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This is repost from:  Leisure Cycling Blog

Competing in the 2018 Footbike World Championships

Steven Rittey

Representing Great Britain on the quirky fringes of sport…

I’ve always wanted to try a reach a level where I could perhaps represent the UK abroad in an official championships or international race. Cycling and running are obviously too competitive to be considered, so I needed to go to the quirky fringes of sport to find an event that I could compete in. The bi-annual Footbike World Championships were being held in Losser near Enschede on the German/Dutch border and this was my best chance of representing Great Britain on the international sporting stage.

I’ve yet to come across someone in Britain who scoots as much as I do. I use my adult micro scooter to go to and from the train station nearly every day. Wheel out my excellent Swifty Scooter for weekend adventures and own a Kickbike for long distance rides. My 85 mile scoot throughout North Wales on the Etape Cymru sportive in 2012 is still one of my greatest achievements and even put me on the front page of the Wrexham Leader and in Outdoor Fitness magazine!

Why do I scoot?

Scooting brings me a lot of joy and I like the feeling of gliding along without battling traffic as you would on a bike because you can legally use the pavement. The physical effort that combines cycling, running and rowing to propel yourself forward is great for overall fitness and the relatively low impact nature of the scooting motion means that riding a footbike is better on the joints than pounding the streets jogging.

Having to answer lots of questions about each of the scooters whilst out and about is part and parcel of scooting and I do not really like using the Kickbike in urban areas because the large front wheel and long frame make it an unusual sight to see in the UK.

I’ve lost count of the times that I have been asked whether I am riding a penny farthing or if I realised that I’d only bought half of a bike! At the World Championships, no such questions are asked as people from all over the world gather to compete against fellow scooter enthusiasts.

Footbiking is a serious sport in some countries with the Czechs, Finns, Russians and Dutch involved in local clubs and the Eurocup circuit of races. Some carbon versions of scooters can cost thousands of euros and the training required to hone the technique required for speed and efficiency is similar to that of a competitive racing cycling team.

Making my way up to Enschede via Wuppertal…

I signed up for the World Championships back in May and made suitable travel plans to get to Enschede in the eastern Netherlands. I booked a cheap flight to Cologne, headed up to Enschede with a detour to Wuppertal to ride on the famous Schwebebahn ‘suspended railway’.

My event wristband might have said ‘Athlete’, but I am definitely a railway enthusiast and lover of the journey more than serious competitor. I was staying at the De Fakkel sports hall close to Losser town centre and carried all of my sleeping kit in just my hand luggage bag.

The atmosphere in the sports centre was good with competitors from all around the world arriving into this small Dutch town for the weekend.

The guy next to me in the sports hall was an extremely athletic Russian from Irkutsk in Siberia near Lake Baikal and warmed up in the mornings like Ivan Drago in Rocky with a lunging routine that would have split me in half.

Getting started…

I struck up conversations with my other sports hall neighbour Guido Pfeiffermann who has completed some unbelievable Kickbike challenges including Canada ‘Coast to Coast’, Austria ‘South to North’ and Vienna to Berlin (582 km) in under 39 hours.

I also met up with Duane Phillips from Ireland who is a passionate Kickbiker and completed the 2500 km Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland on his now legendary ‘Irish Wolfer’ scooter. We scooted together along the Leeds to Liverpool canal towpath on a visit he made to Wigan earlier in the year.

Despite being a very niche activity, the Kickbike has been used to scoot the entire Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and around the world by several individuals. Many of these scooting legends had made their way to Losser to compete against each other and me; one of the few competitors ever to race a scooter from the UK.

The weekend was divided into three different races. I was unable to take part in the sprint competition as I was travelling on Friday. However, I would be able to compete in the Criterium street circuit race on Saturday morning and the 46 km marathon distance on the Sunday.

I picked up my Finnish brand Kickbike Sport from Vincent at Stepshop.nl and after breakfast in the sports hall, I headed out for a few trial laps of the 1.2 km km street circuit course around the compact town centre.

First race – the Criterium…

Instead of a completely smooth surface, I was surprised to find that the street race circuit was a mixture of paving stone cobbles, speed bumps that dragged against the bottom of the low clearance scooter and a few tight corners that would mean racing in close proximity at key points of the course.

