Pneumatic tires (air) and solid tires are the two types of tires offered by today’s electric scooters. Aside from performance stats, this is probably the biggest differentiator in how scooters are built. For air filled tires I looked at the GoTrax XR Elite, and for solid tires I used the Unagi Model One. Your tire type will dictate effect the whole life of your scooter, so let’s see the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Air tires are the more traditional type of tire and you may be familiar with their benefits because they’re used on most wheeled transportation. The air allows the tire to be slightly compressed, providing some suspension and reducing the impact of bumps. Air filled tires also benefit from improved traction because the air allows the tire to squish into the pavement and have more surface area in contact.
The con of air tires is their need for maintenance and caution. A pierced tire becomes flat and useless, requiring a change and encouraging you to be wary of what’s on the road. So, an air tire will provide a smoother ride but will need some attention in the long run.
Solid tires are fairly unique to electric scooters and are viable here because of their size and the normal riding speeds of scooters. The pros and cons of these tires are simply the inverse of pneumatic tires. Solid tires are low maintenance because they can withstand glass, nails, or any other sharp object you might roll over in the road. They’re not completely impervious to everything, but they do a good job.
The con for solid tires is their lack of ability to provide suspension. On smooth roads the ride feels great, but any imperfection you hit will be felt. If you hit a raised part of the sidewalk you’ll be jolted, and if you ride over a brick path you’ll vibrate the whole way. Even though solid tires are resistant to damage, it doesn’t exempt you from the need to avoid hazards.
Which Are Better?
Air tires and solid tires are both good options, and I don’t think one is outright better. It comes down to what’s viable and what your preferences are.The first consideration is the roads and trails you’ll be riding. If they’re consistently bumpy and irregular, then you have to go with air tires. Shaking your entire ride is no fun. If you have reasonably good riding spaces around you though, either type of tire is fine.
What I think it really comes down to, though, is maintenance. In my opinion most people who ride scooters avoid hazards in the road regardless, making the need for suspension mostly obsolete. You should focus on what kind of scooter owner you are. If you love tinkering and are obsessed with your vehicle, then a solid tire could be right. You won’t mind the maintenance and will appreciate the smoothness. If you’re a commuter who’s looking for a quick, inexpensive ride then a solid tire will serve you well.