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NewCityNet Scoot Over

Coveting Chicago's New, Gasless Transpo, the Xooter

By Ellen Fox

JUNE 19, 2000:  The Xooter (pronounced zoo-ter) is a lightweight, sleekly designed kick scooter that's picked up popularity in New York and on the West Coast ever since its launch by California-based Nova Cruz Products last fall. It is not one of those noisy, motorized scooters you sometimes see kids sporting on the Lakefront path; this baby is powered entirely by your foot. And last weekend, Chicago stores like Rapid Transit and Johnny Sprockets began stocking it in the hopes that its promise of "urban transportation" will attract buyers from both the teenage and hip-professional demographics.

Far more than just a status symbol around the cul-de-sac or campus, the Xooter--according to its makers--is the perfect way to navigate around a big city like Chicago. "No gas, it's safer than rollerblades," ticks off Midwest sales rep David Landau, "it's compact." Plus, with a disassembly time of just a few seconds (you pull out a strategically placed pin and fold the thing in half) you can take it into stores, into work, stow it in a full-sized gym locker. You can cover a mile in about four minutes, he adds, so it's perfect for those blocks between an El stop and home or work.

I tried the Xooter myself last week and found it surprisingly easy to ride. There are just two wheels--front and back--but you place one foot directly in the center of the wooden or metal board, push off with your other foot, and... I didn't fall off once. Those of us who find skateboards and rollerblades daunting can take comfort in the fact that the Xooter's handlebars give you all the balance you'll need.

There's just this thing about the brakes. They start to work only after about, oh, 100 tries, says Landau. So I found myself fruitlessly squeezing the handlebars as I whizzed past curious kids playing roller-hockey--until I remembered I could also break simply by kicking the board out from under me while holding onto the bars, or by placing my foot against the back wheel--a sure way to eventually wear out the soles of my Keds.

It's recommended that you ride on the side of the street--as cyclists and rollerbladers do--though the bumps and potholes will slow you down a bit. That's OK, because you're likely to get plenty of inquiries from pedestrians and skaters seeing the Xooter for the first time. Just follow Landau's example and don't let strangers test drive it at night, especially not those large groups of petulant youth. Remember: it's $280.

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