Revisiting The Brief Reign Of The Razor Scooter
If you were alive during the year 2000, there are a couple things that most likely remain a cemented part of your life experience. First of all, hearing the opening notes of the song “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down immediately activates your brain in a way that the CIA wishes it could weaponize. Second, the threat of Y2K, in which there was a very real possibility that the world would be plunged into an age of darkness because of an unfortunate choice of date format. Third, the feeling of gliding along pavement on the soft, pop-colored, infuriatingly small wheels of a Razor folding scooter.
The Razor folding scooter was omnipresent on the streets of the new millennium, with Razor-mounted pre-teen riders whizzing chaotically around city centers and malls like flies on shit. You were either on a Razor scooter or you were dodging one, feeling the air whiff by as you barely dodged getting a foam-covered handlebar to the kidney. They seemed like the perfect form of transportation for entering a new millennium, in an era where everyone was dressing like an aerodynamic drag racer. Plus, they folded up, all the easier to toss in the trunk of your friend’s mom’s car. For a young population without access to driver’s licenses and who didn’t want to deal with a bicycle, the Razor scooter was a benevolent blessing from above allowing them to travel from Chipotle to Chipotle during a long day of loitering with ease.
Who was the man responsible from bringing these tween chariots to the streets of America, and loosing a swarm of speedy, SoBe-fueled youth on the sidewalks? That would be the alliterative entrepreneur Carlton Calvin. Now, he didn’t invent the foldable scooters himself. There were no late nights in the workshop centered among scattered hinges and polyurethane scraps. The scooter was invented by, depending on who you ask, a banker named Wim Oubuter or a man named Gino Tsai, and produced by a Taiwanese company that was enjoying success in its own right, with their hybrid toy and travel tool becoming a trend in Tokyo. This attracted the eye of the Los Angeles Times, and, in turn, Mr. Calvin.
He brought the company to the states, calling his new branch Razor USA. His eye for products proved apt, as the Razor scooter would take over the country soon after launching in 2000. Approximately a million scooters were being constructed and shipped duly off to retailers a month. An appetite that hadn’t existed mere months earlier now fueled an endlessly hungry, gaping maw that consumed with abandon. No foot was left unscootered, whether by a Razor or by a substitute produced by the questionable but undeniably nimble businesses that exist to knock off what’s hot and provide an undercut to a gluttonous market.
The scooters themselves started to evolve and see additions and special models. A model with a wheelie bar was added, for an easy way for aspiring tricksters to smack their head against the pavement and send their scooter rocketing into a parked car in one smooth motion. Some models included a spark bar on the brake, to appeal to the pyromaniac heart that beats inside every 14-year-old boy. There even emerged a passionate group of kids developing and performing Razor tricks. Odds are you remember the kid at your school who could do a tailwhip on a Razor scooter, almost as distinctly as you remember the sharp, horizontal, crunching pain of a Razor footbed slamming into the front of your shin when you attempted one yourself.
Razor scooters even got that highest of honors amongst early 2000s trends: a mediocre licensed video game.
So, what happened?
Well, it’s not incredibly complicated. As the meaning of the word demands, trends died down. The shine started to fade from the Razor scooter as a cool new thing, and suddenly, it was weighed against the scale of transportation through time, to discover if it was the revolution it was touted to be or if it would be found wanting. It was time to wipe the lipstick clean and see if we were staring at a pig.
Judged in the harsh morning light, it wasn’t a terrible product by any means. But at the same time, it had a few too many thorns to be inducted into the annals of mobility history. They were portable… sort of. They folded up, sure, but that served more to transform them from their hilariously unwieldy default into a form that was capable of being carried at all. Turns out that basically hauling around a greasy 6-pound suitcase is portable more in the sense of possibility than actual convenience.
The tiny wheels that this transformation demanded caused their own problems. Their puny diameter, as the knees of any teen of the time would tell you, made traveling on anything but freshly poured asphalt a dice throw. The tiniest pebble was fully capable of throwing the revolution of these wheels to a sharp halt, resulting in an aluminum tube to the testicles at best and at worst, a case of road rash with no cool story attached.
Even the stunt scene started to falter when the well of creativity dug on the power of a single tailwhip proved shallow. And, as 2001 calendars were hung on walls, so were well-worn scooters hung in garages across the country. The demand vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Calvin was able to extract a last bit of cash out of some delayed legal housekeeping, by suing the crops of cheapo Razor imitators that had emerged like weevils from the woodwork. They won all twenty lawsuits. But the scooter’s year-long glorious ride had come to an end, existing for exactly one year precisely at the turn of the millennia, like some sort of mythical cryptid.
Razor still exists today, producing e-scooters and wheeled toys of various shapes and sizes, including a second small-scale success in the RipStik. It’s unlikely, however, that they’ll ever achieve the stranglehold they briefly knew.