Ride Kick Scooters in New York City and When You Travel
>> As road trip experts, we've discovered that it is more interesting to walk through cities than to drive. Unfortunately, walks are limited by the rubber band effect (you can walk only so many miles out before having to return). Four to five miles of sightseeing, plus standing for long periods in select locations, is our max. We wanted to do more!
To increase our "on foot" travel distance and stay relaxed and energetic throughout long days of poking about, we bought two adult-type scooters.
Here is the criteria we used to determine what scooters to buy. They had to have:
- Pneumatic (rubber, air-filled) tires for cushioning. We needed these for the times when our path took us over light gravel.
- Standard bike brakes.
- A scooter deck large enough for a man's shoes (at least 14" or longer).
- Easy folding.
- The ability to roll the scooter when folded so it doesn't require excessive lifting and carrying.
- Support for riders up to 300 pounds.
- A price tag under $300.
- A kickstand (although not a deal breaker).
The Micro Sidewalker met our criteria. That said, this style of scooter requires a training period. (I'll discuss riding characteristic of a range of scooters later in this article.)
Of all our criteria, my husband most needed a foot deck long enough for his shoes (see above). Only two scooters, both in the mid-$200 price range, met his baseboard length and weight capacity requirements. They were the Micro Sidewalker, which we chose, and a Xootr (pronounced Zooter).
The most important criteria for me was to be able to roll the Micro Sidewalker when folded because I cannot carry any load over 5 pounds for a long distance.
To fold the Micro Sidewalker, you release a hing between the handlebar and the scooter body. This allows the handlebar to be folded next to the side of the scooter body.
Once the handlebar is folded and locked, it can be grabbed and carried by its tube (arrow 1). We, however, prefer to roll the scooter, so we wrapped a bungee-cord from the tire nearest the handlebar to the handle bar itself (arrow 2). This makes the structure rigid.
As you can see, the Micro Sidewalker is easy to pull. It can also be pushed comfortably like a shopping cart.
All scooters are relatively heavy, with a weight-range of between 8 and 15 pounds, depending on model. While a man might be able to walk for a distance carrying a folded scooter (such as required when traveling by subway, or when dragging it upstairs), most women would find it difficult. The ability to roll the Sidewalk Micro when folded is a huge plus.
Up (you "walk"), Down or Flat (you "scoot")
As everyone knows, road or sidewalk surfaces go up, down, or lay flat.
The idea of riding a scooter (like skiing or riding a skateboard) is to enjoy long periods of uninterrupted, downhill motion. On the flat, the idea is to kick as infrequently as possible to generate the most possible coasting distance.
As for going up even the slightest incline, I walk. Happily, pushing a scooter while walking actually boosts walking speed and comfort in a way similar to that of using trekking poles or a walking stick. I've found that walking a scooter up hill (even on the slightest slope) balances my body and relieves back pressure.
Learning to Ride a Micro Sidewalker
The distance between the foot platform and the ground is greater on the Micro Sidewalker, which has 12" diameter wheels, than it is on scooters with 7+" diameter wheels. In order to push forward on the Micro Sidewalker, you have to step down. This motion is not as pronounced on scooters with smaller wheels. The benefit of larger wheels, however, is that you travel a longer distance and need less pushing.
The recommended way to ride a Micro Sidewalker on a flat surface is to push with one leg, then the other, alternating at each stroke. Ideally, this should be done slowly and gracefully, resulting in a smooth glide. When you attempt this, forget what kids do when they get on their tiny-wheeled scooters! It takes a bit of practice to execute the alternate-step method, but mastery is worthwhile.
You control the speed of a Micro Sidewalker through its bike-type front and rear brakes. I ride mine with one or two fingers over each brake lever, instead of wrapping all my fingers around the handle bar. Although the scooter can travel quite fast, I hold its speed to what might be considered a slow jog. This allows me to hop off as needed without fear of falling on my face.
NOTE: Sidewalker USA recommends Skechers Shape-Ups as good scooting shoes.
Learning to Ride 7+" Wheel Diameter Scooters
While all scooters have similar characteristics, the step-down required to kick a 7+" diameter wheel scooter is much less than on a 12" diameter wheel scooter and almost no training is required to get used to it.
Of the next three scooters discussed in this article, only the Xootr has a front handbrake. The other two use a friction brake that looks like a rear fender. To control scooter speed on smaller wheeled scooters, you drag a foot, plus use whatever braking device is available.
No matter what scooter you buy, the goal is to spend most of your time gliding, not propelling yourself forward. If you live in a flat area, forward propulsion should be easy with as few kicks as possible. If you ride in a hilly area, walk up and enjoy the ride down.
I live in Weehawken, NJ, where all city land slopes to the Hudson River. This means that in a rectangular city block such as mine, I can start at one corner and walk upwards over half of its perimeter, then glide down the remaining half with almost no kicking. Fun!
In New York, the conveniently located Paragon Sporting Goods Store near Union Square carries a wide variety of scooters, but you might have a problem finding its scooter display because it is housed deep in its basement. Once there, you can try several brands designed for adults and kids alike. I tried the Razor 5A Lux and a variety of Kickboard-brand scooters. The minus is that your tryouts will be limited to short, narrow isles. On weekends, children love this department!
