“How do I look?” I ask the woman who manages the office car park as I hum by on the EcoReco M3, a matte-black, $999 motorised kick scooter. And in the uncomfortable split second before she says “real cool”, I hear the truth. And that truth, to my chagrin, is not entirely flattering.

Now, to be clear, the M3 is serious hardware. This is not your eight-year-old’s playground-spec Razor with light-up wheels and handlegrip streamers. Adult kick scooters are bigger and beefier, made by companies such as Xootr and NYCeWheels and marketed specifically to adult urban commuters as solutions for the last mile – the distance from, say, the train station and the office. And the highest evolution of the grown-up kick scooter is the motorised grown-up kick scooter, like this EcoReco, whose kick comes from a battery rather than a leg. The appeal of such contraptions, say their makers, is their ability to liberate the urban commuter from the challenges and frustrations of driving and parking a car, hailing a cab or enduring public transportation. This notion, re-imagining a child’s toy as an adult mobility solution, recalls another memorable movement: in-line skating.

Back in the 1990s, it was not uncommon to see columns of men and women in business suits and body armour getting themselves to and from the office atop in-lines. For a time, in-line skating was, like boy bands and JNCO jeans, a thing. By 1993, there were some 12.6m in-line skaters in the US, a not-inconsiderable quarter of them over the age of 25. But for many who embraced this somewhat ungainly and occasionally perilous activity, something may have seemed amiss: pleasure.

In 1994, at the height of the in-line skating movement, The New York Times published a story called Confessions of an In-Line Commuter, the first line of which is, “Let me just say that I do not consider in-line skating fun.” Two decades later, in-line skates still exist, but as a tool for business professionals, they have pretty much gone the way of the facsimile machine.

But America loves a good mania, and there’s no denying that kick scooters are gaining momentum. There’s a reason for it.

The EcoReco M3 is not the first motorised kick scooter, but it is doubtless one of the more capable and finely crafted examples of this peculiar animal – and, at $999 in the US, one of the more expensive. The M3 (absolutely no relation to a certain petrol-powered four-wheeler from Germany) features a 250-watt electric motor in the rear-wheel hub, and a hefty lithium-iron phosphate battery pack beneath a stout aluminium deck. EcoReco claims the M3 will run for 20 miles on a full charge, and will recharge to from zero to 85% in just 2.5 hours at a standard 120v household outlet.

The company also claims the scooter will hum to 20mph (32km/h) – plenty quick for something on 6.3in solid rubber tires – but can be governed to 7mph for use on pedestrian paths and sidewalks. The M3 folds to a tidy 3ft by 1ft by .5ft. It weighs 34lbs (15.4kg), a  manageable burden for short distances. (As anyone who has lugged a sleeping four-year-old through an airport will attest, such a load gets heavy fast.)

The M3 is easy to pilot at low speeds, even for riders with no previous kick-scooter experience. A horizontal trigger on the right handlebar serves as the throttle and a hand-grip on the left actuates a drum brake at the rear wheel. To prevent lurching, the throttle only engages with a rolling start, so the rider needs to push off, as on a non-motorised scoot. There’s a digital readout with a battery meter, an odometer and a speedometer that reads to 25mph (40km/h).

Probing the upper limits of the scooter’s abilities requires a bit more nerve. Although the M3 feels stable and hefty, the ride can become choppy on imperfect pavement. A front-wheel spring suspension helps, but less than you would like as you approach 20mph. (EcoReco recently introduced a fully suspended model, the $1,250 M5, which promises a smoother ride.) That said the learning curve is low, and because the M3’s road manners are predictable if not always pleasant, a rider’s confidence builds quickly.

It is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which owning an EcoReco M3 makes good sense. Short-distance commuters could use the scooter to eliminate car-park charges, rail commuters could zip from home to station and station to office, tourists could travel with the scooter to explore destination cities.

But such use-case visualisations are largely academic until the buyer accepts – and, indeed, comes to celebrate – an essential truth about EcoReco M3 ownership: You, an adult professional who appreciates free-form jazz and knows the difference between a Gewürztraminer and a Riesling, will look like a circus clown commuting to work on this conveyance. Knowing this frees you to discover the beating heart of the M3’s appeal. Yes, a motorised kick scooter is compact, cheap to run and ecologically benevolent. But the M3 is something else, too, something that in-line skating was not: It’s fun.

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