I was due to set off in the 14.4 km Criterium at 12pm after the Ladies, Juniors and Masters races were over. There was not time left to worry about the upcoming race, but I knew that Sunday was the main event and I needed to come through the race without crashing, causing a crash or getting left too far behind.

I placed myself at the back of the field to avoid any potential clashes and lined up next to the other UK competitor – Ondrej who runs OP Scooters in the trendy London enclave of Crouch End. He set up the business based on his knowledge of the popularity of scooting in his native Czech Republic.

The front of the field quickly sped off and it was clear that my daily training sessions by scooting on an adult version of a micro scooter from my house to the train station were not enough.

Unlike cycling where a quick change of gear can generate a significant increase in speed, scooting is all self-propelled and if you have only ever been able to ‘kick’ at 25 km/h, then finding another 5 km/h on race day isn’t going to happen.

My fastest lap was the slowest in the field, but I was consistent enough with my average lap times to not finish last overall. I wasn’t too disappointed as my aim was to get through the Criterium unscathed. After the race, I headed off into Enschede city centre, hired a bike in Hengelo and stopped off at the Grolsch Stadium, the home of the top Dutch football team FC Twente.

In the evening, an impressive outdoor party was being held in a large open air theatre for all competitors and supporters. I found out more about the couple from OP Scooters and talked scooters with a nice couple from Hamburg whilst eating a selection of meats from the excellent BBQ.

I didn’t sleep much the night before the race as my inflatable camping mat was too small for my long legs and my portable pillow was as comfortable as resting on a brick. A loud thunderstorm hung low over Losser, but had the side benefit of cooling down the air temperature from 32 degrees to about 25 degrees on Sunday.

The big ‘marathon’ race day…

The race started at 1130 and after received confirmation that the distance needed to scoot would be just to complete the last lap after the winner had crossed the line. This meant that instead of scooting the full 46 km, I would probably only need to scoot around 35 to 40 km as I would be lapped once or perhaps twice based on my average speed overall from the Saturday Criterium.

I once again placed myself at the back of the field even though my number (61) would have given me a better stating position. Ondrej didn’t take part in the Sunday race, so I was the sole competitor representing the UK.

I was also wearing a retro Great Britain jersey from the 1994 Barcelona Olympics too. Chris Boardman wore the same version when he rode his iconic Lotus carbon bike. I was wearing mine for a scooter race in the provincial Netherlands.

The 5 km course was a mixture of the cobbled Criterium route, smooth tarmac and with a slight descent towards the German border for cruising. The weather was perfect and ideal for scooting with little headwind or blazing sun. The Kickbike G4 Sport proved to be a phenomenal machine and a joy to ride.

The extra course distance and surrounding space meant that I could easily swap legs and find a turn of speed. As in Formula 1 when the back of the field can provide more entertainment than the runaway leader, there was a thrilling battle going on between a group of us at the back made up of Italians, Czechs, Lithuanians and Dutch.

Thoughts from the race and overall experience…

I couldn’t keep up with the pace line in the beginning, but I knew that my fitness was stronger than most so could sustain a consistent speed of around 23 km/h for much of the race. I also didn’t need to stop for drinks and soon overtook my closest group of racers gaining places with every person passed.

The front field passed me twice, but to be honest, the winner; Adriaan Ringoir from the Netherlands was so far ahead of everyone else that he seemed to be out on a training run with the lead bike.

The race drew to a close and I was feeling good at the end. There were lots of tired faces around, but I felt like I could have done more. I am almost sure that if the race was a set distance, then I would have moved up the field based on consistency as I was only lapped for the second time less than 1 km from the line.

Either way, I wasn’t too bothered about my overall position and took part in the race to compete in a World Championships. Any thoughts of a top 10 or podium finish were shattered by my performance on Saturday and the speed of some of the international competitors who train week in week out.

I packed up my things in Losser, handed back the Kickbike to the rental company and continued on my short tour of the Netherlands up to the lovely university city of Groningen by train.

