It’s obvious why cars need suspension systems. If you’ve driven one with bad shocks, you'll know how unpleasant the ride can be. But cars and trucks weigh several tons. When all that bulk hits a bump in the road, it doesn’t do so gracefully without springs and air-filled shocks to absorb the impact.
You might wonder, however, why vehicles as small and lightweight as electric scooters would need suspension. Electric scooter suspension systems might seem a little baffling and maybe even overcomplicated. If so, we're here to help.
Are Electric Scooter Suspension Systems Necessary?
In many cases, scooters don’t need suspension. For example, if you’re someone who rides well-paved city streets and goes for maximum portability, then a scooter with a heavy suspension is probably not for you. On some cheaply made scooters, the suspension does little but add weight and potential points of breakage.
On the other hand, if you often find yourself on uneven or rough terrain, hitting huge potholes and frequently bumpy roads, or even off-roading on your electric scooter, then you’re definitely going to need a scooter with suspension, whether that’s only a front or rear suspension or full-on dual suspension system.
There are many different types of suspension systems out there. Below we’ll take a look at two of the most common and effective types suspension you’ll encounter: Spring and hydraulic suspension. Which one offers smoother ride quality? Let's examine the pros and cons.
Just as the name says, a spring suspension uses springs to absorb shocks and bumps in the road. There's much more to it than that, of course, but the basic unit of this kind of suspension is the spring. Some scooters have only one spring, some have four or more.
The number of springs in a suspension system can matter less than the design and build quality of the system and its surrounding components. That said, however, there are some important differences between two types of spring suspensions used in electric scooters.
Horizontal Spring Suspension Systems
In this type of electric scooter suspension, the spring is mounted horizontally between the wheel and the frame. The advantage for manufacturers is that such a system saves space and makes the scooter more compact. For this reason, you'll find horizontal systems on lightweight folding commuter scooters like those made by UScooters and E-TWOW.
There are also, however, many disadvantages to horizontal spring systems. They are not only less effective and more limited than other systems, but they are also non-adjustable. These types of suspensions are some of the worst at absorbing shocks and distributing the rider's weight evenly over uneven terrain.
Vertical Spring Suspension Systems
Vertical systems, in which the spring is mounted between the wheel and the stem or a swingarm just above it, offer far more control, as they are often adjustable and can use multiple springs for great shock absorption effect. This can be seen, for example, on the front suspension of the EMOVE Touring, a triple spring system with one spring between the stem and the wheel and two on either side of the wheel itself.
Not all suspension systems require multiple springs for a more comfortable riding experience. The Apollo Ghost, for example (top) gets just the right balance with single springs mounted inside swingarms. This e scooter provides a comfortable ride quality for riders of different sizes, who can make the suspension stiffer or bouncier. Once it's adjusted correctly, the scooter will feel like it has greater stability on nearly any road surface.
In a hydraulic suspension system, the basic unit is the a hydraulic actuator that comes into play when the scooter hits a bump, pushing against fluid inside a sealed cartridge as the wheels travel upward. The fluid then pushes back against the actuator, sending the wheel traveling smoothly back to its original position as it heads over the other side of the bump or obstacle.
Hydraulic systems are the most advanced, and the most expensive, electric scooter suspensions, and they are only found on the most expensive electric scooters. Hydraulic systems are also the most complex and prone to failure, since the oil inside hydraulic actuators can leak out if seals are damaged or broken. You'll find hydraulic suspension systems on premium electric scooters that cost several thousand dollars, especially those designed for off road handling, like the Kaabo Wolf King GT.
Which is Better: Spring or Hydraulic Suspension?
You might want a clear winner here, but the short answer is, well, it depends. The even shorter answer is: Both. Hydraulic suspension systems feel exceptional on road or off road, but they are expensive and heavy. Spring suspension can make for a very smooth ride on most any road without adding significant costs and pounds.
But when it comes to electric scooter suspension, the hydraulic/spring systems by DNM are probably the best systems available on the market. And if you can afford to purchase an electric scooter that uses both spring and hydraulic suspension, you'll get the best of both worlds for an advanced system with controlled rebound. You'll find dual hydraulic/spring suspension systems in the NAMI BURN-E, BURN-E 2, and BURN-E MAX.
All that said, as we've mentioned already, no suspension at all can be the best option if you're the kind of rider who wants a grab-and-go vehicle that's lightweight, folds easily, and uses the simplest yet most elegant design. The Unagi Model One Classic and Model One Voyager fit the bill perfectly, and offer a great riding experience without the need of a heavy, expensive hydraulic, spring or rubber suspension system.