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Anyone who’s ridden a fast electric scooter will understand “Death Wobble” – It’s unwittingly dangerous and surprisingly common in small wheel, high speed scooters. A steering damper is an absolute MUST if you intend on riding fast.
I’ll never forget the first time I went out on my Dualtron Thunder. I had just sold my Mercane MX60 which could just about manage 30-40mph. The MX60 was one of those soft, comfortable and well balanced scooters, so I’d never experienced death wobble on it.
I plucked the Dualtron Thunder from it’s packaging, and, as excited as can be I went straight out on it. 50mph was now achievable on an electric scooter – and wow it felt amazing, but unsurprisingly it also felt dangerous.
As I raced down a hill hitting 53mph on STRAVA I quickly recall going from feeling excitement to panic as the whole front of the scooter wobbled violently. I managed to slow down enough to stop the wobble, but, I had come very close to coming off. I hadn’t ever thought about death wobble on a scooter – I was used to riding high speed motorbikes such as my Kawasaki ZXR – which of course had a steering damper to prevent high speed death wobble.
I’d had my first encounter with high speed wobble on the Dualtron Thunder – after that, I realised I needed a steering damper. It turns out that at high speed, small wheels are extremely easy to upset – with a higher centre of gravity + small wheels + fast rotation, it’s very easy for a scooter to go out of balance.
Why Should You Use A Steering Damper On Your Electric Scooter?
Let’s face it, most (if not all) scooter models are unstable, especially at extreme speeds. Head shake and speed wobble are typical in most scooter models, including industry-leading models such as the Inokim, Kaabos, Zeros, and Dualtron electric scooters (except for the X series).
Wobbling is pretty common in high speed electric scooters since they feature powerful motors, tiny wheelbases, and hardline handlebar geometrics that decreases stability and makes steering sluggish, especially in rough, uneven terrains.
Electric scooters come with freely moving handlebars that are meant to facilitate easy manoeuvrability. However, the flaw to this design spec is that riders sometimes end up experiencing annoying wobbles because the handlebars can get unstable or swing aggressively from side to side, leading to loss of control, especially at high speeds. Wobbles are extremely dangerous, especially for inexperienced riders. It causes enormous instability that could cause rider fatigue, loss of control, falling, or even worse, ramming into the oncoming traffic.
A steering damper comes in handy to eliminate dangerous wobbles by stabilising the front end of the electric scooter by containing the forces that act on it. Using a steering dampener assures you of a safer and more comfortable scooter riding experience, as detailed in this guide.
What exactly is a Steering Damper?
A steering damper, also referred to as a steering stabiliser, is a device used to inhibit unwanted speed-wobbles, head shakes, or tank slappers (motorcycles) resulting from uncontrolled movement or oscillation of the scooter’s steering mechanism.
Electric scooters are designed with free moving handlebars and a short wheelbase, allowing for easy manoeuvrability. This feature is flawed as it renders electric scooters susceptible to wobbles, decreased stability, and the steering is less responsive on uneven road surfaces. Besides, controlling the scooter gets a tad challenging when the front wheel is not in line with the direction of travel after landing from a slight elevation, hitting a bump, or navigating off-road trails.
While they don’t completely eliminate wobbles and tank slappers, steering dampers reduce these annoying forces acting on a scooter’s cockpit to a bare minimum, ensuring smooth and safe rides.
What Causes Instability in Scooters?
Scooters are generally supposed to be very stable- sadly, this is not always the case. Manufacturers go to great lengths to install state-of-the-art features to guarantee stability. However, a scooter’s stability depends not only on the design specs; the overall experience is subject to other forces. Below are key reasons why your scooter ride may be unstable.
- Tyre Size– Due to their smaller sizes, scooter tyres do not have the same gyroscopic effect (balancing force) that is experienced with traditional bikes and motorbikes. The small and thin wheels also offer less surface contact with the riding track; thus, affecting stability.
- Scooters have a small trail distance (caster angle)
- Worn-out tyres and other parts, e.g. bearings and nuts
- Misalignment between the steering column and the wheel
Steering Dampers are a “must have” on faster electric scooters.
