Riding the (Street) Rat

My recent move from the bustling city of Ubud to the very beachy town of Sanur came as a surprise to many. Fortunately, a contingent of Ubudian friends (who themselves have in the past few months relocated themselves, mostly back to their native countries or elsewhere in the world), got it. They nodded as I listed the handful of reasons, including this one aspect, which featured high on the list: Flat land; where bicycles are a popular mode of transport. Ergo: Standup E-Scooters live here too. Oh wow! Lucky me.

I imagined myself (finally!) scooting around to my yoga classes, to cafes, to Bali Buda or the local market to pick up food, all along the beach promenade, to visit friends, for a quick bite a nearby warung. Most of all, to feel like I was moving at more than a snail’s pace.

For those of you who have followed my Bali ups and downs, you’ll know how challenging it’s been for me – who cannot sit (yes, it’s called a “sitting disability”) – to get around town, and around the island. The very hilly town of Ubud made it near impossible for me to consider getting an e-vehicle of any kind (the only kind I was anyway interested in getting), since said vehicle wouldn’t make it up the hills.

I tried, oh how I tried, to find a solution. I researched styles and companies around the world who manufacture stand-up vehicles; and I tried out some models overseas.

Even the folks at SELIS Indonesia (in Jakarta) modified a 3 wheeler tricycle-type of e-scooter so that I could stand. It was extremely wobbly and very nearly blew up in my face – or should I say my butt – when one of the back tires burst. And all of this during the 15 or so seconds I tried to ride it around the front of the shop. Not gonna work.

Fast forward to last month, just days before I moved to Sanur. I found out about a distributor who’s opened up shop last year – on the other side of the island (Canggu, for those of you in the know). At SKUTIS, they were renting and selling standup e-scooters. Right here in Bali. Imagine my shock, awe and excitement!

Shortly after I settled into my place in Sanur, I headed out to Canggu. The staff – very kindly, answered my questions and described the features; and the store manager greeted me as well. On the terrace fronting the shop, I took a couple of scooters in stock on a very short spin: the mini scooter, aka Street Rat – and the larger and bulkier model (ANOA). I asked about the battery and charging, about the wheels, about the distance, night light; a bit of due diligence – as much as I thought necessary.

The ANOA was far too heavy for me to lift; and the mere possibility of having to push it up a curb or restrain it from flying down a slope overwhelmed me. I couldn’t imagine how my body could handle the ANOA. Nope, that won’t do. Which left me with the only other viable option, a cute little thing that was still a heavyweight in my world (6 or so kg, way above my limit!), but felt doable.

I paid for a month’s rental and walked out the proud new renter of a fluorescent yellow Street Rat. Only after schlepping it back to Sanur, and getting my feet wet on it (so to speak), did more questions arise and reality set in: what, no lock? How could I leave it outside a store or restaurant unlocked? Not In Bali, You Don’t.

Over the first week, my experience was more like a roller-coaster ride. Sure, it was exciting: for the first time in more than a decade, I had my own set of wheels and was traveling, solo, in higher speeds than walking. But, I felt pretty unsteady – constantly expecting the tiny tires (no inner tubes on this baby) to roll over a too-sharp pebble and explode – though I’ve been reassured that its tires can’t actually burst.

Other questions came up: How and where was I supposed to park the Rat? I tried nudging it onto sidewalks and into shops and cafés; but it was super awkward: the foot-board would pivot on its hinge this way and that (bruising my foot just above the ankle in the process). The charger never fully charged the battery. I had to lean on my front (right) leg all the time, so that my left foot could hover above the back wheel – above which was positioned the brake… resulting in a slightly aching hip. This lean machine was sweet and spunky-looking, but also incredibly clackety: I was shaking like a leaf whenever I tried navigating down many of Sanur’s main or side roads. The beach promenade was out of the question – too much clickety-clack riding over paving stones.

Eventually, I had to concede – and returned the Rat. While this adorable-looking scooter might have been perfect for riding indoors (the living room of this Sanur house is H-U-G-E!), and might be the perfectly trendy Segway-like gizmo for a mall, schoolyard, resort or for hotel staff to move swiftly along hallways… sadly, the Street Rat was not created for the Street. At least not for the lion’s share of the poorly asphalted, potholed, uneven, badly tiled, pebbly, rocky, furiously inclining streets and roads and sidewalks (don’t get me started on those!) of Bali.

So thanks to Jan Henry and staff at Skutis! But what a shame… The search continues.

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12 Comments

  1. It’s really a shame it didn’t work for you. I looked for quite a while for an electric vehicle that would aid me in getting around the neighborhood (sitting), but eventually had to conclude that it wasn’t going to work for my particular needs. Still, there are new inventions all the time.

    1. Yes, there are Shimon, which is why I practice patience while keeping an eye out on developing e-vehicles! How are you? Are you still looking for a sitting e-scooter for yourself?

      1. No, I’ve given up on that, Amit. I just walk very slowly when I climb the hills. But if I were to see something that could work, I certainly would be tempted.

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