Although frequently mocked, the freestyle scootering market is seriously holding its own in skateparks across the globe.
Skateboarders and BMXers who were quick to label scootering as fad have been pretty much forced to eat their words. Scooter kids who were new to the scene in 2001 have grown into ferocious adults, competing in established competitions, gaining lucrative sponsorships and ultimately turning the hobby into a recognised extreme sport and profession.
But where did it all begin?
Scooters themselves are not a new invention. Wooden antiques have been found that easily date back 100 years, but turning the humble scooter from a toy into a sport was a far more recent affair.
In 1996, Micro introduced folding scooters to the market. They turned into an international craze, providing a popular commuter tool in crowded cities such as Tokyo, as well as toys for kids. Their lightweight frames made them perfect for jumps, so it wasn’t long before extreme skaters started to use them for tricks. To fill the need for stronger scooters to withstand bigger stunts, the ‘pro’ scooter market was born, with a host of brands such as Madd Gear, Razor and Grit competing to provide the best models for the budding sport.
Stunt scooters have been engineered over time to take a beating at the skatepark and still live to tell the tale. Crucial changes to the design mark the difference between a toy and a piece of extreme sports equipment, so here are the basics…
Scooter decks are your ride’s backbone, so it’s really important that they’re strong enough to provide decent support. Stunt scooter decks will come as a one or two-piece part (two-piece decks have the deck and head tube bolted together at the bottom, as opposed to being a single piece which is welded together, or a single mould). Less separate parts also mean less weak spots where breakages can occur, so you see the logic. Single and two-piece decks are strong, but like any piece of equipment, can break if you don’t take care of it, so don’t expect miracles from any piece of hardware!
Scooter handlebars do not fold on stunt models. Again, the bend provided a weak spot that wasn’t desirable, so it made sense to make handlebars fixed and one piece for strength. The majority of bars of this type are made of 4130 Chromoly or 6061 aluminium, and are pretty strong and lightweight, depending on the brand. Usually, a handlebar designed for extreme use will be welded and possibly gusseted to make it robust without being unnecessarily heavy.
High-end forks tend to now be threadless. This allows the scooter to have a compression system, which will hold the scooter bars to the fork and wheel with greater power and stability. Threaded forks, as seen on cheaper models, tend to wobble more and not be as strong.
Traditionally, wheels for scooter would have plastic cores with a urethane outer. However, these often snapped in the centre, so metal core wheels came into production as an alternative with greater brawn. Commonly, these are made of double machined aluminium and double urethane tyres.
Alongside the basic components that now define a reliable stunt scooter, there’s a host of accessories available, too. Stunt pegs, for example, are rarely sold with pre-built scooter setups, but are an essential part of the complete package. Attached to the axle bolts, they help the rider grind against smooth surfaces, as opposed to using the bottom of the deck itself (and potentially ruining it).
It wouldn’t be right to have an extreme scooter market this lux without having some dope scooter riders to make the most of it. Thanks to a few years of practice on quality setups, there’s plenty people turning scootering into a fully-fledged and respected action sport.
Tricks can be as simple as bunny-hopping on a back wheel or jumping off small ramps at the skatepark. There’s a whole other level of scootering, though, that’s not for the faint-hearted or unskilled. Dakota Schuetz, for example, recently landed himself in the Guinness Book of World Records for completing 15 backflips in one minute. Sponsored by established brand Lucky, Schuetz is a fine example of a sportsman making ends meet and more by riding scooters professionally and hitting new heights. With scootering now being accepted as part of long-established extreme sports events such as X Games, it’s a new era for the recreation, and it just keeps getting bigger.
Sponsored scooter teams in general are making their mark across the globe, with thousands of young people trying desperately to perfect their skills and be exposed enough to earn a coveted place. Seldom few are able to make the grade (especially with the popularity of scootering pushing the bar even higher), but those who do are rewarded with fame and adoration by their peers, let alone the world travel and other
Madd Gear arguably sponsors the most famous bunch of pros on the scene, with their riders, such as Terry Price, reaching celebrity status amongst its followers. With teams in the US, UK, EU and Australia, their popularity spans the globe and their trademark skull logo can be seen in pretty much any skate shop that you care to visit. Even boasting an enviable women’s team (which is still pretty rare in the sport), they’re the trailblazers of scootering and show no sign of slowing down.
With scooters invading every street, skatepark and school playground, they are fast becoming one of the most popular extreme sports of the moment, even overturning firm favourites like skateboarding and BMXing. Not bad for a supposed “fad”, there’s really no telling how far scootering will go… But we’re predicting that it’s not nearly over yet.