Scooter kicked up a notch
Pulse Kick 'n Go Xcelerator: Super scooter with a foot-operated, ratcheting gear mechanism that drives the rear wheel.
Likes: Instant mastery. Nothing to figure out. Pump your foot up and down on the ratchet bar to propel it as fast as 10 miles per hour. High coolness factor. Kids never need to put a foot on the ground. Can also be used as a regular push scooter. Includes a hand brake and a kickstand. Very stable due to big wheel in front. The kids in my neighborhood loved Kick 'N Go and fought over it for three hours after I left it with them.
Dislikes: Can be a little slower than a normal push scooter. The kids kept asking, "When are they coming out with a model with a second gear?"
Price: $119.99. (866) 434-6067; www.pulsekickngo.com.
A sled for all seasons
Ice Meister Slicer: An all-season plastic sled, outfitted with two thin blocks of ice, designed to slide down grassy slopes. Ice lasts one hour at room temperature, much less in 80-degree heat.
Likes: Great fun for everyone. Feels just like snow sledding, without the snow. All smiles and laughter as you zoom downhill. Easy set up: fill up the two square-foot, 2-inch-deep ice trays, freeze overnight, clip into bottom of sled, and find a grassy slope. It's stealthy fitness; the kids happily ran uphill to do it again and again. Can be used all day in the snow and 45 minutes on grass (until the ice blocks melt).
Dislikes: The ice blocks melt. If no steep, grassy hill is nearby, you're out of luck.
Price: $59.95. (303) 517-1973; www.icesled.com.
Xliders: Two matching mini-skateboards with dual, fully pivoting wheels.
Likes: Challenging, coordination-building and -- once you get the hang of it -- extremely cool. It's skateboard-meets-in-line skates. You propel yourself by wiggling your body and pumping your legs back and forth. The manufacturer's claims that Xliders help build a better athlete seem true; your whole body works hard just to maintain balance. Athletic types will love the maneuverability, the speed and the challenge.
Dislikes: Not so easy to learn. The instability can be scary. Requires coordination, balance, guts and patience. Non-athletes and the uninsured will flee in fear.
Price: $149.99. (800) 586-7872; www.jumpusa.com.
Shoes with a message
Graffeeti Shoes: Retro high-top sports sneakers with writeable areas on them.
Likes: They're fun and encourage social interaction. "The concept of writeable shoes is great," said our 12-year-old tester, who used them as "human text messaging" -- i.e. flirting with girls ("Hi, I like your shoes") and joking with his male friends ("You dork"). He says "everyone likes to write on their shoes nowadays -- especially girls." One pen attaches to the shoe for instant use. Comes with six colors of pens. Rubs off with a tissue.
Dislikes: Not sporty enough for real sports. Slippery soles lack good grip for running. Hard to put on due to narrow high-top and use of sticky, plastic-y material. The dry-erase ink doesn't come off easily if you leave it on more than a couple days.
Price: $41.(800) 851-1272; www.graffeeti.com.
Irvine-based endurance cyclist and runner Roy M. Wallack is the coauthor of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100." Reach him at email@example.com