The kicksled is a small sled consisting of a chair mounted on a pair of flexible metal runners which extend backward to about twice the chair's length. There is a handlebar attached to the top of the chair back. "Kicksled" is a direct translation of the Finnish word "potkukelkka". Some other possible translations are "kicker" and "chair-sled". The typical adult sized sled has runners about 2 m long, spaced 400 mm apart. The steel runner blades are about 5 mm wide. The handlebars are about 900 mm above ground. The kicksled is driven forward by the driver standing on one runner, kicking backwards on the ground with the other foot, hence the name. The flexibity of the runners allows the driver to steer the kicksled by twisting the handlebars. One can have a passenger or luggage on the chair seat. The kicksled can also be used as a dog sled. Easy to pull, the kicksled can be your dog's best friend.
A kicksled can only be used on hard, slippery surfaces like ice or hardpacked snow. On very smooth, bare ice, the use of traction devices like spiked shoes or crampons improves kicking force. On level ground, one can easily reach a speed of 15 to 20 km/h, and much faster on downhill section or with a strong tail wind.
It is also an excellent means of travelling over frozen lakes to go ice fishing or just to explore the lake. Kicksledding on lake ice shares many of the same features as Tour skating.
Some models also include a wheel kit allowing to transform the sled to a kind of walking aid for summer use. This type is especially popular amongst the elderly.
The first definite record of a kicksled was in a newspaper in northern Sweden around 1870. The kicksleds of that era had stiff wooden runners and were heavy. In 1900 the design of the modern kicksled with flexible metal runners was introduced in Finland and quickly became the standard in Finland, Sweden and Norway.
In the years 1890 to 1910 kicksled racing was a popular sport, especially in Sweden. Kicksled racing was a major event in the Nordic Games, which were the ancestor of the Winter Olympics.
Around 1990 kicksled racing was revived as a serious sport in Finland. There are races of up to 100 km long and the average speed is around 30 km/h. Often the kicksled races are held in conjunction with marathon speed skating races on natural ice; the kicksleds use the same ice track as the skaters.
In Canada, the kick sled has been modified for dog sports. A bridle is attached to the kick sled, and a gangline to that, with one to three dogs pulling. This small sled is useful for the urban dog owner, as it is lighter and easier to transport than a full scale dog sled. Kick sled races are now being held, with teams racing at times comparable to skijorers.
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