Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Razor A5 Scooter: Some Observations and Modifications

While my NYCeWheels KickPed is a terrific scooter and well worth it's current $260 price tag, I've been wondering how well a less expensive scooter would perform. While many scooters are sized for kids and have tiny wheels, the Razor A5 is rated for riders up to 220 pounds and it features large, 200mm wheels. This scooter is currently selling for well under $100 on Amazon, so I figured "what the hell" and ordered one for myself.

The warning sticker on the A5 amused me.

At full extension, the A5's handlebar height is the same as my K ickPed's. Note, I have the "short rider" version of the KickPed, recommended for riders 5'7" and under. Riders above 5'10" or so are probably going to be too cramped on an A5.

The A5 bars are narrow and the grips are tiny. Too narrow and tiny for my tastes, but I have some ideas about that.

The Razor's deck is smaller than the KickPed's. This could be problematic for folks with big feet.

The Razor A5 is smaller and lighter than the KickPed and it folds smaller. The folding handlebars let it become a really thin package, but in day to day use, I found myself lowering the stem and folding the scooter, but not folding the bars.

The aluminum Razor A5 has hard polyurethane wheels and it has a harsher, louder ride than the KickPed. In terms of speed and kicking effort, the two scooters seem about the same to me.

The narrow bars made the A5's handling too twitchy for my tastes. I found a Youtube video of a guy who added 18" wide bars to his Razor. I thought this looked like a good idea. While he used aluminum for his bars, I decided to try using an oak dowel instead. The oak is inexpensive (I got a 36" long 7/8" diameter dowel for under $5 at my local hardware store) and I figured the wood would provide some natural vibration damping. Wood, after all, is nature's original carbon fiber.

I removed the stock bars. The oak dowel was a snug fit into the aluminum collar, so I cut two nine inch lengths off the dowel, sanded them smooth and finished them with Danish Oil and then gently pounded each one into the collar. I drilled pilot holes and secured the dowels with brass screws.

The A5 still folds into a fairly compact package, but it's not as quite as small as before.

While the wood bars looked great with just the Danish Oil finish, I did add grips and a bell and a light for practical reasons.

This is still a pretty handsome scooter cockpit.

Another view of the fold. The Razor folds pretty quickly. There is one toggle for the hinge and one quick release to lower the bars.

Out of the box, the Razor A5 is rather noisy. Most of the noise comes from metal on metal interfaces at the hinge. I applied a bit of Velox cloth rim tape to a couple of the surfaces and now my A5 is much quieter.

The rear fender of the A5 serves as a brake and it seems quite effective. With the larger, harder wheels the fender braking on the A5 is quicker than the fender braking on my rubber-tired KickPed. While I added a hand brake to my KickPed, in the month or so I've used it, I haven't found it to be a "must have". I have no plans to add a hand brake to the A5.

The deck of the A5 is just big enough for my size 9 feet (with a little bit of creative footwork when I switch off which foot is kicking). The ride of the A5 is harsher than that of the steel-framed, wood-decked KickPed.

It's obviously unfair to expect a sub-$100 scooter to perform like a machine costing several times as much and I have to say I'm impressed with how good the A5 actually is. The build-quality and finish of the scooter is very nice and with these few adjustments and modifications, it's a very fun, solid feeling scooter.

I am toying with the idea of sawing the deck in half and extending the length of the scooter by several inches. I'd have to bridge the two halves with either strong wood or metal, but the added foot space would be welcome and the longer wheelbase could improve the comfort of the ride. I'm not sure that I'll do this, I want to ride the A5 a bit more before I decide.

I feel the stock A5 is well worth its selling price. And as a platform for tinkering, it's first rate. My main complaint with my KickPed has been that it really didn't need any changes!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Adding a Hand Brake to a KickPed

While I hadn't felt the need for a hand brake on my KickPed in the first year I owned it, certain members of the Let's Kick Scoot Forum are such huge proponents of hand brakes, that I got to wondering what I was missing. Given that I'm a bike mechanic by trade and will take almost any excuse to go to the hardware store, I put together a hand brake for my KickPed.

The brake lever I used is a little DiaTech BMX lever that I had in my parts box. I combined this with some other bike bits (a brake cable and housing, a cable binder bolt, a barrel adjuster and a brake pad) together with some parts I picked up at my local Lowe's hardware store. Someone with a less extensive home collection of bike bits could buy a Promax Brake Assembly and get all the bike-specific bits in one package. A trip to the hardware store is still needed for a few bolts, nuts and other metal bits.

The pictures tell the main story, but here are a few notes that may make things a bit clearer.

I didn't have to drill or cut anything on the Kickped, so assembly was easy. Best, if I didn't like the outcome, I knew I'd be able to completely remove the parts, returning the Kickped to its original state.

I replaced one of the rear deck bolts with a stainless steel 1/4-20x1-1/2 bolt. This longer bolt serves as the brake pivot.

The brake arm is a Stanley 3"x3" T-Plate. I gave the stem of the T a half-twist with a pair of pliers so the brake shoe would line up with the edge of the tire.

The big spring holds the brake away from the rear wheel when the brake lever is not pressed. When I press the brake lever, the spring compresses, the arm pivots and the brake pad rubs the tire.

1" steel corner braces are used for the cable stops. I used various washers and nuts to get the spacing right for the brake pivot and the proper tension on the spring.

My first test of the brake was a scooter trip in the rain. It worked!

The KickPed's rear stomp brake is not very efficient in wet conditions and the hand brake with its rubber on rubber interface is an improvement. The one-sided (versus dual) hand brake seems to be efficient enough. This isn't a stop-on-a-dime brake, but I did a little testing in the Issaquah, Washington, drizzle.

