Last Saturday, Ellie & I did a two-hour e-scooter tour with ScooTours London in Cambridge. From next month you will be able to legally hire and ride an e-scooter in London, so we thought we’d check it out. In case you were wondering: until then it is illegal to ride an e-scooter on public roads here.
It’s easier for cyclists
Let’s start this blog post with a quick flashback to a bicycle tour Ellie and I had ventured on several years ago. It was the first and last time we’d been riding bikes together. While I had grown up in bicycle-obsessed Germany, Ellie had not ridden a bike in over a decade, so kudos to her for trying. The short of it: out of the 35km distance we walked roughly 35km. Ellie was a tad scared of falling off the bike. To this day it is one of the longest distances either of us ever walked in one day.
Riding an e-scooter is much easier if you frequently ride other vehicles that require a good sense of balance, like regular scooters, motor scooters, bicycles, or motorbikes. Even inline skating would make a difference.
Ellie never felt comfortable on the e-scooter, but that’s largely down to her. She did always feel safe and never fell off, but the experience was definitely not for her. This review will focus on my experience, which I believe to be more representative of the average person who’ll hire an e-scooter.
Covid and safety briefing, first few instructions
Alex, one of the two founders and owners of ScooTours London greeted us at the meeting point, where he had already secured (but not yet hired) two e-scooters. He immediately made us feel at ease by explaining how we’ll have all the time we need to warm up on the tiny quiet side road we were on. We could always skip a few parts of the tour to make up for the time spent familiarising ourselves with the little two-wheeled thingies.
Hiring the e-scooter and doing practice rounds
Next up: we used the Voi app, which we had been asked to download and link with our credit cards ahead of time, to hire our scooters. It’s very straight-forward, once you’ve started using the personal hotspot of someone in the group (here: Alex) with decent internet connection. During most of the tour, neither Ellie nor I had a good connection, while Alex’s was constantly working fine. We are using Three. Usually it does not let us down, but in Cambridge it certainly did.
You’ll be up to speed in no time
Having seen many crashes and near-crashes of e-scooters in Germany, where it seems impossible to walk through a major city without a dozen of them passing by you at mind-blowing speeds, I’ll openly admit I was a bit intimidated at first. However, after just one or two minutes I realised it’s incredibly easy and exhilarating to ride one of those toys. For the first few minutes I struggled doing low-speed tight corners, but that was it.
Alex did a great job in keeping the tour light and breezy. It was a bit unfair on him that Ellie & I had done several Cambridge sightseeing tours before and know the town reasonably well. But even taking all that into account, I would say that there are possibly one or (if you look very hard) two tours out there that are slightly more attractive in terms of the sightseeing (and only in terms of that).
That said, I certainly learned a few things I had not known before. I found the tour entertaining. I would recommend ScooTours not so much for deep insights or extraordinary story telling. I’d recommend them as a way of familiarising yourself with an e-scooter. You can learn how to ride one in a somewhat controlled environment. It’s also an extremely fun and convenient way to make your way from sight to sight and explore a new city.
The guidance from Alex on how to learn to ride an e-scooter was – as expected – not involving a lot of ground-breaking advice or surprises. I had done the 20-minute Voi tutorial online, so knew everything that was mentioned already. But I absolutely mean it when I say I much preferred doing my first ride as part of this tour, rather than on my own.
ScooTours London are great at putting your mind at rest, boosting your confidence, taking any pressure off you, and at choosing a route that avoids fast traffic nearly entirely. Quite a feat! They are the ones who secured two fully-charged, well-maintained scooters, and who kept track of time.
Three sucks, but three e-scooter hires in two hours is no worry
Twice during the tour we had to ‘end’ the scooter ride and ‘start a new hire’. This is because the very affordable £9.90 hiring fee for 24 hours only covers rides of up to 45 minutes. You can do as many 45-minute rides as you can squeeze into 24 hours, but you’ll be charged extra for every minute you exceed the 45-minute maximum time span on each ride.
Coming to London next month
In Cambridge, Voi started hiring out e-scooters to the general public many months before ScooTours London started offering their tours there. In London ScooTours will start offering their services at nearly the same time when e-scooter hire becomes available for the first time.
I might do this again in London
We recommend booking a tour with them before you start venturing out on your own. The Cambridge tour costs £30, the London tour £37. Both include e-scooter hire. Reasonably good value. 3.75 out of 5 in our book. Tours start on June 19.
E-scooter hire will be available from June 7 in five London boroughs: Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond, and the City of London. You will still be allowed to travel through other boroughs on your ride. You simply won’t be permitted to drop off your hired e-scooter there, and there will be no pick-up points. The trial is scheduled to last for one year. I’m 100% convinced e-scooters will stay. What are your thoughts? Interested in your comments.
Looking for more posts about fun things to do in and around London? Check out our posts about stand up paddle boarding, hiking, motocrossing, skydiving, off-roading, driving supercars around a racetrack, and about our visit to London Never Dies at the London Cabaret Club.