We’ve been spending a bunch of time indoors lately, fantasy car shopping on Craigslist and the like. We’ve posted about tons of interesting rides for sale, and during a recent such hunt, we stumbled across a three-wheeled vintage Honda only one of us had ever heard of: the 1974 Kick ‘N Go.
As you’ve likely surmised by now, the Kick ‘N Go is not a car, or even a motorcycle, trike, or other engine-packing conveyance of the kinds Honda is known for manufacturing. Instead, it’s a children’s scooter with an ingenious ratcheting mechanism that motors it along on the power of the rider’s kick. Unlike, say, a Razor or other simple two-wheeled scooters where the user keeps one foot planted on a little platform while using the other to push off the ground and get things rolling, the Honda Kick ‘N Go’s mechanical power setup meant the rider didn’t need to put feet to pavement to scoot along, but neither did it require an actual engine or motor.
Here’s how it works: The rider kicks down and back on a T-shaped metal lever, yanking a chain connected to a pulley sprocket away from another sprocket on the rear wheel; the rear hub has a one-way clutch, essentially, so when the kick lever returns upright (via a return spring) and the chain springs back, the hub is disengaged from the setup. The rider simply keeps kicking away, spinning that rear wheel, and ratchets along.
Steering was handled by leaning to the left or the right, as one might on a skateboard. The front wheels are mounted to a skateboard-style truck axle hinged in the middle and rubber-mounted (allowing the flex for leaning into corners). Riders could brake the rear wheel using a simple hand brake lever mounted to the handlebars, which manipulated a drum-style brake shoe that clamped down on the rear wheel.
At first, Honda only offered the Kick ‘N Go in a rather small size, for young children, in 1974. Later, in 1976, it introduced the Kick ‘N Go 2, which was geared toward slightly bigger kids (and could be had with a single front wheel), as well as an adult-sized sold as the GOGO in Japan and the Kick ‘N Go Senior everywhere else. (The smaller models were known in Japan as Honda Roller-Through GOGOs.) When new, these retailed for less than a hundred bucks, and even today, a quick scan of listings on Craigslist and eBay reveals original Kick ‘N Gos can be had for, well, pretty much the same kind of money. One (the yellow example pictured above) even sold via a Mecum auction last year.
The Kick ‘N Go scooters were a relative hit even in the U.S. but were pulled from the market after two riders died on them, at least per internet lore. We’re not sure what, if anything, made the scooters more dangerous than, say, skateboards, bicycles, or the motorized scooters that were gaining popularity in the mid-1970s, so consider the Hondas’ fate tragic. Leave it to Honda to design and build a lightweight, sweet vehicle that didn’t need a motor, battery, gas, an engine, recharging, or whatever to scoot along swiftly. It essentially built a better Bird scooter decades before those even became a thing.