And Now for Something Really Different
An absolutely valid rap “against” the bikes I usually ride is that nobody ever looks at my ride and I rarely hear “wow! what a cool looking bike.” If that bothered me, the Pure Polaris Electric Scooter would be the cure. Polaris claims that this snazzy little unit will do up to 12 miles at speeds of 16-18mph. I’ll test that claim, later, by making the poor little Scooter lug my 200+ pound butt around town and country.
Early on, I thought I’d never find out what the average speed is over any distance beyond a couple hundred yards. Take my first morning out, for example. I made it two blocks when a semi driver passed me and stopped in the middle of the road so he could ask me how the Polaris was powered (electric motor) and what it’s range was (how the hell would I know?) and what it weighed (59 pounds, without me). Two blocks later, I almost passed two power-walking women before getting stopped to answer the same questions plus “where can we buy one? (see your nearest Polaris dealer or call the company in Medina). Three blocks later, a guy in a Buick stopped me to ask about the range, the manufacturer, the cost, and to tell me he thought it would be a great vehicle to ride to his deer stand. At the coffee shop, three blocks later, in a half hour I got to read two pages of my book while answering questions about the scooter from half of the people in the store. The ride home was just as talkative. A little more than six blocks, four stops, four conversations, and I should be getting a free Electric Scooter t-shirt from Polaris so that I can complete my rolling advertising campaign for the Electric Scooter.
Since you mostly know me as the Geezer and you know how naturally crotchety I am, here’s where you should be expecting my long list of gripes on the Scooter. I’d like to accommodate you, but so far I’m having too much fun with the damn thing. So is my wife, and I guess I could complain about that. When she’s riding it, I’m not. She’s already imagining a business where she rents these things to companies for parades, as sort of a rolling signboard. I suppose she’ll expect me to wear a Shriner outfit and ride the Scooter to get the company . . . rolling. I may not care about looking cool, but I’m definitely opposed to looking dorky. Believe it or not, I have standards, they’re just lower than average.
I first saw the Electric Scooter at a MN-Sportbike pre-event. One of the sportbikers brought his Scooter along to get from one end of the track to the other without having to mess up his Nike’s. He offered a ride to anyone who wanted to play with it, but I was the only taker. Now I know why. Ride it and you gotta have one.
He had pulled the seat off of his Scooter and was riding it skateboard style. I, mostly, ride mine the same way. My wife likes the seat. I just feel slightly less like I’m posing as an invalid on a powered shopping cart when I’m standing. (See what I mean about having standards?) The seat is way too comfortable and it doesn’t allow for drastic weight-shifting which makes getting over curb entrances, at top speed, a lot more interesting.
The Polaris Scooter is suspended. The suspension is slightly more elaborate than the typical kick scooter, but it’s good enough to suck up sidewalk irregularities and sloped curb entrances. I’ve been told that the Scooter works fairly well on dirt roads, too. I haven’t tried mine because I’m nearly over the weight limit just by wearing shoes. Adding the resistance of dirt roads would probably trip the circuit breaker in a few minutes.
The Scooter’s brakes are more than adequate, a mountain bike V-brake on the front and a drum brake on the rear. The rear brake is also connected to the engine cutoff, so you can’t brake and throttle at the same time. Sort of an idiot switch, I guess. The controls are in a motorcycle layout, right side = front brake and left side = rear brake, so you won’t have to waste time re-routing cables like you did with your mountain bike.
Most of the Scooter’s weight must be in the tires, batteries (and their bash-rail-protected steel case), and motor, since the frame is aluminum as are most of the other metal bits. The unit folds into something that could be carried on to a bus or packed in the trunk of a Geo. The seat and handle bar height are fully adjustable and the hardware is all high quality bicycle bits. The throttle/battery capacity indicator is a thumb control dead-man switch control by the right-side grip.
The battery easily charges overnight from near-dead and the manual claims that the battery will charge from 70% depleted to full in 6 hours. The charger is a high-tech, light-weight unit that fits in a hiker’s tailbag so you can carry it with you on longer trips (using your employer’s AC to provide energy for the return trip, for example). The connector is an XLR (standard audio connector) which is unusually durable and reliable for this purpose. The connector on the battery-end of the charging connection has a cover which will provide a little protection from dirt but it’s far from water-tight.
The owner’s manual contains a bit of age discrimination, since Polaris states the bike is for “age 12 to 45” riders. If I weren’t old I wouldn’t be the Geezer and I resent being told that I’m too ancient to play with a toy that is this much fun. Repeal that limitation, Polaris Marketing/Legal department. I’d sue, but I’ll probably fall down and bust my hip between now and when I’d get to court and Polaris would get to use me for evidence that the manual’s precautions are justified.
