvantages, and each one is made with a specific type of rider in mind. Let’s talk about each of these styles in more detail now.

At a Glance: Comparison of the Types of Tires

  • Pneumatic – An air-filled tire, similar to the one you’ll find on a bicycle or car.
  • Solid – A solid rubber tire that’s more akin to a skateboard wheel with tread.
  • Honeycomb – A semi-solid, airless rubber tire with holes drilled through, seen on some military vehicles.

Pneumatic

Turboant X7 Pro front wheel hub motor
The Turboant X7 Pro uses 10-inch pneumatic tires to absorb road vibrations.

Pneumatic tires are air-filled. This is the type of tire that you’re probably most familiar with. The same technology is used on bicycles and car tires. You’ll be able to know a tire is pneumatic if it has a valve stem somewhere.

They either have inner tubes inside of the tires, or they can be tubeless. Either way, the tire gets filled with air and you’re riding on a cushion of air.

Inner tube tires protect the tube with the hard rubber of the outside. To get a flat on this kind of pneumatic tire, something has to puncture the outer tire and the inner tube. The good news is if something does puncture both of these, it’s easy enough to patch it.

Tubeless pneumatic tires just have the meaty outer tire. It’s air-tight against the rim and this is the style of pneumatic tire used on cars. Their heavier-duty, more wear-resistant, and harder to puncture and flatten. Consequently, they’re also harder to fix if a flat ever does occur.

The selling point of pneumatic tires is how well they ride on rough terrain and absorb impact.

Pros

  • Better grip on the road
  • Better at absorbing shock
  • Not a lot of resistance
  • Easy to find

Cons

  • Having to maintain tire pressure
  • They’re prone to flats

Solid

solid electric scooter tire
The Apollo Light uses an 8.5-inch solid rear tire for convenience.

As you can probably guess from the name, solid tires are, well, solid. Some people also call them “airless” tires to differentiate them from the more common air-filled tires. You might find them composed entirely of hard rubber or a rubber shell filled with a foamy inside. Either way, you’ll have a tough time bending or deforming these tires.

Since they’re not filled with air or hollow, solid tires are a lot heavier than the other options available for your electric scooter. This leads to the main advantage and disadvantage of solid tires – they are impossible to get a flat, but they result in a rougher, heavier ride.

There’s a catch-22 when you take these off-roading. You can ride without stress since they can’t get flattened, but you’ll also suffer a more uncomfortable ride. They simply can’t absorb an uneven terrain the way a pneumatic tire can, and that’s all thanks to physics.

Pros

  • Impossible to get a flat
  • Don’t require much maintenance

Cons

  • A lot heavier
  • Bumpier ride
  • Not as much traction available

Honeycomb

honeycomb tire on electric scooter
The Hiboy Max uses honeycomb tires.

The last style of tire is the honeycomb. This is a less traditional style that almost acts like a hybrid between a pneumatic and solid tire.

Essentially, they gave a solid tire to an engineer and asked them to make the ride more cushioned. The result is a tire with honeycomb patterns cut through the tire. Some options have more intricate lattices, but the overarching theme is that there are channels hollowed out of these tires.

The air pockets allow the tire to flex and deform, and the solid rubber removes the need for air. This style of tire is relatively new, so you can expect some major improvements in the coming years.

Some (more affordable) options of the honeycomb tire simply appear to have holes drilled through the length of the tire. From an engineering perspective, a honeycomb is the ideal shape for this tire, but realistically you can use any type of thru-hole shape.

The honeycomb tire borrows benefits and disadvantages from the solid and pneumatic tire. They’re harder to puncture, they add more cushion, but they’re still heavier than pneumatic tires and more expensive than either option.

Pros

  • Resistant to flats
  • Resilient
  • More cushion than a solid tire

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Unrefined design (as of today)
  • No ability to adjust the tire

Which Tire Type is Right for Me?

If you’re looking to have the best-feeling ride and you don’t care about some maintenance, the pneumatic tire is right for you.

If you want a workhorse tire that is always ready to go, and you don’t mind a bumpier ride then choose the solid tire.

If you can’t choose between the two and you don’t mind paying a little extra, then go with the honeycomb.

Types of Tread

Realistic tires with different tread patterns

Another variable in your tire selection process is the tread of your tire. For reference, this is the grippy part of your tire. Look at a BMX bike next to a road cruiser bike and you’ll understand what tread is.

Actually, the same idea holds true in the world of e-scooters, cars, and motorcycles. Tread is a universal idea that uses a little bit of science to achieve what you’re looking for. A lot of tread means you have more grip and more resistance to flats. More tread means a higher ride.

Some off-roading tires have different patterns of tread. This ultimately leads to better control, more traction, and a more refined ride.

Along the same vein, more tread usually is found in thicker tires. You guessed it – thicker tires are heavier and clunkier to ride on. This means fewer miles per charge and a more uncomfortable overall feel.

