June 10, 2011
On my first visit to the Fog Creek Software offices in 2008, I was surprised to see programmers zooming around the office on scooters. I didn't realize that scooters were something geeks would be into, but it sure looked like fun, albeit borderline dangerous fun, on the 25th floor of an office building in Manhattan.
It turns out that having children is a great
excuse reason to get into fun things like scooters. I didn't know much about scooters for adults, so being an obsessive geek, of course I had to research the heck out of this topic. My research turned up the Xootr MG as a top choice.
News flash: scooters are fun. Really fun!
But per my research (and now, personal experience) scooters are also surprisingly practical forms of transportation in certain situations, namely when …
- you need to travel 1-3 miles
- the route is not too hilly
- it is not raining or wet
- the route is mostly paved or has sidewalks
- you are comfortable being "that awkward looking guy on a scooter"
Scooters are very primitive machines; it is both their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. It's arguably the simplest personal wheeled vehicle there is. In these short distance scenarios, scooters tend to win over, say, bicycles because there's less setup and teardown necessary – you don't have to lock up a scooter, nor do you have to wear a helmet (though I highly recommend one). Just hop on and go! You get almost all the benefits of gravity and wheeled efficiency with a minimum of fuss and maintenance. And yes, it's fun, too!
I'm just a scooter newbie, but the Xootr MG has a few characteristics I liked a lot, including rock-solid construction, a front brake (not super efficient, but reasonably effective when combined with the rear foot fender brake), and a wide, comfortable platform for your feet. But it does take some effort to kick around – don't forget to alternate your legs – and the ride can be rough at times depending on the surface. Large bumps and very uneven surfaces are wreck material. And going uphill on a scooter, beyond the absolute wussiest and mildest of grades, is simply out of the question.
For longer distances, or if the terrain is rougher or hillier, a scooter might work, but it'd be a tough way to travel. What you need in those cases is a small, portable bicycle – one you can take with you. I've dabbled in foldable bicycles before, and we own two Dahon folding bicycles. They're great, versatile and inexpensive bikes.
Dahon makes fine traditional folding bicycles, but they are not quite as pick-up-and-go as I would like for short trips. As an experiment, I purchased something I've had my eye on for a long time: the Strida LT folding bicycle. Or, as I like to call it, my "mid-life crisis vehicle".
(also pictured: some cool accessories that I recommend for Strida owners: a Cateye Reflex rear LED light on the rack, Knog beetle silicone front LED light on the handlebars, and a Sunlite Bicycle bungie cargo net.)
The appeal of the Strida is that it folds down to an incredibly small size.
It's almost a pogo stick in folded form. I took my Strida on a short trip into San Francisco for a speaking gig in the city, which involved riding on BART, and the Strida in practice is everything I dreamed a modern ultra-portable folding bicycle could be:
- front and rear disc brakes; superb stoppers
- belt drive so no grease on your hands or pants
- built in fenders in case you encounter puddles or rain
- comfortable, full size(ish) upright riding position
- super-easy, crazy fast folding: five seconds, no kidding!
- when folded, the bike can be propped by the rear rack (as pictured) or strolled along by rolling it on its wheels.
The Strida may look odd, and perhaps it is odd, but I found it to be shockingly close to an ideal go-anywhere do-anything convenience bicycle. It isn't perfect, of course:
- My only real beef with the Strida: the seat adjustment is horrendously kludgey. Adjusting the seat height on a Strida is painfully awkward even in the garage; on the go it's not an option.
- It is a small wheel bicycle, with all the unavoidable physical compromises that entails. It'll always be a little twitchy and not something you would want to go on a 10 or 20 mile ride with.
- It's a single speed, and you're not supposed to stand out of the saddle for power pedaling at any time. The frame and belt drive won't take it. On anything other than a moderate uphill you'll need to hop off and walk. (There is a slightly fancier Strida that has two internal hub gears, but I know nothing about it.)
- Because the fold involves a ball joint, it is possible to permanently damage the bike if you aren't careful when you fold and force it. I doubt this is a real concern for anyone who has folded a Strida more than once, but if a ham-fisted friend tries to fold your Strida to "test it out", you might be in trouble.
None of these criticisms apply to the Dahon, so hopefully you can get a sense of the dividing line between an ultra-folder and a plain old folding bicycle.
Being a geek, it's not like I spend a lot of time outdoors. But when I do venture outside, I like to travel in a manner befitting a geek. That is, with my utility belt fully equipped, and in the dorkiest, most efficient vehicle possible for a trip of that particular length. Scooters, folding bicycles, recumbents, pogo sticks … whatever it takes. If you, too, would like to geek out around town, consider adding the Xootr MG scooter and Strida LT folding bicycle to your stable of geek transportation systems.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
"You don't have to lock up a scooter" - really? You've never had an £70 scooter stolen from where you left it, then.
We have a Fuzion scooter, which is amazingly manuverable due to it's 360 degree handle turn radius, two joints in the front (so the handle can both lean left and right as well as turn left/right), and a wide deck for stability
Geek the Lifestylist? I am not laughing.
