Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Micro Kickboard Original and other imperfect means of travel

When I went back to the UK at Easter, I was determined to get myself an A-bike (normally I would link to the site of the product itself, but unbelievably, it's down for 'site maintenance'. How pathetic). The idea was to use the A-bike for trips to the pub in the evening to see my friends when I'm in the UK, and take it back to Japan on the plane. Here I would use it to ride to the station, fold it up on the train, and ride it in town on whatever errands I might have (mostly drinking). I contacted sales at A-bike and they 'thought' the new version of the A-bike 'might' be out by April 1st. It's now July, and their website has disappeared.

So as an alternative, I looked at scooters, otherwise known as 'kickboards'. I'm always tempted by unorthodox kit of any sort, and so I was immediately drawn to the Micro Kickboard Original, with its groovy 3 wheels and knobstick. I own an Outback mountainboard which has a similar front end and which carves in a blissfully loopy fashion. I figured that the Micro Original might do something similar in a smaller, portable package. Well I got one, and it doesn't.

I ordered it before I left Japan, took delivery in London, and brought it back on the plane. I'd hoped to have it as hand luggage, but no such luck.

Micro Kickboard Original review

Having tried the Micro Kickboard Original in all sorts of places and conditions, I can safely say that the Original has the following fatal problems;
  • It doesn't turn properly. It just topples over at the slightest angle. This is because the front wheels are too close together and the axles interfere with the natural balance that centrifugal force would otherwise provide.
  • It goes into wobbles at very low speeds.
  • The wheels don't return to a neutral position on their own. You have to sort of squish the front to get it back into alignment.
  • The springs squeak all the time. It sounds like standing on a cat.
  • The rubber grip is too small and too soft. It's also the wrong shape.
  • It's too heavy for use as a casual commuting vehicle, or for taking on a plane, or indeed for just bunging in a cupboard.
With slight pressure on the left side, the right wheel rises up.
(It's hard to see in this pic, but there is a gap.)
On the move, this means you simply fall off.

I've tried the springs on a range of settings and it makes no difference to any of the problems above. Applications of grease don't stop it sounding like an outraged cat either. I'm sick of the dogs in the neighbourhood barking at me.

It's supposed to return itself to upright - but doesn't

I recently tried a Razor scooter and it was just so much better than the Original. Faster, lighter, quieter, more stable, and really fun. And it's much, much cheaper than the Original. I was frankly shocked how bad the Original is in comparison even to a cheap Razor.

I have seen a couple of videos of the Original here and here. It's quite obvious from these videos that the Original can't make tight turns. In the first video, you can see how it nearly falls over, and you can see how the children have to clutch at the insufficient knob with both hands to keep their balance. Oh, and here's a good video of somebody losing it, as you do.

In short, this product is not suitable either for children's or adult's fun, and it isn't suitable for commuting either.

This is all a rather sorry state of affairs. With the worldwide energy situation entering a crisis, any fun, cheap, portable, readily available source of transport would seem to be highly desirable. And yet companies like the A-bike and Micro are pitching their products at non-serious people in a thoroughly unbusinesslike way.


Damian said...

Now that you have described its flaws, the design of that thing certainly does lead the mind to see what you experienced. One of things you can only see after having it pointed out I guess. Or discovered it first hand.

Rod said...

Indeed. Surprisingly, it's won design awards and some people profess to think it's great. But I wonder how many members of the design panel actually got on it and scooted around a few obstacles, and took it down a bit of a slope. None I suspect.

And the people who post those annoying little "Awesome!" type reviews probably can't face the fact that they paid a hundred quid for something that looks super-duper and basically doesn't work. It hurts, I tell ya. But it must be faced, otherwise you won't have the energy to pester the company for a complete refund (and hopefully, a brave withdrawal of the product). I might have more to say about Micro's service soon.

stew said...

Its a pity about the A frame bike because that one looks nifty. Not Sinclair having distribution problems should come as any surprise to anyone who remembers the ZX81.

Rod said...

After some unpleasantness with the macho distributor in the UK, Micro in Switzerland finally offered to refund the full price without having to return the scooter. Now I have a scooter I can't use. Some bloke in Tokyo was selling a Xootr scooter with a nice travel bag, all for 15,000 yen, and somebody beat me to the purchase while I was checking it out on the Interweb. The Xootr seems to be exactly what I need.

If you read the A-bike forums, it quickly becomes apparent that the thing breaks in all sorts of ways, like a product that isn't really fit for sale either. I'm glad I didn't get one. I seem not to be going into town much for anything anyway these days, so I don't really know why I trouble myself with this stuff...