From left: SoleSkate, Whiplash scooter, Cycocycle, and the WingFlyer… (Roy M. Wallack, www.streetsurfing.com,…)
The wheels (usually two or three of them) are always turning for inventors hoping to come up with the next big trend in kids' action vehicles. Here are some recent innovations that bring creative twists to old staples like unicycles, skateboards and scooters.
Step it up
WingFlyer Z150: Self-propelled, chain-driven stepper-style scooter.
Likes: Fast, fun, happiness-inducing all-body fitness. There's no learning curve — the neighborhood kids and I instantly fell in love with this stand-up stepper machine on wheels. It provides a good workout, blasting your legs, upper body and core as you rock it back and forth for leverage. With an adjustable-height handlebar, rear disc brake, pneumatic tires and rider capacity of 220 pounds, the WingFlyer safely accommodates all sizes and ages. It's a good transportation vehicle for kids, and it folds up for easy transport.
Dislikes: Adults looking for fitness might yearn for more speed to satisfy their aerobic fix. Topping out at 10 miles per hour, I craved a higher gear.
Price: $329 ($249 for the smaller Z100 model). (855) 946-4359; http://www.mywingflyer.com
SoleSkate: Three-wheel, 16-inch-long plastic skateboard.
Likes: The triangular configuration — two 64-millimeter urethane wheels in front and one in back — takes a few minutes to get used to, but our teenage testers ultimately found it stable and maneuverable for normal riding. The board has room for your main foot, while the other rests on the tail fender over the rear wheel. Built-in brake activates when you take your main foot off the board, so it will not roll away. At 2.5 pounds, it fits inside a backpack or can be strapped to the outside of one.
Price: $49.99. (866) 467-2967; http://www.soleskate.com/us
Cycocycle: No–handlebar, steel-framed unicycle/tricycle hybrid that can be used by one or two riders.
Likes: Different and fun. Designed by a longtime unicyclist to provide his son the same thrill without the long learning curve, it adds stability with two smaller rear wheels. It's a challenge to keep from tipping at speed while solo yet becomes remarkably stable and hilariously exciting when a passenger (child or spouse) stands on the rear crossbar with arms around your waist. Includes a built-in grab handle on the seat. Folds up in seconds for easy transport. May lend itself to extreme tricks, although this was beyond our level of expertise.
Dislikes: Not very practical for transportation or fitness (unless you climb hills — but beware the descents).
Price: $120. (800) 551-0032; http://www.cycocyclecrazyfun.com
Whiplash scooter: Self-propelling offspring of a scooter and a casterboard.
Likes: Like its popular sibling, the caster-wheeled Wave skateboard, Whiplash allows you to propel yourself without touching a foot to the ground by wiggling the rear caster wheel instead. The flexible, one-piece plastic deck and fixed front wheel allow much less rotational torque between the food pods compared with the Wave's independent pods but does allow enough twist to drive the board. Unlike the hard-to-learn Wave, the fixed handlebar allows the Whiplash can be used immediately as transportation, although the self-propelling movement (an all-body core motion rather than the Wave's more subtle hip and leg action) takes some time to master. It folds up for easy storage and carrying. Of course, it can also be used as a regular push scooter.
Dislikes: It took an hour for my 15-year-old nephew, Jake, an expert on the Wave, to get the Whiplash's motion down; by the end he was exhausted and drenched in sweat. He found that the hills that are easy for him to climb on the Wave were impossible on the Whiplash, making it self-propelling on flats and downhills only.
Price: $79.99. (888) 684-WAVE; http://www.streetsurfing.com
Wallack is the co-author of "Barefoot Running Step by Step." firstname.lastname@example.org