Electric scooters – especially the more powerful sort – are insanely fun. They provide a sense of freedom, of exploration, of adventure. They are capable both on-road and off; they can be used for pleasure or for more practical purposes like commuting to work or running simple errands around town. And they are not without risk. I present here ten tips on how to ride a Varla (and any other) scooter without going to the hospital.
1. Be courteous. This isn’t exactly a tip for riding, but it is important. The world is still adjusting to the proliferation of electric scooters on the road, on the trail, on campuses, and around town. You can do your part to be a good ambassador for the electric scooter community by simply riding courteously. In town, yield to pedestrians. Don’t test the top speed of your scooter on a sidewalk. Don’t weave in and out of traffic. On the trail, yield to hikers; if they have dogs, give them a wide berth. Help the scooter community by riding courteously!
2. Protective Gear. Wear. A. Helmet. ALWAYS. Just do it. And if you are intending to push your limits on a ride, consider wearing further protective gear (including full finger gloves).
3. Know your Scooter. Different scooters perform differently. Some can accelerate like a missile, others only gradually. Some can brake with extreme aggression, while others require more distance. Some are stable at 35mph, and others feel wobbly at 18mph. Take time to get to know the characteristics of your scooter before you push it hard. Maintain it as necessary. Check tire pressure regularly (if the scooter has pneumatic tires). Do a quick check of the nuts and bolts once a month.
4. Know Yourself: Be honest with yourself. Don’t ride beyond your level. Let your experience and skills develop. You won’t improve if you break your arm and can’t ride for a few months. With experience you will become a more advanced rider. Enjoy the journey along the way.
5. Know the Terrain: I love exploring new roads and trails on my scooters. But the first time I ride a new road or trail, I try not to push it too hard. I don’t want to be flying down a twisting single-track trail for the first time and have it suddenly turn into a sandpit or hit a vicious, hidden tree root. Recently I was exploring a new trail. It was wide and grassy, cut out of a forest. I was descending comfortably, but when I reached the bottom the grass turned extremely slippery. Apparently water collects there. If I had been riding aggressively, I would have ended up on the ground; now I know to be careful there. Likewise on the road, get to know the character of the pavement, its potholes, cracks, places where sand and debris accumulate, the width and quality of the shoulder (and whether one exists), before you decide to go full throttle.
6. Leaves. Fallen leaves are SLIPP. ER.Y. SlippERy. ER as in the Emergency Room. Avoid turning or accelerating or braking hard on leaves, especially wet leaves on pavement! You can hit the ground before realizing what happened if you don’t pay attention to leaves. PAY ATTENTION!
7. Blind Corners. If are you riding in a pedestrian area (think a town, university campus, etc), don’t bomb blind corners. If you can’t see that your path is clear, slow down to turn. There may be an elderly woman just out of view, and you DO NOT want to knock someone down. Or there may be construction, or a little kid, or a dog, or (see #2) a nice layer of wet leaves.
8. Shadows. The commute to my university includes 5 miles of off-road trails lined with large, beautiful leafy trees. It can be truly picturesque, especially in Fall. But this also means that the trail is criss-crossed by shadows interlaced with sun-light in quick succession. The effect of riding in these conditions obscures the texture of the trail. It becomes difficult to see deep dips or big pointy rocks or changes from compact dirt to loose sand or gravel. All of this to say, when riding on a trail criss-crossed with shadows and sun-light, pay extra attention.
9. Buckling Sidewalks. I live in Princeton, New Jersey. The town is quite old (by the standards of the U.S.A.). A lot of our sidewalks are also very old and lined with massive old trees, whose roots over the decades have grown massively as well, displacing the paving stones that make up the sidewalk. This leads to sharp, raised ridges or to the emergence of sharp, abruptly ascending and descending peaks. These aren’t so much a problem on Varla’s Eagle One or Pegasus; the dual suspension on each scooter does quite well. But on scooters without such suspension these obstacles can throw you to the ground. So: if you are riding on a sidewalk and notice a massive tree growing in close proximity, it would behoove you to look for any buckling in your path.
10. Ride, Ride, Ride! As with most things, the more you practice something well, the better you become at it. The more you ride your scooter, the more you will develop your skills. Experience is extremely valuable; and the only way to gain experience is through experience! Enjoy the journey!