A year into the Covid-19 pandemic and some things are becoming an increasingly common sight. The yellow warning signs announcing pandemic restrictions; queues outside essential shops; lost or discarded face masks dotting grass verges. And, in recent months, electric scooters.
The last time I reviewed an electric scooter, it was pre-pandemic, when using one on the public road meant riders ran the risk of getting it impounded by gardaí. Still, some people took that risk and they were a common sight on my daily commute to work.
The short-hop mode of transport has become increasingly popular since the pandemic has cut capacity on public transport, despite still having no formal legislation governing their use.
But it is coming; at the beginning of February, the Government gave approval to draft new legislation in this area. Once it is implemented, the plan is to have a new vehicle category for powered personal transporters, with new safety guidelines and rules on how they can be used. As things stand now, there won’t be a need for tax, insurance or driving licences to use an e-scooter.
So it was with this pending legislation in mind that it was time to look at the FuroSystems Fuze electric scooter. The company is pitching it as a high-performance mode of transport, so probably not quite the same as the smaller scooters that seem to be zipping around the pavements and bike lanes since Christmas.
The first clue is the size. The Fuze is certainly more sturdy than some electric scooters, with a large deck that supports riders up to 150kg. This scooter is definitely not a toy.
The last time I tested an electric scooter it was possible – if a little awkward – to fold it up and put it in the boot of the car as a last-mile mode of transport, or even take it folded up on the bus if needed. I also cracked myself on the ankle regularly when lifting it onto or off a pavement. While the Fuze folds down nicely to transport it – the handlebars also fold in to make it more compact – it is significantly bigger and heavier. That, I’m happy to say, also means there is almost zero chance of it swinging and hitting you if you need to lift it onto the pavement. My ankles are remarkably bruise-free this time.
The Fuze I tested came with a headlight, rear light and under-board lighting that made sure you were visible when out in public. The brighter the better, really: riding a scooter, even in cycle lanes, is an exercise in holding your nerve when cars pass, and the more visible you are, the better it is for everyone.
One thing that wasn’t as much of an issue this time out was the state of the roads. With smaller scooters, a mix of poor road surfaces and small wheels can be jarring – literally. A small bad patch felt like your teeth were rattling out of your head.
The Fuze has less of an issue with this. The scooter has double spring suspension on both wheels, and pneumatic tyres, so you feel a bit more confident when travelling that you will make it over some rough ground in one piece.
Once you get going, you have three modes to choose from. Mode 1 will allow you to travel at speeds of up to 12km an hour; mode 3 tops out at just over 40km/h, but with software can be adjusted to bring it in line with local restrictions. You change modes with the onboard computer’s control panel, so it’s not something you can do accidentally. It’s best to start out at mode 1 until you are used to the scooter, and don’t accidentally hit the thumb throttle instead of the brake, and vice versa.
Given the current restrictions on travel, I’m not travelling anywhere I can’t walk at the moment. But the Fuze was a good option for quick (necessary) journeys. The 750-watt motor was powerful enough to tackle reasonable hills without forcing me to get off and walk, which would have defeated the purpose of having the scooter.
The Fuze also has an anti-theft system, one that I accidentally discovered in the kitchen late at night. The alarm is triggered if you move the bike without unsetting it – and it’s loud. While it won’t stop the scooter moving, it certainly will draw unwanted attention to whoever has the scooter. It might make you feel a bit better about leaving the scooter locked up outside the local shop.
The good One of the more comfortable scooters I've tested. The suspension helps absorb the worst of the road vibrations, although you'll still feel it if you hit a bad patch, but I also didn't dread tackling dropped kerbs.
Being able to change modes was helpful, especially when you find yourself in a tricky traffic situation; there is definitely more of a vulnerable feeling to riding a scooter compared with a regular bike.
The full lighting package is also a good option to have, making sure that you are visible to other road users at all times of the day or night.
The not so good While the scooter is relatively light for its size, at a minimum 17kg it's not something you'd be carrying about too often. The real-world range on the scooter was good, but fell short of the stated range in my experience – although not by much.
The rest The placement of the thumb throttle also meant that I accidentally pulled it instead of the brake a few times in the early days – not something I'd recommend trying, and a good argument for familiarising yourself with the equipment before taking it out for a ride.
The verdict If you are serious about alternative modes of transport, the Fuze is a decently priced, more comfortable alternative.