What if because of multiple sclerosis or other disability, you need a scooter at times, but you don’t need need a scooter? You know what I’m talking about. A scooter for the zoo, or the mall, or on a trip, or perhaps a trek to Costco… when all the store’s electric carts are taken seemingly by people who have finished shopping and have parked said scooters (now unoccupied) next to their table in the food court to enjoy a leisurely lunch of entire pizzas after pre-lunches of free product samples all while other disabled patrons stack up like pilgrims during Hajj at Mecca.
Ah, but there’s an inherent problem with virtually every scooter on the market: they weigh a ton, just shy of a Smart Car (incidentally, not a very smart purchase in my opinion, spoken as a former automotive journalist). A too heavy scooter (often 250 lbs or more) necessitates a lift on your car, which means a full-on scooter commitment and a deep garage. But I only want to date my scooter right now, nothing serious or permanent. You know, right swipe, not iCupid. And that requirement narrows the dating pool drastically.
My needs in this relationship: a scooter small enough to store in the back of an SUV (a car trunk would be even better) and light enough for one person to actually lift it into the back of such a vehicle without having to completely dismantle the unit or throw out a back. There are only a handful of scooters on the market that come remotely close to meeting my needs: The TravelScoot (34 lbs with the LI lithium ion battery, 47 lbs without), SmartScoot (39.5 lbs LI), the Lexis Light (54 lbs LI), and the Luggie (57 lbs LI). Now, my wants are a little more personal: a scooter that is sexy, comfortable, and quick. That narrowed the field quickly.
The Lexis Light didn’t make the short list for a host of reasons: it’s not that light, it’s not that quick (4.8 mph max), and not that pretty. The Luggie looks a bit sharper, but it’s the heaviest (even broken down, one piece weighs 51 lbs) and is slow (4 mph max). That left the two Scoots, and although the TravelScoot is a smidge lighter, at the time it lacked the comfort (a nice seat) and features (a reverse gear) of the SmartScoot, plus it was also dreadfully slow at 3.75 mph, slower than my wife’s admittedly quick walking pace. (I am happy to report that the newest version of the TravelScoot is quicker at 4.5 mph, can be tweaked at the factory by request to go up to 6 mph and also features a reverse gear.) So I purchased a SmartScoot, which was designed by a fellow MSer, and put it through a vigorous series of tests to see if it was as good in action as it appeared to be on paper. The short answer: in most areas, yes.
The SmartScoot, a lightweight travel scooter.
Fit, Finish and Design
“I dig it. I totally dig it.” That was the opinion of Randy, my go-to bike guru who has worked on more rolling pieces of equipment than you can imagine. Then he proceeded to highlight the areas that stood out for him after having the opportunity to play with the SmartScoot for a week. “See here, these are great welds. The seat is comfy and light. It’s quick. Even the braking system is well designed. When you lock on the parking brake it disconnects the power. Smart.” Another key design element mentioned by several members of ActiveMSers who have tried both scooters: the single center tube instead of the triangle tube found on the TravelScoot. “It’s easier for me to get on and off [the SmartScoot]; I don't have to clear two bars like TravelScoot,” says Mary. “Plus it goes in reverse--especially advantageous for getting off elevators vs having to attempt turning the TravelScoot [which lacks a reverse gear] in small spaces.” (Thankfully the TravelScoot now goes in reverse.) Ah, but all is not perfectly rosy. Fellow ActiveMSer Ed, who recently purchased one, had some quibbles, including the very loud audible backup beeper which he rightly called “embarrassing.” ActiveMSers confirmed that future editions of the SmartScoot will drop the BEEP-BEEP-BEEP, a relief for exiting elevators and slinking to the restroom mid concerto. He also had issues with the disc brake rubbing right out of the box, as did I. Now this is a relatively easy $10 fix at your local bike shop, but highlights the importance of initial quality control, perhaps complicated by where the scooter is made (China). My recommendation: test the scooter straight away to make sure everything is working properly.
Seriously, don't crank the throttle or you'll spin your wheels.
I’ve been on lots of scooters, from grocery store beaters to deluxe lounge chairs that move. Predictably, the SmartScoot, while perfectly comfortable, is not in the same class, nor should it be. It’s the difference between a sofa and folding chair. Both serve a purpose—a place to put your rear end—but there’s only one you’d put in the trunk of your car. Portability is the rule here. The SmartScoot lacks armrests, positioning of the feet is not as leisurely as a large, flat floor, and the seating position is rather upright to maximize safe weight distribution to prevent tipping (no slouching!). That all said, the SmartScoot’s padded seat (weight limit 250 lbs) is far cushier than many scooter seats, the back rest provides ample support (comfortably “hugging” the body to prevent side-to-side roll), and the hand positioning is natural. Would I want to chill in it all day, every day, for weeks? Probably not, which is why the scooter is NOT recommended if you use a scooter exclusively. While the footpads are larger than pegs (ala TravelScoot), I still got the occasional leg sewing machine action that kicked in on longer rides, necessitating a quick stretch.
Your behind will thank you on long trips.
