07/24/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
In Los Angeles, where having a good set of wheels is right up there with having a hot bod, scooterists whiz shirtless down the piers and boardwalks. In New York City, where you have to stay on your toes just to keep up with the fickle whims of fashion, stylish scooter zoomers dye their hair to match the neon tint of their wheels. "We're still on the cutting edge of it," says Jill Yu, 30, who sells about 250 scooters a week at Basic Wheels in lower Manhattan. "But I expect they'll be selling them at Kmart in Kansas in six months."
Call them the wheels of summer 2000. And though scooters come under a variety of names, the aluminum get-arounds—some of which can be folded and stowed in tote bags for extra portability—are quickly becoming the fastest-moving item in shops that sell sporty toys. "We can't keep them in stock," says Alicia McNamara, 46, who sells Razors and Xootrs at the Sharper Image on Chicago's tony Michigan Avenue. "They're constantly selling out."
The genesis of the lightweight postmillennial scooter is still being debated—early models can be traced to Taiwan and Germany—but no one can argue the appeal of low-cost, easy transportation: around $99 for a Razor and up to $600 for a motorized Citybug. "It's good exercise" says Paula Comuntzis, 63, a snack-shop cashier at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., whose arthritic hips get a break when she spins across campus on her self-propelled scooter. "At first the students thought I was crazy. But now they think I'm cool." That's because her red-wheeled Razor is so hot.