The Kickboard Black Scooter, above, has 7+" diameter wheels, weighs 11-13 pounds, has a 13" deck with a kickstand, is rated for riders at or under 220 pounds, and costs $200+. Its thick, cast urethane tires provide a smooth, well-balanced ride, and with its deck close to the ground, it is easy to ride, too. Brake the scooter by pressing on the back fender, as well as by dragging a foot.
I liked this scooter very much, however, its deck was too short for my husband's shoe, it had weight restrictions, and, once folded, it could not be rolled.
Note: If you shop on Amazon.com, this scooter is known as a "Micro." The actual scooter name depends on its color, such as the White Micro, or the Black Micro, It might also be named the White Kick or the Black Kick.
The Razor A5 Lux (above) has 7+" diameter, urethane wheels, weighs 8 pounds, 2.25 ounces (although is reported by the manufacturer to be 13 pounds), is exceptionally easy to fold, is rated for riders at or under 220 pounds, and uses a back fender brake. At under $100, it is a "best buy," ideal for people (especially women) on vacation who want to browse a wide area of a city center.
I was very drawn to this scooter because of its low price, however I recognize that it did not ride as smoothly as the Black/White Scooter. A further disappointment was that the deck was too short for my husband's shoe, it had weight restrictions, and, of course, it cannot be rolled when folded.
The Xootr scooter (above) appears to be the most popular adult scooter in New York City for use as a commuter vehicle and is seen frequently sharing streets with weaving taxi cabs. Three big plusses for this brand include the Xootr's approximate 24" deck length, its provision for up to a 250 to 300 pound rider, and its front brake (although I'd prefer a back brake). Depending on the model, an unadorned Xootr can weigh between 9.4 pounds and 11+ pounds. Prices range from $200 to $275.
While I admire the Xootr line, its very thin, hard tires do not provide as much riding comfort as do scooters with thicker tires and I'm not sure that I'd want to ride a Xootr over rough patches, gravel, or anywhere near sidewalk cracks. Because of their popularity, however, I would more favorably consider Xootrs for adult riders if, when folded, they could be rolled.
You can try Black/White Micros, the Razor A5 Lux, Know-Peds, the entire range of Xootr's, plus foldable bikes at NCEWheels at 1603 York Avenue. A big plus to shoping at this very small, somewhat out-of-the-way, but well-stocked store is that you can test drive their scooters on a typical (cracked) NYC sidewalk in front of their store.
Dorlene Kaplan (second from the right, above), founded the NYCKickScooter's Group (a member of Yahoo! Sports Groups) provided the above photo to show the wheel-size difference between Xootrs and a Micro Sidewalker (far right).
Dorlene typically drives her Razor A5 Lux on a daily basis through Central Park with her husband (second from left, above), finding the Razor easy-to-handle. Like me, however, she walks up even the slightest slopes.
As a scooting leader, Dorlene is a stickler for detail and is well aware that posted specifications aren't always accurate. To correct inaccurate Razor A5 Lux weight reports, she balanced her Razor scooter on a Cuisinart digital kitchen scale (see above photo) to identify its exact weight at 8 pounds, 2.25 ounces, making it the lightest scooter on the market (and possibly, good for dinner, too). She also points out that 7+" wheel diameters range from 7.1" to 7.8", depending on the scooter model.
Dorlene stresses that before buying any scooter, you need to know what you want to accomplish. Your weight and foot size, for example, might eliminate some scooter styles and elevate your purchase price. Concern for braking might also be an issue, especially if you scoot on a hilly area (more hills; better brakes). Under all circumstances, however, choose what you ride for the glide!
Of course, it takes more effort to travel over level terrain than it does to roll down hill. When traveling on the level, do not "scoot scoot scoot" like a wildly happy, speed-crazed child. Your objective is to cover as much ground as possible with as few kicks as possible.
No matter what scooter you buy, if you feel pressure in your knees or hips when you are riding it, you are probably pushing yourself uphill; a signal to hop off and walk.
Kickstart Scooters LTD
11 Old Orchard Grove, Toronto, ON, M5M 2C8
Contact Gideon Tomaschoff by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
tel (416) 702-3636
fax (514) 370-9876
Note: This line of scooters has been on the market for over 12 years and includes the 12" Micro (discussed in this article), the 20" Willy, and the 26" City Sidewalkers.
- To test drive a Sidewalker USA scooter:
In New York, contact Noam Tomaschoff by email at email@example.com, or call him at (917) 755-5953
In New Jersey, contact Karen Little by email Karen@littleviews.com. She'll be happy to let you ride a Micro Sidewalker!
- Kickboard - the White Scooter
- Razor A5 Lux
- Xootr Urban Transit
- NYCEWheels: 1603 York Avenue in New York City
- Paragon Sports: 867 Broadway near Union Square in New York City
- NYCKickScooters Group - Yahoo! Sports Group: Check out the website, follow comments, and perhaps ask Dorlene Kaplin a question: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions? Ask Karen at Karen@littleviews.com
Article by Karen Little. All photos except that of the Xootr and members of the NYCKickScooters
are by Karen Little. First published on 11/28/2010. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.