I am proud of my new found status as an international ‘athlete’, but I think I will stick to using the scooter for commuting and going along the canal rather than competing…

Perhaps 70% or 80% of people who want to buy their first kick scooter have the following questions:

  • “I don’t want to ride just on asphalt, but also on the field, or off road … so maybe I should have a scooter with a higher footboard? And maybe with a front suspension fork?”

So what is the truth? Sorry, but you will be never ride on terrain or off road anyway. 99% of your rides will be on road, asphalt, or cycle paths.

Of course you can ride in mud or downhill if you are musher, but for that you will need a special kick scooter.

  • “I don’t want to scratch my scooter, so maybe it would be better to buy one with higher ground clearance.”

Big mistake!! Riding on a kick scooter has two basic aspects:  bouncing and squatting. So when you bounce with one leg, you must squat with the other. A higher footboard means higher squats.

higher footboard + higher squats = your standing leg is going to hurt!

You can be sure that even the difference of one cm will make a difference. Of course not after half a mile, but definitely after 3 or 5.

  • “But my footboard will scratch!”

OK, maybe, but all top scooters have special frame protection. For example, Yedoo Alloy has an extra 3mm layer of aluminum to keep your scooter safe.

If you come across a bump in the road, you can easily lift your scooter up and kind of hop over it if you have the ability, or you can easily step off your scooter, lift the front over the obstacle, and step back on without missing a beat. Remember, you are not sitting several feet above the ground like on a bicycle! If you are in danger of coming in contact with the road, you can easily lift your scooter up or with a smaller scooter you can easily jump or just step off. And if you scratch your scooter, don’t panic, this is the genuine scooter patine! So the optimum ground clearance is 5cm and with that you can comfortably ride everywhere.

What about handlebars ? This is very individual. Most of the “scooter books” say the grips should be at the height of the clenched fist of the scooterist standing on the floor with a hand along the body.

But as I say, this is very individual because some riders prefer a more upright position and some prefer a more sporty racing style position.

Is it better for the front wheel to be bigger or smaller?? With a small wheel you will avoid holes better, but with a bigger wheel  you can go over …

if you have a bigger front wheel, you can go over some holes.  If you have a smaller city scooter like the Yedoo Friday, the scooter is more agile and you can react very quickly to whatever comes your way. And what about the rear wheel? A larger rear wheel means longer overall scooter construction, which means better overall stability. This is especially true for a fast sports ride.

And what about the price? 

Lots of people who have never been on a scooter think as follows: “First I’ll  buy a cheap scooter for £50 and if it catches me, I’ll get a good machine. ”

Yeah, this is not a bad idea but…personally, I believe at least 50% of potential serious riders interested in this kind of approach, that buy cheap kick scooters with strange geometry, high floorboards, and inappropriate cheap components, are discouraged from ever moving on to experience the real pleasure that only a quality kick scooter can bring. This is especially true for children who simply will not have fun being forced to do deep squats from a height that is way too high for them

Unfortunately, people have a tendency to generalize, so if they ride one of the many inferior “toy” scooters, they often think they would all be the same.

Left, Right, Right, Left, Left, Left, Right……

Do I have to change legs? YES!! And you will find that becomes second nature very quickly!

Do you have any questions that I haven’t answered? Let me know! I want to help you find the perfect scooter for you so you can enjoy something that I enjoy so much myself!

Every child is different, one can learn riding a scooter right away, some others need a little time to obtain the necessary assurance.  So how to choose a scooter for Children?

If the scooter is light enough, its size corresponds to the child´s age and the footboard height does not over stress the standing leg, nothing prevents the children from enjoying pleasure of riding

how to choose kids scooter and kids eat ice creamAppropriate Size for Children of Different Ages

Just as it is not good to buy shoes a few sizes larger, neither the scooter should be chosen with an idea of a child growing. It will be more difficult for the kids to manipulate a scooter which is larger and heavier. Such frustrating experiences can discouraged them completely.

Riding a scooter develops motor skills, sense of balance and brings the joy of exercise in the open air. Additionally, a standard scooter survives several generations of children.

Small or Big Wheels

Folding scooters with small wheels made of rubber, although light (about 3 kg) and handy, are size destined only for perfectly smooth terrain. Even ordinary pavement may become an intractable obstacle for them. Folding scooters also have narrow handlebars, which make it unstable and uncomfortable, especially during a longer ride. They are suitable especially for short rides around the city.

