By Jeffrey the Barak.
Towards the end of this ever-expanding article I have added edits updating to this year, 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.
Written in 2015:
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 (above). 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 purchased my new scooter from a bike store on La Brea Avenue for $50. A Chromed 12.5” white-walled street scooter. I have recently identified it as a “Ninja Scootech GT Zoot Scoot”. 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. again 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. (I do not intend to discourage people from experiencing the popular and excellent Xootr, but just be very aware and careful because it is a bit accident-prone).
The Xootr was replaced by a KickPed. This was of higher quality than the first 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 added a Know-Ped and then sold the Kickped and got another Know-Ped. 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. Or maybe the sticky slick tires I put on slowed it down and I was too lazy to put the original Kendas back on.
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. As much as I tried, I could not control my impatience and my tendency to ride it too fast.
Written in 2018:
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 can hardly believe I felt that way), 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 for sidewalk excursions. 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 self-falling ride! But it’s not so bad as long as you are moving, which of course you are. It took a while to grow on me, but I do love the Prodigy on a smooth closed course.
Shortly thereafter 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.
After my very brief A6 ownership, I bought Scooter number nineteen, and for the first time I bought a used one. Why? Because I thought the last one had 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 was happy to get back onto a Ped, my fifth! Yes, the deck height is higher than ideal at around 90 mm, but there is something great about KickPeds and Know-Peds.
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, which I saw being tested as a prototype in Venice, probably in the late 80s. While the GoPed has all but vanished, and good-riddance, the Know-Ped keeps going, under new ownership.
Despite having had less than favorable opinions about Razor A4, A5 and A6, my 20th kick scooter is actually a Razor. A Razor A5 Air, with eight inch (200mm) air tires.
The Razor A5 Air is very different to the A5 I had years ago. Anti-rattle developments and an extremely low deck make a huge difference. I knew going in what a nightmare a 200 mm pneumatic tire can be. My electric Turbowheel Dart was an awful thing to get a puncture on. But the A5 Air has split rims front and rear, so no tire spoons are needed when the inevitable happens.
My first use of the A5 Air was in my controlled environment, a figure 8 course through my driveway and garage. I rotated between the new A5 Air, the KickPed and the Envy Prodigy S8 Street, which was a great way to evaluate the new scooter.
I loved the A5 Air right away. It is smooth, and rolls surprisingly well on the stock bearings. It really is a perfect little folding scooter to have around and I recommend all scooter enthusiasts try one.
The most astounding thing is the deck height. It is a mere 58mm off the ground (including the unneeded grip tape). You barely have to dip the standing leg to get a nice push. Ground clearance is accordingly small also at just 39 mm, but the bottom of the deck is smooth metal that will not become a strong brake, like the bottom of a Xootr Mg for example.
I am enjoying the very affordable Razor A5 Air. It is safely rideable over surfaces that I feel nervous about taking urethane wheels over. I have removed the funny little kickstand, the unnecessary grip tape and all of the decals, to make it a matte black mean-looking ride, and upgraded the grips, although the stock grips were not bad. I also later upgraded the bearings to Bones® REDS®.
Never immune to a poorly considered idea, I tried making a scooter out of a longboard using a helper handlebar type device bolted over the front trucks. I decided that with all my scooter experience, I should try some sort of skateboard, but I really did not want to fall off a skateboard, even once, so this bad idea was tried.
However, having chosen a drop down deck longboard to make it close to the ground, I quickly surmised that the turning radius on such a beast was absolutely enormous, and I would not be able to ride around my fairly tight regular route without picking it up incrementally just to steer around a curve. So that didn’t work! Yes a cruiser or surf-skate board can turn on a dime, but then the added bar would be over the spot where I’d have to stand and it would swing far over to the inside of the turn and be out of reach! As I said, a terrible idea.
Despite it being very difficult to buy and sell used scooters when based in Hawai’i, I decided to let my 5th Ped, the customised KickPed, go to a new owner after ten months of it mostly sitting on the wall rack getting dusty. The ultra-low deck of the humble Razor A5 Air was the ultimate cause. When going to grab a scooter and seeing the KickPed and the A5 Air, the Razor always ended up in my hands.
