During the five years that they took to build my local skytrain station, I was busy planning all of the trips that I would do with my bicycle in Bangkok. Unfortunately, about a year or so before it opened, they banned regular bicycles from the train for much of the day. The only exception were folding bikes that could be taken onboard at any time. At first I was thinking about buying a Brompton. They are both stylish and convenient. They fold up small and are light enough for carrying. However, they are very expensive. Then I started seeing stories about electric scooters. This seemed to be a viable alternative to a folding bicycle. But I wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable on something like this. Apart from the fact that I would be a grown man on what looks like a kid’s scooter, I also had concerns about safety and ease of use. Which led me to Go Scoot Bangkok, a tour company that takes people around the back lanes of the city. What better way to try before buying?
First, some information about the electric scooter that I did my test ride on. At Go Scoot Bangkok they use the Xiaomi M365. You can buy them online from about 10,000 Baht upwards. The maximum speed is 25 km/h which is more than fast enough. The range is about 30 km which will vary depending on another of factors including your own weight, how many hills you climbed and what speed you went. They have an “eco mode” which kind of doubles as a “beginner’s mode”. It limits your speed which is perfect for riding around town. The maximum gradient it can climb up is 14%. Luckily, Bangkok is mainly flat. The handlebars of the scooter folds down very quickly which makes it easy to carry. The weight is 12.7 kilos which is not bad for going up and down some stairs, but you wouldn’t want to carry for too long.
My first concern on seeing the scooters was whether it would be comfortable to ride. As you can see in the photo above, there was only just enough room for my large feet. The handlebar was also just about the right height as well. However, if I decide to buy an electric scooter, I would probably go for the pro version which has a slightly bigger footplate and the handlebar is also slightly higher. The pro version also has a longer range of 45 km, about 15 km further than the one I tested and it also performs better on hills up to a gradient of 20%. But the bigger battery comes at a price. The scooter is about 1.5 kilos heaver and it costs about 5,000 Baht more. The charging time is also longer. The regular scooter takes 5.5 hours to charge. The pro version takes 8.5 hours. So, no topping it up while you stop for a bite to eat. You are either going to have to charge it overnight or during the day if you rode it to work. But, it does have one advantage. If you do run out of power, just fold it up and hail a passing cab!
As for ride comfort, it is not that great. There is no suspension in the cheaper electric scooters and the wheels are only 8.5 inches. Yes, the tyres of the one I tested were filled with air, but you will feel any uneven surfaces like cobbled stones. And Bangkok has plenty of uneven surfaces and potholes. In the photo above, you would feel every one of those bumps. Roads are not always much better. Apart from the potholes, you would also have to be careful of drains. But, having said that, the majority of my ride was smooth and I quickly learned to bend my knees when I went over any bumps. However, compared to riding a bicycle, you do need to be more careful and avoid all potholes. You might notice in the above photo a Dji Osmo Pocket that I had attached to the handlebars. I did shoot some footage but a lot of it I couldn’t use due to the vibrations when I went over uneven surfaces. I think next time I should attach the camera to either my body or to a helmet. That would make it smoother.
Next I will talk about safety concerns. Yes, I should have worn a helmet and I will do so on my next trip in Bangkok. However, I never really went top speed and for the majority of our tour around Bangkok, we were on back lanes and on cycle paths. If you join the Go Scoot Bangkok tour then you are fully covered for any accidents which is good to know. Several times during our tour we were on footpaths but never when they were busy with people. And at all times we kept our speed down. As you can see from the above photo, it is so easy to just stop and walk if it starts to get busy. And as the dimensions are smaller than a bicycle, it doesn’t get in the way and it’s easier to squeeze through tight fits. Incidentally, it is also easier to carry onto boats or up and over pedestrian bridges. They say that if you can ride a bicycle then you can ride an electric scooter. But, getting your balance is slightly harder. It took me a while to get used to going round sharp corners. Even taking my hand off the handlebar to signal to turn right or left wasn’t easy. But I was getting better by the end of the tour. I just needed practice.
Now it is the time to decide whether it is worth me spending 10,000-15,000 Baht on an electric scooter. I already have a car and a bicycle. How would an electric scooter benefit any exploring that I do, both locally and in Bangkok? Firstly, the scooter is very much a different experience. I have done bicycle and foot tours of the same route that we took with the electric scooter. The main difference was that I was higher up than a bicycle and it was a lot less tiring. It was also a lot easier to dismount in a small alley which meant I was stopping to explore on foot more often. A few weeks ago I did a walking tour of Chula Art Town. It took me about five hours as I was hunting for street art. I was really tired by the time I had finished. An electric scooter would have been great. However, I do have one concern with this model. There is no key to turn it on! You just push a button. Which is convenient of course, but it is also easy for thieves. So, if I wandered too far, I would need to get a padlock.
I haven’t made my final decision yet. I think I need to do another test run. I am not too concerned about safety any more. I think it is just as safe as a bicycle. Just don’t go too fast, keep to the side of the road, avoid busy roads with buses and trucks, and be considerate of other road users and pedestrians. At the moment it is legal to ride a scooter in Thailand, but this might change if people abuse this privilege or too many people start using them. I also need to consider whether it would be cheaper and more convenient to rent an electric scooter. That is something I need to explore more. I just don’t know whether I would use it enough times to make it worthwhile. I am not going to rush into this. I wish to thank Go Scoot Bangkok for letting me join their tour so that I could test out the electric scooter before buying. You can learn more about their tours on their website.
As usual, feel free to post comments below about using an electric scooter in Bangkok. Do you have one already? How much do you use it. Do you feel safe? And, oh yes, please don’t bother posting links to how dangerous scooters are. I have seen the articles already when I did my research. Thank you.