After a bit of badgering, the folks at FootbikeUSA decided maybe they should send out a Footbike for review, so I could see what they’re really all about. For those not familiar, the Footbike is like a giant scooter for adults (and kids of all ages) that can be used for exercise, commuting, rehabilitation, and just plain fun. They’re actually quite popular in Europe for racing, and the subject of this review was designed in Holland.
About a week after we exchanged some information, the UPS man handed me a big brown box with a shiny new Footbike inside. Like most bikes, it arrived partially assembled. Unlike most bikes though, the tubing was too big for my Ultimate repair stand, and there’s obviously no seat tube to clamp it to. While it’s not the end of the world, this made final assembly a little more difficult. Luckily, that wasn’t too much work. First, I mounted the handlebars in the four bolt adjustable stem, and put on some bar ends. Before the front and rear wheels could be mounted, the brakes and fenders had to be set up, two things that would have been easier on a repair stand, but were still manageable. Once it was all together, I stepped back to admire my handiwork. Of course, I can’t really take credit for how good it looks, but the metallic blue paint, glossy black fenders, and all black wheelset with machined sidewalls certainly makes for an attention-getting ride.
A bit about the spec: The steel frame is nicely finished, with smooth paint and clean welds. Bottle cage mounts are included. There’s extra gusseting at the head tube junction, and the rear dropouts are thick plate. This thing is built strong, and built to last, yet still looks more graceful than industrial. Less pretty is the weld in the seam where the main tube curves, just in front of the foot plate. It makes me think of a long scar, but it’s hardly visible to the casual observer. The Alex wheelset includes black sealed bearing hubs, black straight gauge spokes, and the DA16 double wall rims, 700C up front, 18″ in back. Tires are a 700×32 Maxxis and 18″x1.5″ no-name, Kevlar™ belted rear, running 100 and 90 psi, respectively. Tektro levers and v-brakes provide plenty of stopping power. Handlebars are generic aluminum, with nice ergonomic grips. The stem is adjustable, and the headset appears to be a generic sealed unit. Both fenders mount with adjustable stainless hardware. Overall, everything is pretty well-chosen for the price. Other than swapping out the stem for a fixed one to save weight, there’s nothing that screams “replace me!”.
For its maiden voyage, I was just going to kick it around the block a few times. An hour later, I finally pried it from the neighborhood kids, who were fighting over taking a turn. The “fun factor” was confirmed by all test pilots. It rides really smooth, and although it’s not as fast as I would have hoped, that has 100% to do with the motor. Over time, I expect that I will get faster. Handling is much different than a bicycle, as you can really shift your weight around more in turns, and there’s no need to worry about pedal strike. Without a seat, you might think that stem length is less critical, but that and handlebar width dictate how quick the steering is, to a certain degree. If you’re used to slow steering, you may be in for a surprise the first time you bomb into a corner. The deck has enough room for both my size 12 shoes when coasting downhill, although I might be tempted to add a bit of skateboard grip tape to it if I rode in bad weather or lived in Seattle or Oregon.
Overall, it’s really fun. I can see how it would be useful for rehab, and I like that fact that regular shorts and shoes are just fine – no cleats or lycra required. When you get your stride right, it’s like kicking a skateboard, except you can go a lot farther and faster. And you have brakes. Although the weather and other obligations have kept me from riding as much as I would have liked, the Footbike will go into circulation with my other rides this year, so I can better acquaint myself with it. (And take some better photos) Expect to read about it more in the coming months. Check out Footbikes in action at footbikeusa.com