Monday, June 15, 2015

What I finally learnt about Push Scooters

It has now been about two weeks since Marcus and Agata rescued their almost virgin 2 push scooters from the basement, and began scootering on a daily basis.

This is a summary article, in the future there may be photographs of us using Scooters frequently, because now they match our needs closely.

You should be interested in Scooters if:

- You environment is not too wet
- You want to time shrink the walking part of a work commute or walk that is between 1 - 5Km
- Your surface is tarmac, pavement but not gravel
- You have a reasonable fitness level

Push Scooters are particularly attractive because

+ Low cost outlay  (<200 GBP, 300CHF or in Marcus' case a lot less!)
+ Portable and foldable after use
+ Weight < 5Kg usually

The Two Scooter types & Terminology
NB: here I'll not discuss the heavy and expensive electric scooter category. I'm just not interested, well so far!

Terminology:  By scooter we can also interchangeably use the generic terms kick scooter or push scooter.

The first of the 2 scooter types is the stunt scooter i.e. stunt push scooter. Well actually we can say Stunt scooter or Trick scooter.  Their home is the scooter park doing tricks or stunts obviously.

By definition these have small, usually metalcore wheels  (say 120mm diameter or less), a solid base  (deck), and a head tube welded to the base.  There is then a single metal handlebar with thick foam/ rubber absorbing grips.

These scooters are rock solid, but are not optimal on rough road surfaces including pavements due to small wheels, plus their heavy handlebars gives rise to a heavier weight than you might expect.

There are at least 4 different compression systems to attach the Handlebars to the headtube. So parts are NOT always interchangeable.

The second category of scooter that I'd define is the Adult scooter also and confusingly sometimes called the Kids scooter on websites.

Apart from forever young and trendy people like Marcus and Agata, and a few Adults reading this and using it as part of their commute, most scooters retail to kids.

This scooter type has characteristics

- 120mm or larger e.g. 200mm diameter wheels, better for longer distances or uneven surfaces like cobbles, pavements
- Foldable head tube.  A variety of designs
- Deck and head tube construction usually Aluminium
- Low weight considering larger size, usually < 5Kg
- Attachment of the Handlebar to the Head Tube using the Thread Compression System (TCS).  This was the original design used in Trick/ Stunt scooters also, but they migrated to other stiffer, complicated, expensive and more reliable designs.

A World of Compromises
What I really wanted was a large wheeled (200mm) ultra high quality scooter, with good brakes and an ultra light weight.  It needed to fold, head tube only, in practise the handlebars can remain out if you are on public transport or in a shop say.

But bad news.  After extensive searching, I conclude. 

No such scooter exists or can be modded except at freakish cost, and that mod might make it too heavy!

So, what do you really need, ideally?

+ Low Deck Height

The base height of the scooter is a critically important dimension and one that you overlook at your cost. 

The Razor A5 Lux had a 6cm deck height, which is very low considering it has 200mm diameter wheels.

When you push scooter one leg is on the deck whilst the other pushes the ground.  The lower the deck the less energy is required to make each push step.  It is that simple.

+ Good Brakes
The brake will stop you having a nasty accident so it needs to work effectively.  Unfortunately there is a design/ logic compromise.

A low deck with a large wheel is achieved above with the above curve.  Meaning deck to brake height is now by definition  > 200 /2 mm. (wheel radius). Meaning to brake you have to move foot from resting, to on top of the brake.  A large movement that takes time.

Smaller wheeled scooters don't have this compromise, so you can brake quicker.  Alternatively if you have a really high deck the deck to top of brake is more manageable, however then every push step you make (with high deck) is less energy efficient.

+ Folding
In Switzerland on a train or metro, unless the scooter is folder you need a ticket for your scooter.  Regulation  So folding here is not just a courtesy.  

+ Big Wheels
Some designs like the Hudora Big wheel have unequal front and back wheels and odd (i.e. not 200mm) wheel sizes e.g. 205mm and 230mm.  I think these designs are best avoided.  If you do manage to find some super dooper large wheels they will be 200mm.

+ A stand
Surprisingly useful,  Keeps the scooter upright whilst you trendily sit outside that cafe sipping a coffee.

+ Low Weight
Aim for 4Kg or less.  Some Decathlon designs are over 5.5Kg and that starts to get heavy   (although these weights are trivial compared to any production electric scooter, which are in fact not really carryable).

What don't you need
- A strap
Personal preference but I prefer to just hold the head tube with my hand.   The larger wheel scooters are upto 5Kg and this combined with the larger wheels rubbing against your clothing  (unhygenic) using a strap means I'm glad the Razor has no strap and no provision for one.

- Wobble
This is a real important point

We looked at many folding designs.  All of them are imperfect!   The Micro design is probably the most solid, but not the fastest to open and close.

The Razor is fast but a little wobbly when open.   Hudora Big wheel was excellent (but high ride height).  

Smartscoo (shown above) looks like it had the most elegant design but turned out to be the wobbliest ever.

Razor has an adjustment screw to cure all wobble, but when extended means you can't fold the scooter.  On our Razor I pushed the screw out as far as possible to minimise whilst still being able to fold.
- Folding Handlebars
It's a hassle so most people leave handlebars permanently sticking out.

Sticking with Stock
Comically the low price paid for Marcus's Razor scooter precludes most upgrades.  Pretty much if anything breaks:

- Order another scooter!
- Disassemble broken scooter, adding all working parts to emergency parts bin.

- Better bearings can be ordered, ABEC 11 to replace the stock ABEC 5

- I considered a stunt scooter fixed handlebar, but mounting them on the Razor's TCS compression system is only perhaps possible.  And the stunt handlebar is really heavy, thus actually introducing a huge weight penalty

Security Angle
Compared with a bicycle the key advantage for short commutes is that it's almost impossible to get your scooter stolen!

- An expensive road bike can be stolen in seconds  (well less than 30) whatever the lock using a motorised cutter. Our road bikes took months to order, build and test.  Regardless of the cost of replacement, the pain in the ass factor of a theft precludes their casual use whilst just popping out to the shops

- Scooters are allowed in Cafe's, your place of work, shops, lifts. Smaller, lighter and much quieter than a small child, should anybody challenge you.

- Foldable scooters can easily be placed on an Aeroplane or in the boot of even a Supercar.

The Future

- A great way to optimise your journey to work for city dwellers is to use public transport and a scooter for the remaining parts of the journey that you used to walk.  MUCH less time, some exercise, lots of fun, low cost outlay

- This rationale applies to us whilst working, and also when on vacation, or on an extended break, an Adult Scooter is a wonderful way to increase your mobility.

- All things considered the Razor A5 Lux is a good mix of light weight, large wheel, foldable, low deck height, and at the price hard to beat.  Get one!

Razor A5 Lux Initial Impressions
Learning about Push Scooters
Stunt scooters at Halfords info
Trick Scooters at Halfords info
Razor A5 UK official website
Razor A5 Lux Manual