By Jeffrey the Barak.
Towards the end of this ever-expanding article I have added edits dating to 2020, but the article was first published in 2015 under the original title “Half a Century of Scooting”. Edits are ongoing, so this article is like a blog in itself.
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. Looking at that article in 2020 I think the categories have changed a little bit, but still it’s worth a look today.
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 white rubber 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 its 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. I have recently identified it as a “Ninja Scootech”. 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 at first did not buy another scooter for years, and observed the post 1999 scooter craze without ever buying a Razor. It amazes me that when you say scooter, most people in 2015 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 and dry, the Razor gives a good smooth ride. It’s descendants are the many excellent brands of Pro-Scooters, high quality and quite expensive. The Pro-Scooters 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 Millennium 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 Millennium 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 this 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 in an extreme manner on any surface with rough texture and it was much easier to fall off that Xootr than anything else I had ridden to date. 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 an instant 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. (2020 edit, despite the above I’m considering another Xootr, riding within more conservative limits)
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 felt forced to sell the Know-Peds (I shouldn’t have), 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.
The Mibo Gepard was a great scooter but I was getting physically tired out on the street. Perhaps my Gepard did not freewheel as much as others, or perhaps my performance expectations were too high. 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 remarkably fast Zumaround Zum for a few months.
Finally I had a clean start with a Kickbike CruiseMax 20 in 2015, which as my sole scooter relocated with me from Los Angeles to O’ahu Hawai’i. It was for a while my all-time favorite human-powered scooter. The only issue I had was my inability to ride it slowly, so I still used all my energy up after a short ride.
In 2018 I bought an OJO Electric Commuter Scooter which shared the garage with the Kickbike. They made a versatile pair.
As noted in another article Stepping off the Footboard, in September 2019 I sold my last human-powered scooter, the Kickbike CruiseMax, and at that time had 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.
I was sure that I would not return to the exhaustion of kick scooting and would happily scoot electric instead. If one never has accidents, one starts to feel invincible.
But then in September 2020 I fell-off / tripped-over the Turbowheel Dart at about 2 MPH and skinned my knee. The cause was taking my left hand off the grip to wave at a friend and accidentally grabbing the front brake with my right hand, My full-face downhill bike helmet saved my life, my face and my teeth, but as someone who usually never gets it wrong, I suddenly felt that at age 63 it was pushing my luck to keep flying along the road alongside the cars at well over 20 MPH. After the knee was gauzed up, I took one last, final decision-making, electric ride, then sold my fifth electric scooter.
I decided to consciously change my scooting modus operandi from going fast down the road, to slowly and safely sauntering along the sidewalk, and bought into the only category I had never owned, a pro-scooter, an Envy Prodigy S8 Street Edition, reviewed here. This was mainly because I wanted precision engineering and no rattles.
And shortly thereafter I fell off that, at 5 MPH, on the uneven sidewalk. By the time I realized I was going down, I was already down. So maybe my balance has gone, or more likely I just need bigger wheels. Despite everything being so small and low and weighless, it is all riding above the axles. Even if that line between the axles is just 60 mm above ground. there is no deck supporting the entire body’s weight hanging below the axle line. So instead of it being a self-righting ride, it’s a tippy ride!
I will be practising surviving wheel-stopping obstacles on the little Envy, but I think that there will always be one I don’t see in time. With that in mind I bought a Razor A6 with 254 mm (10 inch) wheels, but after test riding that on clean indoor hard floors, I returned it because it just felt too rattle-prone. It was certainly ready to run away fast and smoothly, and I liked the huge urethane tires, and it was amazing how small it was when folded up, but despite glowing and loving reviews online, it felt a bit cheap to me, and it also felt reluctant to hop and reluctant to allow me to pull up the front wheel for curbs and humps. More on the A6 here. The main thing though was how calm and solid the pro-scooter felt when switching back and forth.
If I had to guess what is wrong with the pro-scooter, besides wheel diameter, I’d say I am using it for the wrong purpose. As a slow cruiser, it is too unstable, too ready to run, to eager to unbalance the rider. But I think I can tame it and master it with care.
Meanwhile, I bought Scooter number nineteen, and for the first time I have bought a used one. Why? Because I think the last one has most likely already rolled off the very old production line. I picked up a lightly used KickPed, with the lower bars this time. To recap, I’ve had three Know-Peds with the low bars, and one KickPed with the far too high bars, so I am happy to get back onto a Ped, my fifth!
Looking back at all these scooters, which human-powered kick scooter, if any, stands out as being the best? Surely the last big 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 slow rides. In Los Angeles I used to do mesmerizing figure 8s on my hardwood floor, or in my underground concrete parking garage, at low speed, mostly 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, although I think by late 2020 it has been a while since any were manufactured. I fear that the last owner/manufacturer may not have made it through the business jungle.
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 footbike 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 as of 2020 has bought and sold, or kept, at least nineteen kick-scooters and five electrics.
Antique balloon tyre
Ninja Scootech 12 inch BMX
Currie Phat Flyer
1st Blue Know-Ped
Kickbike Millennium Racer
1st KickPed (tall)
2nd Blue Know-Ped
3rd Blue Know-Ped
Kickbike CruiseMax 20
Envy Prodigy S8 Street Edition
Razor A6 254 mm
2nd KickPed, (standard height)
Plus a few editorial loaners between 1997 and 2020