I’ve seen an increasing number of adults zipping along on large scooters, one leg balancing with the other repetitively tapping the pavement to gain speed. I have to say I’d like one! Whilst most of the adult scooters seem to favour a single wheel at the front and back, for those in their toddler years, 3-wheel scooters offer a more stable platform. But, is it better to have two wheels at the front, with a single wheel at the back or the reverse; a single wheel in front and two at the back?
Scooters with two wheels at the front and a single at the back are known as the tadpole design. The opposite, with a single wheel up front and two at the back, is the delta model – similar to the famous three-wheel Reliant Robin cars. Like the Reliant Robin’s, if a scooter takes a corner too fast with a single wheel at the front the whole contraption is likely to tip over. With two wheels at the front there is better turning stability. Two wheels up front can also help during aggressive corner braking; with most of the braking occurring in the front wheels the extra tyre can help to slow the scooter down. However, this isn’t necessarily the case for braking in a straight line. As with two wheels at the front, weight is also carried further forward on the scooter, so the single back wheel is more liable to lift off the ground. So far, so confusing!
If we think about steering, then a single wheel at the front is easier. A simple turn of the handlebars and the scooter changes direction. Changing direction with two wheels at the front requires the inner wheel to follow a different radius to the outer one. Known as Ackermann Steering, linkages are required between the two front wheels to prevent the scooter from slipping mid-turn.
Perhaps the real question for adults and children alike is which will go faster? Here the tadpole wins out, not only in its aerodynamic shape but also the ability of the rider to slam their foot hard into the pavement. With only one wheel at the back, the tadpole decreases the risk of the rider accidentally stepping onto the back of the scooter.
So if you feel the need for easy steering and stability, maybe the single wheel up-front delta is for you, but for the toddler who wants speed perhaps the tadpole is the better purchase. Alternatively, you could always elect for roller-skates, with a wheel at the corner of each foot…
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Scooter graphic thanks to publicdomainvectors.org