By Jeffrey the Barak.
I may have a few decades of life left, but with my 58th birthday coming this week I thought it would be fun to direct via the keyboard some reflections of riding scooters. This a hardcore scooter fanatic ramble that will only appeal to our splendid scooterholic minority, but here goes anyway.
I have had bicycles and in-line skates, and I have had electric scooters, but nothing has ever approached the satisfaction that comes from the simplicity of a kick scooter. Scooters may be inefficient and exhausting at times, unless you adjust your expectations, but something about two wheels and not much else provides a purity of movement that no other conveyance can provide, with the possible exception of a surfboard. In fact a skimmer board is the epitome of a simple vehicle, and there is now a version of these with a scooter handle on top!
As I have written before, there are certain classifications of scooters and I made an attempt at defining these in my 2012 article here.
Depending on your intended speed, intended use and intended terrain, one or more types of scooter may be more appropriate. But in this article I want to reflect on what I personally have had, and what the scooter did for me.
Growing up in the Sixties, I was in the rare position of having a father who owned part of an amusement park, The Spanish City, in Whitley Bay, England. I liked rides, especially since I didn’t have to pay to ride, and so I had electric racing cars, an electric train and various riding machines at my disposal. I acquired a bizarre appreciation for wheels, rubber tires, and machines that moved people in various ways.
My first scooter was the standard three-wheeled Triang toy that most kids of that era in England will be familiar with. It was a metal toy. There were better scooters around, similar to today’s 12.5 inch adult street scooters, but I actually never had one.
Something about the simplicity of the scooter, the absence of gears, chain, pedals and saddle, made the concept fascinating. As an adult I bought an antique off someone. The tires were full of Fix-A-Flat and the wheel bearings were probably as inefficient and under-maintained as any on the planet, but I did manage to go a long distance on it a couple of times. And this was in the early eighties when the appearance of urethane wheels and cartridge bearings had brought back roller skating and skateboarding in such a big way.
It was after moving to Los Angeles in the Eighties and landing squarely in the Venice Beach bike-path and boardwalk environment that I realized the time was right for a good scooter. Not that there were any others down there. The introduction of the Razor scooter was still in the distant future (1999) and the old BMX scooting scene was in it’s death throes.
I will guess it was in January 1988 when I picked up my new scooter for $50. A Chromed 12.5” white-walled street scooter. And this became my highest mileage scooter to this day. I lived near Venice Beach in Marina del Rey and almost every day I went up and down Venice on my scooter. People started calling me the scooter guy. I never saw another person on a scooter for years.
I had to go to Europe for a little while so I gave it away, but by then it was quite worn out. Loose and creaky with shot tires and bearings.
Back in L.A. I observed the post 1999 scooter craze without ever buying a Razor. It amazes me that when you say scooter, most people will only have the image of a Razor A1 in their head. It must have seemed like a new invention to most people because scooters had been so rare prior to the Razor age. The Razor started a new class of scooter made possible by urethane in-line skate wheels and smooth spinning bearings. As long as the concrete is smooth, the Razor gives a good smooth ride. It’s descendants are the many excellent brands of pro-scooters, high quality and quite expensive. They do not fold so they do not rattle, and they roll even better on high-quality bearings, but the trick riders like their bars low so you cannot exactly stand up straight and take a slow cruise unless you have really long arms for some reason.
I tried electric scooters, getting a Zappy and then a Currie Phat Flyer. The Currie made it into the-vu in July 2000. Then in 2001 I was finally drawn back to human-powered scooters where I still remain today. I started with the first of three blue Know-Peds. Sadly a burglar took that away.
Shortly thereafter I bought two footbike class scooters at the same time. A big Sidewalker City, and a Kickbike Millenium Racer. My plan was to test and review both then sell one. The review was published in the-vu in September 2003 here.
That Kickbike Millenium Racer stayed with me for four or five years. It was not really a high mileage relationship, but it was and is the fastest scooter I have had.
While I had the Kickbike I also bought a Xootr Mg, my first scooter that lacked rubber tires. That Xootr was so fast on smooth concrete, but it vibrated terribly on any surface with texture and it was very easy to fall off that thing. The racket it produced was alarming from half a block away so it did not need a bell. The deck was nice and low but the magnesium rail along the bottom became a brake that would grab uneven pavement and toss you over the bars. I will also never again take a polyurethane tire onto a damp surface of any kind. With that bottom rail and those hard tires, the Xootr Mg is an exceptionally risky thing to ride. I have recently learned that the reason Xootrs are are so fast is mostly due to excellent wheel bearings, and you can throw fairly affordable fast bearings into any small scooter and get even faster rolling results.
The Xootr was replaced by a KickPed. This was of higher quality than the Know-Ped I had in 2003, but I made the mistake of following the store’s advice and getting the tall bar version, which was a shame as I am only 5” 7”.
I replaced that with two new blue Know-Peds. I had hoped my wife would ride the other one but she did not take to it. I have a deep appreciation for the visual design of the Know-Ped and it’s cousin the KickPed. Those wheels with their slick rubber tires remind me of racing car wheels.
And then in 2013 I imported a Mibo Gepard from the Czech Republic. This was a happy return to 12.5 inch tires. I have always had nostalgia for the format of two twelve inch tires. That is what scooters are supposed to look like. As a minimalist, this meant I had to sell the Peds and the Mibo got center stage. After less than two years I decided to let a second owner experience the Mibo and it left me at the beginning of 2015. I am such a gear flipper, partly due to a minimalist bent. I feel uncomfortable keeping ownership of more than one of anything at the same time. I cannot collect things.
Update to this article, January 2018.
The Mibo Gepard was a great scooter but I was getting tired out on the street. Perhaps my Gepard did not freewheel as much as others. I added a couple of Razors, just for low speed noodling around on my indoor hardwood floors, and underground concrete garage, an A5 and an A4. Then I went back to electrics, acquiring a Zumaround Zum.
Finally I had a clean start with a Kickbike CruiseMax 20 in 2015, which has moved with me, from Los Angeles to O’ahu Hawai’i. It is my all-time favorite human powered scooter.
In 2018 I bought an OJO Electric Commuter Scooter which shares the garage with the Kickbike. They make a versatile pair.
Update, September 2019
As noted in another article Stepping off the Footboard, I sold my last human-powered scooter, the Kickbike CruiseMax, and have no plans to get any more kick scooters. I also sold my OjO Electric and immediately replaced it with another electric, a Turbowheel Dart, reviewed here.
Looking back at all these scooters, which one, if any, stands out as being the best? Surely the last one should be, that magnificent Kickbike Cruisemax 20. But actually, that is only if I want to remember scooting at a reasonably high speed along the street. Oddly, my fondest memories of scooting were indoors. I used to do figure 8s on my hardwood floor, or in my underground parking garage, at extremely low speed on my Know-Peds, and that was for me the most fun ride, and certainly the easiest. Perhaps it was because little to no exercise was involved!
The unlikely Know-Ped, and its Kickped variant, are accidental hits, having been adapted from a noisy and smelly petroleum-powered monster called a GoPed. While the GoPed has all but vanished, and good-riddance, the Know-Ped keeps going.
Facing the fact that kick scooters are either slow, or exhausting, or both, then unless you are a footbike athlete capable of sustained high speeds, in which case a good foot bike like a Kickbike is ideal, slowly sauntering along on a little scooter on a smooth surface is the epitome of the experience, and anyone can do it.
Jeffrey the Barak is the publisher of the-vu and has bought and sold, or kept at least sixteen kick-scooters and four electrics.