Kevin: Those would be called scooters here as well (or, with equal frequency, motor scooters).
Geeks with scooters are not a new thing. Back when I worked in San Francisco (summer 2000) and the razor scooter fad was hitting all the kiddos, myself and a handful of my geek friends (who were working in Silicon Valley at the time) all had them. It was a great way for me to get to work, although the one time I hit some of that soft gooey tar that they use to patch cracks in the ashphalt (and the ensuing trip over the handlebars) was a definite eye opener.
I remember being impressed with workers getting around Copenhagen airport on scooters. This video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDtatzPIpyc shows they also provide three-wheeler scooters for passengers and their luggage.
I've never really lived in an area where walking (or a scooter) is necessary or encouraged. First I lived in Dallas, which is massive, spread out, and you absolutely need a car to get around. Now I live in Colorado Springs, which is a little smaller but pretty much has the same story.
So my personal form of geek transportation is my turbocharged, AWD, Subaru with a driver-controlled center differential, intercooler sprayer, and a big wing. It's my guilty pleasure.
If I ever move to a place like New York I might have to cave in and get a scooter too. But can it be turbocharged? Hmm.
"You've never had an £70 scooter stolen from where you left it, then."
I think the point he's making is that it folds up small enough that you don't have to leave it anywhere.
@Charles Cook: Maybe it's a Danish thing. I remember wanting to be a doctor when I visited a Danish hospital as a 5-year-old and saw how all the employees used scooters to get around. The thought of using scooters as part of the job routine was very appealing :)
@Kevin D: They're "run wheels" in Danish...
You're not a true cycling geek unless you commute with a recumbent.
At the hardware (hardware as screwdrivers, iron, ... and not as HDD, CPU...) stores here the folks sometimes drives scooters, that are powered by an electric accu drill/screwdriver which you can plug at the rear wheel, looks really funny.
But the best comes: The manufacturer (Bosch) makes every year races with such "machines". This year the "HAWK" http://www.akkuschrauberrennen.de/dieherausforderer.html, is not build, no it is PRINTED with a 3D-printer. If that isn´t geeky, I dont know what it is.
What about the ultimate geek transporter known as the Segway?
You have way too much disposable income. The only reason I use a bicycle is because I can't afford a car (college student). How I wish I could help kill the planet faster.
I recently got a KickPed scooter ( http://www.nycewheels.com/kickped-kick-scooter.html ) and my short commute feels even shorter. I almost got a Xootr but the KickPed seems a bit more stable and has no problem riding over the not-so-smooth portions of the sidewalk (and can go over very rough cobblestone too, though I prefer not to).
The Xootr whilst fun, can indeed be pretty dangerous.
I was a bit careless on mine after owning it for a couple of weeks and ended up breaking my hip. They have little stability and if you come off, you will tend to topple like a tree rather than roll.
A Brompton is both better engineered than a Dahon, and folds more compact than either a Dahon or a Strida. However if you want a bike that is 'portable', but rides like a conventional bike (in fact better than a conventional bike) with no performance compromises, and suitable for long distances and high speeds, and truly represents a mid-life crisis, then you need a Moulton (http://www.moultonbicycles.co.uk/). Not necessarily the best portable bike... just the best bike, full stop.
For zipping around the office, surely a Segway has to be the most fun?
In college I lived about a mile away from my classes so I used rollerblades. I'd blade to the building and then throw on a cheap pair of flip flops around class.
Pros: Portable. Much faster than walking.
Cons: Need a paved path. Falling in front of your friends.
I was a few generations too late for the attachable skates to your shoes deal but I wonder if that wouldn't be a good idea to bring back. Like a slipper that you can just throw over your shoes to turn them into skates or blades; something a little more stable than Heelys.
I live in Lyon (2nd largest city in France). Here, Scooters are called Trotinettes, and they are serious business: you can see people of all ages rolling around on the sidewalks, from little children to suited up businessmen.
It's a really efficient way of transportation for short trips. They can be folded and carried around with a strap, so they are the ideal urban companion to mass transport system -- 300 mts to the subway station, 500 mts afterwards...
Personally, I like my hoverboard
I still think that for small/medium distance a longboard is the best.
Easy to bring in the bus and faster that a scooter.
Ha! I just bought a Strida too. However, I've been using a K2 Kick-Two kickboard for the past ten years. Durable, fast, compact, and more stable than the Xootr because it has three wheels, not two. Haven't fallen once, no helmet required. K2 doesn't make them anymore, but you can get the remake from a company called Crazy Creek: http://www.sportolino.de/Crazy_Creek_Kickboard.htm
I'm an American currently living in Vienna, Austria, and I can tell you that scooters are probably the most common form of assisted travel here. They're used by men and women in business suits, children, Hasidic Jews - everybody. I saw a mother using two scooters to drop her children off at school: the older child had her own scooter, and the younger child rode with both feet on the mother's scooter.
Closely following scooters in popularity are bicycles (some folders) and then long boards are a distant third.