Benefits of a Steering Damper
Increase Rigidity of Steering
Prevents High Speed Wobble
Quick and Easy to Install
Looks Good on Scooters
Cons of a Steering Damper
Can be expensive on some scooter models
Not all scooter models support a damper
How Does a Steering Damper Work?
Steering dampers work by adding resistance to a scooter’s steering, inhibiting unprecedented head shake that occurs on rough terrains and at high speeds. The scooter’s bearings and handlebars become more stable with increased steering resistance, enabling riders to maintain more control even at high speeds. Steering dampers significantly reduce rider fatigue in bumpy road conditions or on a fast ride.
Steering dampers can be built to attach to the steering column, as in the case of Erexx dampers. Others consist of brackets that attach to the steering system’s stationary part of the scooter, e.g. the mainframe, deck, or head tube.
The hydraulic damper at the centre of the brackets, which works under the same principles as hydraulic shock absorbers. The hydraulic damper usually has an opening in which oil can enter and exit. A spring-loaded valve regulates the process of fluid flow. The valve controls how much steering resistance will be experienced based on the restriction of flow.
Steering Dampers add resistance to steering – blocking the scooters ability to wobble at speed.
The higher the force applied on the steering, the higher the restriction of flow, making the damper stiffer. The result is restricted uncontrolled movements of the front wheel. Therefore, a steering damper adds resistance to an E-scooter’s steering but doesn’t make it excessively rigid- it only makes it stiffer to turn the handlebars when a strong force is applied.
To put this in perspective, steering dampers offer progressive dampening, meaning that the resistance provided by the damper is directly proportional to the force applied on the handlebar.
Two Types of Steering Dampers
Steering dampers on e-scooters / bikes work differently depending on their design specifications. Not all steering dampers work the same way, some designs are more complex than others, but they all have a similar function and purpose.
Steering dampers have evolved from friction discs to hydraulic dampers, which are currently the standard. There are two types of hydraulic dampers differentiated by their construction: linear and rotary dampers.
Linear stabilisers resemble and operate like a telescoping shock absorber commonly seen in motorcycles and some high-end scooters. Linear stabilisers are the go-to choice for most electric scooters, and you can find them fitted longitudinally on one side of the scooter. The stabiliser kit consists of the mounting kit/ mounting bracket: steering damper adapter (deck and stem) and the hydraulic damper.
There are multiple types of steering damper available in the marketplace – ensure you pick the right one.
Rotary dampers, on the other hand, resemble small boxes which function via a rotating pivot. They are mainly used on motorcycles. Rotary dampers are fitted on top of the handlebars and are positioned coaxially with the steering axis. Most steering dampers come with an easily adjustable knob that allows riders to customise their damper settings, in hard or soft style, based on the terrain and personal riding style.
A hard setting makes the handlebars pretty firm, ideal for rough terrains and riding at high speeds in a straight line. On the contrary, a soft setting reduces the overall handlebar resistance and is perfect for moving at low speeds, improving manoeuvrability and steering reaction.
Known Damper Manufacturers
The industry is not flooded with mainstream companies that manufacture dampers for electric scooters. All the same, if you’re looking to purchase a damper, online stores like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba are crawling with generic brands, some of which perform exceptionally well.
A few known brands that manufacture electric scooter dampers include:
- Erexx (primarily for Dualtron scooters)
- Sonken Engineering
- Scooter Mania
There are hundreds of steering dampers from various manufacturers online.
Why Should You Use a Steering Damper on Your Electric Scooter?
Whether you’re a novice rider or an experienced scooter rider, a steering damper is one of those scooter accessories you ought to consider. This device not only levels up your riding experience with enhanced comfort but also improves riding safety by preventing annoying and dangerous wobbles.
