Your Kick Scooter Questions Answered (Newbie-Friendly!)

Last updated: July 17th, 2023

If you’re thinking about picking up a kick scooter, you might wonder what they’re actually like to own and use.

After all, they’re still a bit uncommon for adults—although that seems to be changing—so let’s dive into some common questions.

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Are kick scooters hard to ride?

Kick scooters are easy and intuitive to ride on smooth, dry pavement. They’re much easier than a bicycle, and require almost no practice to learn. However, they’re difficult to ride on rough or wet ground. Small, hard wheels are ill-suited to those conditions.

Naturally, there’s a big difference between simply riding one…and riding many miles or doing impressive tricks.

For long distance, the hard part is developing your fitness (and perhaps your patience, since they’re not very fast compared to bicycles).

Still, kick scooters are great exercise if you’re inclined!

For stunt riding, the hard parts are learning complex techniques and withstanding lots of bumps and bruises along the way. That’s totally different from what this site focuses on, but you’ll find all sorts of trick tutorials on YouTube.

Are kick scooters dangerous?

Kick scooters are not inherently dangerous if they’re properly maintained. However, many riders choose to use them in dangerous ways, like doing stunts, riding near cars, or on rough terrain.

All else being equal, larger wheels are safer than smaller ones because they can more easily roll over obstacles.

A brand called Swifty (more info in my hands-on review) did this terrific demonstration:

Brakes are another major safety factor. A few scooters, like the Swifty models above, have bicycle-style hand brakes that are powerful and work well even in the rain.

But most kick scooters—including nearly all the ones with smaller wheels—use a fender “stomp-brake” that is weak when dry and nearly useless when wet. This call for extra care if you’re going much faster than walking speed.

Since brakes are so important for safety and enjoyment, let’s take a closer look at the question…

Do kick scooters have brakes?

Almost all kick scooters have a rear brake. You step on the rear fender, which presses against the wheel to create friction. It’s simple to use, but very weak. Some kick scooters also have a rudimentary front brake. A few even use bicycle rim brakes, which are better but more expensive.

Rear fender brake ("stomp brake") on a Razor A5 Lux Scooter

Fender brakes are standard, but weak

The usual fender brake is intuitive, but has barely any power. A hard metal fender against a hard polyurethane tire just can’t produce much friction.

That’s true in dry weather and doubly so in wet. There are special breaking considerations for wet weather, which you can read more about in this guide to wet-weather scooter riding.

Think of a typical kick scooter brake as a “speed controller,” if you will, rather than an emergency stopping mechanism.

Cruising downhill is fun, but make sure you’ll be able to stop safely!

Some do have front brakes

Once in a great while, you’ll find a kick scooter with a front brake. It’s usually hand-operated, via a brake lever that presses a metal block against the front wheel.

But why bother with a front brake, anyhow?

It’s a law of physics that most breaking power on any vehicle is in the front. Even a powerful rear brake on its own cannot stop you quickly.

(For the curious, that’s because the front wheel is ahead of your center of mass relative to the direction of your momentum. But I digress.)

Most of the Xootr line (check it out here) is a great example of this style of brake.

However, kick scooter wheels usually don’t have a braking surface like you see on bicycle wheels. That means the front brake has to press against the tire itself, which is usually done with a small metal block. The metal-on-polyurethane combination can feel “grabby” at times, so take care to use it gently!

This style of front brake is initially weak when wet…but don’t clamp down to compensate! That’s because applying the brake helps to wipe the tire dry, so it may abruptly engage after a second or two. If you’re pulling the lever hard at that instant, then a crash may follow!

Bicycle-style rim brakes are excellent but rare

Some kick scooters use small bicycle wheels, which have a braking surface on the rim. (These scooters are often called “kick-bikes.”)

This enables rim brakes for much better power and control.

Firstly, you control them with a hand-operated lever, not by stomping on a fender.

Secondly, the rubber brake pads offer better grip and control, especially when it’s rainy.

Finally, bicycle tires have better traction, so you can apply the brakes harder without causing a skid.

But there’s no free lunch: this adds a lot of cost, size, and weight.