The first thing you’ll notice about the SmartScoot: it’s quick. With three speeds—3 mph, 5 mph, and 7 mph—the scooter is at home in a museum, power walking with your spouse, or zipping through an amusement park to get a cherry place in line. To put its top speed in perspective: a jog is typically under 6 mph, so the SmartScoots can scoot along at a near run. That said, you'll spend most of your time in the mid-speed gear, as shopping malls and 7 mph don't play nice together. When getting started, especially in the top gear, you’ll want to ease on the throttle lest you burn rubber (minus the burn). This is why the scooter needs performance disc brakes. And its front disc brake provides plenty of stopping power, even in the wet. Now, it should be noted that disc brakes in general are prone to alignment issues as mentioned earlier. If they start to rub, you can make the adjustments yourself or if you can’t figure it out, drop it off at your local bike shop (not a typical scooter store—they likely would just be baffled). The width of the wheels is adjustable, so if it’s being used mainly outside, bump up the width to maximize stability. Inside in tight quarters with narrow doorways (like a cruise ship)? Go narrow. In general, three wheeled devices can be tippy (Ed feels the SmartScoot is a bit tippier than the TravelScoot, perhaps because of its single center post design), and although I never had a problem, you’ll want to be extra careful on rolling curbs and slopes.
Riding the Tesla of scooters will mean stares.
With the seat removed, a process that takes seconds, the SmartScoot will tuck into virtually any trunk. The heaviest piece weighs 27 lbs. In comparison, the heaviest TravelScoot part is 22 lbs (without the seat, battery or front wheel; adding the front wheel brings it to 25 lbs). If you own an SUV, you likely can put the scooter in the back just by tilting forward the seat. If the handlebars are too high, the quick release lets them fold forward in a blink. It should be noted that sometimes the quick release can be finicky and require a few wiggles. Mary found the SmartScoot a bit more awkward to load than the TravelScoot (it does weigh five pounds more fully assembled). As with most battery-powered scooters, it is perfectly safe to take on an airline, but that comes with an asterisk. Airlines often beat the stuffing out of scooters, which get placed last in the cargo hold. I discovered this on a short flight to Houston, when the firmly riveted footplates on my SmartScoot got twisted nearly 90 degrees! I went back and forth with the airline’s claim department for months until we finally reached a satisfactory conclusion (after a botched repair job to boot). One final transport tip from Mary: “To assure that the crew lifts it from proper bar (not the steering column when folded down), I placed a piece of bright yellow tape on the bar which says ‘Lift here.’”
The SmartScoot tucks into most trunks easily with room for luggage.
To test the SmartScoot properly, I took it basically everywhere--on flights, to concerts, to botanical gardens, to farmer’s markets, to the mall, to the zoo, even to the gym. It’s been on tile, pavement, gravel, grass, dirt, uneven terrain, steep hills, the works. And it handled everything with aplomb (tip: lean forward on those big hills to put more weight over the powered front wheel)… and oomph. I need oomph in my scooters, and portable ones are notoriously lacking this quality, but not the SmartScoot. If you crank the throttle, yes, you will spin your wheels and mark up the pavement, which is why there is a warning label to ease on the gas instead of flooring it. The SmartScoot’s range is robust, up to about 12 miles according to the manufacturer (I never exhausted the battery on a trip), similar to the TravelScoot. It takes about an hour for the lithium ion battery to reach a full charge, or about a lunch stop when you are on the go. Lastly, be prepared for waves and people saying “cool” a lot, although I cannot be 100 percent certain folks weren’t talking about my hair and/or sunglasses. But looking in the mirror, I’m pretty darn certain.
Loading up at the farmer's market.
Words of Caution
Who probably shouldn't buy a travel scooter? Pretty much anyone who relies primarily on a scooter or a wheelchair daily instead of a cane, forearm crutches or walker. Heavier duty scooters and lightweight wheelchairs are far more stable, a big deal when you need to get on and off your ride safely. Many larger scooters have seats that can swivel with padded armrests, and wheelchairs can snug up to a couch, permitting easier entry and egress. They are also far more comfortable for parking your rear on a seat for hours at a time. If you don't use your legs regularly, travel scooters will frustrate more than benefit.
Lightweight wheelchairs can weigh under 20lbs.
ActiveMSers Bottom Line
There is no perfect scooter, just like there is no perfect automobile. Depending on what features you need, you’ll need to make compromises in other areas. In this reviewer’s opinion, there are only two travel scooters on the market that check the right boxes, and the TravelScoot (https://www.travelscoot.com/), in its newest iteration, has enough positives that a future head-to-head comparison is warranted. We discovered that the extras matter, too, and the SmartScoot has them in spades. Lock the brake on and it disengages the power completely. There is a convenient spot to put your cane, which works well if you want to roam short distances sans scooter. It comes with an LED light (perfect for post-movie nighttime strolling), a luggage rack, and a collapsible basket that hooks onto the front handlebars, “really nice for my purse, to carry a coffee, etc.,” says Mary. “I can actually go through an airport and get myself something to eat.” (Note: with it installed, it bumps the knees in tight turns). And it doesn’t hurt that the SmartScoot turns heads everywhere. It’s the Tesla of the scooter world, and rarely do I have an outing when I don’t hear “I want one!” When I hear that, I want to tell those folks that, no, you really don’t want one. But if you need one, you are going to be stretched to do better than the SmartScoot. Website: https://www.smartscoot.com/
Members of ActiveMSers can save 5% on a SmartScoot (direct sales only) and can get free shipping on any TravelScoot (a $100 value). To get your discount, join today by signing upfor our newsletter. NOTE: ActiveMSers has arranged this exclusive discount with both SmartScoot and TravelScoot and has no other affiliation with the company, receiving no compensation or commission for any sales.