Scooters versus bikes: just different

Photo by Mearth Technology on

Scooters are gaining in popularity now that they have been legalised in the ACT. They are part of active travel as mobility devices and a great way to cover that last mile to the bus stop. However, they are unlikely to ever replace or slow the growth of bike usage. The motivation for buying a scooter or a bike is quite different.

The last time mentioned scooters the response was mute. This is no surprise as cyclists are unlikely to ride a scooter. Scooters are not commonly sold at bike shops but specials shops have popped up to sell scooters. Scooters are often from start-ups and the brands are unfamiliar to cyclists. In the world of the hip, and for those that like the new, scooters are fun and, well, cute. Most of us had a scooter as kids, even if we never had a bike.

Photo by Brett Sayles on
Scooters and cities go together. Photo by Brett Sayles on

Comparing scooters

A recent article in Techradar reviews the best scooters. Typical bike brands are not featured in this list. A scooter will cost $1000 or more, enough to buy a normal mountain bike without an electric motor. We choose a mountain bike for comparison here as they are not the lightest, and it puts the scooters in the best light.

NameTop speed km/hRange kmWeight kgFolds
Segway-Ninebot ES4 Electric KickScooter 304514yes
Xiaomi Mijia M365242913yes
Xiaomi Mijia M365 Pro244314yes
Unagi Model One E450242411yes
Gotrax GXL251914yes
source: The best electric scooters 2020: make commuting fast and fun, by Cat Ellis, Adam Vjestica, Techradar, 15/5/2020

Top Speed

The maximimum speed of most scooters is 25km/h. This is to be expected as it is a legal requirement in the ACT. The Segway exceeds this, so technically it is not legal to ride in the ACT. To be honest, nobody is out there with a speed gun. Having said that, speed hurts, so beware.


The range of the best scooters varied between 19 to 45km. This falls far short of the eletric bike capability with ranges of between 55 to 140km, depending on the difficulty of the terrain, tyre pressure and electric-boost mode. Some e-cyclists ride with the bike on eco-mode in Canberra, which can be quite flat in places (Gungahlin), and provides a range suitable for many days of commuting. To run the battery of an e-bike flat, it can take three or four hours riding. Most have had enough before that.

Those that buy a scooter are generally not cyclists and use the bike around the urban and city centres, where the distances are small and the compact form factor counts. It is a great way to zip between the bus stop and the office, or between offices. In the city, a car is a liability and public transport is good alternative. Paved surfaces are common. It fits the scooter perfectly.

Weight and folding

A scooter is attractive because it is small and compact. You can take it in the bus and elevator with you and store it under your desk in the office. In the office you may even find a power point for charging. Such luxuries are rarely experienced by those with electric bikes. Bike riders are accustomed to leaving their pride and joy on the street or in a deserted carpark, and can feel uncomfortable doing so.

While scooters are undoubtably more compact, they are not lighter than a normal mountain bike of similar price. The scooters tested here weigh between 11 and 14kg and the scooter with the worst range weighed the most. A 14kg mountain bike is not hard to find. Road bikes are often less than 10kg. A scooter will be just as heavy or even heavier than some bikes.

Why buy a scooter?

I think most cyclists will not spend the money on a scooter when it could be spent on a very nice bike that costs the same. Scooter riders are a new breed of urban professionals, with appartments close to the town centre, and the want to quickly get around as an alternative to walking and public transport. Some with a scooter report selling the car. For city living, scooters have found their place.

Photo by Inga Seliverstova on
Photo by Inga Seliverstova on

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