Foot-bike designs, like the Swifty pictured below, are usually ultra-high-end models for dedicated hobbyists. Fun and safe, but overkill for occasional use.

New Swifty Zero scooter after assembly

Can adults ride kick scooters?

Yes, adults can ride kick scooters. In fact, some models are made specifically for adults, with higher-quality materials and larger sizes. Adults often choose kick scooters for local transportation and/or exercise.

Many adults find them helpful for commuting in the city, since they’re faster than walking speed without much effort.

Heavier adults need to pay extra attention to weight limits, since most kick scooters support riders up to about 220 lbs. If you need something sturdier, then check out the options I highlighted in this guide to models for bigger riders.

Pro scooters—the kind used for stunts—are harder to find in adult sizes. Riders above 5’10” or so may not be able to find adequately high handlebars for a good fit.

Are there Razor scooters for adults?

Razor’s A5 and A6 lines are designed for adults and teens. They have larger wheels and higher handlebars than the child-sized Razor scooters, so certain models (like the A6) will even fit adults over 6′ tall.

In fact, I wrote an entire overview of adult Razor scooters, so check it out for a detailed comparison.

Can you ride a kick scooter on the sidewal?

In most jurisdictions, kick scooters are allowed on sidewalks, but you may have to dismount if pedestrians are nearby. Legally, non-electric kick scooters are usually treated the same as skateboards, whereas electric scooters are classified differently. Laws vary between towns, so always check before riding.

Remember that rules may differ on private property. If you see a “No Skateboarding” sign, then it’s best to assume scooters aren’t permitted, either.

Electric scooters are larger and faster, so they’re subject to additional restrictions in most places. If e-scooters are permitted on sidewalks in your town, then it’s reasonable to assume (but not certain) that kick scooters are as well. But if e-scooters are prohibited on local sidewalks, kick scooters may still be allowed.

How much does a good kick scooter cost?

A good kick scooter starts at a little under $100. That buys something simple, functional, and adult-sized, such as the Razor A5 Lux. Models in the $100-$200 range will have slightly better build quality and components. High-end models, which often have more exotic materials (like a magnesium deck) or are made in the USA, typically cost $250 or more.

Foot-bike-style scooters use mostly bicycle components. They are safer and ride much better, but significantly more expensive. You can expect to spend several hundred dollars for good examples of this style.

Are kick scooters electric?

A kick scooter per se is not electric. It’s powered by pushing off the ground, or “kicking,” as its name suggests.

However, it’s technically possible to kick an electric scooter, since the wheels still rotate without power.

That’s just a last resort, however, since electric scooters have very high decks that are fatiguing to kick from.

Are kick scooters fun?

Kick scooters are fun to ride in pleasant weather on flat to mildly rolling terrain. Most riders enjoy the gliding sensation, which is similar to a skateboard but easier to learn and control.

They’re far less enjoyable in inclement weather, since poor traction and braking make for a harrowing experience.

For that matter, going up inclines more than a couple degrees step hills is not enjoyable, either. You’ll usually need to walk.

Are kick scooters bad for knees?

Riding a kick scooter is low-impact, so it’s gentler on knees than jogging. One leg bends slightly to support your weight while the other leg kicks, so the exertion is similar to walking up stairs. If you can climb large sets of stairs without knee pain, then a kick scooter shouldn’t cause knee pain either.

Of course, it’s always important to talk to your doctor before taking up new exercise.

And if you ever experienced me pain or any other discomfort while riding , then stop immediately and seek care!

How long do kick scooters last?

Inexpensive kick scooters, like you find at big-box stores, usually last for at least 1 year of regular use. High-end scooters typically last multiple years thanks to fully sealed bearings and more precise joint construction.

Many scooters have lifetime warranties, but those don’t cover wear-and-tear parts like wheels and grips. Fortunately, replacing those things is easy to do and can extend the lifetime for many years.

Keep in mind that stunt riding or exposure to harsh weather may shorten its lifespan. Read the manufacturer’s warranty terms to get a better idea of what the scooter is and isn’t made to handle.