To replace the KickPed I bought a Razor A5 DLX. A very different scooter to the original A5 Red/Blue/Lux, this DLX shares the rattle-free closure and very low deck features of the A5 Air, except that it comes with the 200mm urethane wheels. Another $100 bargain from Razor. It is excellent and fast, and I discovered that removing the grip tape made foot switching easier, and removing the ineffective stomp brake made stopping many times easier, using the sole of a sneaker directly on the wheel.
An opportunity arose to acquire an Oxelo Town 9EF, version 1, a very popular European folding scooter that is not available in Hawai’i. It has some miles on it but I got a good deal buying used. A comparison between this and the Razor DLX is here on the-vu. It is designed to be the perfect folding commuter, but it is a little heavy, high up and slow for me. In addition I think I have worn out my tolerance for urethane wheels now and am developing an obsessive appreciation for a nice-looking air tire.
Thinning the herd. I sold my Prodigy S8 Street at a considerable loss to a kid who frequents the skate park, and I sold the Oxelo that did not please me. Then I ordered a heavily discounted open box Mongoose Expo, fully knowing it is not a great scooter, but I was feeling nostalgic for my old 80s BMX and it is about the same in spec. This Mongoose arrived with many issues and missing hardware pieces so I had to return it, but I did get an opportunity to loose-fit the bars and wheels and I determined it was big enough for a 170 cm or 5’7″ lunatic to play on in comfort.
So after returning the Mongoose I bought the only other thing resembling an eighties-style scooter, a Razor Flashback. Sadly, while this was engineered to a surprisingly high level of excellence and was high quality throughout, I did not keep it because the bars were about 5 inches lower than I would have liked, and it was really slow due to the low maximum pressure tires.
My most recent acquisition is a Yedoo S2020. A compact sport scooter with high pressure road tires. I look forward to a long relationship with this one, as it has the best features of all my former larger wheeled foot bikes, plus the compact size that allows its use in smaller areas.
I sometimes wonder, If I had never sold any, and still had every single one of these to compare side by side in the same space and on the same course, how would I rate them? I might still end up with the same compulsive favorite, the inexpensive Razor A5 Air. It is the combination of air tires and low deck that makes it such a winner. But I most likely only feel this way because my usage has changed. I no longer go very far nor very fast, and I keep away from the streets where the cars are.
For pure nostalgia, my 1988 Ninja Scootech GT Zoot Scoot would take the prize.
The big conclusion
Unlike bicycles, which are machines, kick scooters can be slow and tiring to ride, unless you are a foot bike athlete capable of sustained high speeds. For recreational scooter use, slowly sauntering along for a shorter distance on a smooth surface may be the epitome of the scooting experience, and anyone can do it.
Jeffrey the Barak is the publisher of the-vu and as of 2022 has bought and sold, or kept, at least twenty-three kick-scooters and five electrics.
Antique balloon tyre
Ninja Scootech GT Zoot Scoot 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)
Razor A5 Air. (Still have this)
Yocaher drop down longboard with Swerv-Stick handlebar
Razor A5 DLX. (Still have this)
Oxelo Town 9 EF (V1)
Mongoose Expo 12″ BMX
Razor Flashback 12″
Plus a few editorial loaners between 1997 and 2020
12 thoughts on “Six Decades of Scooting”
Growing up in an amusement park! Every child’s dream! (If you haven’t already done so, read Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life .”)
If I still lived in the Milwaukee area, I probably would not have gotten into kick scooting because it was hilly and the parking was easy. Here on the East Coast in the NYC area, kick scooters provide convenient transportation where just about everything else fails.
I hope people read your other article on the subject in addition to this one, and then, after reading, give several of the models you’ve ridden a try. Kick scooting is fairly inexpensive and a perfect urban sport that gets one from here-to-there without intimidating pedestrians.
Besides NYC and our area in New Jersey, we have scooted several times in and about Washington DC, along the East Coast, through Florida, New Orleans, and San Antonio. In Europe, we covered every corner in Paris, checked the coastline along Nice, and joined the locals of The Netherlands on small wheels among their tens of thousands of bikes. The best think about kick scooters they are easy to pack and ship. Don’t leave home without one!
Thanks for the article and your insights.
Thanks for the time warp and sharing your journey. I like seeing photos of the old scooters. Way to have caught on to the simplicity of scooters way before me.
I’m of the same feeling about smaller wheel footbikes (12-20 in. front, 12-16 in. back). They are smooth-ish riding, light and compact. I ride on trails with walkers and runners. My Sidewalker Atom is very quick to navigate close with confidence and without, seemingly, intimidating anyone. The stem extender/column folds down, so it fits small spaces. It’s not as slick folding as your Peds.
