If you can zip around on a small and sustainable vehicle, there’s little reason to worry about traffic.
Even in rush hour you’ll get where you need to, and quickly. You can always find a sneaky route that cars, or even motorcycles, just can’t take advantage of.
For example: on my way to work is a 1.5-mile stretch of freeway that always backs up with traffic. You’re stuck for ages in a car, but I can use the adjacent bicycle path to scoot on by (since that’s legal in my city).
Anyone who doesn’t have that option will spend a whole lot of their precious time sitting in exhaust fumes, stressing over the non-moving vehicles, and getting crankier and more fatigued by the minute.
Electric scooters have become a wildly popular alternative, and Ninebot (which Segway owns) is one of the major players in that space.
Far from the goofy mall-cop Segway devices of years past, the Ninebot Max scooters are a go-to line for scooter-share fleets around the world. There’s a good chance you’ve seen or even ridden one.
While you can simply buy one here, I recommend reading on first, since we’ll also look at minor caveats to think about before purchasing.
A quick summary of the Ninebot Max
The Ninebot Max is a great electric scooter (and great value) for practical uses like commuting and errands. The large, pneumatic tires are a valuable safety feature, braking is more effective and predictable than on cheaper scooters, and range is excellent. However, it’s rather expensive for infrequent use, and some riders will struggle to handle its weight of 41.2 lbs. It also lacks the quick acceleration and top speed that performance-oriented riders seel.
That’s a strong endorsement all in all, so let’s see what justifies it.
What’s so special about the Ninebot Max? (3 reasons it beats the competition)
The Max’s spec sheet lists all sorts of detail, and it’s hard to know (especially for a newer rider) what sort of difference they really make. However, a few of these details separate it from the pack, and they really do make a world of difference.
Here the major reasons I chose a Ninebot Max over the myriad of other good options.
Wide, tubeless, 10″ tires are smooth and trustworthy
Ever see a monster truck drive over little cars? Of course.
Ever see one of said little cars drive over other little cars? Obviously not.
Taken to an extreme, that’s the different that wheel size makes.
Of course, that’s a ridiculous example, but it illustrates the point that larger wheels are safer and more comfortable on obstacles. Not to mention that traffic, and other obstacles besides terrain, also demand your attention.
It’s easy to see how this transfers to real-world use with electric scooters.
The standard for most–including the other Ninebots like you see in rental fleets–is only about 8″. And that’s their downfall in real-world conditions.
To illustrate this point, one unpleasant fact of life for urban scooter riders is the ubiquity of sharp-edge bumps, like dislodged sidewalk segments or even small potholes. On an average route, for instance, you might encounter cracked concrete over tree roots followed by a sloppy curb cut with a bit of a ledge to it. These things are usually just an inch or two in height, but with dinky 8″ wheels, it’s quite a jolt that can really throw an unprepared rider off course (or off their scooter altogether).
But Segway had the good sense to spec 10″ wheels on the Ninebot Max. (They also went the extra mile and made them tubeless, like car tires, to improve puncture resistance and ease repair.)
Two inches may not sound like a lot, but it’s a 25% increase, which translates to safety over 25% larger obstacles without any weight or cost penalty.
So, holding your course over 25% larger bumps, or feeling about 25% less of a jolt over smaller ones, makes a surprisingly big difference in daily use. I even returned a previous scooter because it’s 8″ wheels were just a little too unsteady to use with confidence.
(Side note: no matter what, it’s important to ride with agile, “springy” posture with slightly bent knees and equal weight distribution between your front and back feet. Ten-inch wheels are the best that’s readily available, but they’re far from the stability of a mountain bike!)
You can forget about range anxiety
There’s no question that the Ninebot Max is heavy, and I’ll get back to that point later.
How, then, can I possibly list this as a strength?
It’s because the higher weight is mostly in the battery.
Firstly, Segway wisely put the battery in the deck, not the stem as in most scooters. This keeps the center of gravity as low as possible. It’s a great thing for stability and handling in general, and for cornering in particular.
Most of all, this heavy-ish battery (and consequently heavy-ish scooter) claims 40 miles of range, and real-world users can expect close to 30. Obviously that depends on your weight, aggressiveness, terrain, and so forth. Roughly speaking, it’s 2-3x the range of lightweight scooters.
For most of us, that will cover multiple round-trip commutes or a whole lot of errands without inducing “range anxiety.”
And speaking of the battery, I appreciate that the charger is built right in to the deck. That means no need to lug a laptop-style charging brick in your bag; just a plain power cord will do.
In summary, the Ninebot Max strikes the right balance between great range and still manageable (even if heavy) weight. For my money, that’s as close as it gets to having your cake and eating it too.
It has smooth, predictable braking that actually works
You’d think that scooter hand brakes would feel at least a bit like bicycle hand brakes.
But they seldom do, and it’s a scary thing to learn unexpectedly.
It doesn’t get much more terrifying than cruising along, seeing an obstacle, and pulling the brake lever when suddenly…well, nothing.
Maybe the rear wheel skids uselessly, but your momentum drops slower than molasses in January, and it feels like an eternity until you come to a stop.
That’s pretty much the definitive rental scooter experience, and let me tell you, if you haven’t experienced it, then count yourself lucky! Once you do, it’s almost impossible to trust a scooter beyond 5-10 mph ever again. (As if their smaller wheels and often decrepit condition weren’t enough cause for concern.)
On the contrary, I also briefly had a scooter whose front brake kicked in *really hard* when momentum was higher. And since it was a regenerative electric front brake, there wasn’t much I could do to adjust that.
Chalk it up to some weird electromagnetic phenomenon, I suppose. Perhaps that was a quirk of just one model, but it totally turned me off of buying another with the regenerative brake up front.
