10 Minutes on a Segway

I got to experience a Segway today. Interesting enough to blog about… hence… this blog. First some pictures:

[dmalbum path=”/wp-content/uploads/dm-albums/Segway Experience/”/]

This vendor at the College of Piping Highlands gathering (which is also a blog worthy subject) is from a tour company, think he might have been an owner or something, that rented out and took people on tours using Segways in Summerside (Prince Edward Island of course)

I’ve always been interested in trying any new technology really but the Segway is one of those novelty things that I figured I had to try. Especially since it was an introductory $10 for 10 minutes. I had to sign my life away on the dotted line, as per usual with this sort of thing. I also had to wear a goofy helmet – back in my day, you didn’t wear helmets and if you crashed and bonked your head, you learned not to do it again! And you got good scares so you could tell a good story. Kids these days must be such sucks growing up having to wear helmets and be SO safe all the time :S Wow, I’m that old.. I rode my bicycle, did all kinds of stupid things, cracked my head on many things, broke bones, I’m fine. We protect kids FAR too much these days, they don’t get to experience anything (another blog worthy subject and a good rant as well).

Back to the story. So the guy was nice, obviously there to sell more tours on the Summerside boardwalk – though it is pricey. $39 for 30 minute tour and 69 for a 90 minute tour. Its more of a once in a life time sort of tour rather than a ‘gotta do it every time I go’ sort of thing. If they priced it right, I think they would make more money as the latter. Maybe $30 for an hour, $40 max then its somewhat reasonable. Although pricing here is not unlike the outrageous prices to rent a seadoo for an hour… I digress. Again.

Here is the video of me riding, and THEN I’ll get to the review…

[youtube uDvo8D9NlmQ My Segway Experience]

So it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it. If you understand how it works and what its doing to try to keep you on it, then I think its easier to get the hang of. Its a technology you have to have faith in, not unlike a chair. If you over think it, its going to complicate the whole process and get in the way of it doing what its supposed to be doing.

Its a computer driven battery operated two wheeled device that uses gyroscopes to keep you balanced. Basically, the unit tries to stay balanced on two wheels, whether you are on it or not. as soon as you step on, it attempts to compensate for your movements. If you lean back, it tries to get itself back under your centre of gravity, if you lean forward, again, it attempts to move under your center of gravity. So it tries to stay under you which means in theory, you can’t fall off it because its balancing you all the time. And it does this really well assuming you don’t go to extremes or the wheels on it don’t slip on the grass for example or any other surface. If for any reason its not able to get bank under your center of gravity quick enough, you’re going to fall no matter what. And thats like anything that requires balance, pogo stick, bicycle, unicycle. Keep it centered under you and all is good.

I got into the basics of moving back and forth, and turning, then a couple minutes in he told me to start leaning in. Initially both my feet were putting pressure on the unit in unison front or back. Leaning into a turn however means you’re lifting the left foot or right, or  conversely putting more pressure on one side then the other and the unit senses that as well (very cool, like a Wii balance board really), and doing so allows you to do more advanced  / faster turns. Performance definitely increases when you do this and is actually a lot of fun.

The guys had me manoeuvring through pylons and around things to practise turning, stopping, accelerating. There is a learning curve but its not a big one, a few minutes in and its fairly natural feeling. Lean forward to go forward, lean back to stop, lean right or left to turn (requires pushing the handle bar right or left as well). And it all performs just like you might expect too, very responsive. I never felt like falling at all except for the time I tried to turn the handle bars like a bicycle instead of tilting them because I had started leaning already but a split second later I realize and tilted the handlebars. Never came close to falling at all. The ground was uneven but it had no issues. I didn’t get to go over much for terrain but one assumes that as long as the wheels don’t loose traction, the device will be able to keep itself under you.

I would like to try it for an extended period, $39 is steep though. The ideal would be to rent it, drive to a cafe, have a coffee, drive around a bit more, do some souvenir shopping or just window shopping and then head back. But for $39 for 3o minutes, I think I’d rather ride the whole time than waste any of that sight seeing or drinking coffee. See thats the thing, it would be a more interesting proposition for an afternoon where you didn’t feel like you had to get your monies worth from it.

Regardless, it was a neat experience, I’d try it again. I might do a once off tour with it. I could see it being useful in a bigger city where you might not want to walk everywhere, or if you could use it in museums for example. Problem is,  they aren’t legal everywhere. Even in Summerside, there are only certain places you can legally use it which is silly really.

Now, practically, when would you use this thing? I can totally see it for work situations, floor supervisors at plants, mailmen, security teams at malls, totally makes sense there. To buy one personally? Not sure, you’d need to trailer it like a motorcycle wherever you go. It doesn’t go as fast as a bike so for going cross town, maybe not the best unless you commuted across town daily and could charge it. (it does zip along, 5mph or something)  Would you have one to go to the park? Why not just walk, better exercise… wouldn’t work well in winter. Old people who had trouble walking wouldn’t find it very good, you basically are required to be healthy and strong to use one as you are standing and leaning full time. So for consumers, its hard to find a good fit.

Fun to try, i’d recommend you at least try one, its very cool technology, artificial intelligence in a way, it keeps you balanced all the time and thats a feat. When a computer can keep up real time with human movement, thats very cool tech.


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