Last updated: July 17th, 2023
- Backpacks are cheap and effective, so keep a packable one handy for unexpected errands
- A few rear racks are available, but compatibility and capacity are limited
- Be careful hanging bags on the handlebars, since they may obstruct controls, and their swinging can affect steering
- Avoid placing loads on the deck if at all possible
For all their strengths, electric scooters come up a bit short in the carrying-stuff department.
Compared to bicycles, e-scooters just aren’t big enough to offer many options.
We sometimes have to get a little imaginative, but it’s easy to create undue safety hazards in ways that aren’t always obvious.
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Here’s how to carry things on your electric scooter
A backpack is by far the easiest and safest way to carry things on an electric scooter, but it requires planning ahead. As an alternative, you can hang small bags from the handlebars, ideally secured with a strap or even tape. Avoid placing items on the deck or carrying them while riding!
After experimenting with all sorts of cargo configurations, and checking out some clever solutions others have come up with, I’ve put together this short-but-sweet guide to getting your load home in one piece.
Why backpacks are simply best
On an electric scooter, like any other two-wheeled vehicle, the distribution of weight is extremely important. It affects how sure-footed you feel in corners, weaving through rough terrain, and when swerving during emergencies. That’s why anything beyond a couple pounds of cargo should mimic your unloaded weight distribution as closely as possible.
Backpacks are a simple and obvious solution. Their closeness to your torso keeps weight distribution similar, unless you’re trying to carry a truly gigantic load (which probably isn’t appropriate for an e-scooter, anyhow). Additionally, most of us have a backpack or three laying around, so there’s generally no additional cost.
But if you’re hunting for a new backpack, then here are three things to consider:
- Broad, firm shoulder straps (to minimize pressure points) and, ideally, a waist strap to prevent swaying and reduce neck/shoulder strain
- Waterproof fabric and zippers so even unexpected rain won’t cause problems
- Consider a packable, ultralight design that can stow in a jack pocket or clipped to your handlebars when not needed
Alternatives to a backpack
If you prefer not to wear a backpack in general, then consider an aftermarket rear rack for your e-scooter. Availability varies widely by model, and there are few (if any) established brands at this point, so you may need to purchase from international marketplaces like AliExpress. Regardless, bungee straps or a bicycle cargo net will come in handy.
Another option is a simple bag hook, like this example for the Ninebot Max (just a random example, not a specific recommendation). Consider this the “upgraded” version of simply sliding a sack onto your bars. It doesn’t solve any swaying or weight-distribution problems—more on those just below—but it’s wonderfully convenient for something like a light grocery run.
E-scooter cargo mistakes to watch for
With or without a dedicated hook, we all need to have a bag from our handlebars at some point. It’s never ideal, but with a little attention to detail, we can at least avoid unnecessary danger.
Above all, the problem with a hanging bag is how easily it swings like a pendulum. By their nature, two-wheeled vehicles turn when leaned, which is all well and good when we’re in control of the leaning. But that also means a weight moving from side to side can unexpectedly fight or enhance our steering.
You can minimize this by gently strapping/tying the bag to the stem. A buckled strap or elastic cord works best, but anything that prevents more than a couple inches’ movement will suffice.
Likewise, keep your bag as closest to the stem (the center of steering) as possible. That minimizes its leverage on the handlebars and therefore its effects on steering. (As you might know, this is why cargo bicycles and heavier-duty city bikes often have front racks attached to the frame’s head tube, not to the bars/fork. It isolates the load from handlebar movement.)
Effects on center of gravity
Swaying sideways is the biggest problem, but forward-backward motion can also be disconcerting in two major ways.
First, wheels have more braking power when there’s more weight over them. Your front wheel is the source of most braking power to begin with, so as weight swings toward and away from it, your stopping distance may vary more than usual.
Second, it’s a similar case with traction. Weighting and unweighting a wheel might affect cornering behavior and grip when you least expect.
That’s why riding is both safer and more enjoyable when you take the time (and supplies) to prevent a bar-mounted bag from swinging.
Obstructed brake levers or throttle
If you’re riding with a sack, take particular care that it doesn’t slide over or under a brake lever, brake cable, or throttle. The risk of not having full control of both is self-explanatory.
A hook, as mentioned earlier, is the simplest solution. It just doesn’t move. But if that’s not available, then try to put one handle of the bag between the grip and stem on each side. For instance, here’s where I’d do it on my Ninebot Max:
If you have a detachable strap that can fit under the brake cable, then use both sides. If it would have to slide over the brake cable, then skip the left rather than risk actuating the brake by accident.
In a pinch, it’s tempting to place larger things on your scooter’s deck, held securely (or so you think) between your ankles. But this, I believe, is the worst possible way to carry things on an electric scooter. (Well, carrying stuff under your elbow or in one hand gives this a run for its money…)
Assuming you even have deck space to spare, then this will prevent you from repositioning your feet for comfort or grip. Not without coming to a total stop, that is.
What’s more, the pressure of your feet and ankles probably isn’t as much as you think. And it’s practically nothing in a perpendicular direction. It doesn’t take much of an impact for the cargo to slip loose, throwing your balance off and/or creating a major hazard for others.