What’s the Right Tread for Me?

If you are riding your electric scooter on the open road, you want as little tread as possible. This results in a lower ride, more miles per charge, and faster speeds.

For serious off-roading, you want thick and patterned tread. This gives you better grip and results in better maneuvering on rough terrains.

Getting the Right Tire Pressure

electric scooter tires getting pumped up

If you have a pneumatic tire, you need to understand a little more about tire pressure.

Tire pressure is measured in units called PSI, which means Pounds per Square Inch. More PSI in your tires means they are filled with more pressurized air. Don’t be confused, though – a higher PSI doesn’t mean that you have more air in your tires or more cushion, it just means that the air is working harder and exerting more force inside the tire.

Having the right PSI in your tires will prevent flats and give you the best possible ride. Some people make the mistake of going way above the suggested PSI, but the result is a rougher ride and less control.

Either your electric scooter manual will say the suggested PSI or the tires themselves will have an indication of what PSI to go for.

Having the perfect PSI in your tires will result in the best traction, control, ride, mileage, and speed. Tire pressure is sometimes just as important as having the right tires on your ride.

There’s a lot of science that goes into tire pressure and why it matters.

Problem with Over-Inflation

For people that want to crank up the PSI in their tires, you’re signing up for trouble. A tire will too much pressure is considered “over-inflated”, and it starts looking like Violet from Willy Wonka.

Over-inflated electric scooter tires will not connect with the road under it correctly. The bottom of the tire will have a radius to it and only the lowest part of the radius will come in contact with the road.

For the best driving experience, you want the most contact between your tire and the road. Over-inflated tires will not give you this experience.

Problem with Under-Inflation

The same problem exists with tires that are under-inflated. In this case, the radius will be inward and it will look like the tire is being sucked into itself.

Now, only the outside edges of the tire will make contact with the road. Keep in mind, all of the grip can be found along the center strip of the tire, so you’re not getting any contact between the grip and the road.

If you’ve seen a car with cambered wheels, you know the problem with under-inflated tires. You won’t have any grip, your mileage will suffer, and the ride will feel really sloppy.

What Does Correct Inflation Look Like

electric scooter correct tire air pressure example
An example of what proper inflation levels look like. The tire should give in to the ground a bit - but not too much.

Proper inflation can be noticed by eye. Put your scooter on a flat and level surface and look at your scooter head-on. The bottom of your tires should be flat where they make contact with the ground.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you should have flat tires, it just means that you should have the most possible contact between the tire and the ground.

If you notice a convex or concave arc at the bottom of the tire where it meets the ground, then your tire is not correctly inflated.

How to Determine the Right Tire Pressure

In cases where you can’t find the suggested tire pressure, you can still determine it yourself. It’s going to be based on your feel as you ride the scooter.

Your tires should give you a minimum and maximum pressure (never go over the maximum pressure, ever!) Start at the minimum value and take a ride around the block. Add another 5 PSI to both tires and go for another quick ride. After a few trips, you’ll know the right tire pressure for you.

Tire Size – Does it Matter?

Yes, there is yet another variable at play here – tire size. Does it matter?

It absolutely does. The tire size refers to the outside diameter of the tire. Most electric scooters range from 6 to 10 inches in diameter but there are several outliers at each end of that spectrum. This is a pretty wide range and it’s a good hint that tire size matters for riders.

Larger wheels give you a taller, more comfortable, and faster ride. Smaller wheels are the opposite, but they allow you to take corners better.

Most people opt for a mid-sized tire to get the best from both categories in this case.

Larger tires will generally increase the maximum load capacity of your electric scooter while smaller ones will give you a more compact and lightweight electric scooter experience.

Understanding Wear on Your Tire

Just like cars, electric scooters are going to see wear on the tires as you rack up the miles.

Tires use their tread to grip the surface under them. In turn, the surface will apply friction to the tire and slowly remove the tread on your tire. The surface is going to work like sandpaper over time, and the result is tires with little tread remaining.

Wear on your tire is unavoidable, and that’s why it lands in the category of routine maintenance required for your electric scooter.

If you ride your brakes especially hard, often drive fast, and ride on grippy surfaces then your tires will wear even quicker.

The good news is that you can replace your tires when the tread on them is too low.

The Problems Associated with Low Tread

low tire tread check with a digital tread depth tool

There are a lot of problems associated with having low tread on your e-scooter.

If you allow your tires to wear too much, you’ll have low tread on your tires. A lot of areas have laws around how low the tread on your e-scooter’s tires can be before there are legal consequences. In most cases, this limit is 1mm.

Since it’s so dangerous to have low tread, you should definitely replace them before you hit this legal limit.

Tires with low tread have less grip, require longer braking distances, and have worse performance. This means that it’s really unsafe to drive an e-scooter that doesn’t have enough tread.

