Rheumatoid Arthritis, my wheelchair and the Smart Drive mx1 power assist

smart drive mx1

smart drive mx1 wheelchair power assistSo I bought the wheelchair, and on tile or hard floors, it’s a dream. It takes a bit of effort to push it over carpet, because I have two very arthritic shoulders.  Propelling a wheelchair is known to be hard on the shoulders, and I’m starting from a place of weak, osteoarthritic and rheumatoid inflamed shoulders as it is.

I had a sub acromial decompression on my right shoulder two years ago, which provided good relief for about a year, before it started to deteriorate again.  It needs doing again, and my left one needs doing too.  But for the amount and time span that I got relief, it isn’t really worth the expense and recovery time.  Not until the inflammation in my body is under control and my joints can be cleaned out, and won’t be destroyed again by constant inflammation.

I also had a rotator cuff tear, and a labral tear.  All of these things are common in wheelchair users, and my shoulders are definitely vulnerable.  So I have bought a wheel chair power assist system, the Smart Drive Mx1.

It is very portable, consisting of a battery pack and a motorized driving wheel, which attaches to the axle of the wheelchair. The battery slides under the seat.  To get moving you have to push off with your arms, as normal.  The power assist functionality kicks in once the wheelchair is moving, and matches the pace of the initial push.  The motor keeps the chair rolling forwards, with no further push from the wheelchair user.  You brake as you would normally, using the rims.

It’s lightweight, with the battery weighing under 4kgs, and the motor weighing 5kg.  My chair is 10kgs, so the whole system is easy to transport, and all the pieces are light enough for me to manage, even with most of my large joints in a constant flare state.

It looks fantastic.  Almost fun, if being in a wheelchair could be fun.

Check it out here:


These systems retail around $8,500 new, so they are prohibitively expensive.  I found one second hand for a quarter of that price.  It has been superseded by the new model, but it’s still supposed to be an amazing piece of equipment.  It should allow me to get out and enjoy life more, allow me to go shopping with ease, allow me to go out for coffee, and allow me to walk my dog outside.

And now it’s finally here!

I have attached it to my chair, and I’m ready to take it for a spin!

wheelchair with smart drive mx1 attachedIronically, I am not able to drive my car today, too much pain, so I can only test it in the house, and outside on teh footpath, which is very limited.  According to the marketing, the Smart Drive mx1 will drive with ease over thick carpet, concrete paths, even grass.  Before I purchased it I read a lot of reviews and other people’s experiences on wheelchair user forums.  They were mostly very positive, with a few negatives.

On first impression, it is quite amazing.  It didn’t take me long to set it up on my chair, and adding it and removing it is simple and quick.

It does, however, take a solid push to get going, which was the major complaint on the forums. This could be a problem for me, because while I have good upper body and core strength, my shoulders are weak.  And most of the drive comes from the shoulders.

It will take some practice. And more test drives.  Hopefully it will do everything the YouTube video says it will do.  I intend to find out over the next few days, and weeks.  And hopefully I’ll be able to get out of this house more!

I’ll take it on more test drives soon, over different terrain, and I’ll let you know what it can do.


  1. Have fun with your new found independence Neen! I’ve just bought my first wheelchair as our holiday is coming up and I know I’ll need one for certain days. I’ve also just had a steroid shot in my right ankle as that has been swollen & agonizingly painful for over a week now so I was and still am concerned about how that is going to behave. We don’t have lazy holidays we are out and about every day so I figured rather than hire as we have in the past I’d get my own & it’s there if I need it. No power assist for me as yet as someone normally pushes me but I do have a self propel for moving myself about when I need to. Not sure how my shoulders or hands are going to cope with that but we’ll see. It was a huge thing to buy one, very mixed emotions but this way I know that everyone will enjoy the holiday more without having to worry about how much pain I’m in from walking.

    • Yay for you Gillian! I can certainly understand the mixed emotions…but you’re right. Buying your own is the best way and allows you all to have the best time possible, with as little stress as possible! I wish you all a wonderful holiday – I love active holidays too. And with the wheelchair, you’ll be able to keep up. I hope the steroid shot calms your ankle down. And hope your shoulders and wrist manage the self propelling when/if you need to. Best to you Gillian and enjoy every minute!!!

  2. What a brilliant idea! It looks great in the video and hope it performs really well for you. As a part time wheelchair user I would love one but the cost is a big barrier. I look forward to reading your ‘road report’ on it ????


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