I'm sorry, a scooter is not the vehicle for a mid-life crisis, whatever level of geekdom one aspires to. Mid-life crisis is about fast, reckless, unafforable vehicles that the purchaser mistakenly imagines will make him seem hip to younger women. IOW, a motorcycle. (I should know this, I've had several mid-life crises already.)
Joe, Clifford re: the Segway. A brilliant observation that Raymond Chen blogged:
"I used to own a Segway. I was floored by the engineering achievement of creating a device that combined the speed benefits of walking with the exercise benefits of driving, and for just the cost of a used Honda!" -- cited by Raymond Chen [http://bit.ly/iXwLqx]
Cyclops, I have a Trikke and they are amazingly fun. Easy to do a 3-5 mile commute on them, provided you have access to a bike path or a non-busy road. They take up a lot of horizontal space. You can use them on sidewalks, but it's not as fun.
Moving to Tokyo from Los Angeles really changed my perspective on transportation. Here the car is definitely low on the totem pole. It seems like every child here knows how to ride a unicycle by the time they're 9 years old. Old women ride up the hill I live on with bicycles (I'm so out of shape I routinely get beaten home by in-shape 70 year old ladies). And foldable bikes and razors are a common site on the train.
In the US most of the cities are built with cars in mind. Cars are definitely king. There's nothing wring with that, as long as an alternative to oil is found. But people do not get enough exercise.
Commander Keen, is that you?
I *love* my Xootr MG and have used it to commute to work in NYC and Santa Monica over the years, as well as using it inside offices in Manhattan and Austin. For Christmas, the work secret santa gave me a bell to put on it. :)
For getting around Sydney - Australia (I live quite close, but it could be combined with train travel easily), I use a Revo Sprint, electric scooter that I can fold up and charge under my desk (although a single charge gets me to and from work for 3 days, so I only bother charging at home).
Front brake? Sounds like a front flipping accident waiting to happen.
I have recently purchased an eZip 750 electric scooter from Currie Tech, after reading this article. It cost anywhere from $300-$400 depending where you buy it from. I have a 5 mile ride to work, and this scooter has a range of 12 miles. It takes me 20 mins to get to work each morning. I am very happy with my new transportation method.
Another benefit is that compared to a skateboard or a bike, it's easier to slow down and/or reliably jump off when pedestrian traffic is heavy.
Also, I notice cyclists hate it when you go faster than them on a scooter.
asigurari locuinteAnother benefit is that compared to a skateboard or a bike, it's easier to slow down and/or reliably jump off when pedestrian traffic is heavy.
My "portable vehicle" of choice is a unicycle (26" wheel in my case). It cuts the time in half compared to walking, and gets you mind off your troubles. Pretty much the same benefits as a scooter (good for ~1 mile trips, easy to stash) for about the same price (unicycles go much further on the high end, but a $150 one-wheeler is a nice ride). Requires a higher skill level and tolerance for odd looks, which is a benefit or drawback depending.
I throw mine in the back of a small hatchback and park a half mile from work in a super-cheep lot, then get out and one-wheel it to the office. Started off riding it back and forth to school, because hauling my bike up and down from a third floor apartment sucked, not to mention concerns over bike theft. Nobody steals a unicycle...
If you want a mode of transport with a bit of computer history, try the A-bike, invented by Clive Sinclair of Spectrum fame.
I have not used one but they look suitably weird to be the kind of thing that a programmer would love. There is also the C5 of course but then this would be the kind of thing that you'd have to bid ££ for on eBay.
I've been commuting daily for two years by bus + Strida (fairly customized by now), and I have nothing but praise for the bike.
Funny thing that my googling took me here when researching the Xootr MG. The reason being shorter distances, due to a new job (still the same bus though).
Being a .NET/software geek as well, it might not be so strange, since great minds think alike ;-)
See you at Øredev!
Funny - my scooter has a 582CC engine on it. Sure - it costs a lot more than those other options, but I don't mind because it will do 100MPH (US) and gets 52MPG around town in the summer months. Price? I got my 2003 Honda Silver Wing for $3,250 over a 17 months ago. It has already nearly paid for itself in savings versus driving my car.
You say you'd never want to go that fast when it's cold outside? No problem. I've been riding mine year-round in northern Illinois since I got it so when it gets cold, I just throw on a pair of snow pants and put my liner in my riding jacket (if I haven't already). In general, the only times I won't ride are when it's unsafe like when there's ice on the road, or lightning in the skies. I have ridden in dank (cold and wet/rainy) weather and tend to ride less at those times, but it won't keep me from riding by itself unless it's cold enough to cause ice to form on the roadways. Rain by itself doesn't usually stop me because I just throw my rain gear on. How much did all this outerwear add to the cost of my ride? About $750.
Regardless of how you get "there," get there in one piece and healthy.
I agree with John above; kick scooters by Micro rock. I have the black kick and I recently got mini kick scooters for my kids. Solid construction and every part is replaceable on the rare occurrence that something should break. Great Xmas gifts for the whole fam!
My office at Google in New York has scooters to ride around on :).
Check out my blog at www.gareth.es!
My office at Google in New York has scooters to ride around on :).
Check out my blog at http://www.gareth.es!