On top of the safety and legal implications, you’re also more susceptible to get a flat tire. Since there is less protection around the air component of your tire, even a small puncture can flatten your tire.

The Secret to Tire Maintenance

Now, let’s cover some secrets about how to keep your tires at their peak performance. The biggest thing you can do is make sure you keep a close eye on your air pressure. Maintaining the correct air pressure will optimize the lifetime of your tires.

The next thing is to keep an eye on how the tread looks. You should have a rough idea of how the tread on a new tire looks, so just compare that to what your current situation is. If you notice your tires’ tread is really thin, this is what we would call a “balding tire”.

When your tires start to bald, that’s when it’s time to replace them.

If you experience a puncture or a sudden loss of air pressure in your tires, you don’t want to drag your feet. Waiting too long to correct the problem can lead to a slew of other problems which equates to more maintenance for you.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. If there’s an electric scooter shop nearby, they’ll be able to assess the damage and suggest a path forward.

Maintaining your tires will lead to a smooth and reliable ride.

Conclusion

Now you’re the expert on electric scooter tires. At this point, you should know the importance of a tire, the different types, sizes, and treads of tires, know how to keep them inflated and understand how to maximize the life of your tires. This valuable information will keep you riding confidently.

FAQ

Let’s address some common questions that we get all the time. These questions are specifically about electric scooter tires.

How Often Do Electric Scooter Tires Wear Out?

The frequency of wear on your tires depends on a number of different factors. How rough is the terrain, how hard do you ride the brakes, how fast do you go, and how often do you stop and go along your route?

As a general rule of thumb, you can expect to change your tires every 2-3,000 miles. However, don’t base your decision around how many miles you’ve driven – if your tread is low, it’s time for them to go.

Some would regard it as overkill, but if you're unsure about when the tread is too low, you can get a tire tread depth gauge tool for about 10 bucks that'll eliminate your uncertainties.

How Do I Replace an Electric Scooter Tire?

To do it on your own you’ll start by removing the tire from the back axle and hub. Grab the new tire and install it. Different scooters require different tools and different positioning of the tire. You can find an example video of the process here.

In some instances, you’ll have to take apart the rim and stretch the new tire over the rim.

For solid or honeycomb tires, you might wind up replacing the entire wheel.

Can You Have Different Tires for the Front and Back?

In many cases, it’s perfectly fine to have different front and rear tires. You’ll notice that your rear tire will typically wear faster than your front one.

That leads some people to replace their rear tire more often than their front one (though it’s not always advisable). In these instances, using a different tire in the rear won’t lead to any issues.

Using a narrow and light front tire will let you turn easier. Using a thick and robust rear tire will help it stand up to wear better over time.

Be careful if you want to use different tire sizes for your front and rear tires – some e-scooters won’t allow this size discrepancy and additionally, the ride will feel really strange.

If you install different front and rear tires, take the scooter on a quick test drive before taking it out for daily use.

Some of the most popular scooters on the market - like the Apollo Light - actually use a combination of an air-filled tire at the front and a solid rear tire. This creates a good balance between convenience, maintenance and ride comfort.

Can You Fix a Flat Tire?

Depending on the location, size, and depth of the puncture, you can definitely fix a flat e-scooter tire. You can use our favorite sealant to seal a flat tire for up to two years and protect the puncture in your tire.

Can You Use Aftermarket Tires on an Electric Scooter?

Yes, you can. This is where people like to have a lot of fun by customizing how their ride feels. Sticking with the OEM part for your e-scooter gives you a very specific feel. As long as the tire fits in the wheel well and it’s compatible with the scooter, you shouldn’t have any problems.

In most cases, tires are made to industry-specific widths and diameters. Simply knowing these numbers allows you to pick up whatever brand of tire you’d like.

Should You Use Different Tires for Different Occasions?

In many cases, serious riders like to have different tires to accommodate different riding conditions.

Summer tires have less grip with the expectation that you won’t be experiencing a lot of rain, snow, or ice on your ride.

Off-roading tires have tons of grip and are usually wider and larger to allow for more comfortable rides in rough terrain.

Winter tires, though a little rarer, give more grip so the rider can handle snowy and icy conditions.

Can I Replace My Pneumatic Tires for Solid Tires?

This can be done, and it’s more common than you might think. The process of replacing the tire is pretty tough to do and takes some elbow grease, but it’s not impossible.

Can I Replace My Solid Tires for Pneumatic Tires?

In many cases, this isn’t possible. Solid tires have specific ways they fasten into a wheel well. Many solid tires have built-in rims which make the wheel harder to replace with a pneumatic tire.

Paul Strobel
Paul Strobel

Owner and editor of ERideHero. This website is the culmination of my passion for electric rideables, gadgets, and thrill-seeking. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions.

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