Scooters with inflatable wheels are a little heavier (approximately 7 kg), but handle all kinds of terrain comfortably. Additionally, if you have high-quality bearings and well-inflated tires, they ride lightly as if by themselves.

Footboard Height

The so-called tread height of the footboard determines how comfortable / strenuous riding a scooter will be. The higher the footboard is, the lower the child will have to squat and the sooner their legs will start to ache. Therefore, take the footboard height as one of the main parameters and look for scooters with a tread height of about 7 cm. It provides sufficient comfort and a good pass through all terrain.

The exact distance of the footboard from the ground can be found under the term Ride Height, or you can easily calculate by subtracting the footboard width from the tread height. The higher the footboard from the ground, the better it overcomes uneven terrains. Children usually do not go off-road and the ride height of 4-5 cm will be adequate.

Brakes and Brake Levers

A scooter should have at least one quality brake with a brake lever that matches the child’s hand size and which can be adjusted in distance from the handlebars so that it can be reached comfortably even by little children’s fingers.

Footboard Length

Footboard length relates to the total scooter length. The footboard length does not have to be extra-long or wide, just providing space for one foot is enough. A wide footboard would prevent pushing off and a long one would unnecessarily reduce the scooter agility. The ideal length is up to 35 cm and the width a little bit larger than the width of a shoe. The footboard should also be equipped with anti-slip features that increase safety while driving on wet roads.

Quality Bearings

The ease with which a scooter rides is determined by the bearings. You cannot expect miracles from cheap machines, therefore bearings are worth paying extra for quality. Bearings, along with well-inflated tires make riding the true pleasure.

How to Choose a Scooter for ChildrenSafety First

Each right children´s machine should meet the relevant standards, in this case, EN 14619. There should also be reflective safety features, ergonomic handle with enlarged ends and flush bolts to protect the child from injury.

Burning calories

While riding a scooter, you burn as many calories as you would by running or riding a bicycle. Nevertheless, compared to those sports, the biggest advantages are: lower risk of injury, ease of movement, and option of using it at any age. A total of 800k calories  is burned on average over a ride of one hour. The exact figure is dependent on various conditions.

Toning up

Weight loss, movement coordination, and a great body along with strengthened muscles are among the top benefits of riding a scooter regularly. Not to mention that you’re working on both upper and lower limbs, which can help prevent varicose veins and other ailments.

Healthy movement

During the exercise you use the following body parts: head levator, back and chest muscles, large pectoral muscles or broad back muscles. The muscle corset along the back is the most to benefit from the ride. Because you’re bent forward for almost the whole ride, you’ll also be breathing more easily and deeply, which positively affects the lungs. Muscles of the arms and neck are used during leg kicks and your bottom muscles are in constant movement, so you’ll get results almost immediately. While enjoying your ride, you’re also working on your abdominal muscles. As you can see, all major muscle areas are stressed equally and the movement is naturally fluent.

Strengthening the body

Riding a scooter means that neither your joints nor spine are negatively influenced by shocks, in fact quite the opposite – it works well on your skeletal muscles. Compared to cycling, you’re not using only your lower parts, but you’re stretching the whole body. Take this as an example: a one kilometre ride is equals to almost 200 squats. Which is not bad at all, is it? Women particularly appreciate the fact that riding a scooter improves difficult-to-tone areas such as the hips, thighs and bottom.

Scooters  are for everyone

Additional benefits of scooter riding are better balance and coordination – and your body will also get rid of excessive water. These aspects make the scooter a perfect tool for rehabilitation after an injury. As mentioned earlier, the fluency of the movement is exactly why the scooter is suitable for every age. Moreover, many professional athletes say that it is a perfect addition to their training.

Finding peace

It so often happens that, when riding a scooter, a happy memory from your childhood pops up in your mind. And just for a moment, you stop thinking about the stressful modern world. Regular movement is a perfect way to relax and let go of tension and stress. Over the last few years, riding a scooter has found many new supporters of all ages.

Train like a PRO, feel like a KID