Black walnuts. Empty beer cans. Roadkill.
There are some things you need to worry about when you’re riding an electric scooter in rural areas that you probably never considered if you’ve only ever experienced one of these things in a city. That’s the only place I’d ever ridden one, too, but when EcoReco asked if I’d like to review one of their two-wheeled models, I said sure. But, I explained, I live in a rural area, which means I’m not your standard e-scooter rider.
It turns out that an electric scooter is not the craziest thing to have out here in farm country. EcoReco let me borrow their most powerful model, the $849 L5+, which has a range of 14-28 miles and can carry up to 280 pounds. The company also sells the M5 ($799) and the smaller and lighter S5 ($499). Both of these have a range of 10-20 miles and can carry up to 250 pounds. All three models top out at 20 miles per hour and recharge their Li-Ion/LiFePO4 rechargeable batteries from a standard 120-volt outlet. Here’s how I tested the L5+.
1.) Scooting through the cornfields
When you live around five miles from town, going to the store or the post office usually means hopping in the car. When it’s nice and I have time, the bicycle is a great alternative. And so is an electric scooter, I found out. It’s a nice middle ground that lets me get their relatively quickly while not adding any emissions to the air.
When the road is smooth, it’s quite fun to cruise quietly on rural roads. The rear-mounted electric motor in the L5+ never felt overwhelmed, and it got up to top speed without any problems. But riding one in the back country can be a bit scary, to be sure. I did test a dirt road ride and I do NOT recommend that at all. There’s no suspension to speak of, and you’ll feel every bump through the solid tires.
That doesn’t mean that paved roads are easy peasy. Going 20 miles an hour on roads where it feels like some sort of obstacle on the road – black walnuts or empty beer cans or roadkill, say – would wipe me out is tough enough without worrying about the pick-up trucks speeding by at 55 mph. I’ve found that riding in the middle-of-the-day under bright sun is really the best way to go, as is using the optional headlight for more visibility. The scooter has a built-in red taillight and brake light.
EcoReco says its models can drive up hills with a 10-to-12 degree incline. Here in lower Michigan, we don’t have those kinds of slopes, which means I never had a problem heading up hill. The scooter was plenty powerful, and it was almost surprising how fast I got to town, once the worries about getting hit, even while wearing a helmet, subsided.
2.) Taking a last-mile ride in the city
Throwing the scooter into the car to use when I visited the city allowed me to ride it where it was originally intended. But here, too, the experience was subtly different for me compared to someone who lives in town. Depending on my errand list when I go to Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo (the closed big towns near here), it’s not uncommon that I move my car a few times going from place to place. With a large enough backpack or satchel (there’s no good way to carry anything while riding an electric scooter without a bag like those), I can handle all of the things I need to do while leaving the car where it is. The best is when you park outside the pay parking locations downtown and then just cruise on in, using the convenient U-lock space to secure the scooter with a bike lock when I went inside.
So, yes, you can use an electric scooter in rural America. At least, some of us can. It’s not for everyone and the feeling of exposure when I’m riding on a busy shoulder was notably stronger when I’m standing up on a scooter than it is when I ride my bike, but maybe that’s just something I’ll need to get used to. One thing I learned for sure is is that the people who will be racing at e-scooters at 60 mph next year in the new eSkootr league are certainly going to need the smoothest of roads, or they’re going to be flying off of those things like nobody’s business.