Thursday, September 10, 2009

Test Driving Dog Scooters: DSK and Pawtrekker

Dog scootering with Sobo and Acadia

This morning, Eric and I along with Maryland Sled Dog Adventures sled dogs, Sobo and Acadia, met up with Dave Ryan of at Fair Hill NRMA in Elkton, Maryland to test drive a couple of dog scooters. Temps were in the mid to upper 50s to begin our run, with low humidity, partly cloudy skies and a brisk breeze.

Dave and Chester

Acadia and Sobo on their drop lines

Eric getting ready to go

Specifically, we were trying out the Pawtrekker Freetrail Full Suspension and the Diggler DSK. Both of these scooters have 20 inch tires and disk brakes, both are approximately $600, and both are available through Note: the Pawtrekker was run without the brush bow.

Setting off Acadia and I headed out on the Pawtrekker while Eric and Sobo followed on the Diggler. Dave and Chester, bikejoring brought up the rear. Midway through our run, Eric and I swapped and I rode the Diggler scooter with Sobo and Eric road the Pawtrekker scooter with Acadia.

All lined out and ready to go

The Pawtrekker Freetrail Full Suspension

The purpose of today's test drive was to see how each scooter handled the variety of terrain that Fair Hill has ranging from wide open fields, to graveled roads to narrow, rutted single track.

Wide open field

Water break on the trail

The results. Both scooters performed very well. The Freetrail has a full suspension meaning that it has both a front and rear suspension. The DSK does not have a full suspension only a suspension on the front fork. (Note: Diggler does make a full suspension scooter (retails for approximately $800) that was not test driven).

The Pawtrekker's suspension made riding the rutted, rough trails quite a bit more comfortable. The suspension gives the scooter an almost "bouncy" "springy" type feel. Eric also felt that the suspension helped him to feel more in control on the Pawtrekker than the DSK. I felt the suspension made it a bit harder to pedal the Freetrail up the steepest of hills as some of the momentum is being transferred down and into the suspension instead of forward.

The suspension on the Pawtrekker

Per the manufactuers' information, both scooters have a 6.5 inch ground clearance. The Diggler comes with and a skid plate to help it more easily slide over the largest of ruts while the Pawtrekker does not.

Both scooters "hung up" when we went over a large (6-8 inch) exposed culvert. Other than that one instance, both scooters passed over the ruts, rocks, and other obstacles just fine.

Both were easy to balance on, had nice stter, and responsive to leaning.

Both scooters come equipped with disc brakes and both scooters were capable of fully locking the front and rear wheels including after running through some serious mud holes.

Sobo (hooked to the Diggler) demonstrates an excellent line out

While we began with one dog per scooter, we eventually hooked two of our sled dogs to the Pawtrekker. The Pawtrekker had no problem stopping two dogs. Note: Scooters cannot be locked in place and are far too light to be left unattended with strong sled dogs hooked to them. At one point during a water break, the dogs surged ahead and pulled the back of the foot board into the back of my leg leaving me with a nasty cut.

Neither scooter has fenders. Fenders might be a nice add on as I looked like a skunk after running through the aforementioned mud holes.

The Pawtrekker does have a slightly narrower foot board than the DSK. I had anticipated after trying out an Alpha Dawg and DSK earlier in the summer (for information on that run, click here), that this might be an issue. As a former down hill ski racer, I tend to like to have my feet more side by side than back and front (think snow board). This was not nearly as much of an issue as I had thought it was going to be. Neither footboard is really wide enough for me to put both my good sized (size 9 ladies, thank you) feet side by side.

More importantly, however, on technical trails, side by side is neither the most stable nor the most functional position. Until I climbed on the scooter, I had forgotten what my old ski coaches had taught me all those years ago when I was racing: Butt into the hill, feet and skis pointed side ways across the hill, shoulders squared up and pointed down hill...strongest position on the mountain. Applying this technique, I really did not have many opportunities where I wanted my feed side by side as that position tended to leave me unbalanced on some of the rough terrain we were covering.

Both scooters have quick release wheels and the Pawtrekker's brush bow is also quick release. While quick release wheels do make loading the scooter in a vehicle much easier, we did have one small glitch with the DSK's quick release wheels (and it could easily have happened with the Pawtrekker). As Eric was riding the DSK on a very narrow stretch of single track (it was almost 1/2 track) trail, the quick release tab caught and released the rear wheel. After that incident, we realized it was important to have the tabs pointed backwards such that they were not susceptible to being caught on vegetation along the trail.

Ultimately, both scooters performed admirably. We gave a slight edge to the Pawtrekker and thus purchased the Pawtrekker Freetrail instead of the Diggler DSK.

Want to learn more about dog scootering? Consider attending the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures LLC Dog Powered Sports Clinic on October 17, 2009. Space is limited to 8 participants so check it out and then email to register.

Chester and Dave bikejoring over the covered bridge

Sobo and Acadia dog scootering over the covered bridge

Bikejoring up the hill with Chester