There are several reasons you’ll want to use a steering stabiliser. To begin with, a well-fitted steering damper goes a long way in intercepting unwelcomed speed-wobbles and vibrations, which compromise the ride quality and put you in danger of falling. With a steering damper, you’ll maintain control of the steering, meaning the scooter will manoeuvre as you wish and respond to quick navigations in unexpected circumstances. By suppressing the unwanted influential forces acting on the scooter’s front end, steering dampers enhance the ride comfort. What’s more, a damper reduces arm fatigue as the scooter requires less manoeuvring to maintain a steady ride.
Another reason to use a steering stabiliser is to enhance the scooter’s performance in off-road environments. A scooter encounters all sorts of forces when riding on off-road terrains with constant vibrations and twisting, making the ride unbearable. This gets worse in e-scooters with solid tyres and without suspensions. A steering damper enhances a scooter’s performance in off-road environments. For instance, when you hit a bump that deflects your front tyre, the damper reduces the deflection and retains your riding direction.
In addition, a damper helps keep the scooter ride straight on off-road, uneven terrains riddled with rocks, ruts, and sand; plus, it smoothes out jolts via the handlebars during falls over irregular surfaces.
Benefits of a Steering Damper on an Electric Scooter
With benefits like improved stability and better control, it’s safe to say that a steering damper will vastly improve your scooter’s ride quality. In addition to an overall improvement of your ride quality, below are more benefits of installing a steering damper on your scooter:
- Enhances ride quality by stabilising the front end of the e-scooter to eliminate speed wobbles.
- Guarantees secure riding by inhibiting abrupt steering movements that could lead to loss of control, especially at higher speeds.
- Heightens scooter off-road performance by absorbing vibrations and deflections; thus, enabling a straight ride.
- It prevents arm fatigue by reducing constant vibrations, especially when riding on off-road terrains.
- Increases steering responsiveness, allowing for smooth and safe handling even on off-road terrains
Cons of Steering Dampers on Electric Scooters
Steering dampers provide immense benefits to scooter riders. However, there are disadvantages to installing one on your e-scooter. First, the steering angle is limited to the damper’s travel. In addition, you might experience a slower steering reaction due to the added resistance by the damper.
Are There Scooters That Come Installed with Dampers?
The big players generally steer clear of installing their rides with dampers. But, there’s always an exception, and in this case, it’s the Dualtron X series. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an affordable scooter with a pre-installed damper, you will probably have to get one of the generic brands, especially the stock from China.
However, the Speedtrott RX2000 is a model from a mainstream brand that rocks a damper out-of-the-box and is more affordable than the Dualtron X. It is a consensus among scooter enthusiasts that more prominent players should jump on this trend, as most scooters going past the 40 km/h (25mph) speed mark will experience some form of instability.
Other scooters that come with a steering damper include: Dualtron X2, Bronco 11 Xtreme
Does a Steering Damper Completely Eliminate Wobbles?
A steering damper doesn’t wholly eliminate wobbles. However, it does soak up a considerable chunk of such unwelcomed forces, making the front end of the scooter stable. There is a vast difference between a scooter with a steering dampener and one without in terms of ride quality, handling, and safety.
Nonetheless, it’s important to note that a steering damper doesn’t fix a scooter’s underlying problem, such as small solid tyres or the lack of a functional suspension- it only builds on the scooter’s performance.
Will a Steering Stabilizer Make my Handlebars Rigid?
Not at all!
A steering stabiliser enhances the steering resistance to unprecedented motion but does not make the handlebars rigid. Even so, steering dampers offer progressive damping, meaning that the more force applied to the handlebars, the more resistance provided by the damper. Therefore, your handlebars will remain pretty flexible and highly responsive.
What’s the Cost of Installing a Steering Stabiliser on an E-Scooter?
Depending on the scooter model and the type of stabiliser, it may cost you up to £220/ $300 to fully install a steering stabiliser. The price may seem a bit expensive, but it’s exceedingly worth it for enhanced riding comfort and safety.
Daniel is an avid scooter fan who has owned and tested over 50 different scooters. Part time scooter enthusiast & part time SEO specialist. Daniels favourite scooter is the Dualtron Thunder.