By Jeffrey the Barak.
Wanting a twelve-inch BMX style scooter was like having an itch I needed to scratch. I had one 35 years ago and I often remember it fondly.
Myself on my 1988 Ninja Scootech GT Zoot Scoot, photographed when new, by Kip Rano.
Yes, the bars are always a bit low, and yes, 12.5”, 35 P.S.I. tires cannot sustain speeds as well as high pressure 16”, 20” or larger tires, and yes the decks are a bit high, but it is that nostalgic 12 inch ride that I wanted to feel again.
I almost have the same hovering glide with my beloved little Razor A5 Air, but despite the deck being deliciously low and other advantages, it is not the same ride. Only the pneumatic element is common between the two.
In early May of 2022 I bought an open-box special on Amazon, a Mongoose Expo in matte gray with lime accents. Let’s just say, don’t buy an open-box special, unless you have access to a bike shop with an array of parts bins. And definitely don’t buy an open-box special and gift it to a child unless you want grateful appreciation to turn into devastating sadness. I returned mine the same day I received it.
The steel Mongoose scooters, Expo and Trace, and the new Chromoly-framed Miniscoot II, are the only true BMX scooters around now, complete with the rotor/gyro system that allows you to spin the bars or whip the tail without the brake cables tangling. Tricks that I have no desire to ever try.
The wheel bearings are notoriously awful on the Expo and Trace, two scooters that Mongoose does not even acknowledge in its own webstore, but the new Miniscoot II has traditional BMX plastic wheels and sealed bearings. As does the scooter I’m about to introduce below.
Likely inspired by these hangers-on still being made by Mongoose, Razor has introduced the Flashback. They aimed it at non-tall people, a.k.a. children, but the bars are just high enough for some adults to reach down to. And since it is essentially a clamp-on bar from a small polyurethane-wheeled stunt scooter, you could possibly source a taller one and get some longer brake cables. There is no gyro system to make that a difficult conversion.
So a few hours after receiving and returning that Mongoose I bought a Flashback, with local pickup, at the nearby Target store.
I was a little concerned that my carton had clearly been opened, after so-recently being let down by the Amazon open-box Mongoose, but I was soon relieved to find that nothing was missing or damaged, or even out of place.
The bar height above ground is 885mm and the deck height is 89mm, so riding on deck, the bars will reach 785mm up your body. If you are 5’ 2” or 157 cm tall this is fine. Any taller and you have to hunch and bend to keep your hands around the grips.
Originally here in this article I was pondering changing to longer bars somehow, but a fellow scooter enthusiast, Christoph Seiler suggested that there is a device that can make existing scooter bars higher. That device is a quill extender. So one of those and some longer brake cables would make this scooter grow up.
People who are not tall will have a much easier time with a Flashback, right out of the box, as it was designed to be. By marketing this scooter toward Children, Razor have revealed that they never imagined that a taller person would find it attractive.
Assembly was very easy, and it was a pleasure to work with pristine, precisely machined parts. All the needed tools were included but if you have nicer wrenches and a longer Allen wrench it will be even more comfortable.
At the maximum recommended inflation pressure of 35 PSI or 241 kPa, the tires remain soft enough to squeeze with thumb and fingers. This contributes to the slow feel of the scooter.
But here is a shocker, the tires that come with the Flashback do not visually resemble the very handsome tires shown on the Razor website. I think those ones may even be generated computer graphics. What we get are very soft 35 PSI or 241 kPa tires that do not sustain speed well, but what they do provide is a soft floating ride.
Rear tire as depicted on Razor’s website
The tires will look out of round and off-center on the first spin, but simply riding for a while will solve that. There is not very much air pressure so they can settle in, and even themselves out, when ridden.
I have been riding folding scooters lately despite having no reason to fold, and it has been about three years since I sold my last Kickbike. So the resounding silence of the Flashback is delightful. You kick, you go, and you hear nothing. Not a creak, nor a squeak, not a rattle, nor a roar. Just nothing.
The steering has a safety stop so you cannot jackknife. Very different from the Mongoose that has a gyro, or rotor, or detangler, to encourage bar spins and tail spins. This maximum turn makes extremely tight turns unlikely. At the stop point you can turn the front wheel just over 45 degrees.
It is slow. Even slower than the Razor A5 Air. But it stays upright at speeds close to fully stopped.
The brakes are not strong, but they slow you down.
The angle of the tailkick on the footboard allows for safe application of shoe sole to the top of the rear tire, which stops the scooter very effectively. This last statement is controversial. A rider has their own choices to make regarding sole braking on a moving tire.
But unless you find yourself reaching high speeds on a hill, you can just step off and walk to a stop or drag a shoe on the ground to slow down first. No braking required.
Attack of the Chromed Nut
Kicking while turning does make it possible to bang your ankle on the rear wheel nut (either side), but once suffered, it is something you get spatially aware of.
Despite the tires having a recommended maximum PSI of 35, I risked a brief spell of 45 PSI to see if the extreme slowness would be relieved, and it was, This scooter needs higher pressure and/or stiffer tires in order to open up and take advantage of the very nice sealed bearings.
However, switching back and forth between this beautiful BMX-styled scooter and its little cousin, the Razor A5 Air was a revelation. The A5 Air is twice as fast, or half the effort, whichever way you want to view it.
Buy to try
I took photos to remind me of the order of unpacking and unwrapping, and so when I decided to return the scooter to the store, it appeared as if it were never opened. I even took great care not to mar the shiny wheel nuts with the wrenches. And of course the tires got a nice soapy towel bath after the testing.
Razor had a very good idea to offer something in the 12 inch class. Since all their scooters have compression clamp bars, it was also smart to carry that technology over to the Flashback. However, by setting a permanent bar height at even lower than the Mongoose and the classic BMX scooters from the eighties, they have limited ridership to people under a certain height. With either adjustable bars, or an array of bar heights to select from, and with higher pressure tires, this beautifully and precisely manufactured scooter could have been a high-quailty ride that many more people might have wanted to own.
Writer Jeffrey the Barak has been writing about scooters for twenty-two years, has owned 27, and tested several more.