Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Xoot past the gas pumps


My friend Charlie has an answer to city traffic jams and high gasoline prices. It's the Xootr, an adult-sized collapsible kick scooter that looks like a skateboard on a stick.

The Xooter costs less than a Vespa or a bicycle and it's a lot more portable. Charlie keeps his in the trunk of his car when he's commuting from Southern Indiana to his job in downtown Louisville. If the bridge across the Ohio River is backed up, he'll park on the Indiana side and scoot across the bridge. On days when he drives all the way to to work, he might get pumped for the day by doing a slalom run down from the upper floors of his parking garage.

When the Xootr is in his office, he sometimes uses it to get to an appointment or a lunch date downtown. Walking six or eight blocks typically takes about 12 minutes, he said. "On this thing, it's four minutes."

The Xootr has the same general design as the one you might have has as a kid. It's got a pair of wheels fore and aft on a low platform with handlebars on a vertical post at the bow.

But that's where the similarities end. The Xootr uses high-grade industrial materials, like magnesium for the lightweight deck, polyurethane for the tires, and wheels that glide along on ball bearings. There's a hand brake on the handlebars and a foot brake over the rear wheel. The deck is long and wide enough for two adult feet to stand comfortably and the front post can be adjusted for riders of different heights.

Xootr's kick scooters and a line of folding bikes are sold through the Xootr website where prices start at about $200. The scooters can be tricked out with accessories like a shoulder strap or a bike bag.

The Xooter's low center of gravity makes it surprisingly easy to ride. In my test runs, I was off and rolling from the first kick. I could push my way up a slight incline with just a couple of kicks and felt like Shaun White on the downhill return. After building a little more confidence, I got my dog to come with me. She trotted on the end of a leash while I rolled and we cruised for a couple of blocks without a mishap.

Charlie says he has to watch for sidewalk cracks and rocks bigger than a marble can be troublesome. He said his only tumbles have been self-inflicted, like the times when he tried to jump a curb like a skater dude.


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