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April 2004 | Vol. III - No. 4




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Ride-On Toys Make a Speedy Comeback


With authentic details and propulsion systems that bring them closer to the vehicles that inspire their crafty designs, ride-on toys are making a comeback.

A Carry-all Stroll Through the Farmer’s Market

With a body made of sturdy plastic, the Pathfinder Wagon ($80) won Radio Flyer a prestigious 2004 Parent’s Choice Award. The wagon moves safely thanks to anti-tip axles in the front. Two seats with belts fold up to support backs, and fold down to provide space for storage. It has four cup holders that fit sipping cups and juice boxes. The long handle helps make walks easier on the arms and aid with maneuvering, and Dura-Tread rubber tires ensure a comfortable ride. A handle that stores under the wagon allows it to double as a toy box indoors.

The Next Ninja

Fisher-Price Power Wheels edge a little closer to ATV realism with the Kawasaki KFX Ninja ($189.99; ages 3 and up). Inspired by those Kawasaki KFX700 daredevils weaving in and out of freeway traffic, this Ninja hits speeds up to 5 mph and shifts into reverse. It comes with a tireless 12v battery and can carry a driver weighing up to 65 pounds.

Tradition Propels Huffy Beyond Bikes

Bill Smith, president and general manager of Huffy Bicycle Company, said that a year ago his company had embarked on a new path to leverage Huffy’s broader appeal as a “recreation and fun” brand, and not just a bicycle company. Last year the company resurrected and updated the Green Machine, which has given rise to the sleek Power Rangers Tri-Wheel ($69.99) this spring. Huffy’s new direction also points to the Moto-Trike ($39.99, ages 2-5), a convertible, quasi-cycle now in production. This action-accented ride-on begins as a tricycle with a rear handle for auxiliary power from mom or dad. Nix the handle at the next stage to make the Moto-Trike a full-fledged tricycle, and then finally the two tough back EVA foam wheels join for a stable, front-pedal-powered two-wheeler.

Razor Rides Again!

The Electric Punk mini-bike is breathtaking proof that Razor USA LLC (ToyDirectory) hasn’t been resting on its laurels since its famous scooter won Toy of the Year honors from Time magazine. Carlton Calvin, president of Razor and consistent trend-spotter, is an adamant proponent of electric motors as a noise-free propulsion for environment-friendly fun, and this aluminum-frame bike reflects his vision. The Punk is a compact, emissions-free mini-bike for kids under 120 pounds and over age eight. Priced to move at $179.99, it can reach speeds of 9 mph with 35 minutes of rechargeable battery life (adapter included). Sturdy air tires, padded seat and adaptable rear suspension ensure a soft, shake-free ride. The motor is totally enclosed, the gel battery is safely sealed and the patented hand-operated brake is another of Razor’s highly innovative braking systems. The Punk’s seat and handlebars adjust, and the bike itself is compact with folding foot pegs for storing and traveling. Razor offers a Punk Ramp and Rail for experienced riders, who will also want to ‘grind wheelies’ and master the hand throttle. Razor has also introduced its Razor XLR8R Electric Scooter ($119) and Electric Scream Machine Three-wheeler ($179.99). Razor also offers a sporty safety helmet and kneepads to minimize potential road
injuries.

Old-fashioned Fun

Cub Cruiser (ToyShow) recently delighted grandparents with its Campbell’s Soup Wagon, a traditional pull wagon featuring a glossy auto-quality paint job. The Ferndale, Washington company has followed up this feat with a Seattle Mariners licensed vehicle ($159, ages 4 and up), also all-steel like the original American-built 1930s Cub Cruiser. In the coming months expect the company to strike licensing deals with other Major League teams and companies frequently identified with America’s most memorable eras.

Beyond the Card & Spokes

If ElectroStar Inc., a division of Buztronics, Inc., has its way, kids won’t need to hum when they ride or attach the joker card to a bike’s frame to fan their spokes. The Bike Pipe resembles a motorbike’s exhaust pipe and reproduces a motorcycle’s rumble with the help of a Flipper Reed (3-pack retails for $4.99), whose plucking at the spokes is amplified by the pipe. However, unlike a motorcycle, not a single roar is muffled. ElectroStar offers a Black Bike Pipe ($14.99 with a single reed or $17.99 with additional reeds) and Chrome Bike Pipe ($19.99 with additional reeds). Attached with adult supervision, it increases the intimidation factor on BMX bikes and the cool-to-weight ratio on racers, retro stingrays and beach cruisers and the rugged looks on mountain bikes.

Thank the Swiss for Fine Chocolates, Wristwatches, and Now Sleds

With snowboarding now a respectable sport, sledding is the heir-apparent for a sensational comeback. A Swiss brand, SnowComet offers the right sled for the times. The American importers’ hopes are invested in the SnowComet 120 ($99, ages 3 and up), a blue or silver sled that weighs only 10 pounds and is made of heavy-duty polyethylene that can withstand temperatures as low as –20 degrees Fahrenheit. It can carry up to two adults (or 650 lbs) with impressive cornering agility thanks to a patented steering assembly. The SnowComet 120 can be outfitted with an optional tri-tone horn, halogen light and seat cushions, but its two-year warranty is standard equipment.

Get Your Kicks

France’s Berchet has direct links to Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi, Renault and other prominent European automobile companies, who trust Berchet to model ride-on vehicles after their famous street machines. In May, Berchet will unveil its 6 volt battery powered BMW Z4 ($400; ages 3 to 5). This one-seat rechargeable roadster can reach 3 mph, forward as well as reverse, and its steering wheel handles curving sidewalks like a sidewinder. Its most endearing innovations are the rubberized tires, adjustable seat and burgundy vacuum plastic exterior. Berchet also produces a pedal-propelled version of the Z4 ($300).

"Rock the Streets"

The Triker (base models start at $99) has trekked all over Europe, winning numerous awards and is now distributed in the by Iron Horse Bicycles. The Triker´s revolutionary design makes riding a bike even more natural than it already is. The Triker has a laid-back, racing style that riders steer with their whole body, rather than just arms. Wide, rear kart tires and a solid steel frame makes the Triker a three-wheeler that corners like its on rails. Thrill seeking and athletic youths will enjoy the Triker S3 and Triker X3 (ages 7-13). The Viper and Zig-Zag (ages 3-5), starts younger kids off with this graduated and cutting edge version of the tricycle.


 




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Tony MaddelaWriter's Bio: Tony Maddela is a Grant Writer/Development Officer for Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. His wife is Susan, who also writes for TDmonthly.com, and they have a playful, clever daughter named Charlotte and Baby No. 2 due later this summer. He is working on another novel and is represented by the Wales Literary Agency in Seattle. Read more articles by this author

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