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article imageMicro Scooters And Kickboards - Fuelling A New Adult Trend

By Sarah Hans     Aug 17, 2001 in Lifestyle
KUESNACHT, SWITZERLAND (dpa) - Scooters are no longer just child's play. Micro-scooters have become a feature of city life since they were first launched by a Swiss company in 1999.
"Even bankers in suits and ties now scoot from one appointment to the next," said Jan Ouboter, of Micro Mobility Systems in Kuesnacht, Switzerland.
This summer the trend is set to continue, as manufacturers improve their earliest models and equip them with wider boards and higher handlebars.
"Even tall people can now ride a scooter safely," said Alexander Laube, spokesman K2 in Penzberg, in the southern German state of Bavaria, makers of kickboards.
New sporty models aim to present experienced riders with new challenges. The Carve Two model from K2 has an aquiline board and four wheels enabling riders to make "more radical turns and ride at extreme angles. In summer it will also be launching a Cruiser scooter on two wheels.
Sales figures show city scooters, that have two wheels, and high- tech kickboards, with three wheels, are a booming fashion. Micro Mobility Systems in Switzerland last year sold around a million scooters, while the German variety K2 sold 250,000 kickboards.
Copycat manufacturers have been quick to latch onto the bandwagon with cheaper models starting at just 50 marks (23 U.S. dollars) in the supermarket.
These have not yet been consumer-tested. But the Pro Kick and Kick Two models from K2 have received good marks from German consumer experts Stiftung Warentest, as did the Classic Scooter from Micro.
Alexander Laube has a simple explanation for their success. "It's the smallest possible means of transport, they can be taken anywhere."
Scooters are between five and seven times faster than walking, even though the German motoring organisation ADAC says they are officially classified as pedestrian and are therefore not allowed to be used on the road or cycle paths.
Yet manufacturers have made some small concessions to road safety. The Micro Scooter can now be fitted with a rear light. Extra protection such as helmet, knee and elbow pads as used by inline skaters, are also a good idea, said Herbert Noll of Stiftung Warentest in Berlin.
There are a number of essential differences between scooters and kickboards. While riders on two-wheel scooters always need two hands on the handlebars, three wheelers can be ridden one-handed.
"With two wheels in fronts and one at the rear, the rider stands on the board sideways," said Ouboter. The front column is used not for steering but simply to hold for balance. You steer by shifting your weight on the board.
A kickboard weighs up to a kilo more than the more compact scooter because of its longer and broader board. There is also a big difference in price. A city scooter costs between 130 and 270 marks (60 and 175 dollars) while a kickboard costs between 300 and 450 marks (130 and 210 dollars).
But despite their success, the manufacturers are not content to remain in the adult market. Micro Mobility Systems has launched a new children's model. The Bobbi Board takes account of four and five- year-olds less developed sense of balance than adults, said Ouboter.
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