Review: Atom Sidewalker, a kick scooter with 12-inch tires
The people who ride small foot bikes like the Atom Sidewalker (Atom) do so because they enjoy comfortable travel (the 12-inch, 2.5-inch wide pneumatic tires cushion rough pavements), they seek greater stability than what can be experienced on small urban scooters (with 9-inch wheels or less), they often ride on roadways instead of sidewalks, and they need a vehicle that is fairly easy to store, which is important in an urban environment!
Students and commuters who must regularly commute on bad pavements especially appreciate the smooth, safe ride that 12-inch wheels provide. As you can see below in a picture of me riding over rough, widely-packed brick, the Atom’s wheels are unlikely to be caught in cracks or grooves.
At this time (September 2015), there are only two other 12-inch scooter brands sold in the USA, but out of the box, both require the assembly assistance of a bike mechanic, and possibly additional customization. My husband, at 5-feet, 10-inches tall, and I, at 5-feet, 4-inches, however, were able to ride the Atom “out of the box.”
A 12-inch foot bike like the Atom is a cross between a bike and a small urban scooter, with a rider weight capacity of 375 pounds. Most small urban scooters weigh under 14 pounds and can be folded into a very small package. They are excellent vehicles for short commutes of maybe 5 miles or less and are popular for vacation travel on fairly level terraines. While small scooters can be easily carried into buildings and on public transportation, they are not appropriate for riding on rutted pavement, wet pavement, or on streets, and consequently, do not provide all-around transportation.
At 17.5 pounds, the Atom weighs less than a foldable adult bike, yet it provides a comfortable ride on all types of pavements, including packed earth. While not tiny, it is small enough to be stored in a car’s trunk and can be easily rolled onto public transportation. With standard front and rear handbrakes, it can also be ridden in the street with good control.
The Atom has a beautifully made metal deck that is wide enough for two feet when cruising (not kicking), but not so wide that the floorboard hits the rider’s kicking ankle during a long stroke. Anti-skid is kept to a minimum and does not interfere with foot-switching, which is especially important for people who rely on pivoting motions when underway to exchange their “standing” foot.
Deck size matters! This is the way the Atom’s deck looks under my size 8-women’s athletic shoes.
Likewise, my husband’s size 12/13 men’s shoes have enough floorboard width and length to rest both feet.
The Atom features a telescoping handlebar, which we kept at a low level. The top of the handlebar’s range, however, causes the rider to stand straighter. Reports from our two testers who are over 6-feet tall felt that for them, handlebar stem was a bit too close to their bodies. Fortunately, that is a resolvable issue which we will address in another article to be published in mid-September.
In addition to stem height adjustments (which neither of the other brands sold in the USA have), the Atom’s handlebar also folds, making it easier to transport and store. A global competitor, the Czech Mibo Tiny, also folds, but it is not sold in the USA. Online, you can pick one up for around $550, plus shipping costs, while the Atom is priced around $370, shipping included.
Here is what the folding joint looks like when released:
When the handlebar is down, it is loose. We found the scooter was easy to handle with the loose handlebar, but you might want to use a small bungee cord to secure it. With or without a bungee cord, however, the Atom can be “taxied.”
To taxi the Atom, grab the stem just above the front wheel fork. Note that the ring protruding from the lower frame can be used to hook a bungee cord as well as locking cable.
The Atom’s stem is adjustable in three places. On the top, the handlebars can be completely removed. On mid-stem is the stem-length adjustment lever. And on the lower stem is the release that allows the stem to fold.
The Atom, with its 12-inch, 2.5-inch wide pneumatic wheels, can be ridden in a moist or rainy environment, an important consideration for people who live in rainy climates, as well as for people who need the Atom for their daily commute. On muddy days, its fenders keep pants legs clean and dry.
At 4.37-inches high, the Atom’s floorboard-to-ground measurement is almost an inch higher than we, at Let’s Kick Scoot, would like it to be. Phil and I, however, were able to scoot on it with no difficulty, despite our pre-conception. Comments on our forums from people who already own Atoms, concur.
Note that I was able to ride comfortably on the Atom over a particularly bad sidewalk, even though my knees are compromised from a non-scooter-related accident. I attribute my success to the Atom’s stable, cushioned ride.
According to our measurements (see below), the Atom weighs approximately 17.7 pounds (less than what it reads on Sidewalker’s website), while our favorite small urban scooter, the Oxelo Town 9, weighs 13.6 pounds, only 4 pounds difference.
The fact that the Atom can be taxied when folded, rather than lifted, reduces carrying issues for those people who are sensitive to weight. For most in-city travel around New York City’s fairly level terrain, in fact, the Atom is more convenient and far more economical than New York’s bike-sharing program and can be brought into the subway system without much effort.
To date, four kick scooter pros, who range who range from 5-feet, 4-inches to 6-feet, 2-inches, tested the Atom Sidewalker for this article. The two taller men liked the scooter, but felt that they would customize the scooter with forward-leaning handlebars; a fairly simple fix which we will discuss in a future article. Also, like for all foot bikes and standard bicycles, owners need a tire pressure gage, extra inner tubes, and the means to inflate those inner tubes, in addition to the scooter.
The subject of 12-inch foot bikes has been covered extensively on Let’s Kick Scoot and now covers four brands, the Atom Sidewalker, the Mongoose Expo 12, the Bikestar 12, and the Mibo Tiny (which is not available in the US). The following article provides links to all related articles: Comparing the Mongoose 12, Bikestar 12, and Mibo Tiny Kick Scooters
Our initial review of the Atom Sidewalker is here: Updated Review: The Sidewalker Atom Kick Scooter
Read more about the Atom Sidewalker, its specifications, and other Sidewalker-brand scooters on www.SidewalkerUSA.com.
Sidewalker also manufactures the 12-inch miniZum, which is a battery-operated scooter based on the Atom Sidewalker. Read about it here: www.zumaround.com
Article by Karen Little. Photos by Karen and Philip Little. Posted September 8, 2015 on www.LetsKickScoot.com. Request permission to copy any part or all of this article from Karen at Karen@LetsKickScoot.com.