The other precaution that seems a little paranoid is their warning against riding the Scooter downhill. Unless you are a Flat Earth’er, it’s hard to imagine a place you can ride where you’re not either going uphill or downhill. I see two possibilities regarding this contraindication: 1) it’s a legal butt-covering tactic, 2) downhill operation could over-charge the battery. In Amerika it’s always reasonable to assume that any idiot who finds a way to go over the bars and bust his empty skull will immediately locate a lawyer and claim “manufacturer negligence.” However, I’d appreciate knowing if this warning is legal gibberish or some sort of limit on the Scooter’s capability. I’ve noticed that even when the battery is off and the handlebar kill switch is off, the charge-condition LEDs light up when the bike is pushed. If the battery is getting a recharge from the motor during downhill operation, that recharge might be unregulated and could damage the battery or other circuitry. I’ll wait by the phone for a response to this question. I’m reasonably patient about these things. Ten minutes and no one has called, I give up. I’ll keep riding it up and down hills and I’ll let you know how that works out for me.
Polaris is, apparently, a little confused about how they want to support the Electric Scooter. Their marketing handout and the Pure Polaris website (http://www.purepolaris.com/) states that the unit comes with “a year limited warranty.” The owner’s manual revises this number to 90 days. I’m guessing the warranty is somewhere between 90 and 365 days (note: Polaris confirmed the one year limited warranty). In the end, the company simply pretended the scooter never existed and, to this day, their misnamed “Customer Service” department pantomimes shuffling through pages of manuals and computer screens before saying “We never sold an electric scooter.”
Riding the Scooter is about as simple as two-wheeled riding gets. The electric motor provides bags of torque. When the battery is freshly charged it’s not that difficult to life the front wheel on full power takeoffs. You simply press the thumb control and go. The Scooter is up to max speed about the time your foot hits the floorboard. The belt-driven, 350W rare-earth magnet motor is quiet and amazingly powerful for its size.
The 12″ wheels roll over minor road irregularities and the suspension sucks up the rest. The bike moves fast enough that you’ll need to use countersteering techniques to turn quickly. Standing or seated, the Scooter is agile and responsive, although you do have to get used to applying power a few seconds before you want it, because of the time-delay between the thumb control and a reaction from the motor.
So far, I’ve learned these simple rules for my Scooter: 1) turn the freakin’ battery switch off if you want the charger to do its job, 2) watch the weather, unless you want to walk home in the rain (electric motors and rain don’t mix), 3) try to avoid police attention because nobody is sure how the law applies to this sort of vehicle, 4) use lots of body english to take advantage of the limited-travel suspension. I’ve make three 10 mile, round-trip excursions on my Scooter and have returned with power to spare. I’m about to test the unit on a home-to-work commute, but I’m building up to it since I haven’t found an efficient, limited-traffic route as yet. My bicycle has wasted away (while my belly is doing quite well, thanks for asking) because the Scooter is a lot more fun than the bike. Any trip from home, shorter than ten miles, gets made on the Scooter. It’s more fun than the bike, more efficient than either the car or the motorcycle, and I’m starting to enjoy the attention.
I always assumed I’d give this to my grandson when he turned 13 and was old enough to ride it on the street legally. However, he snapped off the throttle lever practicing wheelies and snuck the scooter back into the garage without telling me about the damage or saving the broken part. Now, it’s nearly impossible to ride and Polaris is doing a wonderful Sergeant Schultz imitation (“I know nothing.”) and Wolfegang’s window of opportunity and interest has past. The last time a motorcycle company ruined my investment in one of their products (1974 Suzuki RL250), it was 25 years before I tried another of their products. I’m not going to ride or live long enough to give Polaris a second chance.
2010 Postscript: Polaris has continued to disavow any knowledge of this vehicle since around 2004. Because of this review, I get emails from all of the company’s victims/customers wanting to know where to buy parts for this little scooter. Through direct conversation with the company, I have been told “we never mad/sold anything like that.” They are, obviously, either liars or fools. This was a high-end attempt to get into the electric runabout business (at $1,000 MSRP) and Polaris isn’t fooling anyone by pretending to be ignorant. They were probably too late to the market with too little support and their usual marketing stupidity and decided to cut and run from the model without a thought in their tiny little marketing/sales heads about the customers they were abandoning. Sorry, guys. I can’t help you fix your electric scooter and I can’t find parts for my own. I desperately need a new throttle mechanism, but I’m out of luck and the scooter is stuck in my shop until I find a substitute or give up and toss it in the dumpster. I get emails from people all over the country asking about this little piece of shit because Polaris has screwed them just like they ripped me off. After this experience and Polaris’ total lack of customer service, I’d be perfectly happy to hear the company is bankrupt by the time this “review” hits the blog in 2015.