By Jeffrey the Barak.
Not everyone can immediately step onto a kick scooter and know how to ride it. For some, it is a challenge, and this can be hard to understand if you scoot without thinking about it. But the experienced scooter rider who only uses certain techniques can be missing out on a better experience.
We will go over low-speed scooting techniques, for when you want to enjoy a slow ride that is still at least twice as fast as walking, and not make the effort to get a helmet and pads in order to travel fast safely. So no risky tricks here, no power strokes, just simply moving along at a safe speed and then stopping. Basics.
Terms used have carried over from skateboarding, but after the initial push, scooting on a scooter and skating on a skateboard are quite different.
The Push: “Regular” (from the nose) vs “Mongo” (from the tail).
Mongo pushing means pushing your skateboard or scooter using your front foot while standing over the back foot.
Despite a scooter’s deck being not very much longer than your foot, you should stand at the front of your scooter’s deck and push with the back foot and I’ll be explaining why later in this article.
It is sad that the name for this incorrect stance has been established, by generations of cruel young male idiots, as Mongo, but it has been, so I use it here reluctantly for that reason. I have no intention of insulting anyone and I do not approve of the established term. I was going to say “rhymes with Bongo” in this article, but it is already complicated enough.
The Stance: “Regular” vs “Goofy”.
A Regular stance indicates the left foot leading at the nose of the deck with the right foot pushing, while a “Goofy” stance leads with the right foot at the nose of the deck, and pushing with the left.
“Ski” is side-by-side feet, usually at the front of the deck but sometimes Mongo at the back. On a long scoot, Ski can be kind to the back and neck because your hips are even so there is no twist in the body, and street style pro-scooters have the rear of the deck extending around the rear wheel, set up for Mongo Ski. As long as your deck is wide enough to get most of the soles of your two feet on side by side, you can stand in Ski, but one downside is if you come to an unexpected sudden stop due to, for example, an unseen pothole, that side by side stance will make it more likely that you will go sailing over the bars and land painfully, because you will be relying on your toes to stop that inertia and be less ready to simply walk off the scooter.
After riding in Ski for a while, your hands may get tired because you need to slightly push down the bars with the opposite hand of the standing foot in order to stay upright.
It is okay to stand across the deck, in a compacted surfing/skateboarding/fencing/archery style, while coasting, but this not the best position for efficient scooting.
So what is so bad about Mongo?
The stability of the scooter is greatly improved by standing at the front of the deck. Easily demonstrated by riding very slowly through cones or around objects. When in Mongo you lose stability. The rear weight distribution causes the handlebars to rotate too easily.
Also, when in Mongo stance, a hard push will cause the front wheel to lift and then you cannot steer.
Even if you are on uneven terrain and have to repeatedly lift your front wheel, (discussed later below), you still need to avoid Mongo. It is very tempting to leave the standing foot towards the back and take your front foot off to push, especially if you are a bit too big for your scooter.
I recently filmed myself doing relaxing figure eights and loops in my driveway at night and I was surprised to notice that I was Mongo for much of the time. However, since then, with a conscious effort to stand forward, in Goofy, non-Mongo, I have improved stability, when squeezing between the car and the garage wall for example.
On a scooter, your stronger leg is the standing leg and you push with the weaker leg. The quadriceps of the standing leg will get a workout as you dip and rise during the stroke.
But you also need to practice using the weaker leg and switch back and forth between Regular and Goofy in order to be able to take a long ride.
Switch feet by leisurely twisting the standing foot out of the way between strokes, or if riding at speed, learn the hop switch, which is beyond the scope of this article. It varies depending on shoe soles, but unless you are performing tricks at the park, a full deck of grip tape is not desirable on a scooter because you need to twist those feet.
In the following video I demonstrate a twist and switch on every stroke, not that you would ever do this. I hopped over to my KickPed because the Envy has so much grip tape! Sorry it is in a small and confined area but the camera was stationary. It really is more elegant on a long run.