Our paths are concrete with seams every six feet. To test, I counted the seams to see how long it would take to go from speedily rolling to a stop once I hit the brakes. Here's what I found:

Using the stock fender brake alone - 5 seams, or 30 feet.

Using my hand brake - 3 seams or 18 feet.

Using both the fender brake & hand brake - 2 seams, or 12 feet.

This test was conducted on a slick day and the distances were reached on level ground. My speed measurement was based upon how far it took me to go from about 8 mph down to 0 mph. Your mileage may vary.

In dry conditions, both the hand and fender brakes work well.

The outer arm of the T-Plate extended slightly past the edge of the KickPed deck. so I bent the little excess bit over with a pair of pliers.

The hand brake has proven to be, well, handy! It's not the prettiest thing, but it works fine and I think it's a keeper. It adds a little bit of weight to the KickPed and I'll be keeping an eye on brake pad and tire wear.

Keep 'em rolling (and slowing and stopping!)


Friday, May 16, 2014

Pictures from Issaquah's Bike To Work Day

Today was Bike To Work Day. I was helping out at the Issaquah checkpoint over by Lake Sammamish State Park. Nobody had any major mechanical problems, but I did get to patch one slow leaking inner tube and air up a couple of low tires.

I had to leave around 9:00 AM to go to work, but by then we'd already had over 120 riders pass through our checkpoint. We don't have any firm numbers, but I'd guess there are at least several hundred other bike commuters in Issaquah whose routes don't intersect our checkpoint. But we did get to equip several hundred happy riders with coffee, bananas and Clif Bars.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#30DaysofScootering: The End Is Not The End

Today is the last day of April, the last day I've committed to this odd promise of scootering and blogging every day. I leave far too early for a meeting with a friend where we'll solve the problems of the world. I allow extra time to wander, to stop, to take a picture or a note. These are my habits now.

I doubt I'll keep to the daily blogging discipline, that still feels like a chore, but the camera falls easily to hand and my feet tread scooter deck or street with equal ease. Scootering has become as habitual as a heartbeat.

Thoreau had his walks around Concord, I have my scooter trips around Issaquah. There are animals I've come to know, birds, trees, flowers, ponds. It would seem unnatural not to visit, or at least non-neighborly. My neighborhood has made me neighborly.

The birds are mostly used to my not talking, so I'm not here to say goodbye or to promise I'll be back tomorrow.

But every day of these past thirty has shown me something and the things I've seen bring me back, later, to see more.

I'm no longer promising a report every day, but every day delivers something promising and these past thirty have helped me learn to look. I wont stop looking.

And so I'll keep rolling, wandering. And maybe blogging now and then. About what I've found while out and about on my feet or my bike or my scooter.

8.44 miles of scootering today, bringing my April total to 242.23 miles.

Thanks for putting up with the #30DaysofScootering.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#30DaysofScootering: What I Talk About When I Talk About Scootering

Haruki Murakami wrote a terrific book called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It is about running and writing but ultimately it is a book about life. As I read Murakami's book I found myself editing his experiences into my life. Where he talks about running, I would see myself scootering or bicycling. The lessons are the same.

Here is what Murakami has to say on pages 43-45 in my copy of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

When I tell people I run every day, some are quite impressed. "You must really have a strong will," they sometimes tell me. Of course, it's nice to be praised like this. A lot better than being disparaged, that's for sure. But I don't think it's merely willpower that makes you able to do something. The world isn't that simple. To tell the truth, I don't even think there's that much correlation between my running every day and whether or not I have a strong will. I think I've been able to run for more than twenty years for a simple reason: It suits me. Or at least because I don't find it all that painful. Human beings naturally continue doing things they like, and they don't continue what they don't like. Admittedly, something close to will does play a small part in that. But no matter how strong a will a person has, no matter how much he may hate to lose, if it's an activity he really doesn't care for, he won't keep it up for long. Even if he did, it wouldn't be good for him. 
That's why I've never recommended running to others. I've tried my best never to say something like, Running is great. Everybody should try it. If some people have an interest in long-distance running, just leave them be, and they'll start running on their own. If they're not interested in it, no amount of persuasion will make any difference. Marathon running is not a sport for everyone, just as being a novelist isn't a job for everyone. Nobody ever recommended or even desired that I be a novelist -- in fact, some tried to stop me. I had the idea to be one, and that's what I did. Likewise, a person doesn't become a runner because someone recommends it. People basically become runners because they're meant to.
Still some might read this book and say, "Hey, I'm going to give running a try," and then discover they enjoy it. And of course that would be a beautiful thing. As the author of this book I'd be very pleased if that happened. But people have their own individual likes and dislikes. Some people are more suited for marathon running, some for golf, others for gambling. Whenever I see students in gym class all made to run a long distance, I feel sorry for them. Forcing people who have no desire to run, or who aren't physically fit enough, is a kind of pointless torture. I always want to advise teachers not to force all junior and senior high school students to run the same course, but I doubt anybody is going to listen to me. That's what schools are like. The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can't be learned at school.

Sometimes I stay inside and read books. Sometimes I grab my scooter and head out the door.

It suits me to ride my scooter every day.

Someone might read this blog and then say, "Hey, I'm going to give scootering a try."

And then discover they enjoy it.

Of course, that would be a beautiful thing.

As the author of this blog, I'd be very happy if that happened.

The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can't be learned at school.

There is beauty all around.

Sometimes the best thing to do is roll out the door to find it.

3.81 miles of scootering today, bringing the April total to 233.79 miles.