Research from micromobility provider Bird appears to resolve a question that probably isn’t uppermost in riders’ minds when they hire a scooter, but might be by the time they return it. Shocks or no shocks?

Most shared scooters rely on one of two tyre models, explains Bird, either solid/semi-solid tyres with suspension “shocks” or pneumatic tyres without them. A scooter’s tyres are also one of the most critical components impacting traction and stability, argues Bird, so it’s important for shared micromobility providers to invest in designs that improve vehicle safety.

Bird’s approach has been to work with a tyre manufacturer to develop an automotive-grade 6-ply tubeless pneumatic scooter tyre specifically designed for the rigors of the shared micromobility industry.

But is the right solution? That was the question Bird recently set out to address at its R&D facility in Southern California.

Its engineers compared a Bird Three scooter equipped with custom pneumatic tyres and a mass-produced scooter model used by many operators worldwide with semi-solid tyres and shocks.

The tests were designed to test the two core assumptions underpinning Bird’s approach. Firstly, pneumatic tyres tend to offer better shock absorption over a wider variety of common street surfaces including gravel and cobblestone.

And secondly, while solid tyres become rigid with dropping temperatures, decreasing their traction when it’s needed most, the air in pneumatic tyres compresses in colder temperatures making them softer and more compliant.

Both scooters were fitted with handlebar-mounted instrumentation to detect the vertical acceleration that would be experienced by riders as jolts and vibrations. Bird then ran each scooter multiple times down test tracks over a range of surfaces including gravel, cobblestone and a wide variety of other simulated street surfaces that riders encounter across the globe.

In each test, the tubeless pneumatic tyre performed better than the solid tyre with shocks, experiencing on average 33% less vertical acceleration.

“This reduction in vibrations is significant because it means 33% more stability and control for riders when experiencing everyday bumps and uneven road conditions” said Scott Rushforth, Chief Vehicle Officer at Bird. “Pneumatics are demonstrably better at damping vibration and low-frequency bumps than solid or semi-solid tyres with suspension, and this most recent testing clearly validates that.”

In addition to the safety benefits that come with fewer vibrations and better handling and stability on bumpy streets, Bird’s says its pneumatic tyres have a hidden environmental benefit. Limiting the amount of shaking cuts down on premature wear and tear, increasing sustainability. Pneumatic tyres can also easily be changed when damaged, salvaging the wheel hub, while solids are typically serviced by replacing the entire wheel or motor assembly.

MOVE, which takes place at ExCeL London on 15/16 June, is an opportunity to hear from senior Bird executives including Victoria Springthorpe, Head of UK & Ireland Public Policy and James Padden, General Manager – UK & Ireland. With over 600 speakers across 33 themed stages MOVE is the world’s most important mobility event. Find further details here