Physics tells us that the front brake on any vehicle has most of the braking power. It’s impossible to exaggerate how important a strong but nice-feeling front brake is.
Here, again, Segway did it right.
Mechanically speaking, the Ninebot Max has a cable-actuated drum brake up front. It’s what classic Dutch city bikes have reliably used for years on end.
It has good but controlled power, modulates nicely, and requires almost no maintenance.
You may need to adjust the cable tension to perfect the brake feel, but that involves nothing more than turning a little adjuster.
On the Ninebot Max, the rear brake is the regenerative electric one.
I prefer it that way. The less natural-feeling brake (that is, the less bicycle-like one) is in the back so your stopping power doesn’t fully rely on it.
Mind you, the Max’s rear brake is still effective. It both works and feels much better than I experienced on any rental scooter, or even on the personal one I’d previously returned.
Tip: you can use the mobile app to configure the rear brake to drag a little when you release the throttle (even though you’re not pulling the brake lever).
Not only does this recharge the battery surprisingly well on big hills, but it also helps you stop quickly yet gently, especially in wet conditions.
You’ll want to get in the habit of releasing the throttle early and coasting before stopping, not riding the throttle right up to the last second. The app provides three levels of drag strength and regeneration, so go to a clear area and experiment with all three until you find the right balance.
I like the middle level. It’s enough to help stopping on flats but leaves enough momentum to coast downhill without needing any throttle.
What you might dislike
This site is all about practical transportation, so that’s the perspective I’m reviewing the Ninebot Max from.
For that sort of use, it’s hard to take issue with this scooter. However, here are a few things to consider before you make a decision.
It’s a bulky beast of a scooter
There’s no denying that the Ninebot Max is a burly scooter at around 42 pounds. Granted, it’s nothing like those porky Dualtrons and other beasts at 60 or even 70+ pounds, but the Max is on the upper end of what most people can reasonably carry.
I’m reasonably strong with large hands, and find it hard to carry more than about a hundred feet.
If that’s a significant concern, then the newer Ninebot Max G30LP shaves off around 3 pounds thanks to a smaller battery. It also costs $100 less. However, the trade-off is reduced range, since the G30LP claims only 25 miles instead of the regular Max’s 40.
If you want a much lighter scooter that still has 10″ wheels, then check out the Levy Plus (30 lbs, 20 miles claimed range).
There’s also the very high-end Unagi (26 lbs), although its range is limited, and its 7.5″ non-inflatable wheels are not ideal for subpar pavement.
If you plan on using your electric scooter for last-mile trips to and from transit, then I’d personally choose the Unagi for its smaller and lighter build (albeit quite expensive). For very short trips, I might even prefer an adult kick scooter as a dirt-cheap but decidedly low-tech option.
It’s not fast, if that’s your thing
Some folks want electric scooters to feel just about like motorcycles.
You know, white-knuckle acceleration up to blistering top speeds.
The Ninebot Max does no such thing. As a commuter and city rider, I just want to get around town safely, and to make up it hills at reasonable speed.
You’ll top out around 19 mph, and even in the sportiest acceleration mode, it takes a while to get there.
Now, I’d argue that this is a benefit of the scooter. There is no incentive to push the limits and get yourself in trouble, especially around cars or on bad surfaces.
That’s a nightmare for scooter share companies, for one thing.
And despite all the online chatter about performance stats, it’s probably not what your average scooter customer even wants in the first place. Just get me from A to B smoothly, and I’m happy.
All that said, if your idea of a good ride is a zippy ride, then you’ll have more fun on other scooters. (Just note that they’ll probably cost more, too.)
You’ll still need an extra headlight after dark
Headlights serve two purposes, not just one.
Obviously, they light up your path at night.
But less obviously to new riders, they also keep you visible during the day. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to ride in car-free areas, so that’s critically important for safety.
The high-mounted headlight on the Ninebot Max is a good design choice. By placing it up near the handlebars, it’s more visible to cars.
However, it’s not bright enough to ride after dark, unless the street lights are bright. For the price, Segway should have gone with a much brighter light that would suffice in truly dark conditions.
Fortunately, it’s a simple fix. Any handlebar-mounted bicycle headlight will work fine.
I like the Portland Design Works Pathfinder (get it from Amazon here). It’s cheap and light, but the best part is a squared-off beam like cars use. That helps it light the ground more evenly and minimizes glare toward oncoming people. The Pathfinder isn’t the brightest, but it works for me up to ~12-15mph on unlighted paths.
The jury’s out on longevity (but I wouldn’t worry)
The Ninebot Max was released around May 2019, so it’s one of the newer models since the electric scooter boom took off.
But it has built up a good reputation for reliability in that time.
Many shared scooter fleets have used it, too. I even tried a rental Max that worked flawlessly despite obviously heavy use in occasionally wet weather
But it’s simply too soon to tell whether it will provide years of daily use.
Batteries do lose capacity over time, especially in harsh climates, so keep in mind that your range will only get lower over time. With proper care, it’s gradual. This applies to every single electric vehicle on the market, however.
I don’t see any reasons to worry about the Max’s longevity, but we’ll see in another year or so.
Closing thoughts: the Ninebot Max is the right scooter, for most
Being stuck in traffic is the worst thing about most modern cities. That’s a complicated problem with no easy fix, but the best we can do right now is to get out of it altogether.
The Ninebot Max makes that fun, easy, and cost-effective. It offers what I consider a safer and smoother ride than any other scooter at a reasonable price.
If the weight isn’t a problem for you, and you don’t need record-setting speed or acceleration, then it gets my unqualified recommendation.
P.S. As of writing, the Ninebot Max is usually a little cheaper on Amazon than from Segway directly (plus you can order lights and accessories all in one place). Go here to confirm availability.