Going back to your BMX scooter days, I upgraded mine to Skyway Tuff wheels with fast ABEC sealed bearings. I use high pressure Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires. I have about 850 miles on my Atom with this setup in the last 6.5 months. I attached a Profile Design Jammer GT (one side) aerobar to the column and added two water bottle cages and a place for my headlight.
I agree with Karen about portability. It’s hard to make an excuse not to scoot when I have one close at hand. If I needed to travel farther or faster, it would make sense to invest in a larger footbike.
Best for you next ride.
Rich-Rally, That is exactly what I would do if I got another 12 incher. Skyways with Bones Reds or similar. Much better than small bike wheels and their bike bearings. And Schwalbe Marathons are excellent tires too. You have to maximize your output when your input is just a kick.
Xootrs rock! Here are some ways to re-purpose an old cheap scooter. We’re all about being eco-friendly! http://www.xootr.com/blog/better-uses-for-cheap-kick-scooters
Excellent reading..Thank you..Started riding bikes little late in life was around 50..now been riding kick scooter the last 3 or 4 years along with a trike…am now 73…now have a razor a5 lux converted to air tires and a couple months ago a razor a5 air…the air works great for me ..did inflate the tires to around 80 but very secure feeling when riding and pretty comfortable…I did “rig ” it so it does fold and no noise..greatly enjoy your articles..Than you..
I agree! I love my A5 Air. It is so affordably priced and performs so well.
Hey, thanks for letting us know about it,
This was a great read Jeffrey.
I currently have a Xootr MG, which I’ve found myself avoiding due to the bumpyness of my local roads. It’s a dream on a newly paved road (like those on my daughter’s college campus) but those are few and far in between from my location. I’ve also taken more spills than I’d like to admit due to minimal moisture on the wheels each time.
In looking for something a bit more forgiving, that also didn’t shake the fillings out of my teeth, I came upon your blog, and while I’m not 5’7 (closer to 6’1) you convinced me to get an A5 Air. I worried I would be too large for it, but a 30min ride on my young son’s A5 Lux, further convinced me that I was probably just at the comfortable limit.
With that knowledge, I made a Facebook Marketplace deal to pick one up today, but was alas delayed until tomorrow morning.
Rest assured that your insight has been appreciated.
The bars should go high enough for you! I have more than six inches or unused bar height to spare on mine. It may be slower than a Xootr, but you can ride it on surfaces that make a Xootr unrideable.
Got it this morning. The bars are fine. I’m proceeding cautiously on this first day, because as you know the ground clearance is pretty tight, but it feels marvelous.
Thank you, again.
I can’t thank you enough for all these little mini reviews, you’ve saved me so much money on ones I was so curious to try but wasn’t all in on. I was delighted to come back months later and see new scooters added on. I am a scooter enthusiast now at 45 because it doesn’t hurt my knees like biking, and I love the sensation of it more.
I started with a Walmart Halo (knock off Razor) adult scooter with a deck that is a bit too high, and now have Kickbike sport g4. But I truly love the personal, manuverability and controllable feel of the smaller ones. So thanks to this I’ve decided to try and Razor Air next, and possibly a used A5 Lux or DLX since the I love the quickness of a hard wheel and want close to the ground deck.
There is a scooter you have not mentioned that I’m wondering if you’ve tried, that I myself am curious to try. The Amish scooters. I notice they’re close to the ground and their 16 inch wheel one seems small enough. Have you ever tried one before? Please give your take if you have. It looks like it might be a smaller than your Yedoo which looks nice by the way. Do you like your Yeedoo better than the millenium racer you had. Thanks and for all these takes and reviews. This is like being a kid in a toy store for us scooter/ kickbike lovers.
Shipping to Hawaii, where I now live, makes the Amish scooters as expensive as a much better European scooter. I dare say if I lived on the mainland I would have tried one such as the 2020 or the 1616. One thing that is barely noticed is, Amish scooters are weird. While all other bikes use metric millimeter wrenches, and three sizes of metric Allen wrenches, and take easy to find tires, features of an Amish date back to imperial bike tools. Even (some of the) tires they use are very unusually sized. Their best feature is the very low deck height. Yes, I prefer my Yedoo to either of my Kickbikes. But those are great too.