Kick scooters

Is a kick scooter a good way to get exercise and have some fun? The answer is “not really” and “yes.”

As someone whose childhood was spent at the end of a dirt road, I didn’t have many opportunities to ride a kick scooter.  In fact, I didn’t think about them at all until they started to appear, seemingly everywhere, about six years ago. That’s when an elderly relative suggested I try out one of those $29.99 scooters that you’ll find at mass retailers during Midwestern summer months. I was surprised, but perhaps her thinking was “He likes to move on a snowboard in the winter, why not on a scooter during the summer?”

The unboxing

Earlier this year I purchased the Razor A5 Lux, which sports larger wheels than the models you’ll see the neighborhood kids riding. Equally important, it’s built to withstand the extra weight I was ready to throw on it. Amazon sold me one for $75. (Here’s a link if you’re interested.)

It came an a long cardboard box, via FedEx.

Scooter in the box

The A5 came collapsed. The task of “assembling” the scooter was easy, since the wheels and the handle were already attached.

The scooter out of the box

The only things left to do were to click the handles into place, and pull a release lever. Getting the lever to unlatch was the more difficult task of the two. The latch allows not only for the scooter to be shipped flat, but it also makes it easy to put the whole unit into the back of your car, or even carry it with you. It could make a decent complement to getting around by city bus or another form of mass transit. It weighs 10 pounds.

To get an idea of how large the wheels are, here’s a comparison of the front wheel of the A5 with a standard Razor.

The A5 has oversized wheels

If you don’t have a set of allen wrenches, shell out $10 to get one, as the instructions recommend that users tighten down things before heading out for the first time. I’d call that wise advice.

The Ride

Take a ride on both the A5 and its smaller cousin and you’ll quickly find out that the larger wheels of the A5 do a much better job of absorbing cracks in the pavement. The A5 is also better at rolling over debris such as small twigs or sand. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are still limits on the obstacles it can handle. We’re not talking about a mountain bike or even a skinny-tired road bike, after all. At some point, rolling up to a stick will cause the scooter to stop.

The A5’s deck isn’t perfect, but it works well. My size-11 shoes can comfortable rest side-by-side. The deck isn’t long enough for larger individuals to rest their feet heel-toe, but it might work for smaller feet. If you can’t place both feet completely on the deck heel-toe, you’ll have them either side-by-side, or keep the heel of your back foot off the deck, which is less troubling than it sounds.

Given the scooter’s small length (31 inches), you might have trouble controlling it by turning alone. So it’s helpful that there’s a brake over the rear wheel. Step on it and the brake grinds against the wheel, slowing you down to to a stop. If you’re new to scooters, it may be worth experimenting with the brake on shallow inclines before taking it down steeper hills.

One evening I took it to the top of a long but modest hill, racing against a 12-year old nephew who was riding on a smaller model. Though he had a 10-second head start, I quickly overcame him, and continued to ride much longer than him, for one-fifth of a mile. The top speed was 18 miles per hour, about the speed of a moderately energetic bicycle ride. On casual rides on flat ground, I averaged 6 to 8 mph.

As with snowboarding, you have to choose a leading foot. Unlike snowboarding, one leg actually has to do more work than the other, so you may find yourself alternating positions throughout a ride. It may take a few minutes to get comfortable changing feet.

I ride a snowboard goofy-footed, and find that it’s more natural to ride the scooter the same way. While it sounds ridiculous to say the scooter has a learning curve, you may find things to experiment with along the way. Initially, for example, I found it easier to tilt the deck to match the action of my pushing foot: Before I planted my right foot on the ground, I would give the deck a slight tilt to the right.

Though you can scoot uphill, it gets tedious. So if you take on anything other than the most modest of hills, you may find yourself walking. In addition to being work, scootering a steep fill is simply not enjoyable.

But is it exercise?

It’s fun to tool around on the A5 scooter, at least for short distances. The other night I wanted to make a quick trip around the neighborhood. The tires on my road bike needed some air, and I just didn’t feel like digging out the tire pump. So the scooter was the toy of choice, and I had a fine time going around several blocks.

So it’s fun. But is it exercise? Not more than normal walking, and perhaps even less. To evaluate the utility of the A5, I took three trips on it. I tracked my progress with the app “MapMyRide,” on an iPhone in an area with good cell coverage. Two trips were roughly 1.7 miles long, while a third was 3 miles long. Though each trip had a few small hills, the elevation change was minimal.

In short, I found that riding a kick scooter is not a great way to burn calories. According to MapMyRide, I burned, on average, 300 calories an hour on the A5. When I compared scootering to activities such as as alpine walking (440), mountain biking (600), and traditional cross-country skiing (900), I concluded that it’s more about having fun than getting a serious workout. On the other hand, if you’ve been sedentary for a few days, it is a decent way to stretch your legs.

In my experience, the kick scooter is not a way to get around quickly either, coming in at 7 mph, on average. It is faster than my record in Nordic walking (3.8) and cross-country skiing (4 to 6 mph), but it’s still slower than mountain biking or road cycling.

At $75, the A5 isn’t the cheapest scooter around, but you do get some decent wheels. It should be considered the baseline for adult cruisers. If performing skateboard-like tricks are for you, look elsewhere, as this unit is too big and inflexible to do much other than give you a smooth(ish) ride. If you want to steep up in stability and quality of construction, check out the KickPed, which NYCEwheels sells for $259.

2 Responses to Kick scooters

  1. Kscoot says:

    Great article! I wrote a review on the Razor A5 Lux if you’re interested at http://kickscooter.org/razor-a5-lux-scooter-review.

  2. spry9 says:

    I was wondering about how good a workout one can get from using this, so thank you. Though I think it will be an excellent way to give my small dog more of a workout instead of just walking. We both love it when I put the roller blades on, but their kind of a pain to have to always carry sandals and socks to the end of our gravel driveway before putting them on and off, plus I can’t go in any stores or buses with roller blades on. Not as good a workout for me, but still a workout.

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