You dare not go if you think you may be unable to stop!
Some scooters have no brakes, or ineffective brakes, while others add the complication of bicycle brakes with levers, cables, calipers and shoes, or disks and pads. If you are going to ride fast or downhill, you will need some good brakes, but for slow careful riders I would recommend dismounting before any potentially uncontrollable downhill stretch or repeatedly step off and walk a step or two on the way down the hill.
This leads us to the best stopping technique for slow speed scooter riding.
(1) While moving, dip lower over the standing leg.
(2) Place the kicking leg froward of your center and transfer your weight to that leg.
(3) You are now standing on one leg on the ground.
(4) and then if you have any extra momentum, you take another step,
(5) in which case you are walking and you know how to stop from walking.
If you have allowed your speed to increase so you are moving too fast for the above, use the brake to slow down first, or place your foot on the ground and increase the weight gradually, using the shoe as a sliding brake pad against the ground.
In the following video I stop without using brakes three times, slow, medium and fast. In practice you would usually slow down first with the brake, assuming you have time.
Always keep a slight bend in the standing leg, don’t lock it straight. Locking straight is hard on the knee and also sends road vibration through your skeleton. On very rough surfaces, lift the weight out of your heels. By standing more over your forefoot, you can make the vibrations practically stop, see clearly, and protect your brain.
About your scooter.
The scooter used as a demonstrator in this article is a pro-scooter, (an Envy Prodigy S8 Street Edition) and it can be unsafe to use casually as a non-folding adult commuter scooter, because these little 120 mm urethane skate wheels will drop into cracks and holes, skid on wet pavement, and this scooter is constantly waiting for you to let your guard down so it can throw you off, onto the concrete and break your body.
For this article I checked in advance that there were no holes, bumps, cracks, rocks, or damp patches in my small chosen area, so I did not have to scan the ground like a hawk.
In general, a lower deck is better because as mentioned earlier, the hard work is in the lowering and re-straightening of your standing leg in order to push with the other one. Higher decks are therefore more exhausting and can hurt your knees, quads and other parts. The Envy scooter in these pictures and movies has a 72 mm deck height. I am 173 cm tall and I can feel comfortable with up to 9 cm height. My beloved Kickped is just 2 mm higher than that at 92 mm.
On the flip side, a lower deck means less ground clearance so you need to watch for bottoming out and grinding to an unexpected stop. Common top-selling scooters that tried hard to keep their decks low but ended up with a bottoming out problem are the Xootr Mg, the Razor A5 Air and the Razor A6 (the A6 partly due to it’s long wheelbase). But please read on as I am about to cover a solution for this.
I said there would be no tricks in this article, but this technique is more essential survival than it is a trick. A rider must avoid the embarrassing and potentially injurious unexpected stop due to bottoming out. All this takes is the gentle lifting of the front wheel. And you can do this with your standing foot correctly up front at the nose just as easily as, and more safely than, you can with your foot incorrectly at the tail or Mongo.
The technique is almost the same as that of stopping without brakes described above, only instead of transferring to that foot on the ground to walk to a stop, you transfer briefly to take one step on that foot and pull up the scooter under your riding foot (as if it was a strapped on roller skate) to lift the front wheel just enough to clear the obstacle. Then continue forward beyond the obstacle on the foot that rides the scooter. Use this over uneven pushed up pavement slabs, and when riding down a curb. You can also use it to ride your back wheel up a curb, but it is safer to shamelessly dismount and walk the scooter up a curb.
Regardless of which scooter you have at your disposal, the stances and techniques discussed here will still apply. However, if you are riding four or five times as fast, or bombing down a hill and relying on brakes to slow you down, be sure to shift your weight towards the back during hard braking, and squat lower, to reduce the chance of taking a tumble.
I hope all of this will help some scooter owners stay upright and free of injuries. You may find you prefer the wrong way so much you will ignore these tips, and that is fine because there is no rule book, only advice from experience.
Author Jeffrey the Barak has been scooting around for many decades.