leave the road rage behind

Olivia Stewart-Liberty rides a no-hassle, no-tax, 26mph scooter
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Indy Lifestyle Online
There's a tube strike in London and traffic is at a standstill. This is not a problem for 30-year-old Jez Sharp, who's travelled by train from Bedford. He alights at Kings Cross, opens the smart black bag on his shoulder and pulls out something not unlike a lime green chainsaw. He lowers his sunglasses, unfolds the 32lb contraption, pulls the machine's rip cord, steps aboard and he's off.

Although stand-up, motorised scooters have been around for 10 years, they are, Sharp enthuses, "not like this. This will blow your mind."

The Phantom X15 comes fresh from New York City: crank the 25cc engine as you would a Fly-Mo, get your balance on the fibreglass platform six inches above the ground, rev the handle bars and away you go. No wider than a bicycle, you can hop kerbs, coast pavements or use the roads, gracefully weaving in and out of cumbersome traffic. With a top speed of 26mph, disc brakes and a centrifugal clutch, this scooter does 100 miles to the gallon.

Sharp runs his on castor oil - he says it's better for speed. "It's so refined," he boasts, "you can fry chips in it."

Sharp fell for the Phantom X15 months ago, while in New York visiting his girlfriend. He saw one in a shop and bought it immediately. After a couple of days of coasting around Manhattan, his girlfriend all but forgotten, he caught the next flight back to Bedford. He now imports the scooters by airfreight and has sold 14 to date.

Nine have gone to friends, and in the tiny village where he lives, a fleet of four Phantoms steaming past doesn't warrant a second glance.

Not so in London. Upon arrival on Hampstead Heath, Sharp is swiftly surrounded by men wanting to know how fast, how much, from where, licences, insurance and everything.

The scooters occupy a "grey area" in the law. Sharp's been stopped by the police once, but it was only to ask what the hell he was riding. Because they are currently unclassed, you can speed down road or pavement. They don't require tax or a licence and are insurable under general household.

But what Sharp really likes is the attention. "When you drive past someone in a Porsche or a Ferrari, they just cringe. Everyone's looking at you, not them. I love that."

8 Prices start at pounds 650. For more information, call Jez Sharp on 0802 725604.